"Barbara Allen's Cruelty" was referred to by Pepys in his Diary, January 2, 1665-6 as "the little Scotch song of Barbary Allen." It was first printed by Allan Ramsay (in 1724) in his "Tea-Table Miscellany." In the same work Allan Ramsay was also the first printer of "Sweet William's Ghost."
Fragments of "The Braes o' Yarrow" are in old collections. The ballad has been given by Scott in his "Minstrelsy of the Border," and another version is in Peter Buchan's "Ancient Ballads of the North."
"Kemp Owyne" is here given from Buchan's "Ballads of the North of Scotland." Here also Professor F. J. Child has pointed to many Icelandic, Danish, and German analogies. Allied to "Kemp Owyne" is the modern ballad of "The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heughs," written before 1778 by the Rev. Mr. Lamb of Norham; but the "Laily Worm and the Machrel of the Sea" is an older cousin to "Kemp Owyne."
"O'er the Water to Charlie" is given by Buchan as the original form of this one of the many songs made when Prince Charles Edward made his attempt in 1745-6. The songs worked scraps of lively old tunes, with some old words of ballad, into declaration of goodwill to the Pretender.
"Admiral Hosier's Ghost" was written by Richard Glover in 174O to rouse national feeling. Vice-Admiral Vernon with only six men-of-war had taken the town of Portobello, and levelled its fortifications. The place has so dangerous a climate that it is now almost deserted. Admiral Hosier in 1726 had been, in the same port, with twenty ships, restrained from attack, while he and his men were dying of fever. He was to blockade the Spanish ports in the West Indies and capture any Spanish galleons that came out. He left Porto Bello for Carthagena, where he cruised about while his men were being swept away by disease. His ships were made powerless through death of his best officers and men. He himself at last died, it was said, of a broken heart. Dyer's ballad pointed the contrast as a reproach to the Government for half-hearted support of the war, and was meant for suggestion of the success that would reward vigorous action.
"Jemmy Dawson" was a ballad written by William Shenstone on a young officer of Manchester volunteers who was hanged, drawn, and quartered in 1746 on Kennington Common for having served the Pretender. He was engaged to a young lady, who came to the execution, and when it was over fell back dead in her coach.
"William and Margaret," by David Mallet, published in 1727, is another example of the tendency to the revival of the ballad in the eighteenth century.
"Elfinland Wood," by the Scottish poet William Motherwell, who died in 1835, aged thirty-seven, is a modern imitation of the ancient Scottish ballad. Mrs. Hemans, who wrote "Casabianca," died also in 1835. But the last ballad in this bundle, Lady Anne Barnard's "Auld Robin Gray," was written in 1771, and owes its place to a desire that this volume, which begins with the best of the old ballads, should end with the best of the new. Lady Anne, eldest daughter of the fifth Earl of Balcarres, married Sir Andrew Barnard, librarian to George III., and survived her husband eighteen years. While the authorship of the piece remained a secret there were some who attributed it to Rizzio, the favourite of Mary Queen of Scots. Lady Anne Barnard acknowledged the authorship to Walter Scott in 1823, and told how she came to write it to an old air of which she was passionately fond, "Bridegroom grat when the sun gaed down." When she had heaped many troubles on her heroine, and called to a little sister to suggest another, the suggestion came promptly, "Steal the cow, sister Anne." And the cow was stolen.