" Folk-songs," say the Board of Education, in their Suggestions for the consideration of Teachers, "are the expression in the idiom of the people of their joys and sorrows, their unaffected patriotism, their zest for sport, and the simple pleasures of a country life. Such music is the tarly and spontaneous uprising of artistic power in a nation, and the ground on which all national music is built up; folk-songs are the true classics of the people, and their survival, so often by tradition alone, proves that their appeal is direct and lasting."
This, we contend, is true in every particular, and national music may be said to be built up on folk melodies. Unhappily, with us the music of our race has been ignored, disparaged, and set aside; and our modern music is the outcome of the study of foreign models. We have been the very starlings of the musical world, acquiring the pipe and warble of strange birds, and forgetting our own wood-notes wild.
In our primary and secondary schools no provision has been made for the teaching of folk-jnusic to our children. They have been given tunes " made in Germany," or composed for them by masters, English it may be, but speaking in another musical tongue from that of the people.
Folk-song is in verity the product of the people, rising as naturally out of its consciousness, expressing as truly its feelings and its aspirations, as the song of thrush and blackbird and ousel expresses the longings of the, little hearts, and their rapture in spring sun and zephyrs.
The folk-song of one race is not the folk-song of another, any more than the warble of the blackbird is the twitter of the finch, Why, then, should we endeavour to force our children to learn the notes of Germany and France and Italy, instead ot acquiring that which is their very own ? Why dress a Japanese in English hat and frock coat, and force English feet into French sabots ?
I have lived for over forty years in country parishes, and not once have I heard a child spontaneously give forth one of these school songs, though I have met these children daily in lane and road, nutting in the woods, gleaning in the cornfields. I hear their bright, clear voices ring out in chatter and laugh, never in the class-acquired song. That is rejected, as they leave school, as something acquired, uncongenial, and irksome.
English Folk-songs for Schools. 2