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Will no one tell me what she sings? 
Perhaps the {>laintive numbers flow 
For old» unhappy, far-off things* 
And battles long ago: 
Or is it some more humble lay, 
Familiar matter of to-day ? 
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain, 
That lias been, and may be again 1 

W. Wordsworth. 











Introduction . 



The Inspiration op Death in Folk-Poetry 


Nature in Folk-Songs 


Armenian Folk-Songs . . * . 


Venetian Folk-Songs . 


Sicilian Folk-Songs . . . . , 


Greek Songs of Calabria . . . . 


Folk-songs of Provence 


The White Paternoster 


The Diffusion of Ballads . 


Songs for thi? Rite of May . 


The Idea of Fate in Southern Traditions 


Folk- Lullabies . 



• 354 


Reproduced by DUOPAGE process 
in the United States of America 

Cleveland 12. Ohio 


9^0f Jlctttfchni hftbin ktiiu JUber. 


It is on record that Wilhelm Mannhardt, the eminent 
writer on mythology and folk-lore, was once taken for 
a gnome by a peasant he had been questioning. His 
personal appearance may have helped the illusion; 
he was small and irregularly made, and was then only 
just emerging from a sickly childhood spent beside 
the Baltic in dreaming over the creations of popular 
fancy. Then, too, he wore a little red cap, which was 
doubtless fraught with supernatural suggestions. But 
above all, the story proves that Mannhardt had solved 
the difficulty of dealing with primitive folk; that 
instead of being looked upon as a profane and prying 
layman, he was regarded as one who was more than 
initiated into the mysteries — as one who was a mystery 
himself. And for this reason 1 recall it here. It 
exactly indicates the way to set about seeking after 
old lore. We ought to shake off as much as possible 
of pur conventional civilization which frightens un- 
educated peasants, and makes them think, at best, 
that we wish to turn them into ridicule. If we must 
not hope to pass for spirits of earth or air, we can aim 
at inspiring such a measure of confidence as will per- 
suade the natural man to tell us what he still knows 
of those vanishing beings, and to lend us the key to 

xii Introduction. 

his general treasure-box before all that Is Inside be 
reduced to dust 

This, which applies directly to the collector at first 
hand, has also its application for the student who 
would profit by the materials when collected. He 
should approach popular songs and traditions from 
some other standpoint than that of mere criticism; 
and divesting himself of preconcerted ideas, he should 
try to live the life and think the thoughts of people 
whose only literature is that which they carry in their 
heads, and in whom Imagination takes the place of 
acquired knowledge. 

Research into popular traditions has now reached 
a stage at which the English Folk- Lore Society have 
found it desirable to attempt a classification of its 
different branches, and in future, students will perhaps 
devote their labours to one or another of these branches 
rather than to the subject as a whole. Certain of the 
sections thus mapped out have plainly more special 
attractions for a particular class of workers : beliefs 
and superstitions chiefly concern those who study 
comparative mythology; customs are of peculiar 
importance to the sociologist, and so on. But tales 
and songs, while ofiering points of interest to scientific 
specialists, appeal also to a much wider class, namely, 
to all who care at all for literature. For the Folk- 
tale is the father of all fiction, and the Folk-song is 
the mother of all poetry. 

Mankind may be divided into the half which listens 
and the half which reads. For the first category in 

Introduction. xiii 

its former completeness, we must go now to the East ; 
in Europe only the poor, and of them a rapidly de- 
creasing proportion, have the memory to recite, the 
patience to hear, the faith to receive. It was not 
always or primarily an affair of classes : down even to 
a comparatively late day, the pure story-teller was a 
popular member of society in provincial France and 
Italy, and perhaps society was as well employed in 
listening to wonder-tales as it is at present. But there 
is no going back. The epitaph for the old order of 
things was written by the great philosopher who 
threw the last shovel of earth on its grave : 

O I'heureux temps que celui de ces fables 
Des bons ddmons, des esprits familiers, 
Des farfadets, aux mortels secourables I 
On ccoutait tous ces fails admirables 
Dans son chikteau, pr6s d'un large foyer : 
Le ^xt ct Toncle, ct la mfcre ct la fillc, 
Et les voisins, et toute la famille, 
Ouvraient roreille k Monsieur Tauindnier, 
Qui leur fesait des contcs de sorcier. 
On a banni Ics ddmons et les fdes; 
Sous la raison les grdces etouffdes, 
Livrent nous cccurs 2t Tinsipiditd ; 
Le raisonner tristement s'accrddite ; 
• On court, hdlas I aprfcs la veritd, 
Ah ! croyex-moi, Terreur a son mdrite.' 

Folk-songs differ from folk-tales by the fact of their 
making a more emphatic claim to credibility. Prose 
is allowed to be more fanciful, more frivolous than 
poetry. It deals with the brighter side ; the hero and 
heroine in the folk-tale marry and live happily ever 
after ; in the popular ballad they are but rarely united 

» Voltaire. 

xiv Introduction.. 

save in death. To the blithe supematuralism of elves 
and fairies, the folk-poet prefers the solemn super- 
naturalism of ghost-lore. 

The folk-song probably preceded the folk-tale. If 
we are to judge either by early record or by the ana- 
logy of backward peoples, it seems proved that in 
infant communities anything that was thought worth 
remembering was sung. It must have been soon as- 
certained that words rhythmically arranged take, as a 
rule, firmer root than prose. " As I do not know how 
to read," says a modern Greek folk-singer, ** I have 
made this story into a song so as not to forget it." 

Popular poetry is the reflection of moments of 
strong collective or individual emotion. The springs 
of legend and poetry issue from the deepest wells of 
national life ; the very heart of a people is laid bare 
in its sagas and songs. There have been times when 
a profound feeling of race or patriotism has sufficed 
to turn a whole nation into poets : this happened at 
the expulsion of the Moors from Spain, the struggle 
for the Stuarts in Scotland, for independence in 
Greece. It seems likely that all popular epics were 
born of some such concordant thrill of emotion. 
The saying x)f " a very wise man " reported by Andrew 
Fletcher of Saltoun, to the effect that if one were per- 
mitted to make all the ballads, he need not care who 
made the laws, must be taken with this reservation : 
the ballad-maker only wields his power for as long as 
he is the true interpreter of the popular will. Laws 
may be imposed on the unwilling, but not songs. 

The Brothers Grimm said that they had not found 
a single lie in folk-poetry. "The special value," 
wrote Goethe, " of what we call national songs and 

Introduction. xv 

ballads, is that their inspiration comes fresh from 
nature : they are never got up, they flow from a sure 
spring." He added, what must continually strike 
anyone who is brought in contact with a primitive 
peasantry, ''The unsophisticated man is more the 
master of direct, effective expression in few words 
than he who has received a regular literary education/* 
Bards chaunted the praises of head-men and heroes, 
and it may be guessed that almost as soon and as 
universally as tribes and races fell out, it grew to be 
the custom for each fighting chief to have one or 
more bards in his personal service. Robert Wace 
describes how William the Conqueror was followed 
by Taillefer, who 

Mounted on steed that was swift of foot, 
Went forth before the armed train 
Singing of Roland and Charlemain, 
Of Olivere, and the brave vassals 
Who died nt the Pass of Roncesvals. 

The northern skalds accompanied the armies to 
the wars and were present at all the battles. "Ye 
shall be here that ye may sec with your own eyes 
what is achieved this day,*' said King Olaf to his 
skalds on the eve of the Battle of Stikla<>tad (1030), 
"and have no occasion, when ye shall afterwards cele- 
brate these actions in song, to depend on the reports 
of others." In the same fight, a skald named Jhormod 
died an honourable death, shot with an arrow while 
in the act of singing. The early Keltic poets were 
forbidden to bear arms : a reminiscence of their sacer* 
dotal status, but theyi too, looked on while others 
fought, and encouraged the combatants with their 
songs* All these bards served a higher purpose than 

xvi Introduction. 

the commemoration of individual leaders: they be* 
came the historians of their epoch. The profession 
was one of recognised eminence, and numbered kings 
among its adepts. Then it declined with the rise of 
written chronicles, till the last bard disappeared and 
only the ballad-singer remained. 


This personage, though shorn of bardic dignity, yet 
contrived to hold his own with considerable success. 
In Provence and Germany, itinerant minstrels who 
sang for pay brought up the rank and file of the 
troubadours and minnesingers ; in England and Italy 
and Northern France they formed a class apart, 
which, as times went, was neither ill-esteemed nor ill- 
paid. When the minstrel found no better audience he 
mounted a barrel in the nearest tavern, or 

At country wakes sung ballads from a cart. 

But his favourite sphere was the baronial hall ; and 
to understand how welcome he was there made, it is 
only needful to picture country life in days when 
books were few and newspapers did not exist. He 
i>ang before noble knights and gracious. dames, who, 
to us— could we be suddenly brought into their 
presence — would seem rough in their manner, their 
speech, their modes of life ; but who were far from 
being dead or insensible to intellectual pleasure when 
they could get it He sang the choicest songs that 
had come down to him from an earlier age ; songs of 
the Round Table and of the great Charles ; and then, 
as he sat at meat, perhaps below the salt, but with his 
plate well heaped up with the best that there was, he 
heard strange Eastern tales from the newly-arrived pil- 

Introduclion. xvii 

grim at his right hand, and many a wild story of noble 
love or hate from the white-haired retainer at his left. 

I have always thought that the old ballad-singer*s 
world— the world in which he moved, and again the 
ideal world of his songs— is nowhere to be so vividly 
realised as in the Hof kirchc at Innsbruck, among that 
colossal company who watch the tomb of Kaiser 
Max ; huge men and women in richly wrought bronze 
array, ugly indeed, most of them, but with two of 
their number seeming to embody every beautiful 
quality that was possessed or dreamt of through well 
nigh a millennium: the pensive, graceful form of 
Thcodoric, king of the Ostrogoths^ and the erect 
figure whose very attitude suggests all manly worth, 
all gentle valour, under which is read the quaint 
device, " Arthur von England^ 

If not rewarded with sufficient promptitude and 
liberality, the ballad-singer was not slow to call atten- 
tion to the fact. Colin Muset, a jongleur who prac- 
tised his trade in Lorraine and Champagne in the 
thirteenth century, has left a charming photograph of 
contemporary manners in a song which sets forth his 
wants and deserts. 

Lord Count, 1 have the viol played^ 
Before yourself, within your hall, 
And you my service never paid 
Nor gave me any wage at all ; 

'T was villany : 

> Sire cuens, j'ai vield 
Devant vous, en vostre ost^; 
Si n|( m'avez, ridns don^, 
Ne mes gages aquit^ 

C'est vilanie ; 

xviii Introduction, 

By faith I to Saint Mary owe, 
Upon such terms I serve you not, 
My alms-bag sinks exceeding low, 
My tnmk ill-furnished is, I wot 

Lord Count, now let me understand, 
What 'tis you mean to do for me, 
If with free heart and open hand 
Some ample guerdon you decree 

Through courtesy ; 
For much I wish, you need not doubt, 
In my own household to return, 
And if full purse I am without, 
Small greeting from my wife I earn. 

I " Sir Engeld," I hear her say, 

*' In what poor country have you been, 

That through the city all the day 
' You nothing have contrived to glean ! 

See how your wallet folds and bends, 

Well stuffed with wind and nought beside ; 

Foi que doi Sainte Marie I 
Ainc ne vos sievrai je mie, 
M'aumosniere est mal garnie 
Et ma malle mal farsie. 

Sire cuens, quar comandez 
De moi vostre volont<5. 
Sire, s*il vous vient h grd 
Un beau don car me donez 

Par cortoisie. ( 

Talent ai, n'en dotez mie, ^ 

De r'alcr ^ ma mcsnie. f 

Quant vois borse desgarnie, j 

Ma feme ne me rit mie. I 

Ains me dit : Sire Engeld \ 

En quel terre avcz estd, \ 

Qui n^avez rien conquest^ ^ 

Aval la ville ? 

Vez com vostre male plie, I 
Ele est bien de vent farsie. 

Introdnrtiou. xix 

Accursed is he who e*er intends 
As your companion to abide." 

When reached the house wherein I dwell* 
And that my wife can clearly spy 
My bag behind me bulge and swells 
And I myself clad handsomely 

In a grey gown, 
Know that she quickly throws away 
Her distaify nor of work doth reck, 
She greets me laughing, kind and gay, 
And twines both arms around my neck. 

My wife soon seizes on my bag, 
And empties it without delay ; 
.My boy begins to groom my nag, 
And hastes to give him drink and hay ; 
My maid meanwhile runs off to kill 
Two capons, dressing them with skill 
In garlic sauce ; 

Honi soit qui a envie 
D'estre en vostre compaignie. 

Quant je vieng \ mon hostd 
£t ma feme a regard^ 
Derier moi le sac enfld, 
£t ge qui sui bien pard 

De robe grise, 
Sachiez qu'ele a tot jus mise 
La quenoille, sans faintise. 
£lle me rit par franchise, 
Les deux bras au col me lie* 

Ma feme va destrousser 
Ma male, sanz demorer. 
Mon gar^on va abruver 
Mon cheval et conreer. 
Ma pucele va tuer 
Deux chapons por deporter 

A la sause aiUic ; 

XX Intraductum. 

My daughter in her band doth bear, 
Kind girl, a comb to smooth my hair. 
Then in my house I am a king, 
Great Joyance and no sorrowing, 
Happier than you can say or sing. 

Ballad-singing suflfered by the invention of printing, 
but it was in England that the professional minstrel 
met with the cruellest blow of all — the statute passed 
in the reign of Queen Eh'zabeth which forbade his 
recitations, and classed him with ''rogues, vagabonds, 
and sturdy beggars." 

" Beggars they are with one consent, 
And rogues by Act of Parliament." 

On the other hand, it was also in England that the 
romantic ballad had its revival, and was introduced 
to an entirely new phase of existence. The publica* 
tion of the Percy Reliques (1765) started the modern 
period in which popular ballads were not only to 
be accepted as literature, but were to exercise the 
strongest influence on lettered poets from Goethe and 
Scott, down to Dante Rossetti. 

Not that popular poetry had ever been without its 
intelligent admirers, here and there, among men of 
culture : Montaigne had said of it, "La poesie populere 
et purement naturelle a des natfvetez et graces par oii 
elle se compare ^ la principale beaute de la poesie 
parfaicte selon Tart : commc il se voit es villanelles 

Ma fiUe m'apporte un pigne. 
En sa main par cortoisie 
Lors sui de mon ostel sire, 
A mult grant joie, sans ire, 
Plus que nus ne porroit dire. 

Introduction. xxi 

de Gascouigne et aus chanfons qu'on nous raporte 
des nations qui n'ont conoissance d'acune science, ny 
mcsme d'escripture." There were even ardent col- 
lectors, like Samuel Pepys, who is said to have 
acquired copies of two thousand ballads.* Still, till 
after the appearance of Bishop Percy's book (as his 
own many faults of omission and commission attest), 
the literary class at large did not take folk-songs quite 
seriously. The Percy Reliques was followed by 
Herder's Volksticder {i7%2\ ScotVs Minstrelsy 0/ t/ie 
Scottish Border (1802), Fauricrs Cliansom Poptdaires 
de la Grice (1824), to mention only three of its more 
immediate successors. The "return to Nature" in 
poetry became an irresistible movement ; the world, 
tired of the classical forms of the eighteenth century, 
listened as gladly to the fresh voice of the popular 
muse, as in his father's dreary palace Giacomo 
Leopardi listened to the voice of the peasant girl over 
the way, who sang as she plied the shuttle : 

Sonavan le quiete 
Stanze, e le vie dintorno. 
Al tuo perpetuo canto, 
Allor che all opre femminili intenta 
Sedevi, assai contenta 
Di quel vago awenir che in mente avevi. 
Era il Maggio odoroso : e tu soleyi 
Cos) menare il giorno. 

Lingua mortal non dice 
Quel ch* 10 sentiva in seno* 

» Not to speak of CharJcnaagne, who ordered a collection to 
be made of German songs. • 

xxii Introduction. 

The hunt for ballads led the way to the search for 
every sort of popular song, and with what zeal that 
search has since been prosecuted, the splendid results 
in the hands of the public now testify. 


A brief glance must be taken at what may be called 
domestic folk-poetry. In a remote past, rural people 
found delight or consolation in singing the events of 
their obscure lives, or in deputing other persons of 
their own station, but especially skilled in the art, to 
sing them for them. Thus there were marriage-songs 
and funeral-songs, labour-songs and songs for the 
culminating points of the pastoral or agricultural year. 
It is beyond my present purpose to speak of the vin- 
tage festivals, and of the literary consequences of the 
cult of Dionysus. I will, instead, pause for a moment 
to consider the ancient harvest-songs. Among the 
Greeks, particularly in Phrygia and in Sicily, all 
harvest-songs bore the generic name of Lytierses, and 
how they got it, gives an instructive instance of myth- 
Picture. Lytierses was the son of King Midas, and 
a king himself, but also a mighty reaper, whose 
habit it was to indulge in trials of strength with his 
companions, and with strangers who were passing by. 
He tied the vanquished up in sheaves and beat them. 
One day he defied an unknown stranger, who proved 
too strong for him, and by whom he was slain. So 
died Lytierses, the reaper, an^i the first " Lytierses," 
or harvest- song, was composed to console his father, 
King Midas, for his loss. 
Now, if we regard Lytierses as the typical agricul- 

Introduction. xxiii 

turist, and his antagonist as the growth or vegetation 
genius, the fable seems to read thus : Between man 
and Nature there is a continual struggle ; man is often 
victorious, but, if too presumptuous, a time comes 
when he must yield. In harvest customs continued 
to this day, a struggle with or for the last sheaf forms 
a common feature. The reapers of Western France 
tie the sheaf, adorned with flowers, to a post driven 
strongly into the ground, then they fetch the farmer 
and his wife and all the farm folk to help in dragging 
it loose, and when the fastenings break, it is borne off 
in triumph. So popular is this Ffte de la Gerbe^ that, 
during the Chouan war, the leaders had to allow their 
peasant soldiers to return to their villages to attend 
it, or they would have deserted in a body. It may 
not be irrelevant to add that in Brittany the great 
wrestling matches take place at tht/ite of the "new 
threshing floor," when all the neighbours are invited 
to unite in preparing it for the corn. In North Ger- 
many, where the peasants still believe that the last 
sheaf contains the growth-genius, they set it in honour 
on the festive board, and serve it double portions of 
cake and ale.^ Thus appeased, it becomes a friend to 
the cultivator. The harvest " man " or ** tree " which 
used to be made by English reapers at the end of the 
harvest, and presented to master and mistress, obvi* 
ously belonged to the same family. 

We have one or two of the ancient Lytierses in 
what IS most likely very nearly their original and 

^ A fuller description ^W German harvest customs, with 
remarks on their presumed meaning, will be found in the Rev. 
J. Van den Gheyn's ** Essais de Mythologie et de Philologie 
compart" 1885. ^ 

xxiv Introdwtum. 

popular form. One^ composed of distiches telling the 
story of Midas' son, is preserved in a tragedy by 
Sosibius, the Syracusian poet. The following, more 
general in subject, I take from the tenth Idyl of 
Theocritus : — 

Come now hearken awhile to the songs of the god Lytierses. 

Demeter, granter of fruits, many sheaves vouchsafe to the corn- 
Aye to be skilfully tilled, and reaped, and the harvest abundant 

Fasten the heaps, ye binders of sheaves, lest any one passing. 
Call out, " worthless clowns, you earn no part of your wages." 

Let every sheaf that the sickle has cut be turned to the north 

Or to the west exposed, for so will the com grow fatter. 

Ye who of wheat are threshers, beware how ye slumber at 

Then is the chaff from the stalk of the wheat, most easily parted. 

Reapers, to labour begin, as soon as the lark upriseth. 

And when he sleeps, leave off, yet rest when the sun overpowers. 

Blest, O youths, is the life of a frog, for he never is anxious 
Who is to pour him his drink, for he always has plenty. 

Better at once, O miserly steward, to boil our lentils ; 

Mind you don't cut your fingers in trying to chop them to atoms. 

These are the songs for the toilers to sing in the heat of the 

Most modern harvest songs manage, like that of 
Theocritus, to convey some hint of thirst or hunger. 
" Be merry, O comrades ! ** sing the girl reapers of 
Casteignano dei Greci, a Greek settlement in Terra 

Introduction. xxv 

d'Otranto, " Be merry, and go not on your way so 
downcast \ I saw things you cannot see ; I saw the 
housewife kneading dough, or preparing macaroni ; 
and she does it for us to eat, so that we may work like 
lions at the harvest, and rejoice the heart of the 
husbandman.** This may be a statement of fact or a 
suggestion of what ought to be a fact. Other songs, 
sung exclusively at the harvest, bear no outward sign 
of connection with it ; and the reason of their use on 
that occasion is hopelessly lost 


I pass on to the old curiosity shop of popular 
traditions— the nursery. Children, with their innate 
conservatism, have stored a vast assemblage of odds 
and ends which fascinate by their very incomplete- 
ness. Rch'gion, mythology, history, physical science, 
or what stood for it ; the East, the North— those great 
banks of ideas — have been impartially drawn on by 
the infant folk-lorists at their nurses' knees. Children 
in the four quarters of the globe, repeat the same 
magic formulae; words which to every grown person 
seem devoid of sense, have a universality denied to 
any articles of faith. What, for example, is the 
meaning of the play with the snail } Why is he so 
persistently asked to put his horns out ? Pages might 
be filled with the variants of the well-known invocation 
. which has currency from Rome to Pekin. 


Snail, mail, put out your horn, 
Or ill kill your father and mother the mom. 

xxvi Introductiofh 

Snail, snail, come out of your hole, 
Or else VVL beat you as black as a coal. 

Snail, snail, put out your horn, 
Tell me what 's the day t' mom : 
To-day's the morn to shear the com, 
Blaw bil buck thorn. 

Snail, snail, shoot out your hom, 
Father and mother are dead ; 
Brother and sister are in the back-yard 
Begging for barley bread. 

Scotch : 

Snail, snail, shoot out your horn, 

And tell us it will be a bonnie day, the niom. 

