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PREFACE.

The present selection of German ballads is intended as a companion volume to my Deutsche Lyrik already published in this series. In making my selection I have been guided, in general, by the principle I adopted in the latter book; and that, to judge from its popularity, has met with the approval of English readers of German. I have given what I considered the best ballads of each poet, more especially such poems as are calculated to illustrate the characteristics and the progress of German ballad-poetry in each period from Bürger to our own times. I can hardly expect that those who are well acquainted with the poetical literature of Germany will not miss some of their favourite poems. Collections of poetical pieces seem to resemble select companies. However careful a host may have been to invite the most desirable and most distinguished guests, there will always be some among the latter who will be disappointed that such and such a one was not included among the company. But a line must be drawn somewhere—in companies as well as in books—and so I was obliged, most reluctantly, to omit some fine ballads of Goethe, Schiller, Uhland, Heine, and several other poets.

But I have confident expectation that the collection, such as it is, will furnish an adequate and interesting picture of German balladpoetry.

The selection has certainly not been made in haste. In fact, the book was intended for publication about a year ago, but the work of selecting, arranging, and annotating took far longer than I expected. German ballad-literature is unusually extensive, and so I suffered from an overwhelming embarras de richesses. The work of annotating, in particular, required considerable study and labour. The present being a volume intended for the intellectual enjoyment of those English readers who are familiar with German, I confined the notes (which are given in a condensed form) beyond my occasional critical remarks, to the indication of the sources of the several ballads, and

1 I cannot let this opportunity pass without thanking Messrs. Macmillan & Co. for their patient indulgence regarding the completion of this volume.

here and there of literary parallels, and to the explanation of allusions. The sources of many ballads are now generally known, but not of all, especially among the more recent ones, and the search for the traditions, legends, &c., upon which they are based, likewise entailed a great expenditure of time. In some instances I inserted renderings of obsolete expressions or unusual phrases which would require explanations even for German readers, in the same way as Scotch ballads require a glossary for English readers. In the Introduction I have given a curs

irsory sketch of the origin of German ballad-poetry, and of the various stages through which it has passed. At the same time I have pointed out the characteristics of the German ballads in each of the three periods into which it seemed to me advisable to divide it, and I have added an estimate of German ballad-poetry in general. It will be seen from that sketch that the first impulse came from this country, but that in the course of time the German poets struck out their own path and produced a most brilliant cycle of original ballads.

I refrain from instituting any comparisons between the modern ballad-literature of Germany and that of other countries, more especially because I fully

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agree with the very judicious remark, made by Professor Child in his monumental work on English and Scottish Popular Ballads, with reference to the criticism of foreign poetry. “No man should be too confident,” says that learned critic, “that he can do absolute justice to poetry in a tongue that he was not born to.” The fact is that poetry is the language of the heart rather than of the mind, and just as our native place appears to us, in most cases, the loveliest spot in the world, so also the poems written in our mother-tongue, appeal most eloquently to our feelings. It is therefore dangerous to judge foreign poetry by the standard we apply to the poetry in our own language.

Some exception might possibly be made with regard to English and German poetry. The two languages are so much akin, and the mode of thought—and also of feeling—of the two nations is so much alike that whilst English poetry met in Germany at an early date with a sympathetic response, German poetry is now perhaps best appreciated by the English-speaking community all over the world. This fact inspires me with the hope that the present volume will meet with at least the

1 English and Scottish Popular Ballads, by F. J. Child, iii. 84, foot-note.

same favour as my Deutsche Lyrik, the more so because the love of ballad-poetry, so magnificently represented in English literature, is innate in the English people, or I should rather say in the AngloSaxon race; which circumstance accounts, I believe, for the great success of nearly all collections of English ballads, of which a highly commendable specimen has been published in the present series. Now the German ballad, owing its origin to the English ballad, is sure to meet, I think, in this country, with a cordial reception, in virtue of that sympathetic bond.

There is another circumstance which makes me hope that this volume will prove welcome to readers on both sides of the Atlantic. The publication of my collection of German lyrics brought me a number of communications from English readers of German, who thanked me for the comfort and gratification they derived from my Deutsche Lyrik. Now, to judge from the effect of the reading of the ballads upon myself and my wife, who assisted me in the work of selecting them at a time when we stood most in need of solace, I should think that they will offer to the reader that comforting feeling which

i The Ballad Book. A Selection of the Choicest British Ballads. Edited by William Allingham.

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