Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Presidential Address.

take some small part in the work. What the book will eventually grow to, and in what form it will appear, must be left to the future. Meantime, Folk-Lore will go on as usual, and the County Folklore series will not be discontinued.

I have now to ask your attention to the revised edition of the Prospectus, copies of which have been forwarded to all members.[1] In it the Council have endeavoured to formulate with greater precision the exact scope and limits of the Society's studies, and you will be asked to-night to sanction a revised wording of Rule I. in accordance with this definition. Even yet there are those who confound folklore with architectural antiquities on the one hand, and with dialects on the other. Others, who have arrived at some perception of its nature, still look upon it as a miscellaneous collection of odds and ends, interesting only to the mere dilettante, the intellectual bric-a-brac hunter, and are far from realizing that it is the product of an important phase of man's intellectual history, and, as such, most worthy the attention of all serious students of human nature.

For what is Folklore? The word itself answers the question. It is the learning of the people, the traditional lore of the folk,—whether among the backward races of mankind or among the backward classes of more advanced races. It is not folk-speech. It is not art or handicraft. It is the product of the Thought, the Idea, of early or barbaric man, expressed in word or in action, in Belief, Custom, Story, Song, or Saying. This is no mere arbitrary selection of subjects. On the contrary, it represents with tolerable completeness the mental activities of unlettered folk.

Let me try to show this by a concrete example. A traditional ballad, known by the name of the "Bitter Withy," has lately come to light in Herefordshire and the adjoining counties (and in one case in Sussex), where it is

  1. Copies for distribution can be had from the Secretary on application.