German : 

SchneckhCis, Peckhiis, 
Stiik du din ver Horner riit, 
Siist schmOt ick di in 'n Graven, 
Da freten di de Raven. 



Kruep uet dyn hues, 

Dyn hues dat brennt, 

Dyn Kinder de ilennt : 

Dyn Fru de ligt in Waken : • 

Kann 'k dy nich mael spraken ? 

Tsekeltuet, u. s. w. 

Snaek, snaek, komm herduet, 
Sunst tobrak ik dy dyn Hues. 




Kniep uct dyn Hues, 

Stick all dyn veer Hdern uet, 

Wullt du 's neck uetstkken, 

Wik ik dyn Hues tobraken. 

Slingemues, u. s. w. 

French : 

Tuscan : 

Kuckuch, kuckuck Gerderut, 
Sti&k dine v^r Horns herut 

Colima^on borgne ! 
. Montre*moi tes cornes ; 
Je te dirai oil ta in6re est mortei 
EUe est morte k Paris, k Rouen, 
Oil Ton Sonne les cloches. 
Bi, bim, bom, 
Di, bim, bom, 
Bi, bim, bom. 

Chiocciola, chiocciola, vien da me, 
Ti darb i' pan d' i' re ; 
E deirova affritteUate 
Comi secchf e brucherate. 

Roumanian : 

Russian : 

Culbecu, culbecu, 
Scdte come boeresci 
Si tedu la Dunare 
Si hi apa tulbure. 


VypustI roga, 

Ya tebd dam piroga.^ 

*MrW. R. S. Ralston has kindly communicated to me this 
Russian version, which he translates: '*Snail| snailiput forth 
thy horns, I will give to thee cakes." 

xxviii Intradnctum. 


Snail, snail, come here to be fed, 
Put out your horns and lift up your head ; 
Father and mother will give you to eat, 
Good boiled mutton shall be your meat 

Several lines in the second German version are 
evidently borrowed from the Ladybird or Maychafer 
rhyme which has been pronounced a relic of Frcya 
worship. Here the question arises, is not the snail 
song also derived from some ancient myth ? Count 
Gubematis, in his valuable work on Zoological Myth- 
ology (vol. ii. p. 75), dismisses the matter with the 
remark that *' the snail of superstition is demoniacal." 
This, however, is no proof that he always bore so 
suspicious a character, since all the accessories to past 
beliefs got into bad odour on the establishment of 
Christianity, unless saved by dedication to the Virgin 
or other saints. I ventured to suggest, in the A rchivio 
per lo studio delle tradizioni popolari (the Italian Folk- 
lore Journal), that the snail who is so constantly urged 
to come forth from his dark house, might in some 
way prefigure the dawn. Horns have been from all 
antiquity associated with rays of light. But to write 
of " Nature Myths in Nursery Rhymes " is to enter 
on such dangerous ground that I will pursue the 
argument no further. 


Children of older years have preserved the very 
important class of songs distinguished as singing- 



games. Everyone knows the famous rondi of the 
Pont d'Avignon : 

Sur le Pont d'Avignoiii 
Tout le monde y danse, danse, 

Sur le Pont d' Avignon 
Tout le monde y danse en rond. 

Les beaux messieurs font comme qa, 

Sur le Pont d' Avignon, 
Tout le monde y danse, danse, 

Sur le Pont d' Avignon, 
Tout le monde y danse en rond. 

After the "messieurs" who bow, come the "demoi- 
selles " who curtsey ; the workwomen who sew, the 
carpenters who saw wood, the washerwomen who 
wash linen, and a host of other folks intent on their 
different callings. The song is an apt demonstration 
of what Paul dc Saint-Victor called " cet instinct Innc 
de Timitation qui fait similer k Tenfant les actions 
viriles"* — in which instinct lies the germ of the 
theatre. The origin of all spectacles was a perform- 
ance intended to amuse the performers, and it cannot 
be doubted that the singing-game throws much light 
on the beginnings of scenic representations. 

Rondcs frequently deal with love and marriagCi and 
these, from internal evidence, cannot have been com* 
posed by or for the young people who now play them. 
There are in fact some which would be better for- 
gotten by everybody, but the majority are innocent 
little dramas, of which it may truly be said, Honi soil 
qui maly pense. It should be noticed that a distinctly 
satirical vein runs through many of these games, as 

1 '* Lei deux Matquei,'' tome i. p. i. 

XXX Introduction. 

in the ^Gentleman from Spain/'— pUyed in one form 
or another all over Europe and the United States, — 
in which the suitor would first give any money to get 
his bride, and then any money to get rid of hen Or 
the Swedish Lek (the name given in Sweden to the 
singing-*game), in which the companions of a young 
girl put her sentiments to the test of telling her that 
father, mother, sisters, brothers, are dead — all of which 
she hears with perfect equanimity — but when they 
add that her betrothed is also dead, she falls back 
fainting. Then all her kindred are resuscitated with- 
out the effect of reviving her, but when she hears that 
her loyer is alive and well, she springs up^ and gives 
chase to her tormentors. 

To my mind there is no more remarkable specimen 
of the singing game than Jenny Jones — through which 
prosaic title we can discern the tQn^QX Jeanne ma joit 
that formed the base of it. The Scotch still say 
Jenny Jo^ **Jo " being with them a term of endearment 
(^•5'., "John Anderson, my Jo!"). The following 
variant of the game I took down from word of mouth 
at Bocking in Essex : — 

" We've come to see Jenny Jones, Jenny Jones, (repeat). 
How is she now ? 

Jenny is washing, washing, washing, 
Jenny is washing, you can't see her now. 

We've come to see Jenny Jones. 
How is she now? 

Jenny is folding, folding, folding. 
You can't see her now. 

We've come to see Jenny Jones. 
^ How is she now ? 







Jenny is starchingi starching, starchingi 
Jenny is starching, you can*t see her now. 

WeVe come to see Jenny Jones. 
How is she now ? 

Jenny is ironing, ironing, ironing, 
Jenny is ironing, you can't see her now, 

WeVe come to see Jenny Jones. 
How is she now ? 

Jenny is ill, ill, ill, 

Jenny is ill, so you can't see her now. 

We've come to see Jenny Jones. 
How is she now? 

Jenny is dead, dead, dead, 
Jenny is dead, you can't see her now. 

May we come to the funeral ? 

May we come in red r 

Red is for soldiers ; you can't come in red. 

May we come in blue ? 

Blue is for sailors ; you can't come in blue. 

May we come in white ? 

White is for weddings ; you can't come in white. 

May we come in black ? 

Black is for funerals, so you can come in that 

Jenny is then carried and buried (i>., laid on the 
grass) by two of the girls, while the rest follow as 
mourners, uttering a low, prolonged wail. 

Perhaps the earliest acted tragedy — a tragedy acted 
before iEschylus lived — was something like this. 
Anyhow, it may remind us of how early a taste for 
the tragic is developed, if not in the life of mankind 

xxxit Introduction. 

at all events in the life of man« '' What is the reason/' 
asks St Augustine, '' that men wish to be moved by 
the sight of tragic and painful things, which, never- 
theless, they do not wish to undergo themselves ? For 
the spectators (at a play) desire to feel grieved, and 
this grief is their joy : whence comes it unless from 
some strange spiritual malady ? " ^ 

Dr Pitr6 describes this Sicilian game : A child lies 
down, pretending to be dead. His companions stand 
round and sing a dirge in the most dolorous tones. 
Now and then, one of them runs up to him and lifts 
an arm or a leg, afterwards letting it fall, to make 
sure that he is quite dead. Satisfied on this point, 
they prepare to bury him, but before doing so, they 
nearly stifle him with parting kisses. Tired, at last, 
of his painful position, the would-be dead boy jumps 
up and gets on the back of the most aggressive of his 
playmates, who is bound to carry him off the scene. 

To play at funerals was probably a very ancient 
amusement. No doubt some such game as the above 
is alluded to in the text, '' . . . children sitting in the 
markets and calling unto their fellows and saying, 
We have piped unto you and ye have not danced, we 
have mourned unto you and ye have not lamented.*' 


Mysteries and Miracle Plays must not be forgotten, 
though in their origin they were not a plant of strictly 
popular growth. Some writers consider that they 
were instituted by ecclesiastics as rivals to the lay or 
pagan plays which were still in great favour in the 

y '* Confessions,'* book iii, chap. ii. 



Intradmciion. xxxiii 

first Christian centuries. Others think with Dr 
I Hermann Ulrici,^ that they grew naturally out of the 

increasingly pictorial celebration of the early Greek 
? liturgy, — painted scenes developing into tabUaHX 

I vivanis, and these into acted and spoken interludes. It 

I is certain that they were started by the clergy, who at 

I first were the sole actors, assuming characters of both 

i sexes. As time wore on» something more lively was 

I desired, and clowns and buffoons were accordingly 

I introduced. They appeared in the Innsbruck Play of 

\ the fourteenth century ; and again in 1427, in the 

I performances given at Metz, while the serious parts 

I were acted by ecclesiastics, the lighter, or comic parts, 

were represented by laymen. These performances 
were held in a theatre constructed for the purpose, 
but mysteries were often played in the churches 
themselves, nor is the practice wholly abandoned. 
( A Nativity play is performed in the churches of 

\ Upper Gascony on Christmas Eve, of which the sub- 

4 joined account will, perhaps, be read with interest :— 

I in the middle of the Midnight Mass, just when the priest 

has finished reading the gospel, Joseph and Mary enter the 
■% nave, the former clad in the garb of a village carpenter with his 

T tools slung across his shoulder, the latter dressed in a robe of 

i spotless white. The people divide so as to let them pass up 

^ the church, and they look about for a night's lodging. In one 

^ part of the church the stable of Bethlehem is represented be- 

hind a framework of grecoery $ here they take up their position, 
and presently a cradle is placed beside them which contains 
the image of a babe. The voice of an angel from on high now 
proclaims the birth of the Infant Saviour, and calls on the 
shepherds to draw near to the sound of glad music. The way 
in which this bit of theatrical "business '* is managed, is by a 

^ " Shakespeare's Dramatic Art,'' 1876. 

xxxiv Introduction. 

child in a surplice, with wings fastened to his thoolderti being 
drawn up to the ceiling seated on a chair, which is sup- 
ported by ropes on a pulley. The shepherds, real shepherds in 
white, homespun capes, with long crooks decked with ribbons, 
are placed on a raised dais, which stands for the mountain. 
They wake up when they hear the angel's song, and one of 
them exclaims : 

Diou dou c^ou, quino viro vouts ! 
Un anjou mous parlo, pastous ; 
Biste quieten noste troupet ! 
Mes que dit Tanjou, si vous plait ? 

(Heavens ! with how sweet a voice 
The angel calls us to rejoice ; 
Quick leave your flocks : but tell me, pray, 
What doth the heavenly angel say ?) 

The angel replies in French : 

Rise, shepherd, nor delay, 

'Tis God who summons thee, 
Hasten with zeal away 

Thy Saviour's self to see. 
The Lord of Hosts hath shown 

That since this glorious birth, 
War shall be no more known, 

But peace shall reign on earth. 

The shepherds, however, are not very willing to be dis- 
turbed : *^ Let me sleep ! Let me sleep ! " says one of them, 
and another goes so far as to threaten to drive away the angel 
if he does not let them alone. '' Come and render homage to 
the new-bom babe," sings the angel, ''and cease to complain 
of your happy lot." They answer : 

A happy lot 
We never yet possest, 

A happy lot 
For us poor shepherd folk existeth not ; 
Then wherefore utter the strange jest 
That by an infant's birth we shall be blest 

With happy lot? 



The sheplieids b^a to bestir themselves* One says that he 
fedi o» eic om e with fear at the sound of so much noise and 
connotioQ. The angel respondsi *' Come without fear } do not 
heshate, but redouble your speed. It is in this viUagOi In a poor 
placei near yonder wood» that you may see the Infent Lord.** 
Another of the shepherds, who seems to have only Just w^ up, 

What do you say ? 
This to believe what soul is able ; 

What do you say ? 
Where do these shepherds speed away } 
To see their God within a stable : 
This surely seems an idle feble ; 

What do you say ? 

" To understand how it is, go and behold with your own eyes,** 
replies the angel ; to which the shepherd answers, *^ Good 
morrow, angel ; pardon me if I have spoken lightly i I will go 
and see what is going on/' Another, still not quite easy in his 
mind, observes that he cannot make out what the angel says, 
because he speaks in such a strange tongue. The angel 
immediately replies in excellent Gascon patois : 

Come, shepherds, come 
From your mountain home. 
Come, see the Saviour in a stable born, 

This happy morn. 

Come, shepherds, come. 
Let none remain behind, 
Come see the wretched sinners* friend, 

The Saviour of mankind. 

When they hear the good news, sung to a quaint and inspiriting 
air in their own language, the shepherds hesitate no longer, but 
set off for Bethlehem in a body. One of them, it is true, ex- 
presses some doubts as to what will become of the flocks in 
their absence ; but a veteran shepherd strikes his crook upon 
the ground and sternly reproves him for being anxious about 
the sheep when a heavenly messenger has declared that ** God 
has made Himself the Shepherd of mankind." They leave the 

xxxvi Introduction. 

daiSt and march out of the church, the whole of wWch it iiow 
considered as being the stable. After a while the ihcpherdi 
knock for admittance, and their voices are heard in the calm 
crisp midnight air chaunting these words to sweet and solemn 

Master of this blest abode, 
O guardian of the Infant God, 
Open your honoured gate, that we 
May at His worship bend the knee. 

Joseph fears that the strangers may perchance be enemies, but 
reassured by an angel, he opens the door, only naWely regretting 
that the lowly chamber "should be so badly lighted.*' They 
prostrate themselves before the cradle, and the choir bursts 
forth with : 

Gloria Deo in excelsis, 

O Domine te laudamus, 

O Deus Pater rex caelestis. 

In terra pax hominibus. 

The shepherdesses then render their homage, and deposit on 
the altar steps a banner covered with flowers and greenery, 
from which hang strings of small birds, apples, nuts, chestnuts, 
and other fruits. It is their Christmas offering to the cur^ ; 
the shepherds have already placed a whole sheep before the 
altar, in a like spirit. 

The next scene takes us into Herod's palace, where the magi 
arrive, and are directed to proceed to Bethlehem. During their 
adoration of the Infant Saviour, Mass is finished, and the Sacra* 
ment is administered ; after which the play is brought to a close 
with the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the Innocents. 

This primitive drama gives a better idea of the 
early mysteries than do the performances at Ober 
Ammei^au, which have been gradually pruned and 
improved under the eye of a critical public. But 
it is unusually free from the absurdities and levities 
which abound in most miracle plays; such as the 



i Iniroductiau. xxxvit 


I wrangle between Noah and his wife in the old Chester 

\ Mysteries, in which the latter declares ** by St John ** 

I that the Flood is a false alarnii and that no power on 

I earth shall make her go into the Ark. Noah ends 

I with putting her on board by main force, and is 

I rewarded by a box on the ear. 

% The best surviving sample of a non-scriptural rustic 

^ play is probably Saint Guillantfti of Poiiotu a Breton 

< versified drama in seven acts. The history of the 

j Troubadour Count whose wicked manhood leads to a 

! pretematurally pious old age, corresponds to every 

I requirement of the peasant play-goer. Time and 

I space are set airily at defiance ; saints and devils are 

\ not only called, but come at the shortest notice ; the 

I plot is exciting enough to satisfy the strongest crav- 

'^ ing for sensation, and the dialogue is vigorous, and, in 

I parts, picturesque. One can well believe that the 

I fiery if narrow patriotism of a Breton audience would 

\ be stirred by the scene where the reformed Count 

9 William, who has withstood all other blandishments, 

is almost lured out of his holy seclusion by the Evil 
One coming to him in the shape of a fellow-townsman 
who represents his city as hard pressed by over- 
whelming foes, and in its extremcst need, imploring 
his aid ; that the religious fervour of Breton peasants 
would be moved by the recital of the vision in which 
a very wicked man appears at the bar of judgment : 
his sins out-number the hairs of his head, you would 
call him an irredeemable wretch; yet it does so 
happen that once upon a time he gave two pilgrims a 
bed of straw in a pig-stye, and now St Francis throws 
this straw into the balance, and it bends down the 
scale I 


xxxviit IntroducHom^ 

So in the Song of the Sun, in Saemund's BiUa^ a 
fierce freebooter, who has despoiled mankind, and 
who always ate alone, opens his door one evening to a 
tired' wayfarer, and gives him meat and drink. The 
guest meditates evil ; then in his sleep he murders his 
host, but he is doomed to take on him all the sins of 
the man he has slain, while the one-time evil-doer's 
soul is borne by angels into a life of purity, where it 
shall live for ever with God. This motive is repeatedly 
introduced into folk-lore, and was made effective use 
of by Victor Hugo in Sultan Mourad, the infamous 
tyrant who goes to Heaven on the strength of having 
felt momentary compassion for a pig. 

In plays of the Saint Gtnllaume class, the plain 
language in which the vices and oppression of the 
nobles is denounced shows signs of the slow surging 
up of the democratic spirit whose traces through the 
middle ages arc nowhere to be more fruitfully sought 
than in popular literature— though they lie less in 
the rustic drama than in the great mediaeval satires, 
such as Reynard the Fox and Marcolfo, the latter of 
which is still known to the Italian people under the 
form of Bertoldo^ in which it was recast in the six- 
teenth century, by G. B. Croce, the rhyming black- 
smith of Bologna. 


Epopees, chansons de geste^ romantic ballads, occa- 
sional or ceremonial songs, nursery rhymes, singing- 
games, rustic dramas; to these must be added the 
great order of purely personal and lyrical songs, of 
which the unique and exclusive subject is love. 



Popular love songs have one quality in common : a 
sincerity which is not perhaps reached in the entire 
range of lettered amorous poetry. Love is to these 
singers a thing so serious that however high they fiy^ 
they do not outsoar what is to them the atmosphere 
of truth. ** La passion parle \k toute pure/' as Moli^re 
said of the old song : 

Si le roi m'avoit donnd 

Paris, sa grande ville, . 
£t qu'il me falldt quitter 

L'amour de ma mie : 
Je dirois au roi Henri 
Reprenez votre Paris 
J'aime mieux ma miei oh gay ! 

J'aime mieux ma mie. 

An immense, almbst incredible, number of popular 
songs have been set down during the last twenty 
years by collectors who, like Tigri in Tuscany, and 
Pitrfc in Sicily, have done honour to their birthlands, 
and an enduring service to literature. It has been 
seen that Italy, Portugal, and Spain have songs 
which, though differing in shape, are yet materially 
alike. Where was the original fount of this lyrical 
river ? Some would look for it in Arabia, and cite 
the evident poetic fertility of those countries where 
Arab influence once prevailed. Others regard the 
existing passion-verse as a descendant of the mediaeval 
poetry associated with Provence. Others, again, while 
admitting that there may have been modifications of 
form, find it hard to believe that there was ever a 
time, since the type was first established, when the. 
southern peasant was dumb^ or when he did not sing 
in substance very much as he does now. 

xl Introduction. 

Whatever theory be ultimately accepted^ it is cer- 
tain that the popular love-poetry of southern nations, 
such as it has been received direct from peasant lips, 
is not the least precious gift we owe to the untaught, 
uncultured poet, who after having been for long ages 
ignored or despised, is now raised to his rightful place 
near the throne of his illustrious brother, the perfect 
lettered poet Pan sits unrebuked by the side of 

These introductory remarks are meant to do no 
more than to show the principal landmarks of folk- 
poetry. The subject is a wide one, as they best know 
who have given it the most careful attention. In the 
following essays, I have dealt with a few of its less 
familiar aspects. I would, in conclusion, express my 
gratitude to the indefatigable excavators of popular 
lore whose large labours have made my small work 
possible, and to all who have helped, whether by fur- 
nishing unedited specimens or by procuring copies of 
rare books. My cordial thanks are also due to the 
editors and publishers of the Cornhili Magazine^ 
Fraser's Magazine^ the National Review, the British 
Quarterly Review, the Revue Internationale, the Anti^ 
qnary, and the Record and Journal of the Folk-lore 
Society, for leave to reprint such part of this book as 
had appeared in those publications. 

Sal6, Lago di Garda, 
January 15 1886. 






The Roumanians call death ''the betrothed of the 
world : " that which awaits. . The Neapolitans give it 
the name of /a vedova : that which survives. It would 
be easy to go on multiplying the stock of contrasting 
epithets. Inevitable yet a surprise, of daily incidence 
yet a mystery, unvarying yet most various, a common 
fact yet incapable of becoming common-place, death 
may be looked at from innumerable points of view ; 
but, look at it how we will, it moves and excites our 
spiritual consciousness as nothing else can do. The 
first poet of human things was perhaps one who stood 
in the presence of death. In the twilight that went 
before civilization the loves of men were prosaic, and 
intellectual unrest was remote, but there was already 
Rachel weeping for her children and would not be 
comforted because they are not. Death, high priest 
of the ideal, led man in his infancy through a crisis of 
awe passing into transcendent exaltation, kindred 
with the state which De Quincey describes when 
recalling the feelings wrought in his childish brain by 
the loss of his sister. It set the child-man asking 
why ? first sign of a dawning intelligence ; it told him 
in familiar language that we lie on the borders of the 
unknown ; it opened before him the infinite spaces of 
hope and fear ; it shattered to pieces the dull round 

2 Essfiys in the Study of Folk-Sangs. 

of the food-seeking present, and built up out of the 
ruins the perception of a past and a future. It was 
the symbol of a hunian oneness with the coming and 
going of day and night, summer and winter, the rising 
and receding tide. It caused even the rudest of men 
to speak lower, to tread more softly, revealing to him 
unawares the angel Reverence. And above all, it 
wounded the heart of man. M. Renan says with 
great truth, '' Le grand agent de la marche du monde, 
c'est la douleur." What poetry owes to the bread of 
sorrow has never been better told than by the Greek 
folk-singer, who condenses it into one brief sentence : 
" Songs are the words spoken by those who suffer." 

