Mrs. Walker, "The Four Marys" (a traditonal song about one of Mary Queen of Scots' maids-in-waiting)
(In some versions of the song, Mary Mill had been impregnated by Darnley, the Queen's husband.)
- What is the song's meter? Its plot? Its tone?
- What features of narration are intended to add to the poignance of the speaker's tale? Her credibility ?
- What aspects of the tale, if any, are common to ballads of the time? Why would its audience have felt special interest in her story?
- Do you think this song conveys any form of social critique? An admonition or moral? Does the ending seem appropriate or consistent with the rest of the poem? Can you explain its inclusion?
"The Bonny Hyn"
("Hyn" is "hind" or deer)
- What is the ballad's meter? Its plot? In what sequence is the story told?
- Do you find any features of this ballad surprising, implausible, or unexpected? What features of narration seem characteristic of the ballad form?
- What are some of the poem's symbolic details and significant images? Does it contain dramatic elements?
- Can you explain why Lord Randall's sister commits suicide upon learning that she has committed incest, but Lord Randall does not?
- What seems Lord Randall's purpose in deceiving his father about what has happened, and what ironies does this introduce?
- What would the audience have made of the mingled themes of incest and brotherly love?
- Is the poem's closure appropriate? Why do you think this was a popular ballad?
Jean Elliott's "The Flowers of the Forest"
- How is Elliott's poem different from Alison Rutherford's version by the same name? Which do you prefer?
- The poem ostensibly refers to the Battle of Flodden (1513) in which the Scottish were defeated by the English. To what other recent events might it have referred in the eighteenth century?
- What is the poem's meter and rhythm? What verbal effects are prominent? Is there a progression in the details presented?
Anna Nic Ealair's Son (from the Gaelic)
- How does this poem differ in imagery and tone from the ballads you have just discussed? What story does it seem to tell?
- Why does the speaker refer to her lover going "up to a place on high"? In what way is he/his spirit expected to return to "bring about [his] promise"?
- Can you interpret the ending in more than one way?
- What seem unusual or striking features of this poem?
- What are some recurrent features of these ballads and lyrics? What do they seem to indicate about their mode of transmission and audience?