Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

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

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without any assistance from print; and it is not likely that they will entirely disappear for genera­tions to come, any more than the perennial nursery tales which were created by and appeal to the prim­itive and childish imagination. These traditional versions have been altered to suit the localities, and weakened in their coherence and vigor of expres­sion from the time when they were the literature of the main body of the people instead of the lowest class, as the stall copies of the ballads of the ancient minstrels, when they were the attendants of kings and nobles and shared the inspiration of chivalry, have been degraded to the level of the intelligence of the audience of the street singers or the gather­ings in the taprooms of the village alehouses ; but they retain the essential characteristics of simple emotion, inherent melody, and primitive language, and have still something of the fine and penetrating flavor of popular romance.
It is almost needless to say to the student of lit­erature that the art of popular ballad writing is extinct, or is successful only in the rarest instances. Poets of genuine power and inspiration, imbued and saturated with the spirit of the ancient ballads, have attempted to re-create them in the telling of an ancient or modern story, but, whatever their original power or imitative skill, they have failed to reproduce that native strength and peculiar
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