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white hand, her cheeks are red as a rose, and her eyes are blue as the sky.

4. The metre is almost always 4, 3, 4, 3; that is, the first and third lines contain four accented syllables, the second and fourth contain three. The second and fourth lines rhyme, sometimes the first and third also. The final syllable often receives an accent even when there would be none in prose.

5. Most of the ballads show the touch of the Celt. There are weird stories of the return of ghostly lovers; there are fascinating little gleams of fairyland, of beauty and of happiness, but often with a shade of sadness or loneliness, the unmistakable mark of the Celtic nature, that could turn from smiles to tears in the flashing of a moment.

O sweetly sang the blackbird

That sat upon the tree;

But sairer grat Lamkin

When he was condemned to die.


We do not know who composed the older ballads. Indeed, each one seems to have grown up almost like a little epic. The gleeman wandered from vil- Composition lage to village, singing to groups of listeners, of the whose rapt eagerness was his inspiration. He sang his song again and again, each time adding to it or taking from it, according to whether his invention or his memory was the better. Moreover, there was no private ownership in ballad land. Any ballad was welcome to a line or a stanza from any other. Little by little the song grew, until finally its form was fixed by the coming of the printing-press.

35. Mystery plays. The fifteenth century was the time when the mystery or miracle play was at its best. This kind of play originated in the attempts of the clergy

to teach the people, and was common on the Continent long before the coming of the Normans to England. There were few books and few who could read. Therefore the clergy conceived the idea of acting in the church short plays presenting scenes from the Bible. To give room for more people to hear, the play was soon performed on a scaffold in the churchyard. Gradually the acting was given up by the priests and fell into the hands of the parish clerks; then into those of the guilds,

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or companies of tradesmen, for long before the fifteenth century the men of each craft had formed themselves into a guild. Slowly the plays became cycles, each cycle following the Bible story from Genesis to the end of the Gospels, sometimes to the resur


rection. Each guild had in charge the presentation of one story or more. The acting was no longer in the churchyards, but at different convenient stations in the town. The stage was a great two-story or three-story wagon called a pageant. An important part of the scenery was "hell mouth," represented by a pair of widely gaping jaws full of smoke and flames, into which unrepentant sinners were summarily hurled and from which Satan issued to take his part in the drama. The plays were always acted in the biblical order. When one play was ended, the pageant moved on, leaving the place free for the next play, so that a person remaining at any one station could see the whole cycle.

To modern ideas there are some things in these plays that seem irreverent; for instance, the repre- Seeming irsentation of God the Father on the stage. In reverence. one of the plays of the creation he is made to say familiarly:

Adam and Eve, this is the place

That I have graunte you of my grace

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To have your wonnyng 1 in ;

Erbes, spyce, frute on tree,

Beastes, fewles,2 all that ye see,

Shall bowe to you, more and myn.3

This place hight paradyce,

Here shall your joys begynne,

And yf that ye be wyse,

From thys tharr 4 ye never twynne.3

Again, when the angels appear to the shepherds to sing of peace on earth, one of the shepherds says, "I can sing it as well as he, if you will help;" and he tries to imitate the heavenly song.

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The makers of the mystery plays knew as well as the writers of homilies that if the attention of the people was to be retained, there must be amusement scenes. as well as instruction, and therefore they did not hesitate to introduce comical scenes. The antics of Satan were made to provide a vast amount of amusement; and even more respectable scriptural characters were impressed into the service of making fun to gratify the demands of the spectators. After Noah has built his ark, he requests his wife to come into it, but she objects. Noah ought not to have worked on that ark one hundred years before telling her what he was doing, she says; at any rate, she must go home to pack her belongings; she does not believe it will rain long, and if it does, she will not be saved without her cousins and her friends. She is finally persuaded to enter the ark. At last the door is closed, and Noah might well offer up a prayer of gratitude or sing a hymn of praise for the safety of himself and his family; but, instead, he proceeds to give most prosaic directions to his sons to take good care of the cattle, and to his daughters-in-law to be sure to feed the fowls.

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With all their crudeness, these plays are often gentle and sympathetic. Joseph watches over Mary most lovTenderness ingly. "My daughter," he tenderly calls her. of the plays. At the crucifixion John's words of comfort to the sorrowing mother are very touching. My heart is gladder than gladness itself," says Mary Magdalene at the resurrection. Such were the plays that pleased the people; for they were simple, childlike, warmhearted, ready to be amused, satisfied with the rudest jesting, and accustomed to treat sacred things with familiarity, but with no conscious irreverence. Going to a mystery play, like going on a pilgrimage, was a religious

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This is a photograph of the reproduction of the play given by the Ben Greet Company it. 1903. It represents Everyman on his pilgrimage, followed by Beauty, Strength, Discretion, and Five Wits. Good Deeds and Knowledge are in the background

duty; but the mediaval mind saw no reason why duty and amusement should not be agreeably united.

36. Miracle plays and moralities. In England these plays were more frequently called miracle plays, though this name was applied elsewhere only to dramas based not upon biblical scenes, but upon legends of saints or martyrs. Often one kind of play blended with another; for instance, Mary Magdalene introduces scenes from the life of Christ, like a mystery; it follows out the legends of the heroine, like a miracle; it also leads to a third variety of play, the morality, in that it introduces abstract characters, such as Sloth, Gluttony, Wrath, and Envy, for in the morality the characters were the virtues and vices. What amusement was in them was made by the Devil and a new character, the Vice, who played

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