The influence of death on the popular imagination 
is shown in those ballads of the supernatural of 
which folk-poetry offers so great an abundance as to 
make choice difficult. One of the most powerful as 
well as the most widely, diffused of the people's ghost 
stories is that which treats of the persecuted child 
whose mother comes out of her grave to succour him. 
There are two or three variants of this among the 
Czech songs. A child aged eighteen months loses 
his mother. As sooq as he is old enough to under- 
stand about such things, he asks his father what he 
has done with her? "Thy mother sleeps a heavy 
sleep» no one will wake her ; she lies in the grave- 
yard hard by the gate." When the child hears that, 
he runs to the graveyard. He loosens the earth with 
a big pin and pushes it aside with his little finger. 
Then he cries mournfully, " Ah ! mother, little mother, 
say one little word to me ! " " My child, I cannot," 
the mother replies, " my head is weighed down with 
clay ; on my heart is a stone which burns like fire ; 

The Inspiratum of Death in Folk-Poetry. 3 

go home little one, there you have another mother.** 
"Ah!** rejoins he, "she is not good like you were 
When she gives me bread she turns it thrice ; when 
you gave it me you spread it with butter. When she 
combs my hair she makes my head bleed ; when you 
combed my hair, mother, you fondled it When she 
bathes my feet she bruises them against the side of 
the basin ; when you bathed them you kissed them. 
When she washes my shirt she loads me with curses ; 
you used to sing whilst you washed," The mother 
answers : " Go back to the house, my child, to-morrow 
I will come for you." The child goes back to the 
house and lies down in his bed. " Ah ! father, my 
little father, make ready my winding-sheet, my soul 
now belongs to God, my body to the grave, to the 
grave near my mother — how glad her heart will be I " 
One day he was ill, the second he died, the third day 
they buried him. The effect is heightened by the 
interval placed between the mother's death and the 
child's awakening to his own forlorn condition. 
When the mother died he was too young to think or 
to grieve. He did not know that she was gone until 
he missed her. Only by degrees, after years of harsh 
treatment, borne with the patience of a child or a 
dumb animal, he began to feel intuitively rather than 
to remember that it had not been always so — that he 
had once been loved. Then, going straight to the 
point with the terrible accusative power that lies in 
children,, he said to the father, " What have you done 
. with my mother ? " He had been able to live and to 
suffer until he was old enough to think; when he 
4 thought, he died. Here we have an instance, one of 
^ the many that exist, of a motive which, having re- 


4 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

curred again and again in folk-poetry, gets handled 
at last by a master-poet, who gives it enduring shape 
and immortality. Victor Hugo may or may not have 
known the popular legend. It is most likely that he 
did not know it Yet, stripped of the marvellous, and 
modified in certain secondary points of construction, 
the story is the story of "Petit PauV little Paul, the 
child of modern France, who takes company with 
Dante's Anselmuccio and Shakespeare's Arthur, and 
who with them will live in the pity of all time. The 
Ruthenes affirm that it was Christ who bade the child 
seek his mother's grave. The Provencal folk-poet 
begins his talc : " You shall hear the complaint of 
three very little children." The mother of these 
children was dead^ the father had married again. The 
new wife brought a hard time for the children, and 
the day came when they were like to starve. The 
littlest begged for a bit of bread, and he got a kick 
which threw him to the ground. Then the biggest of 
the brothers said, " Get up and let us go to our mother 
in the graveyard ; she will give us bread." They set 
out at once ; on their way they met Jesus Christ. 

£t ount anetz, mes angis, 
Mes angis tant petits ? 

"Where are you going, my angels, my so very small 
angels?" "We go to the graveyard to find our 
mother." Jesus Christ tells the mother to come forth 
and give her children food. " How would you have 
me come forth, when there is no strength left in me ?'• 
He answers that her strength shall come back to her 
for seven years. Now, as the end of the seven years 
drew near, she was always sobbing and sighing, and 
the children asked why it was. " I weep, my children, 

The Inspiration of Death in Folk-Poetry. 5 

because I have to go away from you." " Weep no 

more, mother, we will all go together ; one shall carry 

the hyssop, another will take the taper, the last will 

hold the book. We will go home singing." The 

Proven9al poet does not tell us what happened when 

the resuscitated wife came back to her former abode ; 

we have to go to Scandinavia for an account of that. 

Dyring the Dane went to an island and wed a fair 

] maiden. For seven years they dwelt together and 

I « were blessed with children ; but while the youngest 

I bom was still a helpless babe, Death stalked through 

I the land and carried off the young wife in his clutches. 

I Dyring went to another island and married a girl who 

I was bad and spiteful. He brought her home to his 

I house, and when she reached the door the six little 

f children were there crying. She thrust them aside 

with her foot, she gave them no ale and no bread ; she 

I said, '' You shall suffer thirst and hunger." She took 

I from them their blue cushions, and said, *' You shall 

I sleep on straw." She took from them their wax 

I candles, and said, '' You shall stay in the dark." In 

r the evening, very late, the children cried, and their 

I mother heard them under the ground. She listened 

I as she lay in her shroud, and thought to herself, '* I 

I must go to my little children." She begged our 

I Lord so hard to let her go, that her prayer was 

I granted. '* Only you must be back when the cock 

crows." She lifted her weary limbs, the grave gaped, 

she passed through the village, the dogs howled as 

she passed, throwing up their noses in the air. When 

she got to the house, she saw her eldest daughter on 

the threshold. '' Why are you standing there, my , 

dear daughter ? ^^^ere are your brothers and 

sisters?'' The daughter knew her not She said 

6 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

her mother was fair and blithe, her face was white 
and pink. " How can I be fair and blithe ? I am 
dead» my face is pale. How can I be white and pink, 
when I have been all this time in my winding-sheet?*' 
Answering thus, the mother hastened to her little 
children's chamber. She found them with tears run- 
ning down their cheeks. She brushed the clothes of 
one, she tidied the hair of the second, she lifted the 
third from the floor, she comforted the fourth, the 
fifth she set on her knee as though she were fain to 
suckle it. To the eldest girl she said, ''Go and tell 
Dyring to come here." And when he came she cried 
in wrath, '' I left you ale and bread, and my little 
ones hunger ; I left you blue cushions, and my little 
ones lie on straw ; I left you waxen candles, and my 
little ones are in the dark. Woe betide you, if there 
be cause I should return again ! Behold the red cock 
crows, the dead fly underground. Behold the black cock 
crows, heaven's doors are thrown wide. Behold the 
white cock crows, I must begone." So saying she went, 
and was seen no more. Ever after that night each time 
Dyring and his wife heard the dogs bark they gave 
the children ale and bread ; each time they heard the 
dogs bay they were seized with dread of the dead 
woman ; each time they heard the dogs howl they 
. trembled lest she should come back. Two universal 
beliefs are introduced into this variant : the disappear- 
ance of the dead at cock crow, and the connection of 
the howling of dogs with death or the dead. The last 
is a superstition which still obtains a wide acceptance 
even among educated people. I was speaking of it 
lately to an English officer, who stated that he had 
twice heard the death howl, once while on duty in 
Ireland, and once, if I remember right, in India. It 

The Inspiration of Death in Folh-Pcdry. 7 

- was» he said, totally unlike any other noise produced 
by a dog. I observed that all noises sound singular 
when the nerves are strained by painful expectancy ; 
but he answered that in his own case his feelings were 
not involved, as the death which occurred, in one 
instance at least, was that of a perfect stranger. 

The interpretation of dreams as a direct intercourse 

with the spiritual world is not usual in folk-lore ; the 

people hardly see the need of placing the veil of sleep 

'; between mortal eyes and ghostly appearances. In a 

I Bulgarian song, however, a sleeping girl speaks with 

1 her dead mother. Militza goes down into the little 

garden where the white and red roses are in bloom. 

I She is weary, and she is soon asleep. A small fine 

t rain begins to fall, the wind rustles in the leaves; 

t Militza sighs, and having sighed, she awakes. Then 

she upbraids the rain and the wind : * Whistle no 

more, O wind ; thou, O rain, descend no more ; for in 

my dreams I found my mother. Rain, may thy fount 

be dried ; mayst thou be for ever silent, O wind : ye 

have taken me from the counsel my mother gave me." 

The few lines thus baldly summarized make up, as it 

seems to me, a little masterpiece of delicate conception 

and light workmanship : one which would surprise us 

from the lips of a letterless poet, were there not proof 

that no touch is so light and so sure as that of the 

I artificer untaught in our own sense — the man or the 

4 woman who produces the intricate filigree, the highly 

I wrought silver, the wood carving, the embroidery, the 

I lace, the knitted wool rivalling the spider's web, the 

^ shawl with whose weft and woof a human life is inter- 

A woven. 

I I have only once come upon the case of a father 

I who returns to take care of his offspring. Mr Chu, a 



8 Essays in thi Study of Folk-Songs. 

worthy Chinese gentleman^ revisited this earth as a 
disembodied spirit to guard and teach his little boy 
Wei. When Wei reached the age of twenty-two, and 
took his doctor's degree* his fatheri Mr Chu, finally 
vanished. As a general rule, the Chinese consider 
the sight of his former surroundings to be the worst 
penalty that can befall a soul. Mr Herbert Giles, 
in his fascinating work on the Liao-Chai of P'u Sing- 
Ling, gives a full account of the terrible See-one*s- 
home terrace as represented in the fifth court of 
Purgatory in the Taoist Temples. Good souls, or 
even those who have done partly good and partly evil, 
will never stand thereon. The souls of the wicked 
only see their homes as if they were near them : they 
see their last wishes disregarded, everything upside 
down, their substance squandered, the husband pre- 
pares to take a new wife, strangers possess the old 
estate, in their misery the dead man's family curse 
him, his children become corrupt, lands are gone, the 
house is burnt, the wife sees her husband tortured, 
the husband sees his wife stricken down with mortal 
disease ; friends forget : '* some perhaps for the sake 
of bygone times may stroke the coffin and let fall a 
tear, departing with a cold smile." In the West, this 
gloomy, creed is perhaps hinted at in the French 
proverb, " Les morts sont bien mort." But Western 
thought at its best, at its highest, imagines differently. 
It imagines that the most gracious privilege of im- 
mortal spirits is that of beholding those beloved of 
them in mortal life— 

I am still near, 
Watching the smiles I prized on earth, 
Your converse mild, your blameless mirth. 

Happy and serene optimism ! 

Tlie Inspiration of Death in Folk- Poetry. 9 

The ghosts of folk-lore return not only to succour 
the innocent, they come back also to convict the 
guilty. The avenging ghost shows himself in all 
kinds of strange and uncanny ways rather than in his 
habit as he lived. He comes in animal or vegetable 
shape ; or perhaps he uses the agency of some inani- 
mate object In the Faroe Isles there is a story 
of a girl whose sister pushed her into the sea out of 
jealousy. The blue waves cast ashore her body, which 
was found by two pilgrims, who made the arms into 
a harp, and the flaxen locks into strings. Then they 
went and played the harp at the wedding feast of the 
murderess and the dead girl's betrothed. The first 
string said, "The bride is my sister." The second 
string said, " The bride caused my death." The third 
string said, " The bridegroom is my betrothed." The 
harp's notes s\velled louder and louder, and the guilty 
bride fell sick unto death; before the pilgrims had 
done playing, her heart broke. This is much the 
same stoiy as the "Twa Sisters of Binnorie." A 
Slovack legend describes two musicians who, as they 
were travelling together, noticed a fine plane tree ; 
and one said to the other, " Let us cut it down, it is 
^^ just the thing to make a violin of; the violin will be 

I equally yours and mine ; we will play on it by turn." 

I At thd first blow the tree sighed ; at the second blow 

\ blood spurted out ; at the third blow the tree began 

to talk. It said : '' Musicians, fair youths, do not cut 
me down ; I am not a tree, I am made of flesh and 
blood ; I am a lovely girl of the neighbouring town ; 
my mother cursed me while I drew water — ^while I 
drew water and chatted with my friend. 'Mayst 
thou change into a plane tree with broad leaves/ said 



ID Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

she. Go ye» musicians, and play before my mother.** 
So they betook themselves to the mother's door and 
played a dirge over her child. ^ Play not» musicians, 
fair youths," she entceated. " Rend not my heart by 
your playing. I have enough of woe in having lost 
my daughter. Hapless the mother who curses her 
children ! " The well-known German tale of the 
juniper tree belongs to the same class. A beautiful 
little boy is killed by his step^mother, who serves him 
up as a dish of meat to his father. The father eats in 
ignorance* and throws away the bones, which are 
gathered up by the little half-sister, who puts them 
into her best silk handkerchief and buries them under 
a juniper tree. Presently a bird of gay plumage 
perches on the tree, and whistles as it flits from branch 
to branch — 

Min moder de mi slach't, 

Min fader de mi att, 

Min s wester de Marleenken 

Socht alle mine Beeniken, 

Und bindt sie in een syden Dook 

Legst unner den Machandelboom ; 

Ky win ! ky witt ! Ach watt en sch6n vagel bin icb ! 

— ^a rhyme which Goethe puts into the mouth of 
Gretchen in prison. In the German story the step* 
mother's brains are knocked out by the fall of a mill* 
stone, and the bird-boy is restored to human form ; 
but in a Scotch variant the last event does not take 
place. It may have been thrown in by some narrator 
who had a weakness for a plot which ends well. All 
these wonder-tjiles had probably an original connec* 
tion with a belief in the transmigration of souls. In 
truth, the people's Mdrclien are rooted nearly always 

Tke Inspirmiiam of Death in Fatk^PaUry. ii 

oo some article of ancient faith : that is why they have 
so loi^ a life Faith vitalizes poetry or legend or art ; 
and what once lived takes a great time to die Now 
that the beliefs which fostered them have gone into 
the lumber-room of disused religions^ the old wonder* 
tales still have a freshness and a horror which cannot 
be found even in the best of brand-new "made-up** 

Another reason why the dead come back is to fulfil 
a promise The Greek mother of the Kleft song has 
nine sons and one only daughter. She bathes her in 
the darkness, her hair she combs in the light, she 
dresses her beneath the shining of the moon. A 
stranger from Bagdad has asked her in marriage, and 
Constantine, one of the sons, counsels his mother to 
give her to the stranger. ** Thou art wont to be pru- 
dent, but in this thou art senseless," says the moUier. 
" Who will bring her back to me if there be joy or 
. sorrow ? *' Constantine gives her God as surety, and 
all the saints and martyrs, that if there be sorrow or 
joy he will bring her back. In two years all the nine 
sons die, and when it is Constantine's turn, the mother 
leans over his body and tears her hair. Fain would 
she have back her daughter Arete, and behold Con- 
stantine lies dead. At midnight Constantine gets up 
and goes to where his sister dwellsi and bids Arete to * 
follow him. She asks what has happened, but he tells 
her nothing. While they journey along the birds 
sing : " See you that lovely girl riding with the dead ?'' 
Then Arete asks her brother if he heard What the 
birds said. '' They are only birds/' he answers ; '' never 
mind them." She says her brother has such an odour 
of incense that it fUls her with fear. *' It is only/', he 

I a Essays in the Study of Fotk-Sangs. 

saysi ''because we passed the evening in the chapel of 
St John." When they reach their home, the mother 
opens the portal and sees the dead and the living come 
in tc^ether, and her soul leaves her body. The motive 
of a ride with the dead, made familiar by the ^ Erl 
Konig " and Burgher's **Lenore/* can be traced through 
endless variations in folk-poesy. 

In the Swedish ballad of •* Little Christina/' a lover 
rises from his grave, not to carry off his beloved, but 
simply to console her. One night Christina hears 
light fingers tapping at her door ; she opens it, and 
her dead betrothed comes in. She washes his feet 
with pure wine, and for a long while they speak to- 
gether. Then the cocks begin to crow, and the dead 
get them underground. The young girl puts on her 
shoes and follows her betrothed through the wide 
forest When they reach the graveyard, the fair hair 
of the young man begins to disappear. ** See, maiden," 
he says, " how the moon has reddened all at once ; 
even so, in a moment, thy beloved will vanish." She 
sits down on the tomb and says : '' I shall remain here 
till the Lord calls me." Then she hears the voice of 
her betrothed saying to her : " Little Christina, go 
back to thy dwelling-place. Every time a tear falls 
from thine eyes my shroud is full of blood. Every 
time thy heart is gay, my shroud is full of rose 

If the display of excessive grief is thus shown to be 
only grievous to the dead, yet they are held to be 
keenly sensible of a lack of due and decorous respect. 
Such respect they generally get from rough or savage 
natures, unless it be denied out of intentional scorn or 
enmity. There is a factory in England where common 

The /nitration 0/ Death in Folk-Poetfy. 13 

men are employed to manipulate large importations 
of bones for agricultural uses. Each cargo contains 
a certain quantity of bones which are very obviously 
human. These the workmen sort out, and when they 
have got a heap they bury it, and ask the manager to 
read .oyer it some passages from the Burial Service. 
They do it of their own free will and initiative ; were, 
they hindered, they would very likely leave the works* 
Shall it be called foolish or sublime ? Another curious 
instance of respect to the dead comes to my mind. 
On board ship two cannon balls are ordinarily sewed 
up with a body to sink it. Once a negro died at sea, 
and his fellows, negroes also, took him in a boat and 
rowed a long way to a place where they were to com- 
mit him to the deep. After a while the boat returned 
to the ship, still with its burden. The explanation 
was soon made. The negroes discovered that they 
had only one cannon ball, they had rowed back for 
the other. One would have been quite enough to 
answer all purposes; but it seemed to them dis- 
respectful to their comrade to cheat him out of half 
his due. 

The dead particularly object to people treading 
carelessly on their graves. So we learn frohi one of 
the songs of Greek outlawry. 

All Saturday we held carouse/ and far through Sunday night, 
And on the Monday mom we found our wine expended quite. 
To seek for more without delay the captain made me go ; 
I ne'er had seen nor known the way, nor had a guide to show. 
And so through solitary roads and secret paths I sped| 
Which to a little ivied church long time deserted led. 
This church was full of tombs, and all by gallant men possest ; 
One sepulchre stood all alone, apart from all the rest 

14 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

I did not tee it| and I trod above the dead man*s bones. 
And a$ from out the nether world came up a sound of groans. 
What ails thee^ sepulchre ? why thus so deeply groan and sigh ? 
Doth the earth press, or the black stone weigh on thee heavily ? 
*' Neither the earth doth press me down, nor black stone do 

me. scath, 
But I with bitter grief am wrung, and full of shame and wrath, 
That thou dost trample on my head, and I am scorned in death. 
Perhaps I was not also young, nor brave and stout in fight, 
Nor wont as thou, beneath the moon, to wander through the 


Egil Skallagrimson, after his son was drowned, 
resolved to let hiniself die of hunger. Thorgerd, his 
daughter, came to him and prayed hard of him that 
he would sing. Touched by her affection, he made 
an effort, gathered up his ideas, dressed them in 
images, expressed them in song ; and as he sang, his 
regrets softened, and in the end his soul became so 
calm that he was satisfied to live. In this beautiful 
saga lies the secret of folk-elegies. The people find 
comfort in singing. A Czech maiden asks of the 
dark woods how they can be as green in winter as in 
summer ; as for her, she cannot help vexing her 
heart. "But who would not weep in my place.' 
Where is my father, my beloved father ? The sandy 
plain is his winding-sheet. Where is my mother, my 
good mother ? The grass grows over hen I have no 
brother and no sister, and they have taken away my 
friend." Of a certainty when she had sung, her vexed 
heart was lighter. "Seul a un synonym: mort." 
Yes, but he who sings is scarcely alone, even though 
there be only the waving pine woods to answer with a 
sigh. The most passionate laments of the Sclavonic 
race are for father and mother. If a Little Russian 

The Inspiration of Death in Folk-Poetry. 15 

loses both his parents his despair is such that it often 
drives him forth a wanderer on the face of the earth. 
One so bereft cries out, " Dear mother, why didst 
thou suffer me to see the day? Why didst thou 
bring me into the world without obtaining for me by 
thy prayers a portion of its blessings ? My father 
and my mother are dead, and with them my country. 
Why was I left a wretched orphan ? Oht could I 
find a being miserable as myself that we might sym* 
pathize one with the other!" The birth-ties of 
kindred are reckoned the only strong ones. Some 
Russian lines, translated by Mr Ralston, indicate the 
degrees of mourning : 

There weeps his mother— as a river nms ; 
There weeps his sister— >as a streamlet flows ; 
There weeps his youthful wife— as falls the dew ; 
The sun will rise and gather up the dew. 

A Servian pesma illustrates the same idea. Young 
Tovo has the misfortune to break his arm. A doctor 
is fetched — no other than a Vila of the mountain. 
The wily sprite demands in guerdon for tHe cure the 
right hand of the mother, the sister's long hair, with 
' the ribbons that bind it, the pearl necklace of the 
wife. Quickly the mother sacrifices her right hand, 
quickly the sister cuts off her much-prized braid, but 
the wife says, ''Give up my white pearls that my 
father gave me ? Not I ! " The Vila waxes angry 
and poisons Tovo's blood. When he is dead three 
women fall "a-kookooing" — one groans without 
ceasing ; one sobs at dawn and dusk ; one weeps just 
now and then when it comes into her head so to do. 
As the cuckoo is supposed to be a sister mourning 

1 6 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

for her brother, kookooing has come to mean 
lamenting. The Servian girl who has lately lost 
her brother cannot hear the cuckoo's note without 
weeping. In popular poetry the love of sister for 
brother takes precedence even of the love of mother 
for child. Not only does Gudrun in the Elder Edda 
esteem the murder of her first lord, the god-like 
Sigurd, to be of less importance than that of her 
brothers, but also to avenge their deaths, she has no 
scruple in slaying both her second husband and her 
own sons. A Bulgarian ballad shows m still more 
striking light the relative value set on the lives of 
child and brother. There was a certain man named 
Negul, whose head was in danger. The folk-poet is 
careful to express no sort of censure upon his hero, 
but the boasts he is made to utter are sufficient guides 
to his character. Great numbers of Turks has he put 
to flight, and yet more women has he killed of those 
who would not follow him meekly as his wives. 
" And now," he adds plaintively, " a misfortune has 
befallen me which I have done nothing at all to 
deserve." His sister Milenka hears him bemoaning 
his fate, and at once she says to him, " Brother Negul, 
Negul, my brother, do not disturb yourself; do not 
distress yourself; I have nine sons, nine sons and one 
daughter ; the youngest of all is Lalo ; him will I 
sacrifice to save you ; I will sacrifice him so that you 
may remain to me." This was the promise of Milenka. 
Then she hastened to her own home and prepared 
hot meats and set flasks of golden wine wherewith to 
feast her sons. " Eat and drink together," she said, 
'' and kiss one another's hands, for Lalo is going away 
to be groomsman to his Uncle Negul. Let your 

. The Insptratum of Death in Folk- Poetry. \ 7 

X mother see you all assembled, and serve you each in 
\ turn with ruddy wine and with smoking viands." 

t For the others she did not wholly fill the glass, but 

] Lalo's glass she filled to the brim. Meanwhile Elka, 

f LaIo'.4 sister, made ready his clothes for the journey ; 

i and as she busied about it, the little girl cried because 

I Lalo was going to be groomsman, and they had not 

i asked her to be bridesmaid. Lalo said to Elka, 

\ " Elka, my little only sister, do not cry so, sister ; do 
J not be so vexed ; we are nine brothers, and one of 

; • these days you will surely act as bridesmaid.'* The 
? words were hardly spoken when the headsmen reached 

i the door. They took Lalo, the groomsman, and they 

j chopped off his head in place of his Uncle Negul's. 

