Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/165

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JVotes on Ballad Origins. 149

" popular," not literary or professional. In the course of oral tradition changes of all kinds, for good or bad, were certain to be made. The Border collaborated in our extant versions. I do not here speak of political ballads, made to be printed, as many were, and still preserved in their original shape. Many ballads, many savage poems, are "popular," are, as they stand, the composite work of many persons^ on an earlier canvas. Where, in the case of savages, there are no distinctions of rank, no professional poets, the songs are certainly the work of " the people," — not of the people all shouting at once of course ! There, there is nothing but "people" — and individuals of the people make the Dirges of Corsica, and the touching songs of the Arapahoe " Ghost Dance." Examples of these may cling to the memory of the listeners, who, in repeating them, are almost certain to modify them, in fact to collaborate. In a society like that of the South Pacific, when an individual cannot make his own verses for " the Death Talk," he gets somebody more gifted to help him, and we know many names of old Poly- nesian poets. Professionalism is beginning.^ In Australian legends, the heroes and heroines of each adventure sing words of their own in moments of excitement ; they are their own poets. Professional or semi-professional poets naturally increase with the advance of society, and the division of labour ; and the dirge-singers of Corsica may be as it happens, amateur or professional mourners. In savage society, the medicine-man may make his own magical chants, or may know traditional versions. If such poetry does not spring " from the heart of the people," where there is nothing but " people," I know not whence it springs. But this is not a denial of individual authorship by members of the people, in the first instance, before the collaboration of reciters begins. Even in deliberately collaborative verse, each man or woman, as I have said, offers a quota, from

' Wyatt Gill, IMyths and Songs of the South Pacific, and Scenes from Savage Life.