The Folk-Lore Journal/Volume 5/Notices and News (December)


Spanish and Italian Folk-Songs. Translated by Alma Strettell. London, Macmillan and Co. 1887.

This is, on the whole, a charming book and does Miss Strettell infinite credit. Her metrical renderings of the short fantastic scraps of Spanish gipsy verse, which occupy nearly one-half of the volume,—veritable white-hot sparks of lyrical passion, beaten out from the ardent soul by the hammer-stroke of circumstance,—are generally excellent and sometimes exceedingly happy. The following are characteristic examples both of the manner of the original and of the translator's method:


The eyes of my dark beauty
Are like the wounds I bear.
Great as my desolation,
[And] black as my despair.


The dead-cart passed me by;
A band hung out uncovered,
I knew her again thereby.

I look from the iron-barred casement,
But nought to see is there
Save dust and sand in the sunshine,
Stirred by the languid air.

The extraordinary affinity in style and train of thought of the above and many of the Spanish pieces in the book to Heine's lyrical vein (or rather one phase of it), will at once strike the reader, showing how deeply the poet of the Romanzero and the Book of Lazarus was imbued with that folk-song feeling which is the essence of all great songwork.

Miss Strettell is scarcely so successful in the longer Jitano pieces. "Leave me, memory of sorrow," &c. for instance (p. 58), is hardly a happy rendering of the exquisite Petenera, "Dejame, memoria triste." In the Italian translations the contrary is the case; the Rispetti are generally much more felicitously Englished than the shorter and wilder Stornelli, the sudden flower-like charm of which Miss Strettell does not quite succeed in preserving. It would, by the way, be interesting to compare her versions of the latter with the French prose translation of Caselli (Dr. Henry Cazalis). A prominent and interesting feature of Miss Strettell's book is the illustrations, consisting in twelve photogravures after drawings by Messrs. Sargent, Morelli, Abbey and Padgett.

Ilchester Lectures on Greeko-Slavonic Literature and its Relation to the Folk-lore of Europe during the Middle Ages. By M. Gaster. London, 1887 (Trübner), 8vo. pp. 229.

In his paper printed in this part of the Journal Dr. Gaster sets forth his theories as to the origin of Folk-tales and their relationship to Folk-lore, and therefore it is needless to explain the basis of his book. Folk-tales, he says, have nothing to do with custom or superstition. They must be studied separately, because they are of different origin. But is not such an assertion begging more than half the question? To those of the Society who accept the teaching of Professor Tylor and Mr. Lang in their study of Folk-lore we can safely assert that there is little in Dr. Gaster's book which will eventually disturb their tenets. The fact is, he has taken too narrow a ground. Because folk-tales are similar to Biblical stories, because others are really literary in origin, it does not follow that the folk-tale in its origin and raison d'être is literary in origin. We cannot subscribe in any way to Dr. Gaster's theories, though glad enough to welcome his book for two sufficient reasons. In the first place it points out facts which Folk-lorists are apt to overlook, and in the second place it gives us an almost unique account of Slavonic literature. Little is really known of this in England, and Dr. Gaster affords an opportunity of study which will be welcome to a large circle of students. Dr. Gaster's book ought to be studied side by side with the published works on Slavonic folk-lore, notably Mr. Ralston's well-known studies in Russian Folk-lore. In this relationship his learned dissertation cannot be otherwise than useful. But apart from the literary history which it contains and the suggestiveness of some of his conclusions, we think he has not yet even disturbed the position of the anthropological view of the science of Folk-lore.