I A new and different world is entered when we 

I follow the folk-poet upon the wrestling-ground of 

^ Death and Love. If I have judged rightly, there 

I were songs of death before there were any other love 

songs than those of the nightingale ; but the folk-poet 
i was still young when he learnt to sing of love, and the 

love poet found out early that his lyre was incomplete 
I without the string of death. In all folk-poetry can 

be plainly heard that music of love and death which 
may be said almost to have been the dominant note 
that sounded through the literature of the ages of 
romance. Sometimes the victory is given to death, 
j sometimes to love ; in one song love, while yielding, 

I conquers. Folk-poetry has not anything more in* 

stinct with the quality of intensity than is this ** Last 
^ Request " of a Greek robber-lover — 

When thou Shalt hear that I am ill, 
C O my well-beloved ! he said, 

O come to me, and quickly come, 
Or thou wilt find me dead. 

1 8 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

And when that thou hast reached the house, 

And the great gates passed through. 
Then, O my well-beloved, the braids 

Of thy bright hair unda 
And to my mother say straightway, 

Tell me, where is your son ? 
My son Is lying on his bed 

In chamber all alone. 
Then mount the stairs, O my well-beloved. 

And come your lover anigh, 
And smooth my pillow that I may 

Raise me a little high, 
And hold my head up in thy hands 

Till flies away my soul. 
And when thou seest the priest arrive. 

And dress him in his stole, 
Then place, my well-beloved, a kiss 

On my lips pale and cold ; 
And when four youths shall lift me up. 

And on their shoulders hold, 
Then shalt thou, O my well-beloved. 

Cast at them many a stone. 
And when they reach thy neighbourhood 

And by thy house pass on. 
Then, O my well-beloved, thy hair. 

Thy golden tresses cut ; 
And when they reach the church's gate, 

And there my coffin put. 
Then as the hen her feathers plucks^ 

Su pluck thy hair for me. 
And when my dirges all are done, 

And lights extinguished be. 
Then shall my heart, O well-beloved. 

Still be possessed of thee. 

Wc hardly notice the adventitious part of it^the 
ancient custom of tearing off the hair, the strange 
stone-casting at the youths who represent Charon; 
our attention is absorbed by what is the essence of 

The Inspirati&nofDettikinFolk-Podry. 19 

the song : passion which has burned itself into pure 
fire. Greek folk-poetry shows a blending to|^er of 
southern emotions with an imaginative fervour^ a 
prophetic power that is rather of the East than of the 
South. No Tuscan ploughman, for instance, could 
seize the idea of the Greek folk-poet of possessing his 
living love in death. If the Tuscan thinks of a union 
in the grave, it can only be attained by the one who 
remains joining the one who is gone — 

O friendly soil, 

Soil that doth hold my love in thine embrace. 
Soon as for me shall end life's war and toil 
Beneath thy sod I too would have a place ; 
Where my love is, there do I long to be. 
Where now my heart is buried far from me — 
Yes, where my love is gone I long to go, 
Robbed of my heart I bear too deep a woe. 

This stringer of pretty conceits fails to convince us 
that he is very much in earnest in his wish to die. 
Speaking in the sincerity of prose> the Tuscan says, 
'^Ogni cosa h meglio che la morte." He does not 
believe in the nothingness of life. In his worst 
troubles he still feels that all his faculties, all his 
senses, are made for pleasure. Death is to him the 
affair of a not cheerful religious ceremony — a cross 
borne before a black draped bier, and bells tolling 

1 hear Death's step, 1 see him at my side, 
1 feel his bony fingers clasp me round ; 
I see the church's door is open wide. 
And for the dead I hear the knell resound. 
1 see the cross aiid the black pall outspread ; 
Love, thou dost lead me whither lie the dead ! 
I see the cross, the winding-sheet I see ; 
Love, to the graveyard thou art leading me ! 

90 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Going further souths a stage further is reached in 
crude externality of vision. People of the South are 
the only born realists. To them that comes natural 
which in others is either aflfectation or the fruits of 
what the French call V amour du laid^—^, morbid love 
of the hideous^ such as marred the fine genius of 
Baudelaire. At Naples death is a matter of corrup- 
tion naked in the sunlight. When the Neapolitan 
takes his mandoline amongst the tombs he unveils 
their sorry secrets, not because he gloats over them, 
but because the habit of a reserve of speech is entirely 
undeveloped in him. He dares to sing thus of his 
lost love — 

Her lattice ever lit no light displays. 

My Nella 1 can it be that you are ill ? 

Her sister from the window looks and says : 

" Your Nella in the grave lies cold and still. 

Ofttimes she wept to waste her life unwed, 

And now, poor child, she sleeps beside the dead." 

Go to the church and lift the winding-sheet, 

Gaze on my Nella*s face— how changed, alas ! 

See *twixt those lips whence issued flowers so sweet 

Now loathsome worms (ah ! piteous sight !) do pass. 

Priest, let it be your care, and promise me, 

That evermore her lamp shall lighted be. 

The song beats with the pulses of the people's life— 
the life of a people swift in gesture, in action, in living, 
in dying : always in a hurry, as if one must be quick 
for the catastrophe is coming. They are all here : 
the lover waiting in the street for some sign or word ; 
the girl leaning out of window to tell her piece of 
news ; the " poor child " who had drunk of the lava 
stream of love; the dead lying uncoffined in the 
church to be gazed upon by who will ; the priest to 


Tlu Inspiration of Death in Folk- Poetry. 2 \ 

whom are given those final instructions : pious, and 
\ yet how uncomforting, how unilluminated by hope or 

even aspiration ! Here there is no thought of reunion. 
\ A kind-hearted German woman once tried to con- 
'! sole a young Neapolitan whose lover was dead, by 
\ saying that they might meet in Paradise. " In Para- 
j disc } " she answered, opening her large black eyes ; 

" Ah ! signora, in Paradise people do not marry." 
The coming back or reappearance of a lover, in 
I whose absence his beloved has diedi is a subject that 
1 has been made use of by the folk-poets of every 
\ country, and nothing can be more characteristic of the 
i nationalities to which they belong than the diver- 
I . gences which mark their treatment of it Northern 
I , singers turn the narrative of the event into half a fairy 
I tale. On the banks of the Moldau we are introduced 
I to a joyous youth, returning with glad steps to his 

> native village. " My pretty girls, my doves, is my 
\ friend cutting oats with you ? " he asks of a group of 

> girls working in the fields near his home* "Only 
yesterday," they reply, " his friend was buried." He 
begs them to tell him by which path they bore her 

; away. It is a road edged with rosemary ; everybody, 
knows it — it leads to the new cemetery. Thither he 
* goes^ thrice he wanders round the place, the third 
\ time he hears a voice crying, "Who is it treads on 
\ my grave and breaks the rest of the dead?" "It 
j is I, thy friend," he says, and he bids her rise up 
I and look on him. She says she cannot, she is too 
I weak, her heart is lifeless, her hands and feet are like 
j stones. But the gravedigger has left his spade hard 
by; with it her friend can shovel away the earth 
that holds her down. He does what she tells him ; 

23 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

when the earth is lifted he beholds her stretched out 
at full lengthy a froten maiden crowned with rose* 
mary. He asks to whom has she bequeathed his gifts. 
She answers that her mother has them ; he must 
go and beg them of her. Then shall he throw the 
little scarf upon a bush, and there will be an end to 
his love. And the silver ring he shall cast into the 
sea, and there will be an end to his grief. On the 
shores of the Wener it is Lord Malmstein who wakes 
before dawn from a dream that his beloved's heart is 
breaking. " Up, up, my little page, saddle the grey ; 
I must know how it fares with my love." He mounts 
the horse and gallops into the forests. Of a sudden 
two little maids stand in his path ; one wears a dress 
of blue, and hails him with the words : '' God keep 
you, Lord Malmstein ; what bale awaits you ! '* The 
other is dight in red, and of her Lord Malmstein asks, 
" Who is ill, and who is dead ? " " No one is ill, no 
one is dead, save only the betrothed of Malmstein." 
He makes haste to reach the village ; on the way he 
meets the bier of his betrothed. Swiftly he leaps 
from the saddle ; he pulls from off his finger rings of 
fine gold, and throws them to the gravedigger — 
" Delve a grave deep and wide, for therein we will 
walk together/' His face turns red and white, and he 
deals a mortal blow at his heart This Swedish 
Malmstein not only figures as the reappearing lover ; 
he is also one of that familiar pair whom death 
unites. In an ancient Romansch ballad the story is 
simply an episode of peasant life. A young Enga- 
diner girl is forced by her father to marry a man of the 
village of Surselva, but all the while her troth is 
plighted to a youth from the village of Schams. On 

J Tlu InspimHon of Death in Folk-Poetry. 21 

the road to Surselva the lover joins the bride and 
bridegroom unknown to the latter. When they reach 
the place the people declare that they have never 
seen so fair a woman as the youthful bride. Her 
husband's father and mother greet her sayings 
"Daughter, be thou welcome to our house I" But 
she answers, " No, I have never been your daughter^ 
nor do I hope ever to be ; for the time is near when 
I must die." Then her brothers and sisters greet her 
saying, •* O sister, be thou welcome to our house I " 
" No," .she says, •* I have never been ypur sister, nor 
do I ever hope to be ; for the time comes when I 
must die. Only one kindness I ask of you, give me 
a room where I may rest" They lead her to her 
chamber, they try to comfort her with sweet words ; 
but the more they would befriend her, the more does 
the young bride turn her mind away from this world. 
Her lover is by her side, and to him she says, " O my 
beloved, greet my father and my mother ; tell them 
that perhaps they have rejoiced their hearts, but sure 
it is they have broken mine." She turns her face to 
the wall and her soul returns to God. ^ O my 
beloved," cries the lover, " as thou diest, and diest for 
me, for thee will I gladly die." He throws himself 
upon the bed, and his soul follows hers. As the clock 
struck two they carried her to the grave, as the clock 
struck three they came for him ; the marriage bells 
rang them to their rest; the chimes of Schams 
answering back the chimes of Surselva. From the 
grave mound of the girl grew a camomile plant, from 
the grave mound of the youth a plant of musk ; and 
for the great love they bore one another even the 
flowers twined together and embraced. 

24 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Uoi, i sul tdmbel da quella belb 
Craschiva sii iina flur da cbiaminella ; 
Uoi, i siil tfimbel da que bel mat 
Craschiva sii iina flur nusch muschiat ; 
Per tant grond bain cha queus dus as lelvan, 
Parfin las fluors insemmel as brancleivan. 

It is a sign of a natural talent for democracy when 
the people like better to tell stories about themselves 
than, to discuss the fortunes of prince or princess. 
The devoted lovers are more often to be looked for 
in the immediate neighbourhood of a court. So it is 
in the ballad of Count Nello of Portugal. Count 
Nello brings his horse to bathe; while the horse 
drinks, the Count sings. It was already very dark — 
the King could not recognise him. The poor Infanta 
knew not whether to laugh or to cry. " Be quiet, my 
daughter ; listen and thou wilt hear a beautiful song. 
It is an angel singing, or the siren in the sea." ^' No, 
it is no angel in heaven, nor is it the siren of the sea ; 
it is Count Nello, my father, he who fain would wed 
me/' '' Who speaks of Count Nella ? who dare name 
him, the rebel vassal whom I have exiled ? " " My 
Lord, mine only is the fault ; you should punish me 
alone ; I cannot live without him ; it is I who have 
made him come." " Hold thy peace, traitress ; before 
day dawns thou shalt see his head cut off." ''The 
headsman who slays him may prepare for me too ; 
there where you dig his grave dig mine also." For 
whom are the bells tolling ? Count Nello is dead ; 
the Infanta is like to die. The two graves are open ; 
behold ! they jlay the Count near the porch of the 
church and the Infanta at the foot of the altar. On 
one grave grows a cypress, on the other an orange 




T/ie Impiratian of Death in Folk-Poetry. 25 

tree ; one grows, the other grows ; their branches join 
and kiss. The king, when he hears of it, orders them 
both to be cut down. From the cypress flows noble 
blood, from the orange tree blood royal ; from one 
flies forth a dove, from the other a wood-pigeon. 
When the king sits at table the birds perch before 
him. " 111 luck upon their fondness," he cries, '* ill 
luck upon their love I Neither in life nor in death 
have I been able to divide them." The musk and 
the camomile of Switzerland, the cypress and the 
orange tree of Portugal, are the cypress and the reed 
of the Greek folk-song, the thorn and olive of the 
Norman chanson^ the rose and the briar of the English 
ballad, the vine and the rose of the Tristram and 
Iseult story. Through the world they tell their 
Amor condusse'noi ad una morte. 

I The death of heroes has provided an inexhaustible 

I theme for folk-poets. The chief or partisan leader 
\ ' had his complement in the skald* or bard or roving 
I ballad-singer ; if the one acted, turned tribes into 
nations, cut out history, the other sang, published his 
fame, gave his exploits to the future, preserved to his 
people the remembrance of his dying words. The 
j poetry of hero-worship, beginning on Homeric heights, 
descends to the *' lytell gestes ** of all sorts and con- 
ditions of more or less respectable and patriotic out- 
I laws and condottieri^ whose "passing" is often the 
i most honourable point in their career. On the prin- 
I ciple which has been followed — that of letting tlie 
V folk-poet speak for himself, and show what are his 
's ideas and his impressions after his own manner and 



26 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

in his own language — I will take three death scenes 
from amongst the less known of those recorded in 
popular verse. The first is Scandinavian. What ails 
Hjalmar the Icelander? Why is his face so pale? 
The. Norse Warrior answers: "Sixteen wourtds 
have I, and my armour is shattered. All things 
grow black in my sight ; I reel in walking ; the 
bloody sword of Agantyr has pierced my heart. Had 
I five houses in the fields I could not dwell in one of 
them ; I must abide at Samsa, hopeless and mortally 
wounded. At Upsal, in the halls of josur, many Jarls 
quaff joyously the foaming ale, many Jarls exchange 
hot words ; but as for me, I am here in this island, 
struck down by the point of the sword. The white 
daughter of Hilmer accompanied my steps to Aganfik 
beyond the reefs ; her words are come true, for she 
said I should return no more. Draw off my finger 
the ring of ruddy gold, bear it to my youthful Inge- 
brog, it will remind her that she will see me never 
more. In the east upsoars the raven ; after him the 
mightier eagle wings his way. I will be meat for the 
eagle and my heart's blood his drink." One back- 
ward look to all that was the joy of his life — the feast, 
the fight, the woman he loved — and then a calm facing 
of the end. This is how the Norseman died. The 
Greek hero, who dies peaceably in the ripeness of 
old age, meets his doom with even less trouble of 
spirit — 

The sun sank down behind the hill, 

And Dimos faintly said, 
* Go, children, fetch your evening meal— 

The water and the bread. 

Thi Inspiration of Death in Folk-Poetry. 27 

Thou, Lamprakis, my brother's soiii 

Come hither, by me stand. 
And arm me with my weapons, 
And be captain of the band 
And, children, take my dear old sword 

That I no more shall sway, 
And cut the green boughs from the trees 

And there my body lay ; 
And hither bring a priestly man 

To whom I may confess, 
That I may tell him all my sins, 
I And he forgive and bless. . 

< For thirty years a soldier, 

I Twenty years a kleft was I ; 

i Now death overtakes and seizes me, 

I Tis finished, I must die. 

I And be ye sure ye make my grave 

\ Of ample height and large, 

\ That in it I may stand upright, 

I Or lie my gun to charge. 

And to the right a lattice make, 
I A passage for the day, 

\ Where the swallow, bringing springtide, 

I May dart about and play, 

I And the nightingale, sweet singer, 

I Tell the happy month of May. 

I The slight natural touches — the eagle soaring against 

I the sunrise, the nightingale singing through the May 

! nights — ^suggest an intuition of the will-of-the-wisp 

I affinity between nature and human chances which 

I seems for ever on the point of being seized, but which 

I for ever eludes the mental grasp. We think of the 

\ "brown bird" in the noble "Funeral Song "of one 

{ who would have been a magnificent folk^poet, had he 

1 not learnt to write and read~Walt Whitman, 

I My third specimen is a Piedmontese ballad com- 

\ posed probably about a hundred and fifty yean ago^ 


28* Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

and still very popular. Count Nigra ascertained the 
existence of eight or more variants. A German 
soldier, known in Italy as the Baron Lodrone, took 
arms under the house of Savoy, in whose service he 
presently died. •'In Turin," begins the ballad, 
'* counts and barons and noble dames mourn for the 
death of the Baron Lodrone." The king went to 
Cuneo to visit his dying soldier ; drums and cannons 
greeted his approach. He spoke kind words to the 
sick man: "Courage, thou wilt not die, and I will 
give thee the supreme command." "There is no 
commander who can stand against death," answered 
the baron. Now Lodrone was a Protestant, and 
when the king was convinced that he must die, he 
exhorted him to conversion, saying that he himself 
would stand his sponsor. Lodrone replied that that 
could not be. The king did not insist ; he only 
asked him where he would be buried, and promised 
him a sepulchre of gold. He answered — 

Mi lasserii per testament 
Ch 'a mi sotero an vai d' Liiserna, 
An val d' Luserna a m sotraran 
Dova 1 me cdr s'arposa tan ! 

He does not care for a golden sepulchre, but he 
" leaves for testament " that his body may lie in Val 
Luserna, " where my heart rests so well ! " The valley 
of Luserna was the seat of the Vaudois faith in the 
" alpine mountains cold," watered with martyr blood 
. only a little while before Lodrone lived. To read 
these four simple lines after the fantasia of wild or 
whimsical guesses, passionate longing, unresisted 
despair, insatiable curiosity, that death has been seen 

T/ie Inspiration of Death in Folk'Podry. 29 

to create or inspire, is like going out of a public place 
with its multiform and voluble presentment of men 
and things into the aisles of a small church which 
would lie silent but that unseen hands pass over the 
cM'gan keys. 



Nature, like music, does not initially make us think, 
it makes us feel A midnight scene in the Alps, a 
sunrise on the Mediterranean, suspends at the moment 
of contemplating it all thought in pure emotion. 
Afterwards, however, thought comes back and asks 
for a reason for the emotion that has been felt Man 
at an early age began to try and explain, or give a 
tangible shape, to the feelings wrought in htm by 
Nature. In the first place he called the things that 
he saw gods, '* because the things are beautiful that 
are seen." Later on, seers and myth-makers resigned 
their birthright into the hands of poets, who became 
henceforth the interpreters between nature and man. 
A small piece of this succession fell away from the 
great masters of the world's song, and was picked up 
almost unconsciously by the obscure and nameless 
folk-singer. Comparative folk-lore has shown that 
men have everywhere the same customs, the same 
superstitions, the same games. The study of folk- 
songs will go far to show that if they have not like* 
wise a complete community of taste and sentiment, 
yet even in these, the finer fibres of their being, there 
is less of difference and more of analogy than has 
been hitherto supposed. Folk-songs prove, for in- 
stance, that the modern unschooled man is not so 
utterly ignorant of natural beauty as many of us have 
imagined him to be. Only we must not go from the 

Nature in Folk-Songs. 31 

extreme of expecting nothing to the extreme of ex- • 

pecting too much ; it has to be borne in mind that at 

best folk-poesy is rather the stammering speech of 

children than a mature eloquence. 

It is a common idea that, until the other day» 

mountains were looked upon with positive aversion. 

Still we know that there were always men who felt 

the power of the hills : the men who lived in the hills. 

f When they were kept too long in the plain without 

hope of return they sickened and died ; when a vivid 

picture of their mountains was of a sudden brought 

*_ up before them, they lost control over their actions. 

\ By force of association the sound of the Kuhnihen 

\ could doubtless give the Switzcr a vision of the white 

I peak, the milky torrent, the chalet with slanting roof, 

% the cows tripping down the green Alp to their night 

I quarters. It is disappointing to find that the words 

I accompanying the famous cow-call are as a rule mere 

nonsense. The first observation which the genuine 

I folk-poet makes about mountains is the sufficiently 

\. self-evident one, that they form a wall between him- 

] self and the people on the further side. The old 

I Pyrenean balladist seized the political significance of 

; this: ''When God created those mountains," he said, 

; "He did not mean that men should cross them." 

\ Very often the mountain wall is spoken of as a barrier 

I which separates lovers. The Gascon peasants have 

\ an adaptation of Gaston Phoebus' romance :-— 

I • 

I Aqueros mountines 

I Qui ta haoutes souHi 

I M'empechen de bede 

I Mas amous oun soun. 

