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but no sooner were they for the first time properly performed before a public audience at the Concerts of the Vocal Society, than their perfection as specimens of musical art, and their truth in regard to a just expression of nature, were immediately felt and acknowledged.
Thinking that it would add to the interest which is gradually attaching to this kind of music, I have been induced to make a collection of the words or (to use an old expression) ditties, which were wont to be sung, not only by the “ Citizens of famous London town,” but by the gay and gallunt Essex, the valiant Sidney, the most noble Baron Hunsdon, the rare and accomplished Lady Pembroke, the beauteous Lady Arabella Stuart, the most virtuous Lady Periam, and even by royalty itself.
I should be wanting in gratitude did I not express my sincere thanks to you and my other friends, whose names are in the annexed list, for the kind interest they have taken in these my small labours. The constant occupation has
beguiled many an hour that might have been much less advantageously spent, and banished many a thought of a far less agreeable nature.
Having a peculiar aversion to laudatory dedications, I shall eschew any further individual compliment; more especially as I just happen to recollect an old couplet which runs thus ;
“ He that commends a man before his face,
which charge Heaven forbid that I should incur !
Allow me therefore to conclude with the wish that this little book were more worthy of the honour of being inscribed to you, by
Yours, my dear Sir John,
London, Nov. 1, 1837.
“ Is there any thing new whereof it may be said, See this is new? “ It hath already been of old time which was before us.”—Eccles. i. 10.
To the often-quoted assertion of the wise man, " there is nothing new under the sun,” many a one will be disposed to make answer, " That I deny,” as did Sterne to the text* of his own sermon.
Now it is not my purpose here to ascertain whether Solomon was acquainted with the power of steam, or whether David's harp had pedals, or whether his chief musician taught Solfaing according to the Hexachord. I am only desirous of maintaining the truth of my text, upon one point, viz. that human nature was as well understood ; that human feelings of every kind; joy, grief, fear, hope, love, hate, &c.; all the every-day thoughts and actions of mankind, were as well (if not better) expressed in poetry and
* “ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of “ feasting.”
prose, centuries ago, than in the year of grace 1837.
In proof of this I need not go back to the golden days of Greece and Rome. It is quite sufficient to refer to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and to the writings of Shakspeare; which last in themselves are an epitome of all that has ever been thought, expressed, or written, by the inward soul, the outward tongue, or pen of man.
Education at that period, although not so generally diffused as at present, must have been of a far more solid and sensible kind; for in spite of the Schoolmaster being abroad, as is the cant phrase, we now look in vain for the mental stores from which the writers of the olden time drew so largely, and for that nervous and classical language with which they clothed their ideas.
From what I have just said, my readers must not suppose that this collection is to contain very splendid specimens of old English poetry. Some of the pieces inserted are mere translations of Italian Sonnets, &c. which came into vogue in this country about the year 1580, but which will be found generally far inferior to the genuine productions of the English muse; so much so indeed, that I should have printed very few of that sort, had it not been, that from the