Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 1 of 8 from 1860 edition

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ler have printed two widely different versions of the ballad in Wendish, Volkslieder der Wenden, vol. i. No. 285, ii. No. 195. These are all the proper tra­ditional ballads upon this subject which are known to be preserved, unless we include a piece called Jiirg Drachentodter, in Zuccalmaglio's Deutsche Volkslieder, No. 37, which is of suspicious authenticity. The piece called Ritter St. Georg, in Des Knaben Wunderhorn, i. 151, is not a proper ballad, but a rhymed legend, like the one here printed, though intended to be sung. The hero of these ballads, St. George of Cappa-docia, is said to have suffered martyrdom during the persecution in Syria, in the year 303. In the 6th century he was a recognized saint both in the west­ern and the eastern churches, and his reputation was limited to this character until the 13th. Reinbot von Dorn, (1231-53,) in his poem Der Heilige Georg, (Von der Hagen and Biisching's Deutsche Gedichte des Mittelalters,) and Vincent de Beauvais (f 1262) in his Speculum Historiale (XII. 131-32), content them­selves with recounting his martyrdom, and appear to know nothing about his fight with the Dragon. The first known writer who attributes this exploit to St. George is Jacobus a Voragine (f 1298), in the Golden Legend. Of course it does not follow that the story originated there. It is probable that the legend of the Dragon arose at the time of the Crusades, and indeed was partly occasioned by them, though we ought not hastily to admit, what has been suggested, that it was founded upon some tradition which the Crusaders heard in Syria.
The Byzantians had long before ascribed various miracles to St. George, but it was the Normans, who, so to say, first pressed him into active military service.