^ In Bohemia the simple countryman poetises after 

32 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

much the same fashion as the Gascon cavalier: 
''Mountain^ mountain, thou art very high I My 
friend, thou art far off, far beyond the mountains. 
Our love will fade yet more and yet more ; there is 
nothing left for me; in this world no pleasantness 
remains.*' Another Czech singer laments that he is 
not where his thought is ; if only the mountains did 
not stand between them, he would see his beloved 
walking in the garden and plucking blue, flowers. He 
tries what a prayer will do: ''Mountains, black 
mountains, step aside, so I may get my good friend 
for wife." In similar terms the native of Friuli begs 
the dividing range to stoop so he may look upon his 
love. Among Italian folk-poets the Friulian is fore- 
most as a lover of the greater heights ; he turns to 
them habitually in his moments of poetic inspiration, 
and, as he says, their echoes repeat his sighs. It 
must be admitted that the Tuscan, on the contrary, 
feels small sympathy with high mountains; if he 
speaks of one he is careful to call it aspra^ or rough 
and bitter. But he yields to no man in his delight 
in the lesser hills, the be' poggioli of his fair birthland. 
Even if an intervening hillock divides him from his 
beloved he speaks of the barrier tenderly rather than 
sadly : ** O sun, thou that goest over the hill-top, do 
me a kindness if thou canst — greet my love whom I 
have not seen to-day. O sun, thou that goest over 
the pear-trees, greet those black eyes. O sun, thou 
that goest over the small ash-trees, greet those beauti- 
ful eyes ! " A maiden sings to herself, " I see what I 
see and I see not what I would ; I see the leaves 
flying in the air and I do not see my love turn back 
from the hill-top. I do not see him turn back . . . 

Nature in Folk-Songs. 33 

that beautiful face has gone over the hill." A youth 
tells all his story in these few words : *• As I passed 
over the mountain-crest thy beautiful name came 
into my mind ; I fell upon my knees and I joined my 
hands, and to have left thee seemed a sin. I fell 
upon my knees on the hard stones ; may our love 
come back as of yore I " These are pure love-songs ; 
not by any means descriptions of scenery, and yet 
how much of the Tuscan landscape lives in them I 

Almost the only folk-song which is avowedly de- 
scriptive of a mountain, comes from South Greenland : — 

The great Koonak Mount yonder south I do behold it The 
great Koonak Mount yonder south I regard it. The shining 
brightness yonder south I contemplate. Outside of Koonak it 
is expanding ; the same that Koonak towards the sea-side doth 
encompass. Behold how yonder south they tend to beautify 
each other ; while from the sea-side it is enveloped in sheets 
still changing ; from the sea-side it is enveloped to mutual 

At the first reading all this may seem incoherent ; 
at the second or third we begin to see the scene 
gradually rising before us ; the masses of sea-born 
cloud sweeping on and up at dawn or sunset, till, 
. finding their passage barred, they enwrap the obstacle 
in folds of golden vapour. It is singular that the 
E$kimo is incessantly gazing southwards ; can it be 
that he, too, is dimly sensible of what a great writer 
has called " lafatigtie du Nord'' ? 

Incidental mention of the varying aspects of peak 
and upland is common enough in popular songs. 
The Bavarian peasant notices the clearness of the 
heights while mist hangs over the valley : — 
Im Thai ist dec Nebel 
Auf der Aim is schon ktar . . « 

34 Essc^s in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

The Basque observes the ^ misty summits ; " the 
Greek sees the cloud hurrying to the heights ^ like 
winged messengers.'' There is the closest intimacy 
between the Greek and his mountains. When he has 
won a victory for freedom, they cry aloud, •* God is 
great ! " When he is in sorrow he pines for them as 
for the society of friends : " Why am I not near the 
hills i Why have I not the mountains to keep me 
company ? " A sick Kleft • cries to the birds, *' Birds, 
shall I ever be cured ? Birds, shall I recover my 
strength ? *' To which the birds reply just as might 
a fashionable physician who recommends his patient 
to try Pontresina : *' If thou wouldst be cured, if thou 
wouldst have thy wounds close up, go thou to the 
heights of Olympus, to the beautiful uplands where 
the strong man never suffers, where the suffering 
regain their strength." This fine figure of speech 
also occurs in a Kleft song : *' The plains thirst for 
water, the mountains thirst for snow." 

The effect of light on his native ice-fields has not 
escaped the Switzer : " The sun shines on the glacier, 
and in the heavens shine the stars; O thou, my 
chiefest joy, how I love thee ! " A Czech balladist 
describes two chieftains travelling towards the sun- 
rise, with mountains to the right and to the left, on 
whose summit stands the dawn. Again, he repre- 
sents a band of warriors halting on the spurs of the 
forest, while before them lies Prague, silent and 
asleep, with the Veltava shrouded in morning mist ; 
beyond, the mountains turn blue ; beyond the moun- 
tains the east is illuminated. In Bohemia mountains 
are spoken of as blue or grey or shadowy ; in Servia 
they are invariably called green. Servians and Bui- 

Natun im FoUbSomgs. 35 

garians cannot conceive a mountain that is not a 
wood or a wood that is not a mountain ; with them 
the two words mean one and the same thing. The 
chaiTO and beauty of the combination of hill and 
forest are often dwelt upon in the Balkan brigand 
songs; outlaws and their poets have been among the 
keenest appreciators of nature. Who thinks of Robin 
Hood apart from the greenwood tree ? Who but has 
smelt the very fragrance of the woods as he said over 
the lines ?— 

*' In somer when the shawes be sheyn 
And leves be large and longi 
Hit is lull merry in feyre foreste 
To here the foulys song." 

The Sclav or semi-Sclav bandit has not got the 
high moral qualities of our '* most gentle theefc/* but, 
like him, he has suflfered the heat, the cold, the 
hunger, the fatigue of a life in the good greenwood, 
and, like him, he has tasted its joys. Take the ballad 
called the *' Wintering of the Heidukes." Three 
friends sit drinking together in the mountains under 
the trees ; they sip the ruddy wine, and discuss what 
they shall do in the coming winter, when the leaves 
have fallen and only the naked forest is left. Each 
decides where he will go, and the last one says : ** So 
soon as the sad winter is passed, when the forest is 
clad again in leaves and the earth in grass and flowers, 
when the birds sing in the bushes on the banks of the 
Save and the wolves are heard in the hills — then shall 
we meet as to-day*" Spring returns, the forest is 
decked again with leaves, the black earth with flowers 
and grass, the bird sings in the bush, the wolves howl 

36 Essays in ih$ Study of Foik-Sangs. 

on the rocky heights ; two of the friends meet at the 
tsysting place — the third comes not ; he has been 
slain. This is only one Ptsma out of a hundred in 
which the mountain background is faithfully sketched. 
Sometimes the forest figures as a personage. The 
Balkan mountaineer more than half believes that as 
he loves it, so does it love him. The instinct which 
insists that *' love exempteth nothing loved from love" 
has been a great myth-germinator, and when myths 
die out, it still finds some niche in the mind of man 
wherein to abide. It may seem foolish when applied 
to inanimate objects ; it must seem false in its human 
application : but reasoning will not kill it Is there 
some truth unperceived behind the apparent fallacy ? 
The Balkan brigand cares little for such speculations; 
all that he tells us is that when he speaks to the 
greenwood, it most surely answers him in a soft low 
voice. The Bulgarian " Farewell of Liben the brave *' 
is a good specimen of the dialogues between the 
forest and Jts wild denizens. Standing on the top of 
the Hodja Balkan, Liben cries aloud, "Forest, O 
green forest, and ye cool waters f dost thou remember, 
O forest, how often I have roamed about thee with 
my following of young comrades bearing aloft my red 
banner ? " Many are the mothers, the wives, and the 
little orphans whom Liben has made desolate so that 
they curse him. Now must he bid farewell to the 
mountain, for he is going home to his mother who 
will affiance him to the daughter of the Pope Nicholas. 
" The forest speaks to no one, yet to Liben she 
replies." Enough has he roamed with his braves; 
enough has he borne his red banner along the summit 
of the old mountain, and under fresh and tufted shade. 

Nature in Folk-Songs. . 37 

and over moist green moss. Many are the mothers, 
the wives, and the little orphans, who curse the forest 
for his sake. Till now he has had the old mountain 
for mother ; for love, the greenwood clothed in tufted 
foliage and freshened by the cool breeze. The grass 
was his bed, the leaves of the trees his coverlet ; his 
drink came from the pure brook, for him the wood- 
birds sang. "Rejoice," sang the wood-birds, "for 
thee the wood is gay ; the mountain and the cool 
brook ! " But now Libcn bids farewell to the forest ; 
he is going home that his mother may affiance and 
wed him to the daughter of the Pope Nicholas. 

Sca-vicws of the sea, rare in poetry of any sort, can 
scarcely be said to exist in folk-poesy. Sailors' songs 
have generally not much to do with the wonders of 
the deep ; the larger part of them are known to be 
picked up on land, and the few exceptions to the rule 
are mostly kept from the ken of the outer and pro- 
fane public. The Basque sailors have certain songs 
of their own, but only a solitary fragment of one of 
them has ever been set on record. Once when a 
Basque was asked to repeat a song he had been heard 
singing, he quietly said that he only taught it to those 
who sailed with him. The fragment just mentioned 
speaks of the silver trumpet (the master's whistle?) 
sounding over the waters at break of day, while the 
coast of Holland trembles in the distance. The first 
glimpse of a level reach of land in the morning haze 
could hardly be better described 

The sea impresses the dwellers on its shores chiefly 
by its depth and vastness. In folk-songs there is a 
frequent recurrence of phrases such as "the waters 
of the sea are vast, you cannot discern the bottom *' 

38 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

(Basque); ^High is the starry sky, profound the 
abyss of ocean" (Russian). The Greek calls the 
sea wicked, and watches the whitening waves which 
roll over drowned sailors. For the Southern Sclav it 
is simply a grey expanse. The Norseman calls it 
old, and blue — nature having for him one sole chord 
of colour — blue sea, white sands and snows, green 
pines. With Italian folk-singers it is a pretty point 
of dispute whether the blue sea-and-sky colour is to 
be preferred to the colour of the leaves and the grass. 
*' Can you wear a lovelier hue than azure ? " asks one; 
'' the waves of the sea are clothed therein and the 
heavens when they are clear." The answer is that if 
the sky is clad in a blue garment, green is the vesture 
of the earth, " E foro del verde nasse ogni bel frutto." 
The arguments of the rival partisans remind one of 
an amusing scene in a play of Calderon's ; one char- 
acter is made to say, " Green is the earth's primal hue, 
the many-coloured flowers are born out of a green 
' cradle." " In short," says another, " it is a mere earth* 
tint, while heaven is dressed in blue." " As to that," 
comes the retort, " it is all an azure Action ; far to be 
preferred is the veracious verdancy of the earth." 

The Italian folk-poets' " castle in the air" is a castle 
in the sea. From Alp to ^tna the love-sick rhymers 
are fain to go and dwell with their heart's adoration 
" in mezzo al mar." But though agreed on the locality 
where they intend setting up in life, they differ con- 
siderably as to the manner of "castle" to be inhabited. 
The Sicilian, who makes a point of wishing for some- 
thing worth having while he is about it, will only be 
satisfied with a palace built of peacock's plumes, a 
stair of gold, and a balcony inlaid with gems. A 

Nature in Folk-Songs^ 39 

more modest minstrel, from the hither side of the 
straits of Messina, gives no thought at all to house- 
keeping ; a little wave-lapped garden^ full of pretty 
flowers, is all his desire. The Italian folk-poet sets 
afloat an astonishing number of things for no particular 
reason; one has planted a pear-tree, a second has 
heard a little wood-lark, a third has seen a green 
laurel, a fourth has found a small altar " in the sea- 
midst/' a flfth discovers his own name '' scritto all 
'onne de lu mar/* 

The Greek lover has no wish to leave the mainland, 
but he is fond of picturing his beloved wandering by 
the shore at dawn to breathe the morning air, or 
reclining on a little stone bench at the foot of a hill, 
in the silence of solitude and the calm of the sea. 
For the rest, he knows too well " the wicked sea " for 
it to suggest to him none but pleasant images. If he 
is in despair, he likens himself to the waves, which 
follow one another to their inevitable grave. If he 
grows weary of waiting, he exclaims : " The sea 
darkens, the waves beat back on the beach ; ah ! how 
long have I loved thee ! '* One or two specimens 
have been already given of this particular kind of 
song ; the recollection of a passing moment in nature 
is placed text-wise to a cry of human pain or love. 
A happy lover remembers in his transport the glacier 
glistening in the sunshine ; he who languishes from 
the sickness of hope deferred, sees an affinity to his 
own mood in the lowering storm. 

In the South, light is loved for its own sake. " II 
lume k mezza compagnia,'* runs a Tuscan proverb : 
'' Light is half company.*' In a memorable passage, 
St Augustine unfolds and elaborates the same idea of 

40 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

the companionship of light A Tuscan countryman v 

vows that if his love to fly from him becomes the | 

light) he» to be near her, will become a butterfly. | 

Perhaps so radiant an hyperbole would only have I 

occurred to one who had grown up in the air of the ^ 

Tuscan hills ; the air to whose purity Michael Angelo \ 

ascribed all that his mind was worth. Anyway, a \ 

keen poetic sensibility is argued by the mere fact of \ 

thus joining, in a symbol of the indivisible, the least | 

earth-clogged of sentient things with the most im- | 

personal of natural phenomena. It is the more ^ 

remarkable because, generally speaking, butterflies do 
not attract the notice of the unlettered people, even 
as they did not attract the notice of the objective and 
practical Greeks. It may be that were spirits to be 
seen flitting noiselessly al^out the haunts of men, they 
would, in time, be equally disregarded. To so few 
has it happened to know a butterfly, to watch closely 
its living beauty, to feel day by day the light feet or 
fluttering wings upon the hands which minister to its 
unsubstantial wants. Butterflies, to most of us, are 
but ethereal strangers ; so by the masses they are not 
valued — at least, not in Europe. A tribe of West 
African negroes have this beautiful saying : '* The 
Butterfly praises God within and without." 

The folk- poet lives out of doors ; he is acquainted 
with the home life of the sun and stars, and day-break 
is his daily luxury. The Eskimo tell a story of a 
stay-at-home man who dwelt in an island near the 
coast of East Greenland. It was his chief joy to see 
the sun rising in the morning, out of the sea, and with 
that he was content. But when his son had come to 
years of discretion, he persuaded his father to set out 

Naiun im FoikSatigs. 41 

in a boat, so that he might see a little of the workL 
The man started from the island ; no sooner, however, 
had he passed Cape Faiewdl than he saw the sun 
beginning to rise behind the land. It was more than 
he could bear ; and he set off at once for his home. 
Next morning very early he went out of his tent ; he 
did not come back. When he was sought after, he 
was found quite dead. The joy of seeing the sun 
rising again out of the sea had killed him. Most 
likely the story is based on a real incident The 
Aztec goes out upon his roof to see the sunrise ; it is 
his one religious observance. But of the cult of the 
sun I must not begin to speak. It belongs to an 
immense subject that cannot be touched here: the 
wide range of the unconscious appreciation of nature 
which was worship. 

There is nothing more graceful in all folk-poesy 
than a little Czech star-poem : — 

Star, pale star, 

Didst thou know love, 

Hadst thou a heart, my golden star. 

Thou wouldst weep sparks. 

Further north men do not willingly stay out abroad 
at night, but those whose calling obliges them to do 
so are looked upon as wise in strange lore. The first 
tidings of war coming reached the Esthonian 8he{i« 
herd boy, the keeper of the lambs, "who knew the 
sun, and knew the moon, and knew the stars in the 
sky." In Neo-Sanskrit speaking Lithuania there 
abound star-legends which differ from the southern 
tales of the same order, by reason of the pagan good 
faith that clings to them, The Italian is aWare that 


42 Essays in the Study of Fdk-Sangs. 

he is romancing when he speaks of the moon travel- 
ling through the night to meet the morning star^ or 
when he describes her anger at the loss of one of her 
stars ; the Lithuanian has a suspicion that there may 
be a good deal of truth in his poets' account of the 
sun's domestic arrangements — how the morning star 
lights the fire for him to get up by, and the evening 
star makes his bed. He will tell you that once 
there was a time when sun and moon journeyed to- 
gcther, but the moon fell in love with the morning 
star, which brought about sad mischief. '* The moon 
went with the sun in the early spring ; the sun got up 
early ; the. moon went away from him. The moon 
walked alone, fell in love with the morning star. 
Perkun, greatly angered, stabbed her with a sword. 
* Why wentest thou away from the sun ? Why 
walk alone in the night ? Why fall in love with the 
morning star ? Your heart is full of sorrow.' " The 
Lithuanians have not wholly left that stage in man's 
development when what is imagined seems primA 
facie quite as likely to be real as what is seen. The 
supernatural does not strike them as either mysterious 
or terrifying. It is otherwise with the Teuton. His 
night phantasms treat of what is, to man, of all things 
the most genuinely alarming — his own shadow. 
Ghosts, wild huntsmen, erl-kings take the place of an 
innocuous un-mortal race. No starry radiance can 
rob the nijjht of its terrors. " The stars shine in the 
sky, bright shine the rays of the moon, fast ride the 
dead." Such is the wailing burden to the ballad 
which Burgher imitated in his Lcnore. There is a 
wide gulf between this and the tender star-idylls of 
Lithuania, and a gulf still wider divides it from the 

Nature in Folk-Songs. 43 

neighbourly familiarity with which the southerner 
addresses the heavenly bodies. We go from one 
world to another when we turn back to Italy and 
hear the country lads singing, " La buona sera, O 
Stella mattutina 1 ** " Good evening to you, O matu- 
tinal star." 

The West African negroes call the sky the king of 
sheds, and the sun the king of torches ; the twinkling 
stars are the little chickens, and the meteor is the 
thief-star. " When day dawns, you rejoice," say the 
Yorubas ; " do you not know that the day of death is 
so much the nearer ? " The same tribe give this vivid 
description of a day-break scene : " The trader betakes 
himself to his trade, the spinner takes his distaff, the 
warrior takes his shield, the weaver bends over his 
slcy, the farmer awakes, he and his hoe-handle, the 
hunter awakes, with his quiver and bow." Thought- 
less of toil, the Tuscan joyfully cries, '* Dawn is about 
to appear, bells chime, windows open, heaven and 
earth sing." The Greek holds that he who has not 
journeyed with the moon by night, or at dawn with 
the dew, has not tasted the world. Folk-poets have 
widely recognised the mysterious confusion between 
summer nights and days. The dispute at Juliet's 
window is recalled by the Venetian's chiding of the 
•* Rondinella Traditora ; " by the Berry peasants* 
vexation at the "vilaine alouette ;" by the reproach 
of the Navarrese lover, "You say it is day, it is not 
yet midnight ; " and most of all by the Servian 
dialogue : *' Dawn whitens, the cock crows : It is not 
the dawn, but the moon. The cows low round the 
house: It is not the cows, it is the call to prayer* 
The Turks call to the mosque : It is not the Turlo, it 

44 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

18 the wolves." The observation of the swallow's 
morning song is another point at which the master 
poet and the obscure folk-singer meet. This time 
both are natives of sunny lands; there is a clear 
reason why it should be so-^in the north the swallow 
passes almost for a dumb bird. Very rarely in Eng- 
land do we hear her notes, soft yet penetrating, like 
the high-pitched whisper of the iEolian harp. Some 
of us may, indeed, have first got acquainted with 
them in Dantc*s beautiful lines : — 

Neir ora che comincia i tristi lai 
La Rondinella presso alia mattina . . . 

Little suspecting that he is committing the sin of 
plagiarism, the Greek begins one of his songs, '' In 
the hour when the swallows, twittering, awake the 

The ancient swallow myth^ docs not seem to have 
anywhere crept into folk-lore; nor is there much 
trace of the old Scandinavian delusion that swallows 
spent the winter under the ice on lakes, or hanging 
up in caves like bunches of grapes. The swallow is 
taken simply as the typical bird of passage, the 
spring-bringer, the messenger, the traveller outre mcr. 
She is the picked bird of countries, the African 
explorer, the Indian pioneer. A Servian story 
reports of her in the latter capacity. The small- 
leafed Sweet Basil complains, " Silent dew, why fall- 
est thou not on me ? '* " For two mornings," answers 
the dew, " I fell on thee ; this morning I amused my- 
self by watching a great marvel. A vila (a mountain 
• spirit) quarrelled with an eagle over yonder mountain. 
Said the vila, * The mountain is mine.* * No,' said the 

Nature in Folk^Songs. 45 

eagle, • it is mine.' The vila broke the eagle's wing, 
and the young eaglets moaned bitterly, for great was 
their peril. Then a swallow comforted them : * Make 
no moan, young eaglets, I will carry you to the land 
of Ind, where the amaranth grows up to the horses* 
knees, where the clover reaches their shoulders, where 
the sun never sets.* " How, it may be asked, did the 
poet come by that notion of an Asiatic Eden ? The 
folk-singer seldom paints foreign scenery in these 
glowing tints. There may be something of a south- 
ward longing in the boast — 

Vll show ye how the lilies grow 
On the banks o* Italie. 

But this is cold and colourless beside the empire of 
the unsetting sun. 

Next to the swallow, the grey gull has the reputa- 
tion of being the greatest traveller. Till lately the 
women of Croisic met on Assumption Day and sang 
a song to the gulls, imploring them to bring back 
their husbands and their lovers who were out at sea. 
Larks are often chosen as letter-carriers for short dis- 
tances. The Greek knows that it is spring when pair 
by pair the turtle-doves swoop down to the brooks; 
He is an accurate observer; in April or May any 
retired English pool will be found flecked over with 
the down of the wood-pigeons that come to drink and 
bathe in it The cooing of doves is by general con- 
sent associated with constancy and requited love. It 
is not always, however, that nations are agreed as to 
the sense of a bird's song. The ** merrie cuckoo " is 
supposed by the Sclavs to be rehearsing an endless 
dirge for a murdered brother. A Czech poet lays 

46 Essays in the Study of Folk-Sangs. 

down yet another cause for its conjectured melan- 
choly: ''Perched upon an oak tree, a cuckoo weeps 
because it is not always springf. How could the rye 
ripen in the fields if it were always spring ? How 
could the apples ripen in the orchard if it were always 
summer ? How could the corn harden in the rick if 
it were always autunin ?" In spite of the sagacious . 
content shown by these inquiries, it is probable that 
the sadness which the Sclav attributes to the cuckoo- 
cry is but an echo of the sadness, deep and wide, of 
his own race. 

