Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

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

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tradition instead of being absolute translations from originals. But in spite of this discredit, which was more of a personal literary quarrel than a critical attack upon the quality of the poetry itself, its value was at once instinctively recognized as a new and original revelation, as an appeal to sensibilities in human nature which had been stifled by the nar­row and dry reasoning of English and Continental poetry at the time, and as a breath from the wide air of nature itself. It touched the European spirit, then struggling to emancipate itself from the swaddling bands of authority and artificial society, with electric power, and was a powerful influence in the emancipation both of literature and human action. Ossian profoundly affected the intellectual awakening of Goethe and was a favorite with Na­poleon, and throughout the whole of Europe its spirit was an inspiring and governing force. In English literature its effect was not less powerful, although less openly acknowledged owing to the discredit created by the charges of forgery, and both Byron's melancholy and Wordsworth's appre­ciation of the soul of nature were derived from this pervading spirit of ancient Celtic poetry.
So far as the direct study of Celtic poetry was concerned the Ossianic controversy was unquestion­ably a misfortune. It threw a cloud of suspicion and discredit upon the genuine fragments which
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