Page:A book of the west; being an introduction to Devon and Cornwall.djvu/50

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26
THE WESTERN FOLK

without any apparent object save that of "breathing the air," and (it must be added) of keeping an open eye for nymphs, one of whom seldom fails to be seeking the same seclusion. Mutual advances ensue; no explanations are needed; constancy is neither vowed nor required. The casual lovers meet and part, and no sequel is appended to the artless tale.

Sentiment is the staple of Devonshire folk-song; it is a trifle unwholesome, but it is unmistakably graceful and charming. Take such songs as "By chance it was," "The Forsaken Maiden," "The Gosshawk," "Golden Furze;" surely there is a gush of genuine melody and the spirit of poetry in such tunes.

In some respects the folk-song of Devonshire is rather disappointing. There is no commemoration, no appreciation, of her heroes. The salt sea-breeze does not seem to reach inland, save to whisper in a wailing tone of "The Drowned Lover," or the hapless "Cabin Boy." Sea-songs may be in her ports, but they were not born there.

Nor are the joys of the chase proclaimed with such robustness as elsewhere, any more than are the pleasures and excitements of the flowing bowl. This may be attributed to the same refinement of character of which I have spoken.

A pastoral and peace-loving community will not be expected to develop any special sense of humour. Devonshire is by no means deficient in it, but it is of a quiet sort, a sly humour something allied to what the Scotch call "pawky," of which "Widicombe