Of the nightingale the Tuscan sings, in the spirit of 
one greater than he, — 

Vedete Ik quel rusignol che canta 
Col suo bel canto lamentar si vuole, — 

which is not, by the by, his only Miltonic inspiration ; 
there is a rustling of Vallombrosian leaves through, 
the couplet, composed perhaps in Vallombrosia : 

£ quantc primavera foglie adorna 
Che s\ vaga e gentile a noi ritorna. 

The Bulgarian sees a mountain trembling to the 
song of three nightingales. Like his Servian neigh- 
bours, he must always have a story^ and here is his 
nightingale story. Marika went into the garden ; she 
passed the pomegranate-tree and the apple-tree, and 
sat her down under the red rose-tree to embroider a 
white handkerchief. In the rose-tree was a nightingale, 
and the nightingale said : '' Let us sing, Marika ; if 
you sing better than I, you shall cut off my wings at 
the shoulders and my feet at the knee; if I sing 
better than you, I will cut off your hair at the roots." 
They sang for two days, for three days ; Marika sang 

Nature in Folk-Songs. 47 

the best Then the nightingale pleaded, " Marika, 
fair young girl, do not cut off my feet, let me keep 
my wings, for I have three little nightingales to 
rear, and of one of them I will make you a gift." 
** Nightingale, sweet singer,** said Marika, " I will give 
thee grace of thy wings, and even of thy feet ; go, 
tend thy little ones, make me a gift of one to lull me 
to sleepi and of one to awake me." 

We may take leave of bird-lays with the pretty old 
Bourbonnaise clianson : — 

Derrier* chez nous, il y a-t-un vert bocage, 
Le rossignol y chant' tous les jours ; 

Lh il y dit en son charmant langage : 
Les amoreux sont malheureux toujours 1 

Flowers, the green leaves and the grass, are sugges- 
tive of two kinds of pathos. The individual flower, 
the grass or leaf of any one day or spring-tide, 
becomes the type of the transitoriness of beauty and 
youth and life. " Sing whilst ye are young and fair, 
soon you will be slighted, as are sere lilies," is the 
song even of happy Tuscany. To the Sclav it seems 
a question whether it be worth while that there should 
be any flowers or morning gladness, since they must 
be gone so soon. " O my garden," sings the Ruth- 
enian, "O my little garden, my garden and my green 
vine, why bloomest thou in the morning? Hardly 
bloomed, thou art withered, and the earth is strewn 
with thy leaves.'* The other kind of pathos springs 
from a deeper well. Man passes by, each one hurries 
to his tragedy ; Nature smiles tranquilly on. This 
moving force of contrast was known to Lywarch Hen, 
and to those Keltic bards who dived so deep into 

48 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Nature's secrets that scarcely a greater depth has 
been fathomed by any after-comers. It was perceived 
involuntarily by the English ballad-singers, who 
strung a burden of "Fine flowers" upon a tale of 
infanticide, and bade blackbird and mavis sing their 
sweetest between a. murder and an execution. And 
it is this that gives its key-note to an Armenian 
popular song of singular power. A bishop tells how 
he has made himself a vineyard; he has brought 
stones from the valleys and raised a wall around it ; 
he has planted young vines and plentifully has he 
watered their roots. Every morning the nightingale 
sings sweetly to the rose. Every morning Gabriel 
says to his soul : ^ Rise and come forth from this 
vineyard, from this newly-built vineyard." lie has 
not eaten the fruit of the vine ; he has built a wine- 
vat, but the wine he has not tasted ; he has brought 
cool streams from the hills, but he has not drunk the 
water thereof; he has planted red and white roses, 
but he has not smelt their fragrance. The turtle-dove 
sings to the birds, and the spring is come. Gabriel 
calls to his soul, the light of his eyes grows dim ; 
" It is time I leave my vineyard, my beautiful vine- 
yard." There is hardly another poem treating of 
death which is so un-illuminated by one ray from a 
future dawn. 

In the great mass of folk-songs flowers are dealt 
with simply as the accessories to all beautiful things. 
The folk-poet learns from them his alphabet of beauty. 
Go into any English cornfield after harvest ; whilst 
the elder children glean wheat ears, the children of 
two and three years glean small yellow hearts-eases, 
vervaine, and blue scabious. They are as surely 

Nature in Folk-Songs. 49 

learning to distinguish the Beautiful as the student in 
the courts of the Vatican. Through life, when these 
children think of a beautiful thing, the thought of a 
flower will not be far oflf. Religion and love, after all 
the two chief embellishments of the life of the poor, 
have been hung about with flowers from the past of 
Persephone and Freya till to-day. Even in England 
the common people are glad if they can find a lily of 
the valley to carry to church at Whitsuntide, and the 
first sign that a country girl has got a sweetheart is 
often to be read in the transformation of the garden- 
plot before her door. In Italy you will not walk far 
among the vineyards and maize-fields without coming 
upon a shrine which bears traces of floral decoration. 
Some Italian villages and country towns have their 
special flower festival, or Infioraia; Genzano, for 
instance, where, on the eighth day after Corpus 
Domini, innumerable flowers are stripped of their 
petals, which are sorted out according to colour and 
then arranged in patterns on the way to the church, 
the magnificence of the effect going far to make one 
condone the hcartlessness of immolating so many 
victims to achieve an hour's triumph. A charge of 
stupid indifference to beauty has been brought against 
the Italian peasant — it would seem partly on the score 
that he has been known to root up his anemones in 
order to put a stop to the inroads of foreign marauders. 
There are cert^fin persons, law-abiding in the land 
which gave them birth, who when abroad, adopt the 
ethics of our tribal ancestors. A piece of ground, a 
tree, or a plant not enclosed by a wall, is turned by this 
strange public to its own uses. A walnut tree by the 
wayside has a stick thrown among its branches to 

50 Essays in the Shufy of Folk-Poetry. 

fetch down the walnuts. The peasant does what he 
can to protect himself. He observes that flowers 
attract trespassers, and so he roots up the flowers. 
There are Italian folk-songs which show a delight in 
flowers not to be surpassed anywhere. Flower-loving 
beyond all the rest are the Tuscan poets, whose love- 
lyrics have been truly described as '' tutti seminati di 
fiori " — all sown with lilies, clove pinks, and jessamine. 
The fact fits in pleasantly with the legend of the first 
Florentines, who are said to have called their city 
after " the great basket of flowers " in which it was 
built, It fits in, too, with the sentiment attached 
even now to the very name of Florence. The old 
Floraja in the overgrown straw hat at the railway 
station can reckon on something more abiding than 
her long-lost charms to find her patrons ; and it is 
curious to note how few of the passengers reject the 
proffered emblems of the flower town, or fail to earn 
the parting wish " Felice ritorno ! " 

One point may be granted ; in Italy and elsewhere 
the common people do not highly or permanently 
value scentless flowers. A flower without fragrance 
is to them almost a dead flower, I put the question 
to a troop of English children coming from a wood 
laden with spoils, " What makes you like primroses ? " 
"The scent of them," was the answer. A little 
further along the lane came another troop, and the 
question was repeated. This time t!ie answer was, 
"Because they smell so nice." No flower has been 
more widely reverenced tlian the unassuming sweet 
basil, the Basilica odorato of Sicilian songs, the Tulasi 
plant of India, where it is well-nigh worshipped in 
the house of every pious Hindu. The scale is grad- 


Nature in Folk^Songs. 5 1 

uated thus : the flower which has no smell is plucked 
in play, but left remorselessly to wither as children 
leave their daisy chains ; the flower which has a purely 
sweet and fresh perfume is arranged in nosegays, set 
in water, praised and enjoyed for the day ; the flower 
which has a scent of spice and incense and aromatic 
gums bears oflT honours scarcely less than divine. 

The folk-poet sings because heaven has given him 
a sweet voice and a fair mistress ; because the earth 
brings forth her increase and the sun shines, and the 
spring comes back, and rest at noontide and at even« 
ing is lovely, and work in the oil-mill and in the vine- 
yard is lovely too : he sings to embellish his labour 
and to enhance his repose. He lives on the shield of 
Achilles, singing, accompanied by a viol, to the grape- 
pickers ; he is crowned with flowers in the golden 
age of Lucretius as he raises his sweet song at the 
festa, VVc have seen a little of what he says about 
Nature, but, in truth, he is still her interpreter when 
he says nothing. All folk-poesy is sung and folk- 
songs are as much one of Nature's voices as the song 
of the birds, the song of the brooks, the song of the 
wind in the pine-tops. So it is likewise with the rude 
musical instruments which the exigencies of his life 
have taught the peasant how to make; they utter 
tones more closely in harmony with nature than those 
I of the finest Stradivarius. The Greeks were right 

I when they made Pan with his reed-pipe rather than 

* Apollo with his lyre the typical Nature-god. Anyone 
I to whom it has chanced to hear a folk-song sung in 
I its own home will understand what is meant You 
may travel a good deal and not have that chance. 
The songs, the customs, the traditions of the people 


52 Essays in the Study of Folk-Smgs. 

fonn an arcanum of which they are not always ready 
to lift the veil. To those, of course, whose lives are 
cast among a people that still sings, the opportunity 
comes oftener. But if the song be sung consciously 
for your pleasure its soul will hardly remain in it I 
shall always vividly remember two occasions of hear- 
ing a folk-song sung. Once, long ago, on the Bidassoa. 
The day was closing in ; the bell was tolling in the 
little chapel on the heathery mountain-side, where 
mass is said for the peace of the brave men who fell 
there. Fontarabia stood bathed in orange light. It 
was low water, and the boat got almost stranded ; then 
the boatmen, an older and a younger man, both built 
like athletes, began to sing in low, wild snatches for 
the tide. Once, not very long since, at the marble 
quarry of Sant* Ambrogio. Here also it was towards 
evening and in the autumn. The vintage was half 
over ; all day the sweet " Prenda ! Prenda ! " of the 
grape-gatherers had invited the stranger to share in 
its purple magnificence. The blue of the more distant 
Veronese hills deepened against a coralline sky ; not 
a dark thing was in sight except here or there the sil- 
houette of a cypress. Only a few workmen were em- 
ployed in the quarry ; one, a tall, slight lad, sang in 
the intervals from labour an air full of passion and 
tenderness. The marble amphitheatre gave sonority 
to his high voice. Each time Nature would have 
seemed incomplete had it lacked the human song. 


Obscure in their origin, and for the most part having 
^ at first had no such auxiliary as written record to aid 

their preservation, the single fact of the existence of 
folk-songs may in general suffice to proclaim them 
the true articulate voice of some sentiment or feeling, 
common to the large bulk of the people whence they 
emanate. It is plain that the fittest only can survive 
— only such as are truly germane to those who say or 
sing them. A herdsman or tiller of the soil strings 
together a few verses embodying some simple thought 
which came into his head whilst he looked at the 
green fields or the blue skies, or it may be as he acted 
in a humble way as village poet-laureate. One or 
two friends get them by heart, and possibly sing them 
at the fair in the next hamlet : if they hit, others catch 
them up, and so the song travels for miles and miles, 
and may live out generations. If not, the effusion of 
our poetical cowherd dies away quite silently— not 
much to his distress, for had its fate been, more propi- 
tious its author would probably have been very little 
the wiser. One celebrated poet, and I think but one, 
i has in our own times begun his career in like manner 

5 with the unknown folk-singer. The songs Of Sandor 

I , Petofi were popular over the breadth of the Hun- 
I garian Puszta before ever they appeared in print ; and 

J those who know him, know how faithfully he breathed 


54 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

forth the soul of the Magyar race. In a certain sense 
it is true that every real poet is the spokesman of his 
people. No two works, for instance, are so charac- 
teristic of their respective countries as the Divina 
Commedia and FausL Still, the hands of genius 
idealilse what they touch ; the great poet personifies 
rather than reflects his people, and if he serves them 
as representative, it is in an august, imperial fashion 
within the Senate House of Fame, outside whose 
doors the multitude hustles and seethes. When we 
want to see this multitude as in a mirror, to judge its 
common instincts and impulses that go very far to 
cast the nation in the type which makes it what it is, 
it is a safer and surer plan to search out its own spon- 
taneous and untutored songs than to consult the 
master work attached to immortal names. 

How far the individuality of a race is decided or 
modified by the natural phenomena in which it is 
placed is a nice point for discussion, and one not to 
be disposed of by oflf-hand generalities. In what con- 
sists the sympathetic link, sometimes weak and 
scarcely perceptible, at others visibly strong, between 
man and nature ? Why does the emigrated moun- 
taineer, settled in comfort, case, and prosperity in 
some great metropolis, wake up one day with the 
knowledge that he must begone to the wooden chalet 
with the threat of the avalanche above and the 
menace of the flood below — or he must die ? Is it 
force of early association, habit, or fancy ? Why is 
the wearied town-tied brain-worker sensible of a nos- 
talgia hardly less poignant when he calls to mind how 
the flres of day kindled across some scene of snow or 
sea with which his eyes were once familiar? .Is it 

Armenian Folk Songs. 


nothing more than the return of a long ago expe- 
rienced admiration? I think that neither physicist 
nor psychologist — and both have a right to be heard 
in the matter — would answer that the cause of these 
sensations was to be thus shortly defined. Again 
ask the artist what the Athenian owed to the purity 
and proportion of the lines of Grecian landscape, 
what the Italian stole from the glow and glory of 
meridional light and colour — what the Teuton learnt 
from the ascending spires of Alpine ice ? Was it that 
they saw and copied ? Or rather, that Nature's spirit, 
vibrating through the pulses of their being, moulded 
into form the half-divine visions of master-sculptor, 
painter, architect ? 

It does not, however, require to go deeper than the 
surface of things in order to understand that a 
peoples' songs must be largely influenced by the 
accidents of natural phenomena, and especially where 
climate and physical conformation arc such as must 
perforce stir and stimulate the imaginative faculties of 
the masses. We have an instance to the point in the 
ballads of the "mountainous island" bounded by 
seas and plains, which the natives call Hayasdan and 
we Armenia. The wondering emotion aroused by a 
first descent from the Alps into Italy is well known ; 
to not a few of the mightiest of northern poets this jour- 
ney has acted like a charm, a revelation, an awakening 
to fuller consciousness. In Armenia^ the incantation 
of a like natural antithesis is worked by the advent of 
its every returning spring: a sluggard of a season that 
sleeps on soundly till near midsummer, but comes 
forth at last fully clothed in the gorgeous raiment of 
a Jcing. In days gone by the Armenian spring was 

56 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

dedicated to the goddess Anahid, and as it broke 
over the land the whole people joined in joyful cele- 
bration of the feast of Varthavar or " Rose-blossoms," 
which since Christian times has been transformed 
into the three days' festival of the Transfiguration. 
Beautiful is the face of the country when the tardy 
sun begins to make up for lost time, as though his 
very life depended on it ; shooting down his beams 
with fiery force through the rarefied ether, melting 
away the snows, and ripening all at once the grain 
and grapes, the wild fig, apricot and olive, mulberry 
and pomegranate. What wonder that the Armenian 
loves the revivifying lamp of d.iy, that he turns the 
dying man towards it, and will not willingly commit 
his dead to the earth if some bright rays do not fall 
into the open grave ! At the sun's reveille there is 
a general resurrection of all the buried winter popula- 
tion — women and children, cows and sheep, pink- 
eyed lemmings, black-eyed caraguz, and little kan- 
garoo-shaped jerboas. Out, too, from their winter 
lairs come wolf and bear, hyena and tiger, leopard and 
wild boar. The stork returns to his nest on the 
broad chimney-pot, and this is what the peasant tells 
him of all that has happened in his absence : 

Welcome, Stork ! 

Thou Stork, welcome ; 

Thou hast brought us the sign, of spring, 

Thou hast made our heart gay. 
Descend, O Stork ! 

Descend, O Stork, upon our roof, 

Make thy nest upon our ash-tree. 

I wiU teU thee my thousand sorrows. 

The sorrows of my heart, the thousand sorrows. 

Arinenian Folk-Songs. 



Stork, when thou didst go away, 

When thou didst go away from our tree. 

Withering winds did blow, 

They dried up our smiling flowers. 
The brilliant sky was obscured, 

That brilliant sky was cloudy : 

From above they were breaking the snow In pieces : 

Winter approached, the destroyer of flowers, 
lieginoing from the rock of Varac, 
Beginning from that rock of Varac, 

The snow descended and covered all ; 

In our green meadow it was cold. 
Stork, our little garden. 

Our little garden was surrounded with snow ; 

Our green rose trees 

Withered with the snow and the cold. 

But now the rose trees in the garden are green 
again, and out abroad wild flowers enamel the earth. 
Down pour the torrents of melted snow off Mount 
Ararat, down crash the avalanches of ice and stones 
let loose by the sun's might ; wherever an inch of 
soil or rock is uncovered it becomes a carpet of 
blossom. High up, even to 1 3,000 feet above the sea- 
level, the deep violet aster, the saxifr^e, and crocus, 
and ranunculus, and all our old Alpine acquaintances, 
form a dainty morsel for the teeth, or a carpet for 
the foot, of swift capricom or not less agile wild 
sheep. A little lower, amidst patches of yet frozen 
snow, hyacinths scent the air, yellow squills and blue 
anemones peep out, clumps of golden iris cluster 
between the rocks. There, too, is the "Fountain's 
Blood," or "Blood of the Seven Brothers," as the 
Turk would say, with its crimson, leafless stalk and 
Hly-like bloom, the reddest of all red flowers. Upon 
the trees comes the sweet white kasM^ a kind of 


58 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

manna much relished by the inhabitants. Amongst 
the grass grow the Stars of Bethlehem, to remind us, 
as tradition has it, that hard by on Ararat— beyond 
question the great centre of Chaldean Star-worship— 
the wise men were appointed to watch for the appear- 
ance of a sign in the heavens, and that thence they 
started in quest of the place '' where the young child • 
lay.'* Tulips also abound ; if we may credit the 
legend, they had their origin in the Armenian town 
of Erzeroom, springing from the life-blood of Ferdad 
when he threw himself from the rocks in despair at a 
false alarm of the death of his beloved Shirecn. 

Erzeroom is by common consent in these parts the 
very site of the Garden of Eden. For many centuries, 
affirms the Moslem, the flowers of Paradise might yet 
be seen blossoming round the source of the Euphrates 
not far from the town. But, alas ! when the great 
Persian King Khosref Purveez, the rival of the above- 
mentioned Ferdad, was encamped in that neighbour- 
hood, he was rash enough to spurn a message from 
the young Prophet Mohammed, offering him protec- 
tion if he would embrace the faith of Isl&m. What 
booted the protection of an insignificant sectary to 
him ? thought the Shah-in-Shah, and tossed the letter 
into the Euphrates. But Nature, horrified at the sac- 
rilegious deed, dried up her flowers and fruits, and 
even parched the sources of the river itself; the last 
relic of Eden became a waste. There is a plaintive 
. Armenian elegy composed in the person of Adam 
sitting at the gate of Paradise, and beholding Cheru- 
bim and Seraphim entering the Garden of which he 
once was king, "yea, like unto a powerful king!" 
The poet puts into Adam's mouth a new line of 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 59 

defence ; he did not eat of the fruit, he says, until after 
he had witnessed its fatal effects upon Eve, when, 
seeing her despoiled of all her glory, he was touched 
with pity, and tasted the immortal fruit in the hope 
that the Creator contemplating them both in the same 
wretched plight might with paternal love take com- 
passion on both. But vain was the hope ; " the Lord 
cursed the serpent and Eve, and I was enslaved be« 
tween them." "O Seraphim!" cries the exiled father 
of mankind : 

\ When ye enter Eden, shut not the gate of Paradise; place me 

I standing at the gate ; I will look in a moment, and then 

\ bring me back. 

■\^ Ah! I remember ye, O flowers and sweet* swelling fountains. 

> Ah! 1 remember ye O birds, sweet-singing— and ye, O 

I beasts : 

I Ye who enjoy Paradise, come and weep over your king ; ye who 

i are in Paradise planted by God, elected from the earth of 

^ every kind and sort. 


I High above the hardiest saxifrage tower the three 

\ thousand feet of everlasting snows that crown Mount 

Ararat The Armenians call it Massis or " Mother of 
the World," and old geographers held that it was the 
centre of the earth, an hypothesis supported by various 
ingenious calculations. The Persians have their own 
set of legends about it ; they say that Ararat was 
the cradle of the human race, and that at one time it 
afforded pasture up to the apex of its dome ; but upon 
man's expulsion from Eden, Ahriman the serpent 
doomed tiie whole country to a ten months* winter. 
As to the semi-scriptural traditions gathered round 
the mountain, there is no end to them. ''And the 
ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth 

6o Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat,*' 
so says the Bible, and it is an article of faith with the 
Armenian peasant that it is still somewhere up at the 
top, only not visible. He is extremely loth to believe 
that anybody has actually attained the summit. Par- 
rot's famous ascent was long regarded as the merest 
fable. At the foot of Ararat was a village named 
Argpory, or **he planted the vine/* where Noah's 
vineyard is pointed out to this day, though the village 
itself was destroyed in 1840, when the mountain woke 
up from its long slumbers and rolled down its side a * 
stream of boiling lava ; but we are told that, owing 
to the sins of the world, the vines no longer bear fruit. 
Close at hand is Manard, "the mother lies here," 
alluding to the burial-place of Noah's wife, and yonder 
is Eravan or •* Visible," the first dry land which Noah 
perceived as the waters receded. Armenian choniclers 
relate that when' after leaving the ark the descendants 
of Noah dispersed to different quarters, one amongst 
them, by name Haig, the great-grandson of Japhet, 
settled with his family in Mesopotamia, where he pro- 
bably took part in the building of the Tower of Babel. 
Later, however, upon Belus acquiring dominion over 
the land, Haig found his rule so irksome to himself 
and his clan that they migrated back in a body of 300 
persons to Armenia, much to the displeasure of Belus, 
who summoned them to return, and when they refused, 
despatched a large army to coerce them into obedience. 
Haig collected his men on the shores of Van, and thus 
sagaciously addressed them : 

When we meet with the army of Belus, let us attempt to draw 
near where he lies surrounded by his warriors ; either we shall 
be killed, and our camp equipments and baggage will fall into 

Armmian Folk-Songs. 6i 

his hands, or, making a show of the strength of our arm, we 
shall defeat his army, and victory will be ours. 

