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The other five to the greenwood ran,
And on the morn, wi' his merry men a',
* Grain, the branch of a tree.
This ballad is given from Percy's Reliques, in which it was first printed from the editor's folio MS. I have been induced to give it a place in the present collection, chiefly from the great similarity some of the incidents bear to the ancient romance of " Sir Tristrem," lately edited by Mr Scott; that part of it, at least, which relates to Sir Tristrem's adventures in Ireland. Some readers may be inclined to think, that this similarity is ideal; and, perhaps, may be ready enough with Fluellin's reasoning; "there is a river in Ma
cedon; and there is also, moreover, a river at Monmouth:" but those who have made the subject of romance their study, and who have been attentive to the changes it underwent from time to time, will be the last to urge objections of this kind. When romances ceased to be "sung in hall," they descended to the cottage; and when the Minstrel and his harp were alike forgotten by the great, "fragments of the lofty strain" continued to be chaunted by the peasantry. The language and manners of the tales of chivalry were,in this manner,modernised, as a different language,and new fashions, succeeded the old. Nor were the incidents themselves always preserved, as they existed in the ancient tales; a new reciter frequently took liberties, as he found occasion for using them, and displayed as much solicitude in introducing marvellous patchwork, as Peter, in the Tale of a Tub, did in the various appendages to his raiment.
It would be an easy matter to apply these observations to the subject of Scottish romance. The preceding ballad of "Gude Wallace" is an instance of the small variation a short story sometimes undergoes, when it is narrated in a different metre. But what a small portion of the life of Wallace, by Henry, does that incident contain? Nor would we find the case at all dissimilar, were we to extend our researches farther into those ballads, which have been in the same way separated from romances of antiquity: frequently, indeed, a few stanzas only of an episode are left,
• as buoyant on the stormy main,
A parted wreck appears.
Mr Scott has observed, that the ballad of "Fair Annie" is taken from the Breton " Lay of the Ash," (lai lefrain); and, in his admirable work of the Minstrelsy of the Border, there are many other ballads which appear to have their origin in the same manner; in particular, that of " Sir Hugh le Blond," although Mr Scott appears to think the story Scottish, and the ballad as having given rise to that in " Percy's Reliques," entitled, "Aldingar." They are both, however, taken from a striking incident in the ancient romance of the "Erie of Tolous," and, as usual, contain much new embellishment.