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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/179

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171
English Folk-Drama.

to realise next January. I have spoken of the modern aspect which the piece bears, but the archaism of the latter portion will be evident from my interpretation of the Easter and mumming plays.

[Extracts were read to the meeting.]

I do not think I need greatly insist on the archaism of the latter portion of this play — the episode of Beelzebub, Dame Jane, and the Doctor. It is clearly distinct in itself - as distinct as the episode of the fight between St. George and the Slasher, and the curing by the Doctor in the Easter play, which we have identified with the Summer and Winter contest of the Spring festival. It is, in fact, the same element, with modifications and change of characters : Beelzebub enacts the part of St. George, and Dame Jane that of the Slasher ; though whether the episode has been imported from the Easter play, or is another version of the original, is precisely the question for discussion. In the absence of the evidence here furnished, I can quite conceive that those who object to allow that we have in English tradition anything peculiar to the race, would give an explanation of the episode quite different from mine. The words :

"My head is made of iron,
My body is made of steel,
My hands and feet of knuckle-bone,
I think nobody can make me feel,"

which I am disposed to regard as a metaphorical description of the earth when possessed by winter, they would doubtless interpret as descriptive of armour worn by the knight. But how can that be, when the words are spoken by a female character ? We may grant that in the mutations which occur in folk-drama the episode may have been imported from the Easter play without much idea of fitness ; and then the question of interpretation remains as before. But if the object is to get at the root of the matter, surely we have here a good working factor in the problem ; and I am by no means disposed to get rid of it, put it on