These tactics proved completely successful, and 

Belus fell mortally. wounded by an arrow from Haig's 

; bow. Having in this way disposed of his enemies, 

J the patriarch was able before he died to consolidate 

Hayasdan into a goodly kingdom, which he left to 

] the authority of his son Armenag. 

\ After the reign of Haig the thread of Armenian 

- annals continues without break or hitch ; it must be 

V admitted that no people, not even the Jews, boast a 

5 history which " begins with the beginning "in a more 

\ thorough way, nor does the work of any chronicler 

:' proceed in a more methodical and circumstantial 

\ - manner than that of Moses of Khoren, the Herodotus 

j I of Armenia. As is well known, Moses, writing in 

[ I * the fifth century, founded his chronicle upon a work 

I undertaken about five hundred years before by one 

^ I Marabas Cattina, a Syrian, at the request of the great 

\ Armenian monarch Vagshaishag. Marabas stated 

^ I that his record was based upon a manuscript he had 

I 'i discovered in the archives of Nineveh which bore the 

\ indorsement, '*This book, containing the annals of 

{ ancient history, was translated from the Chaldean 

) into Greek, by order of Alexander the Great." 

^^ Whatever may be the precise amount of credence 

I to which the Chronicle of Moses is entitled, all will 

agree that it narrates the story of a high-spirited and 

f intelligent people whom the alternating domination 

I of Greek and Persian could not cower into relinquish- 

1 ing the substance of their liberties,-and whose efforts, 

1 ^ in the main successful, on behalf of their cherished 

; independence, were never more vigorous than at times 


62 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

when their triumph seemed farthest off. For nearly 
a thousand years after the date of Moses of Khoren, 
his people maintained their autonomy, and whether 
we look before or after the flight of the last Ar- 
menian king before the soldiers of the Crescent, we 
must acknowledge that few nations have fough^ more . 
valiantly for their political rights, whilst yet fewer 
have suffered more severely for their fidelity to their 
faith. It is the pride of the Armenians that theirs 
was the first country which adopted the Christian 
religion; it may well be their pride also, that they 
kept their Christianity in the teeth of persecutions 
which can only find a parallel in those undergone by 
the Hebrew race. 

Armenia is naturally rich in early Christian legends, 
of which the most curious is perhaps that of the cor- 
respondence alleged to have occurred between Our • 
Lord and Abgar, king of Hayasdan. The latter, it is 
said, having sent messengers to transact some business 
with the Roman generals quartered in Palestine, re- 
ceived on their return such accounts of the miracles 
performed by Jesus of Nazareth as convinced him 
either that Christ was God come down upon the 
earth, or that he was the son of God. Suffering from 
a grave malady, and hearing, moreover, that the Jews 
had set their hearts on doing despite to the Prophet 
who had risen in their midst, Abgar wrote a letter 
beseeching Christ to come to his capital and cure him 
of his sickness. " My city is indeed small," this letter 
naively concludes, ** but it is sufficient to contain us 
both." The king also sent a painter to Jerusalem, so 
that if Our Lord could not come to Edessa he might 
at least possess his portait The painter was one day 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 63 

endeavouring to fulfil his mission when he was ob- 
served by Christ, who passing a handkerchief over 
his face, gave it to the Armenian impressed with the 
likeness of his features. The response to Abgar's 
letter was written by St Thomas, who said, on behalf 
of his Divine Master, that his work lay elsewhere 
than in Armenia, but that after his Ascension he 
would send an Apostle to enlighten the people of 
that country. This correspondence, though now not 
accepted as authentic out of Armenia, was mentioned 
by some of the earliest Church historians, and it is 
asserted that one of the letters has been found written 
on papyrus in an Egyptian tomb. 

Christianity seems to have made some way in 
Armenia in the second century, but to what extent 
is unknown. What is certain is, that in the third 
centuiy, St Gregory the Illuminator, after having 
been tortured in twelve different ways by King 
Tiridates for refusing to worship the goddess Anahid, 
and kept at the bottom of a well for fourteen years, 
was taken out of it in consequence of a vision of the 
king's sister, and converted that monarch and all his 
subjects along with him. St Gregory is held in 
boundless reverence by the Armenians ; he is almosit 
looked upon as a divine viceroy, as will be seen from 
the following canzonette which Armenian children 
are taught to sing : 

The light appearti the light appears 1 
The light is good : 
The sparrow is on the tree, 
The hen is on the perch, 
The sleep of laiy men is a year, 
Workman, rise and begin thy work 1 

64 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

The gates of heaven are opened, 
The throne of gold is erected, 
Christ is sitting on it ; 
The Illuminator is standing, 
He has taken the golden pen, 
He has written great and small 
Sinners are weeping. 
The just are rejoicing. 

The poet of the people nowhere occupies himself 
with casting about for a fine subject; he writes of 
what he feels and of what he se6s. The Armenian 
peasant sees the snow in winter ; in summer he sees 
the flowers and the birds^-only birds and flowers are 
to him the pleasanter sight, so he sings more about 
them. He rarely composes any verse without a 
flower or a bird being mentioned in it ; all his similes 
are ornithological or botanical, and by them he ex« 
presses the tenderest emotions of his heart. There 
is a pathos, a simplicity really exquisite in the 
conception of some of these little bird-and-flower 
pieces, as, for example, in the subjoined '* Lament of 
a Mother " over her dead babe : 

I gaze and weep, mother of my hoy, 

I say alas and woe is me wretched ! 

What will become of wretched me, 

I have seen my golden son dead ! 
They seized that fragrant rose 

Of my breast, and my soul fainted away ; 

They let my beautiful golden dove 

Fly away, and my heart was wounded. 
That falcon Death seized 

My dear and sweet-voiced turtle dove and wounded me. 

They took my sweet-toned little lark 

And flew away through the skies ! 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 65 

Before my eyes they sent the hail 

On my flowering green pomegranate, 

My rosy apple on the tree, 

Which gave fragrance among the leaves. 
They shook my flourishing beautiful almond tree, 

And left me without fruit ; 

Beating it they threw it on the ground 

And trod it under foot into the earth of the grave. 
What will become of wretched me ! 

Many sorrows surrounded me. 

O, my God, receive the soul of my little one 

And place him at rest in the bright heaven ! 

The birds of Armenia are countless in their number 
and variety, from vulture to wren ; there are so many 
of them that a man (it is said poetically) may ride for 
miles and miles and never see the ground, which they 
entirely cover, except over the small space from 
which they fly up with a deafening whizz to make a 
passage for his horse. At times the plains have the 
appearance of being dyed rose-colour through the 
swarms of the gorgeous red goose which congregate 
upon them, whilst here and there a whitish spot is * 
formed by a troop of his grey-coated relatives. It 
seems that the Armenian has found out why it was 
the wild goose and the tame one separated from each 
other; * Once upon a time, when all were wild and 
free, one goose said to another on the eve of a journey, 
" Mind you are ready, my friend, for, Inshallah (please 
God), I set out to-morrow morning." " And so will 
I," he profanely replied, " whether it pleases God or 
not" Sure enough next morning both geese were 
up betimes, and the religious one spread out his wings 
and sailed off lightly towards the distant land. But, 
lo t when the impious goose tried to do likewise, he 




66 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

flapped and flapped and could not stir from the 
ground. So a countryman caught him» and he and 
his children for ever fell into slavery. 

The partridge is a great favourite of the Armenian, 
who docs not tire of inventing lyrics in its honour. 
Here is a specimen : 

The sun beats from the mountain's top. 
Pretty, pretty : 

The partridge comes from her nest ; 
She was sahitcd by the flowers, 
She flew and came from the mountain's top. 
Ah I pretty, pretty. 
Ah ! dear little partridge 1 

When I hear the voice of the partridge 
I break my fast on the house-top : 
The partridge comes chirping 
And swinging from the mountain's side. 

Ah ! pretty, pretty, 

Ah ! dear little partridge ! 

Thy nest is enamelled with flowers, 
With basilico, narcissus, and water-lily : 
Thy place is full of dew, 
Thou delightcst in the fragrant odour. 

Ah ! pretty, pretty, 

Ah ! dear little partridge ! 

Thy feathers are soft, 
Thy neck is long, thy beak little. 
The colour of thy wing is variegated : 
Thou art sweeter than the dove. 

Ah I pretty, pretty. 

Ah ! dear little partridge ! 

When the little partridge descends from the tree. 
And with his sweet voice chirps, 
He cheers all the world, 
He draws the heart from the sea of blood. 

Ah' : pretty, pretty. 

Ah ! dear little partridge. 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 67 

All the birds call thee blessed, 
They come with thee in flocks^ 
They come around thee chirping : 
In truth there is not one like thee. 

Ah ! pretty, pretty, 

Ah ! beautiful little partridge ! 

Another song gives the piteous plaint of an unhappy 
partridge who was snared and eaten. ''Like St 
Gregory, they let me down into a deep well ; then 
they took me up and sat round a table, and they cut 
tne into little pieces, like St James the Intercised." 
The crane, who, with the stork, brings the promise of 
summer on his wing, receives a warm welcome, and 
when the Armenian sees a crane in some foreign 
country he will say to him : — 

Crane, whence dost thou come? I am the servant of thy 
voice. Crane, hast thou not news from our country ? Hasten 
not to thy flock ; thou wilt arrive soon enough ! Crane, hast 
thou not news from our country ? 

I have left my possessions and vineyard and come hither. 
How often do I sigh ; it seems that my soul is taken from me. 
Crane, stay a little, thy voice is in my soul. Crane, hast thou 
not news from our country ? My God, I ask of thee grace and 
favour, the heart of the pilgrim is wounded, his lungs are con- 
sumed ; the bread he eats is bitter, the water he drinks is taste- 
less. Crane, hast thou not news from our country ? 

Thou comest from Bagdad, and goest to the frontiers. I will 
write a little letter and give it to thee. God will be the witness 
over thee \. thou wilt carry it and give it to my dear ones. 

I have put in my letter that I am here, Uiat I have n^er 
even for a single day been happy. O, my dear ones, I am 
always anxious for you ! Crane, hast thou not news from our 

The autumn is near, and thou art ready to go : thou hast 
joined a large flock : thou hast not answered me, and thou art 
flown! Crane, go from our country and fly far away ! 

68 Essays in the Study of Folk^Songs. 

The nameless author of these lines has had Dante's 
thought : 

Tu proverai si come sa di tale 
Lo pane altnii ... 

It is strange that the Armenians should be at once 
one of the most scattered peoples on the face of the 
earthy and one of the most passionately devoted to 
their fatherland. 

It should not be forgotten, when reading these 
Armenian bird-lays, that an old belief yet . survives 
in that country that the souls of the blessed dead fly 
down from heaven, in the shape of beautiful birds, 
and perching in the branches of the trees, look fondly 
at their dear ones on earth as they pass beneath. 
When the peasant sees the birds fluttering above 
overhead in the wood he will on no account molest 
them, but says to his boy, " That is your dear mother, 
your little brother, your sister— be a good child, or it 
will fly away and never look at you again with its 
sweet little eyes " 

The clear cool streams and vast treacherous salt 
lakes of Armenia are not without their laureates. 
Thus sings the bard of a mountain rivulet : 

" Down from yon distant mountain 

The water flows through the village, Ha I 

A dark boy comes forth, 

And washing his hands and face. 

Washing, yes washing, 

And turning to the water, asked, Ha ! 

Water, from what mountain dost thou come ? 

my cool and sweet water ! Ha ! 

1 came from that mountain, 

Where the old and new snow lie one on the bther. 

Armenian Folk-Songs, 



Walcr, to what river dost thou go ? 

O my cool and sweet water ! Ha ! 
I go to that river 

Where the launches of violets abound. Ha I 
Water, to what vineyard dost thou go ? 

O my cool and sweet water ! Ha ! 
I go to that vineyard 

Where the vine-dresser is within I Ha I. 
Water, what plant dost thou water ? 

O my cool and sweet water ! Ha ! 
I water that plant 

Whose roots give food to the lamb, 

The roots give food to the lamb, 

Where there are the apple tree and the anemone* 
Water, to what garden dost thou go ? 

O my cool and sweet water ! Ha ! 
I go into that garden 

Where there is the sweet song of the nightingale ! Ha 1 
Water, into what fountain dost thou go ? 

my cool and sweet little water 1 
I go to that fountain 

Where thy love comes and drinks. 

1 go to meet her and kiss her chin, 
And satiate myself with her love. 

The dwellers on the shores of Van — the largest 
lake in Armenia, which is situated between 5000 and 
6000 feet above the sea, and covers more than 400 
square miles — are celebrated for possessing the poetic 
gift in a pre-eminent degree. Their district is fertile 
and picturesque, so picturesque that when Semiramis 
passed that way she employed 12,000 workmen and 
600 architects to build her a city on the banks of the 
lake, which was named Aghthamar, and which she 
thereafter made her summer residence. The business 
that brought Semiramis into Armenia was a strange 
romance. Ara, eighth patriarch of Hayasdan, was 

70 Essays in thi Study of Folk-Sotigs. 

famed through all the East for his surpassing beauty, 
and the Assyrian queen hearing that he was the fairest 
to look upon of all mortal men, sent him a proposal of 
marriage ; but he, staunch to the faith in the one true 
God, which he believed had been transmitted to him 
from Noah, would have nothing to say to the offer of 
the idolatrous ruler. Semiramis, greatly incensed, 
advanced with her army into the heart of Armenia, 
and defeated the forces of the Patriarch ; but bitter 
were the fruits of the victory, for Ara, instead of being 
taken alive, as she had commanded, was struck down 
at the head of his men, and his beautiful form, stiff- 
ened by death, was laid at the queen's feet. Semira- 
mis was plunged in the wildest despair; she en- 
deavoured to bring him to life by magic ; that failing, 
she had his body embalmed and placed in a golden 
coffin, which was set in her chamber; no one was 
allowed to call him dead, and she spoke of him as 
her beloved consort. A spot is pointed out to the 
traveller bearing the name of Ara Seni, **Ara is 

The favourite theme of the men of Van is, of course, 
the treacherous element |on which the lot of most of 
them is cast One of their songs gives the legend of 
the *< Old Man and the Ship.*' Our Lord, as an old 
man with a white beard, cried sweetly to the sailors 
to take him into the ship. The sailors answer that 
the ship is freighted by a merchant, and the passage- 
money is great. *' Go away, white-bearded old man," 
they say. But our Lord pays the money and comes 
into the ship. Presently a gale blows up and the 
sailors are exceeding wroth, for they imagine the 
strange passenger has brought them ill-luck. They 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 


ask, " Whence didst thou come, O sinful man ? Thou 
art lost, and thou hast lost us I'* *'I a sinner t" 
replies the Lord, "jgive me the ship, and go you to 
sweet sleep." He made the sign of the cross with his 
right hand, with his left he steered the helm. It was 
not yet mid-day when the ship safely reached the 

Brothers, arise from your sweet sleep* from your sweet sleep 
and your sad dreams. Fall at the feet of Jesus ; here is our 
Lord, here is our ship. 

"Sweet sleep and $ad dreams** — ^he must have 
been a true poet who thus crystallised the sense of 
poor humanity's unrest, even in its profoundest repose. 
The whole little story strikes one as full of delicate 

One more sample of the style of the Armenian 
" Lake-schooL" 

On One who was Shipwrecked on the Lake of Van. 

Wc sailed in the ship from Aghthamar, 
VVc directed our ship towards Avan ; 
When wc arrived before Vosdan 
We saw the dark sun of the dark day. 

Dull clouds covered the sky, 
Obscuring at once stars and moon ; 
The winds blew fiercely, 
And took from my eyes land and shore. 

Thundered the heaven, thundered the earth. 
The waters of the blue sea arose ; 
On every side the heavens shot forth (ire ; 
Black terror invaded my heart. 

There is the sky, but the earth is not seen, 
There is the earth, but the sun is not seen ; 
The waves come like mountains 
And open before me a deep abyss. 

7:r Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

O iea« if thou lovest thy God» 
Have pity on me, forlorn and wretched ; 
Take not from me my sweet sun^ 
And betray me not to flinty-hearted Death. 

Pity, O sea, O terrible sea ! 
Give me not up to the cold winds ; 
My tears implore thee 
And the thousand sorrows of my heart. . • 

The savage sea has no pity ! 

It hears not the plaintive voice of my broken heart ; 

The blood freezes in my veins, 

Black night descends upon my eyes. . . . 

Go tell to my mother 
To sit and weep for her darkened son ; 
That John was the prey of the sea. 
The sun of the young man is set ! 

Summer, with its flowers, and warmth, and wealth, 
never stays long enough in Armenia for it to become 
a common ordinary thing. It is a beautiful wonder- 
time, a brief, splendid nature-fair, which vanishes like 
a dream before the first astonishment and delight 
are worn into indifference. The season when "the 
nightingale sings to the rose at dewy dawn " departs 
swiftly, and envious winter strangles autumn in its 

What a winter, too! a winter which despotically 
governs the complete economy of the people's system 
of life. Let us take a peep into an Armenian interior 
on a December evening. Three months the snow has 
been in possession of mountain and valley ; for more 
than four months more it will remain. Abroad it is 
light enough, though night has fallen ; for the moon 
shines down in wonderful brightness upon the ice- 

I Arfnenian Folk-Songs. 73 

I bound earth. On the hill-slope various little uneven- 
I . nesses are discernible, jutting out from the snow like 
mushrooms. In one part the ground is cut away 
perpendicularly for a few feet ; this is the front of the 
homestead, the body of which lies burrowed in the 
slope of the hill When the house was made the 
floor was dug out some five feet underground, while 
the ceiling beams rose three or four feet above it ; but 
all the dug-out soil was thrown about the roof and 
back and side walls, and thus the whole is now 
embedded in the hillock. The roof was neatly turfed 
over when the house was finished, so that in summer 
the lambs and children play upon it, and not unfre- 
qucntly, in the great heats, the family sleep there— 
•* at the moon's inn.'* What look like mushrooms are 
in reality the broad-topped chimneys, on which the 
summer storks build their nests. The homestead has 
but one entrance ; a large front door which leads 
through a long dark passage to a second door that 
swings-to after you, and is hung with a rough red- 
dyed sheepskin. This dioor opens upon the entrance- 
hall, whence you mount half-a-dozen steps to a raised 
platform, under which the house dogs are located. 
On two sides the platform is bounded by solid stonq 
walls, from which are suspended saddles, guns, pistols, 
\ and one or two pictures representing the deeds of 
I some Persian hero, and bought of Persian hawkers. 
I On the other two sides an open woodwork fence 
I divides it from a vast stable. Nearest the grating 
I are fastened the horses of the clan-chief; next are the 
\ donkeys, then the cows; sheep and chickens find 
I places where they can. The breath of these animals 
I materially contributes to the warmth of the house, 
I li 

74 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

which is at times almost like an oven, even in the 
coldest weather. A clear hot fire bums on the 
hearth ; the fuel used is tezek, a preparation of cow- 
dung pressed into a substance resembling peat turf. 
By day the habitation is obscurely lighted through a 
small aperture in the roof glazed with oiled silk, and 
supplemented by a sort of funnel, the wide opening 
downwards. Now, in the evening, the oil burning in 
a simple iron lamp over the hearth, affords a dim 

The platform above described is the salemlik, or 
hall of reception. It contains no chairs, but divans 
richly draped with Koordish stuffs ; the floor is 
carpeted with tekeke, a kind of grey felt. To the 
right of the hearth sits the head of the family, a 
venerable old man, whose word is incontrovertible 
law to every member of his house. He is also Al 
Sakal, or "white beard" of the villajge, a dignity 
conferred on him by the unanimous voice of his 
neighbours, and constituting him intermediary in all 
transactions with government. When important 
matters are at stake, he meets the elders of the 
surrounding hamlets, who, resolved into committee, 
form the Commune. This ancient usage bears 
witness to the essentially patriarchal and democratic 
basis of Armenian society. 

Our family party consists of three dozen persons, 
the representatives of four generations. The young 
married >yomen come in and out from directing the 
preparations of the supper. Nothing is to be seen of 
their faces except their lustrous eyes (Armenian eyes 
are famous for their brilliancy), a tightly-fitting veil 
enclosing the rest of their features. Without this 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 75 

covering they do not by any chance appear even in 
the house ; it is said they wear it also at night One 
of them is a bride ; her dress is rich and striking— a 
close-fitting bodice, fastening at the neck with silver 
clasps, full trousers of rose-coloured silk gathered in 
at the ankles by a fillet of silver, the feet bare, a silver 
girdle of curious workmanship loosely encircling the 
waist, and a long padded garment open down the 
front which hangs from the shoulders. Poor little 
bride ! She has not uttered a single word save when 
alone with her husband since she pronounced the 
marriage vow. She may not hope to do so till after 
the birth of her first-born child ; then she will talk to 
her nursling, after a while to her mother-in-law, some- 
time later she may converse with her own mother, 
and by-and*by, in a subdued whisper, with the young 
girls of the house. During the first year of her 
married life she niay not go out of the house except 
twice to church. Her disciplinar}' education will 
not be complete for six years, after which she will 
enjoy comparative liberty, but never in her life must 
she open her lips to a person of the stronger sex not 
related to her. Turn from the silent little bride to 
that bevy of young girls, merry and playful as the 
kittens they are fondling — silky-haired snowballs, of 
a breed peculiar to the neighbourhood of Van, their 
tails dyed pink with henna like the tail of the Shah*s 
steed. The girls are laughing and chatting together 
without restraint — most probably about their love 
affairs, for they are free to dispose of their hands as 
they choose. And they may walk about unveiledi 
and show off their pret^ faces and long raven plaits 
to the fullest advantage. 

