Open main menu

Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/173

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
English Folk-Drama.

when slain, and both of them — Hke the sword-dance — take us straight back to Scandinavia. By way of illustrating this permanence of the archaic in dramatic tradition, let me select two instances. A version of the St. George drama is concluded with the introduction of a hobby-horse, over whom a song of several verses is sung, the horse snapping his jaws by way of chorus after each verse, by a device familiar on the stage, when Bottom in his ass's head moves the ass's jaws when speaking. The fourth verse is as follows : —

"Behold how this horse stands upon the stones !
He is short in the leg, but full in the bone,
He has an eye like a hawk, a ear like a dove ;
As many wrinkles in his forehead as there is in an acre of ploughed ground."

That last line is an obvious interpolation, connecting the horse with the plough. In the whole song it is the only line which utterly escapes the metre. Counting the syllables, it makes about two-and-a-half lines of the verse in the rest of the piece. It is clearly an interpolation ; it belongs to the traditionary observance which survived from the sacrificial rite to the Scandinavian goddess of agriculture.

Another instance : another version of the same song in another county. At the close of the song, which is one of lamentation over the poor old horse, past his prime, the animal, or rather its representative, drops down as if dead. Same dialogue ensues, the upshot of which is that the horse gets a new lease of life, like the wounded combatants in the St. George and mumming plays ; and the horse proceeds to worry a blacksmith who endeavours to shoe him. The affair is concluded by the singing of the following stanza : —

"The man that shod this horse. Sir,
That was no use at all,
He likened to worry the blacksmith,
His hammer and nails and all."

These lines, says the recorder, are sung with great noise