Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

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

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Like the remains of prehistoric people buried in geologic strata, it has been subject to the inevita­ble destruction of natural forces and to the attri­tion of time, and only remains like the fragments of implements and the piles of kitchen middens, from which careful study can extract the evidences of former existence and habits. It is only when an­cient poetry has been committed to writing, like the poems of Homer and the Scandinavian sagas, that it can be preserved in anything like a com­plete state ; and while there is a singular tenacity in popular poetry, it cannot endure for centuries by oral tradition alone, however secluded the people or however strong their national and poetic spirit. Sir Walter Scott was only just in time to save the Border ballads of the previous two centuries, and the usual duration of popular ballads in anything but an indistinct and fragmentary condition is even less. But, although the authenticity of the ballads of the Barzaz Breiz is discredited, it cannot be said that there is no genuine and valuable Breton folk-song. On" the contrary, it exists in very great quantity and of a high quality, not only as poe­try, but as illustrating the character and history of the people. The Breton race is not only a pro­foundly poetical one, by its pensive, mystic, and deeply religious character, but by its secluded con­dition apart from the currents of modern education,
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