Book Summary: As in Book of English Verse I tried to range over the whole field of the English Lyric, and to choose the best, so in this volume I have sought to bring together the best Ballads out of the whole of our national stock. But the method, order, balance of the two books are different perforce, as the fates of the Lyric and the Ballad have been diverse. While the Lyric in general, still making for variety, is to-day more prolific than ever and (all cant apart) promises fruit to equal the best, that particular offshoot which we call the Ballad has been dead, or as good as dead, for two hundred years. It would seem to have discovered, almost at the start, a very precise Platonic pattern of what its best should be; and having exhausted itself in reproducing that, it declined (through a crab-apple stage of Broadsides) into sterility. Therefore this anthology cannot be brought down to the present day, and therefore the first half of it contains far finer poetry than the second. But it may be objected that among Ballads no such thing as chronological order is possible; and that, if it were, I have not attempted it. ÔWhy then did I not boldly mix up all my flowers in a heap and afterwards sit down to re-arrange them, disregarding history, studious only that one flower should set off another and the whole wreath be a well-balanced circle?Õ I will try to answer this, premising only that tact is nine-tenths of the anthologistÕs business. It is very true that the Ballads have no chronology: that no one can say when Hynd Horn was composed, or assert with proof thatClerk Saunders is younger than Childe Maurice or Tam Lin older than Sir Patrick Spens, though that all five are older than The Children in the Wood no one with an ounce of literary sense would deny. Even of our few certainties we have to remember that, where almost everything depends on oral tradition, it may easily happenÑin fact happens not seldomÑthat a really old ballad Ôof the best periodÕ has reached us late and in a corrupted form, its original gold overlaid with silver and bronze. It is true, moreover, that these pages, declining an impossible order, decline also the pretence to it. I have arranged the ballads in seven books: of which the first deals with Magic, the ÔSeely CourtÕ, and the supernatural; the second (and on the whole the most beautiful) with stories of absolute romance such as Childe Waters, Lord Ingram, Young Andrew; the third with romance shading off into real history, as in Sir Patrick Spens, Hugh of Lincoln, The QueenÕs Marie; the fourth with Early Carols and ballads of Holy Writ. This closes Part I. The fifth book is all of the Greenwood and Robin Hood; the sixth follows history down from Chevy Chase and the Homeric deeds of Douglas and Percy to less renowned if not less spirited Border feuds; while the seventh and last book presents the Ballad invarious aspects of false beginning and declineÑThe Old Cloak, which deserved a long line of children but in fact has had few; Barbara Allen, late but exquisite; Lord Lovel, which is silly sooth; and The Suffolk Tragedy, wherein a magnificent ballad-theme is ambled to market like so much butter. My hope is that this arrangement, while it avoids mixing up things that differ and keeps consorted those (the Robin Hood Ballads for example) which naturally go together, does Ôin round numbersÕ give a view of the Ballad in its perfection and decline, and that so my book may be useful to the student as well as to the disinterested lover of poetry for whom it is chiefly intended.