Studies In Folk-song And Popular Poetry

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

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affection are bestowed upon them, and, unlike many primitive races, the Breton peasantry have a great tenderness toward the dumb companions of their labors. When they kill them it is from necessity, and with a genuine sensibility for their sufferings, which may have its ancient root in a tradition of animal worship, such as led the North American Indian to apologize to the bear, whom he was killing with his arrows. At any rate it is a very creditable feeling, and adds to the respect and liking which the Breton character inspires, that there should be this tenderness for the old horse, who has ploughed the fields and borne burdens unĀ­til his strength is spent; for the old goat, who has given milk for the children; and even for the pig, who has inhabited the pen by the cabin. In the folk-songs this feeling is represented by various pieces of verse, giving the last wills and testaments of old animals, who bequeath, sometimes in a spirit of humor, and sometimes with affectionate tenderĀ­ness, portions of their bodies and qualities of their spirits to their human friends and companions. There is thus the testament of the goat, the old sow, and the old mare. The latter displays a touching feeling, and the impression of quaint absurdity gives way to a more tender emotion and that touch of pathos which is evoked by all animal affection and animal suffering.
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