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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/454

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446
Some Recent Utterances of

held, be of recent origin, and that origin must be external, and, being of foreign introduction, the phenomenon cannot be correlated with intellectual and artistic conceptions to the existence of which on European soil we have unbroken testimony of 3,000 years' standing. So easily does an unnecessary postulate lead to circular reasoning.

That the postulate is unnecessary seems to me hardly to require demonstration. The explanation of the phenomenon is so simple. As long as the whole of literature was mythico-heroic in essence and spirit, the lower forms were inevitably disregarded. To the men who told of Apollo the Python Slayer, or of Sigurd Fafnerbane, a story such as Jack the Giant Killer must have seemed an inferior variant of what they possessed in perfect form. Not until the divorce between culture and traditional literature was complete could the folk-version of that literature stand a chance of recognition.[1] And then it shared the attention bestowed for the first time upon folk-lore generally, because for the first time that lore, ceasing to be a living factor in the higher ethics and philosophy, became susceptible of disinterested scientific examination. But the apparent new birth of folk-literature was chiefly determined by a rebirth of artistic literature. The consideration of this point will, I trust, enable me to make my peace both with Mr. Newell and with Mr. Jacobs.

The antique theory of life, whether as a mere survival, or still in full force, manifests itself in three ways: in religion, politico-legal organisation, and literature. But whilst polity, whether spiritual or secular, having once discarded the antique conceptions, became actually hostile to them, it was otherwise with literature. For this aims at depicting man in the sum total of his activities and emotions, whilst religion and law aim at disciplining and modifying

  1. This is as true of classic antiquity as of modern times. In the second century the ancients were feeling their way to an independent interest in and study of folk-literature and folk-lore generally. Apuleius is a fifteen century earlier precursor of Basile and Perrault.