A Book of Old English Ballads


More illustration from George Wharton Edwards (1859–1950) with a collection of ballads from 1910. These being for the American market, the emphasis is on the picturesque England of kings and queens, duelling knights, and Robin Hood. A couple of exceptions, such as The Twa Corbies, point to the darker world of the Child Ballads where love and virtue aren’t always rewarded, and unnatural death is often the order of the day. Browse A Book of Old English Ballads here or download it here.



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Bird Gods


Why, I asked myself, should certain birds have been allotted to certain gods and goddesses in the Greek and Roman mythology? Why should the eagle go with Zeus, the peacock with Hera, the dove with Venus, the swan with Apollo, the woodpecker with Ares, the owl with Pallas Athene? It could not be mere chance that so many gods and goddesses had each their attendant bird; the attribution was too regular; it was done too much on a system. What was the original meaning of it all?

Charles de Kay attempts to answer his question in Bird Gods (1898), a study of the mythological and religious import of birds through the ages. Illustrator George Wharton Edwards was an American artist who worked in the Impressionist style when painting but here deliveries a range of bird portraits embellished with bits of imitation Celtic knotwork. The interlacings of Celtic art underwent a resurgence of interest with the development of Art Nouveau. Edwards’ illustrations aren’t the best examples of this (Mucha’s Hamlet poster is much better) but they give an idea of the trend. Browse the rest of De Kay’s book here or download it here.





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