Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/44

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Presidential Address.

like the variations of a melody, and, lastly, in the most perfect and typical examples of the ballads, with a recurring-refrain or burden to guide the movements of the dancers. For the ballad, as the etymology of the word shows, was originally a vocal accompaniment of dancing.

Early in the twelfth century,—that great century of new impulses, new movements, new studies, and reformed institutions, when society was knitting Itself together again after the chaos of the Dark Ages,—early in that century, so Professor Ker tells us, preachers in different parts of Northern Europe began to denounce a new fashion of dancing and singing in churches and churchyards which had lately spread from France. The words of some of the caroles which they held up to reprobation have been preserved and prove to be neither more nor less than refrains, such as ballad-lovers know so well. The earliest French caroles seem to have been purely lyrical songs, without any narrative plot, and the French rondes[1] preserve this early form to the present day; but narrative soon followed, and it was in this shape that the ballad spread to other countries.

The traditional ballad is common to France, the Peninsula (with the single exception of Castile), Piedmont, Germany, Scandinavia, and the English-speaking parts of the British Isles. It does not appear ever to have penetrated into the region of Celtic culture, and in Southern Europe it stops short at Tuscany, where the popular songs are purely lyrical. The limited and well-defined area which it covers thus makes the task of investigation fairly possible.

The place where above all others the ballad took root and

  1. Sur le pont d'Avignon on y danse, tout en ronde, and so forth. Our children's singing games,—"Here we go round the mulberry bush," "London Bridge is broken down," etc.,—are evidently closely related to these rondes. Some of them are still played by adults here and there. 1 have myself joined in "Bobby Bingo" at a "choir-party" of grown-up people in Derbyshire.