Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

An Extensive Investigation Into The Sources And Inspiration Of National Folk Song

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est resemblance; while the only occasions in which they have been heard sung by the peasantry have been traced to the scattered leaves of the book it­self. A hot literary controversy has been waged over the authenticity of M. Villemarque's ballads, but the best opinion has settled into the belief that they are fabrications and reconstructions from frag­ments not more authentic and genuine than those which were the basis of Macpherson's Ossian or Chatterton's poems of Rowley, although M. Ville-marque was as thoroughly possessed with the spirit of Breton poetry, and as saturated with the know­ledge of Breton history, as Sir Walter Scott was with Scottish poetry and Scottish history, and in one sense they were as genuine as the ballads of The Baron of Smalholme and Thomas the Rhymer. But the idea that the contemporary poems relating to Merlin and King Arthur, and even those of the exploits of Du Guesclin and The Combat of the Thirty, had been preserved in faithful and uncor-rupted condition by oral tradition, and were still a portion of the folk-songs of the Breton peasantry, to say nothing of the survival of Druidic poetry and tradition in a distinct form, attractive as it is to the historic imagination, must be given up, like the belief in the survival of the epic of Fingal.
It does not do to expect too much from folk-poetry in the way of the perpetuation of history.
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