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BALLADS

the league, the league, but barely three,” of Scottish ballads; and the τριὰ πουλακιά, three golden birds, which sing the prelude to Greek folk-songs, and so on. A more curious note of primitive poetry is the lavish and reckless use of gold and silver. H. F. Tozer, in his account of ballads in the Highlands of Turkey, remarks on this fact, and attributes it to Eastern influences. But the horses' shoes of silver, the knives of fine gold, the talking “birds with gold on their wings,” as in Aristophanes, are common to all folk-song. Everything almost is gold in the Kalewala (q.v.), a so-called epic formed by putting into juxtaposition all the popular songs of Finland. Gold is used as freely in the ballads, real or spurious, which M. Verkovitch has had collected in the wilds of Mount Rhodope. The Captain in the French song is as lavish in his treatment of his runaway bride,—

“Son amant l’habille,
Tout en or et argent”;

and the rustic in a song from Poitou talks of his faucille d’or, just as a variant of Hugh of Lincoln introduces gold chairs and tables. Again, when the lover, in a ballad common to France and to Scotland, cuts the winding-sheet from about his living bride—“il tira ses ciseaux d’or fin.” If the horses of the Klephts in Romaic ballads are gold shod, the steed in Willie’s Lady is no less splendidly accoutred,—

“Silver shod before,
And gowden shod behind.”

Readers of Homer, and of the Chanson de Roland, must have observed the same primitive luxury of gold in these early epics, in Homer reflecting perhaps the radiance of the actual “golden Mycenae.”

Next as to talking-birds. These are not so common as in Märchen, but still are very general, and cause no surprise to their human listeners. The omniscient popinjay, who “up and spoke” in the Border minstrelsy, is of the same family of birds as those that, according to Talvj, pervade Servian song; as the τριὰ πουλακιά which introduce the story in the Romaic ballads; as the wise birds whose speech is still understood by exceptionally gifted Zulus; as the wicked dove that whispers temptation in the sweet French folk-song; as the “bird that came out of a bush, on water for to dine,” in the Water o' Wearies Well.

In the matter of identity of plot and incident in the ballads of various lands, it is to be regretted that no such comparative tables exist as Von Hahn tried, not very exhaustively, to make of the “story-roots” of Märchen. Such tables might be compiled from the learned notes and introductions of Prof. Child to his English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1898). A common plot is the story of the faithful leman, whose lord brings home “a braw new bride,” and who recovers his affection at the eleventh hour. In Scotland this is the ballad of Lord Thomas and Fair Annie; in Danish it is Skiaen Anna. It occurs twice in M. Fauriel’s collection of Romaic songs. Again, there is the familiar ballad about a girl who pretends to be dead, that she may be borne on a bier to meet her lover. This occurs not only in Scotland, but in the popular songs of Provence (collected by Damase Arbaud) and in those of Metz (Puymaigre), and in both countries an incongruous sequel tells how the lover tried to murder his bride, and how she was too cunning, and drowned him. Another familiar feature is the bush and briar, or the two rose trees, which meet and plait over the graves of unhappy lovers, so that all passers-by see them, and say in the Provençal,—

“Diou ague l’amo
Des paures amourous.”

Another example of a very widespread theme brings us to the ideas of the state of the dead revealed in folk-songs. The Night Journey, in M. Fauriel’s Romaic collection, tells how a dead brother, wakened from his sleep of death by the longing of love, bore his living sister on his saddle-bow, in one night, from Bagdad to Constantinople. In Scotland this is the story of Proud Lady Margaret; in Germany it is the song which Bürger converted into Lenore; in Denmark it is Aagé und Elsé; in Brittany the dead foster-brother carries his sister to the apple close of the Celtic paradise (Barzaz Breiz). Only in Brittany do the sad-hearted people think of the land of death as an island of Avalon, with the eternal sunset lingering behind the flowering apple trees, and gleaming on the fountain of forgetfulness. In Scotland the channering worm doth chide even the souls that come from where, “beside the gate of Paradise, the birk grows fair enough.” The Romaic idea of the place of the dead, the garden of Charon, whence "neither in spring or summer, nor when grapes are gleaned in autumn, can warrior or maiden escape," is likewise pre-Christian. In Provençal and Danish folk-song, the cries of children ill-treated by a cruel step-mother awaken the departed mother,—

“’Twas cold at night and the bairnies grat,
The mother below the mouls heard that.”

She reappears in her old home, and henceforth, “when dogs howl in the night, the step-mother trembles, and is kind to the children.” To this identity of superstition we may add the less tangible fact of identity of tone. The ballads of Klephtic exploits in Greece match the Border songs of Dick of the Cow and Kinmont Willie. The same simple delight of living animates the short Greek Scolia and their counterparts in France. Everywhere in these happier climes, as in southern Italy, there are snatches of popular verse that make but one song of rose trees, and apple blossom, and the nightingale that sings for maidens loverless,—

“Il ne chante pas pour moi,
J’en ai un, Dieu merci,”

says the gay French refrain.

It would not be difficult to multiply instances of resemblance between the different folk-songs of Europe; but enough has, perhaps, been said to support the position that some of them are popular and primitive in the same sense as Märchen. They are composed by peoples of an early stage who find, in a natural improvisation, a natural utterance of modulated and rhythmic speech, the appropriate relief of their emotions, in moments of high-wrought feeling or on solemn occasions. “Poesie” (as Puttenham well says in his Art of English Poesie, 1589) “is more ancient than the artificiall of the Greeks and Latines, and used of the savage and uncivill, who were before all science and civilitie. This is proved by certificate of merchants and travellers, who by late navigations have surveyed the whole world, and discovered large countries, and wild people strange and savage, affirming that the American, the Perusine, and the very Canniball do sing and also say their highest and holiest matters in certain riming versicles.” In the same way Aristotle, discoursing of the origin of poetry, says (Poet. c. iv.), ἐγέννησαν τὴν ποίησιν ἐκ τῶν αὐτοσχεδιασμάτων M. de la Villemarqué in Brittany, M. Pitré in Italy, Herr Ulrich in Greece, have described the process of improvisation, how it grows out of the custom of dancing in large bands and accompanying the figure of the dance with song. “If the people,” says M. Pitré, “find out who is the composer of a canzone, they will not sing it.” Now in those lands where a blithe peasant life still exists with its dances, like the kolos of Russia, we find ballads identical in many respects with those which have died out of oral tradition in these islands. It is natural to conclude that originally some of the British ballads too were first improvised, and circulated in rustic dances. We learn from M. Bujeaud and M. de Puymaigre in France, that all ballads there have their air or tune, and that every dance has its own words, for if a new dance comes in, perhaps a fashionable one from Paris, words are fitted to it. Is there any trace of such an operatic, lyrical, dancing peasantry in austere Scotland? We find it in Gawin Douglas’s account of—

“Sic as we clepe wenches and damosels,
In gersy greens, wandering by spring wells,
Of bloomed branches, and flowers white and red,
Plettand their lusty chaplets for their head,
Some sang ring-sangs, dances, ledes, and rounds.”

Now, ring-sangs are ballads, dancing songs; and Young Tamlane, for instance, was doubtless once danced to, as we know it possessed an appropriate air. Again, Fabyan, the chronicler (quoted by Ritson) says that the song of triumph over Edward II., “was after many days sung in dances, to the carols of the