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Border Ballads: A Selection
Edited by James Reed
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Publisher: Carcanet Press
Paperback (188 pages)
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He's mounted her on a milk-white steed,
And himself on a dapple grey,
With a bugelet horn hung down by his side,
And lightly they rode away.
Lord William lookit o'er his left shoulder,
To see what he could see,
And there he spy'd her seven brethren bold,
Come riding over the lee...
From 'The Douglas Tragedy'
The Border Ballads are rooted in the wild and beautiful lands that lie between England and Scotland, a traditionally lawless area whose inhabitants owed allegiance first to kin and laird, and only then to the authorities in London or Edinburgh. Recording a violent, clannish world of fierce hatreds and passionate loyalties, the ballads tell vivid tales of raids, feuds and betrayals, romances and acts of revenge. They celebrate ungovernable heroes and powerful women, often in laments for the murderous results of breaking tribal codes, and they evoke the presence of an older border, between the natural and the supernatural worlds.
The Border Ballads were long regarded as primitive poems. This selection restores their identity within the oral tradition, setting them in the context of their time and place with the aid of maps and a glossary.
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