English, Department of
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HE practice has established itself among literary historians and anthologists of associating the English and Scottish ballads primarily with the fifteenth century, sometimes with the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. One of the best and most popular of the histories of English literature now used in schools and colleges states in its revised editions: "These ballads appear to have flourished luxuriantly among the folk in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, after which their composition ceased. Over three hundred of them, in 1,300 versions, have survived, and have been collected and printed."' The now widely used History of English Literature by M. Emile Legouis, the most ambitious among recent histories of our literature, remarks of the ballads: "They cannot all be claimed for the fifteenth century, for poems of this sort must have had an earlier beginning and certainly were produced until a later time, but the impulse to make them seems to have been particularly active in this century, to which, moreover, the oldest extant specimens belong."2 A recent excellent poetical anthology has: "Ballad is the name applied to a simple form of narrative poetry which in England and Scotland flourished between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries."3 Statements like these leave with readers the definite impression that the fifteenth century was the heyday of ballad production, and that the bulk of the three hundred ballads in Professor Child's collection emerged from this century, or from an even earlier period.
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PMLA, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar., 1932), pp. 10-16