Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/47

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33
Presidential Address.

accompanied by dancing;[1] it dropped its characteristic refrain. It degenerated in the hands of professional balladwriters; it got printed on broadsheets; it travelled in pedlars' packs. Like the Last Minstrel it

"tuned to please a peasant's ear
The harp a King had loved to hear."

Divorced from the Customs to which it belonged, it became a dead relic, "a mere survival."

Incidentally, the history of the genesis and decay of the ballad-poetry of the North bears on another important point,—the place of the racial element in folklore. Though the geographical area covered by the ballads is not racial, but cultural, the racial element is not absent. We have the French setting the fashion to their neighbour-nations in styles of song and dance, as they did in architecture, in arms, and in chivalry, and as they do now in cookery and costume. In matters of method, France has always been the leader of Europe. Then we have the Northern nations exhibiting the special trait predicated of them by Professor Gwatkin, lecturing at Cambridge some ten or twelve years ago, (I quote from memory),—"They were not a people of marked original genius, but they were the best of learners, and soon bettered their masters." The occasion of his observation was the rapid transformation of the rude Northmen who settled on the French coast in the ninth and tenth centuries into the polished Norman chivalry of the eleventh. The "Norman" architecture which they brought with them into England speaks to this day of the mutual relations of France and Scandinavia, and Professor Ker's story of the connection between the French and

  1. Ballad-dancing, however, survived in England down to the reign of Elizabeth, if not later. "Ballets or daunces are songs which being sung to a dittie may likewise be daunced," Morley's Plaine and easie introduction to Practical Musicke, 1597. "The infinite number of Ballads set to sundry pleasant and delightful tunes by amusing and witty composers, with country dances fitted thereto," Butler's Principles of Musicke, 1636. (Quoted, Harold Simpson, A Century of Ballads, pp. 4, 5).