Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 17, 1906.djvu/396

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380 Reviews.

books into which the work is distributed may be quoted as a good example of a style which, like that of another historian, Mr. Courthope, is as a clear, achromatic, telescopic glass. The paragraph shows that Mr. Chambers's volumes are, as he puts it in his Oxford way, not without their " logos or rational framework."

"The drama as a living form of art went completely under at the break-up of the Roman world ; a process of natural decay was accelerated by the hostility of Christianity, which denied the theatre, and by the indifference of barbarism, which had never imagined it. If anything of a histrionic tradition survived, it took the shape of pitiable farce, one amongst many heterogeneous elements in the spectacula of dis- reputable mimes. For the men of the Middle Ages, however, peasants or burghers, monks or nobles, such spectacula had a con- stant attraction ; and the persistence of the deep-rooted mimetic instinct in the folk is proved by the frequent outcrops of primitive drama in the course of those popular observances which are the last sportive stage of ancient heathen ritual. Whether of folk or of minstrel origin, the ludi remained to the last alien and distasteful to the Church. ... It is the more remarkable that the present volume has to describe a most singular new birth of the drama in the very bosom of the Church's own ritual " (vol. ii. p. 2.)

A few lines must suffice to show in outline how these filia- tions and connexions are worked out. The first of the four books, on " Minstrelsy," traces the pedigree, the ranks, and the social fortunes of "the vast body of nomad entertainers on whom so much of the gaiety of the Middle Ages depended " (i. 25) : who were carriers of so much poetry and story, with the tumblers, jugglers, buffoons, and other irresponsibles in their wake. One of the points most clearly driven home is that the differing castes of these performers can be traced to their composite origin. The lower walks of the calling answer broadly to the mi?nes of the old Graeco-Roman world, who were reviled and dispossessed by " the bishops and the barbarians." The higher, on the other hand, derive more nearly from the highly placed and honoured Germanic scop,