"Robin Hood" is the "Lytell Geste of Robyn Hood," printed in London by Wynken de Worde, and again in Edinburgh by Chepman and Myllar in 15O8, in the first year of the establishment of a printing-press in Scotland.
"King Edward IV. and the Tanner of Tamworth" is a ballad of a kind once popular; there were "King Alfred and the Neatherd," "King Henry and the Miller," "King James I. and the Tinker," "King Henry VII. and the Cobbler," with a dozen more. "The Tanner of Tamworth" in another, perhaps older, form, as "The King and the Barker," was printed by Joseph Ritson in his "Ancient Popular Poetry."
"Sir Patrick Spens" was first published by Percy in his "Reliques of Ancient English Poetry" (1757). It was given by Sir Walter Scott in his "Minstrelsy of the Border," and with more detail by Peter Buchan in his "Ancient Ballads of the North." Buchan took it from an old blind ballad-singer who had recited it for fifty years, and learnt it in youth from another very old man. The ballad is upon an event in Scottish history of the thirteenth century, touching marriage of a Margaret, daughter of the King of Scotland, to Haningo, son of the King of Norway. The perils of a winter sea-passage in ships of the olden time were recognised by an Act of the reign of James III. of Scotland, prohibiting all navigation "frae the feast of St. Simon's Day and Jude unto the feast of the Purification of our Lady, called Candlemas."
"Edom o' Gordon" was first printed at Glasgow by Robert and Andrew Foulis in 1755. Percy ascribed its preservation to Sir David Dalrymple, who gave it from the memory of a lady. The incident was transferred to the border from the North of Scotland. Edom o' Gordon was Sir Adam Gordon of Auchindown, Lieutenant-Depute for Queen Mary in the North in 1571. He sent Captain Ker with soldiers against the Castle of Towie, which was set on fire, and the Lady of Towie, with twenty-six other persons, "was cruelly brint to the death." Other forms of the ballad ascribe the deed, with incidents of greater cruelty, to Captain Carr, the Lord of Estertowne.
"The Children in the Wood" was entered in the books of the Stationers' Company on the 15th of October 1595 to Thomas Millington as, "for his Copie vnder th[e h]andes of bothe the wardens a ballad intituled, The Norfolk gent his will and Testament and how he Commytted the keepinge of his Children to his owne brother whoe delte moste wickedly with them and howe God plagued him for it." It was printed as a black-letter ballad in 167O. Addison wrote a paper on it in "The Spectator" (No. 85), praising it as "one of the darling songs of the common people."
"The Blind Beggar of Bednall Green" is in many collections, and was known in Elizabeth's time, another Elizabethan ballad having been set to the tune of it. "This very house," wrote Samuel Pepys in June 1663 of Sir William Rider's house at Bethnal Green, "was built by the blind beggar of Bednall Green, so much talked of and sung in ballads; but they say it was only some outhouses of it." The Angels that abounded in the Beggar's stores were gold coins, so named from the figure on one side of the Archangel Michael overcoming the Dragon. This coin was first struck in 1466, and it was used until the time of Charles the First.
"The Bailiff's Daughter of Islington," or "True Love Requited," is a ballad in Pepys's collection, now in the Bodleian. The Islington of the Ballad is supposed to be an Islington in Norfolk.
"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."