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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/245

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237
The Folk.

Again, we shall have to go more minutely into the modus operandi of tradition if this conception of individual origin of folk-lore be firmly grasped. Just at present, we are content to say such and such a creation is spread from John-o'-Groat's to Land's End. The assumption is usually made, if only implicitly, that it arose independently in all the places of its occurrence, owing to the similarity of social conditions and the like. From the new stand-point we shall want to know how it thus spread, and where it took its rise, since from that standpoint it must have originated in one mind in one spot. And when we learn how it spreads in one country, we may get to know how it spreads from one country to another.

Again, from our individualistic standpoint we shall have to break down the rather hard and fast line we draw between folk-lore and literature. While a story passes per ora virum we call it folk-lore, the moment it gets written down we call it literature, and it ceases to have interest for us quá folk-lorists. I cannot recognise any such hard and fast distinction. Books are but so many telephones preserving the lore of the Folk, or more often burying it and embalming it. For, after all, we are the Folk as well as the rustic, though their lore may be other than ours, as ours will be different from that of those that follow us.

And finally, recognising this initiative among the Folk, and breaking down the distinction between the Folk of the past and of the present, we shall be able to study the lore of the present with happy results, I am sure, for our study of the lore of the past. Survivals are folk-lore, but folk-lore need not be all survivals. We ought to learn valuable hints as to the spread of folk-lore by studying the Folk of to-day. The music-hall, from this point of view, will have its charm for the folk-lorist, who will there find the Volkslieder of to-day. The spread of popular sayings, even the rise of new words, provided they be folk-words, should be regarded as a part of the study of folk-lore. It would be