Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/164

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148 Notes on Ballad Origins.

individual contributes his or her quota. Again, the recur- rent formulae must have been invented by some persons at some time, though now they are public property. Once more, in ballads with many variants (as The Queen's Marie), no individual author of any one existing variant is the author of the whole of any such extant version. There has, certainly, been unconscious popular collaboration, nor do we know what the first ballad on the subject was like.

That poetry, even among the Australian blacks, is by " some gifted individual " (inspired by the Mrarts or Boilyas, or spirits, or by Pundjel himself), we know from Mr. Howitt's essay on these unprofessional makers.' We also know that the song becomes mixed and modified, as it passes from tribe to tribe, so that, in a given piece, the " gifted individual" might at last hardly recognise his own original.

I am not aware that I myself " formerly scouted the notion that traditional ballads [in their original form] could be the work of individual balladists," as Mr. Henderson says. But, say in the case of The Queen! s Marie, and many other ballads, the variants which we have are no longer, I repeat, the original work of any individual : they are composite. In such instances I can say^ as in 1875 {Encyc. Brit., " Ballads "), " no one any longer attributes them to this or that author, or to this or that date."

Even in historical ballads, as Kinmont Willie, we know the date of the event (1596), but the poem is a com.posite in which Scott has handled traditional materials as he pleased. We do not know how the original ballad ran. As to the gifted individuals who made such ballads, we have only Bishop Lesley's evidence {circ. 1570). " Ballads [cantiones) about the deeds of their ancestors, and ingenious forays they" — the Borderers — "compose themselves," that is, the Borderers were their own ballad-makers. In this sense I think we may call the origin of these Border ballads

' J. A. /., vol. xvi., \). 327.