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Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs (1886)   By: (1852-1931)

Book cover

First Page:

Will no one tell me what she sings? Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow For old, unhappy, far off things, And battles long ago: Or is it some more humble lay, Familiar matter of to day? Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain, That has been, and may be again!

W. WORDSWORTH.

ESSAYS IN THE STUDY OF FOLK SONGS.

BY THE COUNTESS EVELYN MARTINENGO CESARESCO.

LONDON: GEORGE REDWAY, YORK STREET, COVENT GARDEN. MDCCCLXXXVI.

CONTENTS

PAGE

INTRODUCTION ix

THE INSPIRATION OF DEATH IN FOLK POETRY 1

NATURE IN FOLK SONGS 30

ARMENIAN FOLK SONGS 53

VENETIAN FOLK SONGS 89

SICILIAN FOLK SONGS 122

GREEK SONGS OF CALABRIA 152

FOLK SONGS OF PROVENCE 177

THE WHITE PATERNOSTER 203

THE DIFFUSION OF BALLADS 214

SONGS FOR THE RITE OF MAY 249

THE IDEA OF FATE IN SOUTHERN TRADITIONS 270

FOLK LULLABIES 299

FOLK DIRGES 354

INTRODUCTION.

Wo man singt da lass dich ruhig nieder, Böse Menschen haben keine Lieder.

INTRODUCTION.

It is on record that Wilhelm Mannhardt, the eminent writer on mythology and folk lore, was once taken for a gnome by a peasant he had been questioning. His personal appearance may have helped the illusion; he was small and irregularly made, and was then only just emerging from a sickly childhood spent beside the Baltic in dreaming over the creations of popular fancy. Then, too, he wore a little red cap, which was doubtless fraught with supernatural suggestions. But above all, the story proves that Mannhardt had solved the difficulty of dealing with primitive folk; that instead of being looked upon as a profane and prying layman, he was regarded as one who was more than initiated into the mysteries as one who was a mystery himself. And for this reason I recall it here. It exactly indicates the way to set about seeking after old lore. We ought to shake off as much as possible of our conventional civilization which frightens uneducated peasants, and makes them think, at best, that we wish to turn them into ridicule. If we must not hope to pass for spirits of earth or air, we can aim at inspiring such a measure of confidence as will persuade the natural man to tell us what he still knows of those vanishing beings, and to lend us the key to his general treasure box before all that is inside be reduced to dust.

This, which applies directly to the collector at first hand, has also its application for the student who would profit by the materials when collected. He should approach popular songs and traditions from some other stand point than that of mere criticism; and divesting himself of preconcerted ideas, he should try to live the life and think the thoughts of people whose only literature is that which they carry in their heads, and in whom Imagination takes the place of acquired knowledge.

I.

Research into popular traditions has now reached a stage at which the English Folk Lore Society have found it desirable to attempt a classification of its different branches, and in future, students will perhaps devote their labours to one or another of these branches rather than to the subject as a whole. Certain of the sections thus mapped out have plainly more special attractions for a particular class of workers: beliefs and superstitions chiefly concern those who study comparative mythology; customs are of peculiar importance to the sociologist, and so on. But tales and songs, while offering points of interest to scientific specialists, appeal also to a much wider class, namely, to all who care at all for literature. For the Folk tale is the father of all fiction, and the Folk song is the mother of all poetry... Continue reading book >>




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