Friday, 26 October 2012

Ballads and politics

Political ballads or just ballads?

Last Tuesday I attended a talk on John Leyden (1775 - 1811) the Scottish Borders poet and had to prepare the vote of thanks. Apart from training as a minister, Leyden was an expert in oriental languages providing early translations of Sikh and Panjabi texts, a surgeon, a judge, a naturalist, an environmentalist and lover of traditional ballads.

But I never knew him as a nationalist until I discovered that he had also translated the Complaynt of Scotland a 16th century text outlining Scotland's difference from England. A new side to the many-faceted forgotten Scot? Well yes, but worth noting that this book is made of collected anecdotes, stories and poems and is the first place to record the ballads Tam Lin, Froggy would a-wooing go and The Ballad of Chevy Chase.

You may also be interested that it contains the earliest recorded instance of words including axis, barbarian, buffoon, cabinet, crackling, decadence, excrement, heroic, humid, imbecile, moo, parallel, robust, suffocation, superb, timid and water-lily.

More on the Complaynt here and Leyden's Panjabi translations here

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