Not much more has been attempted in these pages than to extract the marrow
of the Scottish Ballad Minstrelsy. They will have served their purpose if they
help to awaken, or to renew, a relish for the contents of the Ballad Book. To
know and love these grand old songs is its own exceeding great reward; and it
is also, alas! almost the only means now left to us of knowing something
concerning their nameless writers.
Questions involving literary or critical controversy as to the age and
genuineness of the ballads have been, as far as possible, avoided in this
popular presentation of their beauties and their qualities; and in case any
challenge may be made of the origin or authenticity of the passages quoted, I
may say that, in nearly every case, I have prudently, and of purpose,
refrained from giving the authority for my text, and have taken that which
best pleases my own ear or has clung most closely to my memory.