Child's, The English And Scottish Ballads

Volume 5 of 8 from 1860 edition - online book

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INTRODUCTION.                     Xxxiii
We do not therefore attribute much value to the theory of Mr. Wright, that the May festival was, in its earliest form, "a religious celebration, though, like such festivals in general, it possessed a double character, that of a religious ceremony, and of an opportunity for the performance of war­like games ; that, at such festivals, the songs would take the character of the amusements on the occasion, and would most likely celebrate warlike deeds—perhaps the myths of the patron whom superstition supposed to preside over them ; that, as the character of the exercises changed, the attributes of the patron would change also, and he who was once celebrated as working wonders with his good axe or his elf-made sword, might after­wards assume the character of a skilful bowman ; that the scene of his actions would likewise change, and the person whose weapons were the bane of dragons and giants, who sought them in the wil­dernesses they infested, might become the enemy only of the sheriff and his officers, under the ' grene-wode lefe.' " It is unnecessary to point out that the language we have quoted contains, beyond the statement that warlike exercises were anciently combined with religious rites, a very slightly founded surmise, and nothing more.
Another circumstance which weighs much with Mr. Wright, goes but a very little way with us in-demonstrating the mythological characte'r of Kobin Hood. This is the frequency with which his