76 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Suddenly a knocking is heard outside; the dogs 
yell from under the platform ; the Whitebeard says 
whoever be the wanderer he shall have bed and board, 
and he orders fresh tezek to be thrown on the fire ; 
for to-night it is bitter cold out abroad — were a man 
to stand still five minutes, he would freeze in his 
shoes. One of the sons descends the steps, pushes 
aside the sheep-skin, and leads the traveller in. This 
one says he is the minstrel. What joy in the family I 
The blind minstrel, who will sing the most exciting 
ballads and tell the most marvellous tales. He is 
welcomed by all ; only the young bride steals out of 
the room — she may not remain in a stranger's pre- 
sence. The lively girls want to hear a story at once ; 
but the Whitebeard says the guest must first have 
rest and refreshment But while they are waiting for 
the meal to be laid out, the blind minstrel relates 
something of his recent travels, which in itself is 
almost as good as a fairy tale. He has just arrived 
from Persia, whither he will soon return ; for he has 
only come back to the snows of Armenia to breathe 
the air of home for a little. Did he go to Teheran ? 
No ; to say the truth, he deemed it wiser to keep at a 
discreet distance from that capital. Such a thing had 
been heard of ere now as the Shah putting under 
requisition any skilful musicians who came in his way 
to teach their art to the fair ones of the harem ; so 
that occasionally it was unpleasantly difficult to get 
out of Teheran when once you were in it. Still he 
was by no means without interesting news. In a 
certain part of Persia he had met another blind 
master-singer, with whom he strove for the prize of 
minstrelsy. Both were entertained by a great Persian 

Artnenian Folk-Songs. 77 

prince. When the day came they were led out upon^ 
an open grass-plot and seated one facuig the other. 
The prince took up his position^ and five thousand 
people made a circle round the competitors. Then 
the grand brain-fight began ; the rivals contended in 
song and verse, riddle and repartee. Now one starts 
an acrostic on the prince s name, in which each side 
takes alternate letters ; then the other versifies some 
sacred passage, which his opponent must catch up 
when he breaks off. The ball is kept flying to and 
fro with unflagging zeal ; the crowd is rapturous in 
its plaudits. But at length our minstrel's adversary 
pauses, hesitates, fails to seize the drift of his rival's 
latest sally, and answers at random. A shout pro- 
claims him beaten. The triumphant bard is led to 
where he stands, and taking his lyre from him breaks 
it into atoms. The vanquished retires discomfited to 
the obscurity of his native village, where haply his 
humble talents will not be despised. The victor is 
* robed in the prince's mantle, and taken to the highest 

seat in the banqueting-hall. 
This is what the minstrel has to tell as- he warms 
\ his hands over the fire while the young married women 

\ serve the supper. A rush-mat is placed upon the low 

^ round board, over that the table-cloth ; then a large 

I tray is set in the middle, with the viands arranged on 

I it in metal dishes : onion soup, salted salmon-trqut 

? from the blue Gokschai, hard-boiled eggs shelled and 

I sliced, oil made from Kunjut seeds, which does instead 

I of butter ; pilau, a dish resembling porridge ; mutton 

\ stewed with quinces, leeks, and various raw and pre- 
; served roots, cream cheese, sour milk, dried apricots, 

I and stoned raisins^ form the bill of fain A can of 


78 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

golden wine is set out : there is plenty more in the 
goatskins should it be wanted. The provisions are 
completed by an item more important in Armenia 
than with us — bread. The flour-cake or losh, a yard 
long and thin as paper, which is placed before each 
guest, answers for plate, knives, forks, napkin, all of 
which are absent. The Whitebeard says grace and 
the Lord's Prayer, everyone crossing himself. The 
company wipe their mouths with a losh, and proceed 
to help themselves with it to anything that tempts 
their fancy on the middle tray. Some make a pro* 
miscuous sandwich of fish, mutton, and leeks wrapped 
up in a piece of losh ; others twist the /os/i into the 
shape of a spoon and ladle out the sour milk, swal* 
lowing both together. The members of the family 
watch the minstrel's least gesture, so as to anticipate 
his wishes ; one after the other they claim the privilege 
of waiting on him. When the meal is done, a young 
housewife gently washes the guest's head and feet, 
and the whole party adjourn to the chimney-corner. 
The evening flies mirthfully away, listening to the 
minstrel's tales and ballads, these latter being mostly 
in Tartar, the Provengal of the eastern troubadour. 
Finally, the honoured visitor is conducted to his room, 
the " minstrel's chamber," which, in every well-ordered 
Armenian household, is always kept ready. 

Our little picture may be taken as the faithful 
reproduction of no very extraordinary scene. Of 
ballad-singers such as the one here introduced 
there are numbers in Armenia, where that ** sixth 
sense," music, is the recognised vocation of the blind. 
Those who are proficient travel within a very wide 
area, and are everywhere received with the highest 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 



In the East, the ballad-singer and the story-teller 
are just where they were centuries ago. At Con- 
stantinople, the story-teller sits down on his mat in 
the public place or at the cafi^; listeners gather round ; 
he begins his story in a conversational tone, varying 
his voice according to the characters ; and soon both 
himself and his hearers are as far away in the 
wondrous mazes of the "Arabian Nights " as if Europe 
were still trembling before the sword of the Caliph. 

With regard to the unique marriage customs of 
Armenia, I ought to say that they are asserted to 
result in the happiest unions. The general idea upon 
which they rest seems to be derived from a series of 
conclusions logical enough if you grant the premisses 
— indeed, curiously more like some pen and paper 
scheme evolved out of the inner consciousness of a 
German professor than a working system of actual 
life. The prevailing custom in the East, as in some 
European countries, is for the young girl to know 
nothing whatever of her intended husband ; only in 
the one case this is followed by total seclusion after 
marriage, and in the other by complete emancipation. 
In Armenia, on the contrary, the young girl makes 
her own choice, and love-matches are not uncommon ; 
but the choice once made and ratified by the priest, 
the order of things is so arranged as to cause htr 
husband to become tlie woman's absorbing thought, 
his society her sole solace, his pleasure the whole 
business of her life. For the rest she is treated with 
much solicitude ; even the peasant will not let his 
wife do out-door work. 

Moses of Khoren gives the history of a wedding 
that took place about one hundred years after Christ 

8o Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

In those days the tribes of the Alans» in league with 
the mountaineers of the Caucasus and a part of the 
people of Georgia, descended upon Armenia in con- 
siderable numbers. Ardashes, the Armenian king» 
assembled his troops and advanced against them. In 
a battle fought upon the confines of the two nations, 
the Alans gave way, and having crossed the Cyrus, 
encamped on t}ie northern bank, the river dividing 
the contending forces. The son of the King of the 
Alans had been taken prisoner and was conducted to 
Ardashes. His father offered to conclude a peace on 
such conditions as Ardashes might exact and under 
promise, guaranteed by a solemn oath, that the Alans 
would attempt no further incursions on Armenian 
territory. As Ardashes refused to surrender the 
young prince, the sister of the youth ran to the edge 
of the river and climbing upon a lofty hillock, caused 
these words to be addressed to the enemy's camp by 
the mouth of interpreters : " Hear me, valorous 
Ardashes, conqueror of the brave Alans ; grant unto 
me the surrender of this young man — unto me, the 
maiden with beautiful eyes. It is not worthy of a hero 
in order to satisfy a desire for vengeance, to take the 
life of the sons of heroes or to hold them in bondage 
and keep up an endless feud between two nations." 
Ardashes, having heard these words, approached 
the river. He saw the beautiful Sathinig, listened to 
her wise counsels, and fell in love with her. Then, 
having called Sumpad, an aged warrior who had 
watched over his childhood, he laid bare the wish of 
his heart to marry the princess, make a treaty of 
amity with her nation and send back the prince in 
peace. Sumpad, having approved of these projectSi 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 


sent to ask the King of the Alans for the hand of 
Sathinig, "What!" replied her father, ''will the 
valorous King Ardashes have ever treasure enough 
to offer me in return for the noble damsel of the 

A popular song, carefully preserved by Moses, 
celebrates the marriage of Ardashes and Sathinig : — 

The valiant King Ardashes, astride of a sable charger. 
Drew forth a thong of leather, garnished with golden rings : 
And quick as fast-flying eagle he crossed the flowing river 
And the crimson leather thong, garnished with rings of gold, 
Cast he about the body of the Virgin of the Alans, 
Clasping in painful embrace the maiden's tender form : 
Even so he drew her swiftly to his encampment. 

Once again Ardashes appears in the people's 
poetry. He is no longer the triumphant victor in 
love and war; the hour of his death draws near. 
" Oh 1 " says the dying king, *' who will give me back 
the smoke of my hearth, and the joyous New Year's 
morning, and the spring of the deer, and the light- 
ness of the roe ? " Then his mind wanders away to 
, the ruling passion : '* We sounded the trumpets ; 
after the manner of kings we beat the drums." 

The Armenian princes were in the habit, when 
they married, of throwing pieces of mon**y from the 
threshold of their palace, whilst the royal brides 
scattered pearls about the nuptial chamber. To this 
custom allusion is made in two lines which used to be 
sung as a sort of marriage chaunt :— 

A rain of gold fell at the wedding of Ardashes, 
A rain of pearls fell on the nuptials of Sathinig. 

Armenian nuptial songs, like all other folk- 

82 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

epithalamiums^ so far as I am aware, seem to point 
to an early state of society when the girl was simply 
carried off by her marauding lover by fraud or force. 
Exulting in what relates to the bridegroom, the 
favourite ^ng on this subject is profoundly melah« 
choly as concerns the bride. The mother was 
cajoled with a pack of linen, the father with a cup of 
wine, the brother with a pair of boots, the little 
sister with a finger of antimony — so complains the 
dismal ditty of a new bride. There is great 
pathos in the words in which she begs her mother 
not to sweep the sand off the little plank, so that 
the slight trace of her girl's footsteps may not be 

Marriage is called in Armenian, *' The Imposition 
of the Crown,** from the practice of crowning bride 
and bridegroom with fresh, white flowers. I remem* 
ber how, in one of the last marriages celebrated in 
the little Armenian church in the Rue Monsieur 
(which was closed a few years ago, when the Mek- 
hitarist property in Paris was sold), this ceremony 
was omitted by particular request of the bridegroom, 
a rising French Diplomatist, who did not wish to 
wear a wreath of roses. The Armenian marriage 
formulae are extremely explicit The priest, taking 
the right hand of the bride, and placing it in that of 
the bridegroom, says : " According to the Divine 
order God gave to our ancestors, I give thee now this 
wife in subjection. Wilt thou be her master ? " To 
which the answer is, " Through the help of God, 1 
will." The priest then asks the woman : ** Wilt thou 
be obedient to him ? *' She answers : " I am obed- 
ient according to the order of God.** The inter* 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 


rogations are repeated three times, and three times 
responded to. 

An Armenian author, M. Ermine, published at 
Moscow in 1850 a treatise on the historical and 
popular songs of ancient Armenia. 

Of popular songs current in more recent times 
there was not, till lately, a single specimen within 
reach of the public, though it was confidently sur- 
mised that such must exist. The Mckhitarist monks 
have taken the lead in this as in every other branch 
of Armenian research, and my examples arc quoted 
from a small collection issued by their press at 
Venice. I am not sure that I have chosen those 
that are intrinsically the best, but think that those 
which figure in these pages are amongst the most 
characteristic of their authors and origin. The larger 
portion of these songs are printed from manuscripts 
in the library of San Lazzaro ; the date of their 
composition is thought to vary from the end of the 
thirteenth to the end of the eighteenth century. The 
language in which they are written is the vulgar 
tongue of Armenia, but in several instances it at- 
tains a very close approximation to the classical 

It may not be amiss if I conclude this sketch with 
a brief account of the remarkable order of the Mek- 
hitarists, which is so intimately related with all that 
bears on the subject of Armenian literature. Those 
who are well acquainted with it will not object to 
hear the history of this order recapitulated ; while I 
believe that many who have visited the Convent of 
San Lazzaro have yet but vague notions regarding 
the work and aims of its inmates. It is to be con* 

84 Essays in the Study of Folk-Sangs. 

jectured that, as a matter of fact, the majority of 
Englishmen go to San Lazzaro rather in the spirit of 
a Byron-pilgrimage than from any definite interest in 
the convent ; and without doubt were its only attrac- 
tion its association with the English poet it would 
still be worth a visit. Byron's connection with San 
Lazzaro was not one of the least interesting episodes 
of his life ; and it is pleasant to remember the tran- 
quil hours he spent in the society of the learned 
monks, and the fascination exercised over him by 
their sterling and unpretentious merit "The neat- 
ness, the comfort, the gentleness, the unaffected 
devotion of the brethren of the order,'* he wrote, 
** are well fitted to strike the man of the world with 
the conviction that there is ' Another and a better 
even in this life/" The desire to present himself 
with an excuse for frequent intercourse with the 
brothers was probably at the bottom of Byron*s 
sudden discovery that his mind " wanted something 
craggy to break upon, and that Armenian was just 
the thing to torture it into attention/' He says it 
was the most difficult thing to be found in Venice by 
way of an amusement, and describes the Armenian 
character as a very " Waterloo of an alphabet'* The 
origin of this character is exceedingly curious, it 
being the only alphabet known to have been the 
work of a single man, with the exception of the 
Georgian, and now obsolete Caucasian Albanian. 
St Mesrop, an Armenian, invented ail the three about 
A.D. 406. Byron informs Moore, with some elation, 
of the fate that befel a French professorship of Ar- 
menian, which had then been recently instituted : 
"Twenty pupils presented themselves on Monday 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 


morning, full of noble ardour, ingenuous youth, and 
impregnable industry. They persevered with a 
courage worthy of the nation, and of universal con- 
quest till Thursday, then fiftem out of the twenty 
succumbed to the six-and-twentieth letter of the 
alphabet." The poet himself mastered all thirty- 
three letters, and a good deal more besides, under 
the superintendence of the librarian, Padre Paschal 
Auchcr, a man who combined great learning with 
much knowledge of the world. As the result of these 
studies we have a translation into Scriptural English 
of two apocryphal epistles of St Paul, and an Anglo- 
Armenian grammar, of which, with characteristic 
liberality, Uyron defrayed the cost of publication. 

The order was founded by Varthabed Mekhitar, 
who was born at Scbaste, in Asia Minor, in 1676. 
Mekhitar was one of those men to whom it comes 
quite naturally to go forth with David's sling and 
stone against the Philistine and his host He could 
have been scarcely more than twenty years of age 
when fearlessly and steadfastly he set himself to the 
gigantic task of raising his country out of the 
stagnant slough of ignorance in which he sa;w it 
sunk. He was then a candidate for holy orders, 
studying in an Armenian convent 

The monks he found no less ignorant than the rest 
of the population ; those to whom he. broached his 
ideas greeted them with derision, and this did not fail 
to turn to cruel persecution when he began to preach 
against certain prejudices which appeared to him to 
keep the Armenians from conforming with the Latin 
Church^ra union he earnestly desired. Mekhitar 
now went to Constantinople, where he set on foot a 
small monastic society; presently he mov^d to 

86 Essays m the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Mpdon» in the Morea» then under the rule of Venice, 
but before he had been there long, the place was 
seized by the Turks. A few of the monks, with their 
head, managed to escape to Venice ; the others were 
taken prisoners, and sold into a temporary slavery. 
At Venice, in 1717, the Signory made over to the 
fugitives in perpetuity a small barren island in the 
Lagune, once tenanted by the Benedictines, who had 
there established a hospital for lepers, but which, 
since the disappearance of that disease, had been 
entirely uninhabited. Mekhitar immediately organised 
a printing press, and began making translations of 
standard works, which were disseminated wherever 
Armenians were to be found, that is to say, all over 
the East. When he died in 1747, the work of the 
society was already placed on a solid foundation ; but 
it received considerable development and extension 
from the hands of the third abbot-general, Count 
Stephen Aconzkover, Archbishop of Sinnia, by birth 
a member of an Armenian colony in Hungary, who 
sought admittance into the order, and lived in the 
retirement of San Lazzaro for sixty-seven years. He 
was a poet, a scholar of no mean attainments, and the 
author of a universal geography in twelve volumes. 
The Society is now self-supporting, large numbers of 
its publications being sold in Persia, and India, and 
at Constantinople. These publications consist of 
numerous translations and of reproductions of the 
great part of Armenian literature. Many works have 
been printed from MSS. which arc collected by emis- 
saries sent out from San Lazzaro to travel over .the 
plains and valleys of Armenia for the purpose of 
rescuing the literary relics which are widely scattered, 
and are in constant danger of loss or destruction, and 

Armenian Folk-Songs. 87 

at the same time to distribute Armenian versions of 
the Bible. Another of the undertakings of the con- 
vent is a school exclusively for the education of 
Armenian boys. About one hundred boys receive 
free instruction in the two colleges at Venice. What 
this order have effected, both towards the enlighten- 
ment of their country and in keeping alive the senti- 
ment of Armenian nationality, is simply incalculable. 
In their self-imposed exile they have nobly carried out 
the precept of an Armenian folk-poet : 

Forget not our Armenian nation, 
And always assist and protect it. 
Always keep in thy mind 
To be useful to thy fatherland. 

On my first visit I passed a long summer morning in 
examining all the points of interest about the monas- 
tery — the house and printing presses, the library with 
its beautiful Pali papyrus of the Buddhist ordination 
service, and its illuminated manuscripts, the mina- 
rctted chapel, and the silent little Campo Santo, under 
the direction of the most courXcous and accomplished 
of cicerones, Padre Giacomo, Dr Issaverdenz : a name 
signifying " Jesus-given." I saw the bright, intelli- 
gent band of scholars : " of these," said my conductor, 
" five or six will remain with us." I was shown the 
page of the visitor's book inscribed with Byron*s sig- 
nature in English and in Armenian. Later entries 
form a long roll of royal and notable names. The 
little museum contains Daniel Manin*8 tricolor scarf 
of office, given to the monks by the son of that 
devoted patriot Queen Margherita does not fail to 
pay San Lazzaro a yearly visit, and has lately 
accepted the dedication of a book of Armenian church 

88 Essays in the Study of Folk- Songs. 

During this tour of inspectioiii various topics were 
discussed: the tendencies of modern thought^ the 
future of the churchy with other matters of a more 
personal nature — and upon each my guide*s observa* 
tions displayed a singularly intellectual and tolerant 
attitude of mind, together with a way of looking at 
things and speaking of people in which '' sweetness 
and light '' were felicitously apparent It was difficult 
to tear oneself away from the open window in Byron's 
little study. The day was one of those matchless 
Venetian days, when the heat is tempered by a breeze 
just fresh enough to agitate the awning of your gon-. 
dola ; and the Molo and Riva, and Fortune's golden 
ball on the Dogana» the white San Giorgio Maggiore, 
the ships eastward bound, the billowy line of the 
mountains of Vicenza against the horizon, lie steeped 
in a bath of sunshine. But the outlook from the con- 
vent window is not upon these. Beneath arc the 
green berceaux of a small vineyard, a little garden 
gay in its tangle of purple convolvulus, a pomegranate 
lifting its laden boughs towards us — to remind the 
Armenians of the ** flowering pomegranates " of their 
beloved country. Beyond the vineyard stretches the 
aquamarine surface of the lagune — then the intermin- 
able reach of Lido— after that the ethereal blue of the 
Adriatic melting away into the sky. Such is the 
scene which till they die the good monks will have 
under their eyes. Perhaps they are rather to be 
envied than compassionated ; for it is manifest that 
for them, duty — to use the eloquent expression of an 
English divine — has become transfigured into happi- 
ness. '* I shall stay here whilst I live," Dr Issaverdenz 
said, " and I am happy — quite happy ! " 


To the idealised vision that goes along with heredi- 
tary* culture a large town may seem an impressive 
spectacle. For Wordsworth, worshipper of nature 
though he was, earth had not anything to show more 
fair than London from Westminster Bridge, and 
Victor Hugo found endless inspiration on the top of 
a Parisian omnibus. As shrines of art, as foci of 
historic memories, even simply as vast aggregates of 
human beings working out the tragi-comedy of life, 
great cities have furnished the key-note to much fine 
poetry. But it is different with the letterless masses. 
The student of literature, who turns to folk-songs in- 
search of a new enjoyment^ will meet with little to 
attract him in urban rhymes ; if there are many that 
present points of antiquarian interest, there are few 
that have any kind of poetic worth. The people's 
poetry grows not out of an ideal world of association 
and aspiration, but from the springs of their life. 
They cannot see with their minds as well as with 
their eyes. What they do see in most great towns is 
the monotonous ugliness which surrounds their homes 
and their labour. Then again, it is a well-known fact 
that with the people loss of individuality means loss 
of the power of song ; and where there is density of 
population there is generally a uniformity as feature- 
less as that of pebbles on the sea beach. Still to the 


90 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

rule that folk-poesy is not a thing of town growth one 
exception has to be made. Venice, unique under 
every aspect, has songs which, if not of the highest, 
are unquestionably of a high order. The generalising 
influences at play in great political centres have hardly 
affected the inhabitants of the city which for a thousand 
years of independence was a body politic complete in 
itself. Nor has Venetian common life lacked those 
elements of beauty without whose presence the 
popular muse is dumb. The very industries of the 
Venetians were arts, and when they were young and 
spiritually teachable, their chief bread-winning work 
of every day was Venice— her ducal chapel, her cam- 
panile, her palaces of marble and porphyry. In the 
process of making her the delight of after ages, they 
attended an excellent school of poetry. 

The gondolier contemporary with Byron was cor- 
rectly described as songless. At a date closely coin- 
ciding with the overthrow of Venetian freedom, the 
boatmen left off waking the echoes of the Grand 
Canal, except by those cries of warning which, no 
one can quite say why, so thrill and move the hearer. 
It was no rare thing to find among the Italians of the 
Lombardo- Venetian provinces the old pathetic instinct 
of keeping silence before the stranger. I recollect a 
story told me by one of them. When he was a boy, 
Antonio — that was his name —had to make a journey 
with two young Austrian officers. They took notice 
of the lad, who was sprightly and good-looking, and 
by and by they asked him to sing. " Canta, canta, il 
piccolo," said they ; "sing us the songs of Italy." He 
refused. They insisted, and, coming to a tavern, they 
gave him wine, which sent the blood to his head. So 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 


at last he said, '' Veiy well, I will sing you the songs 
of Italy." What he sang was one of the most furi- 
ously anti- Austrian songs of '48. **Ah! taci^taci il 
piccolo I " cried the officers, but the " piccolo *' would 
not be quiet until he had sung the whole revolutionary 
repertory. The Austrians knew how to appreciate 
the boy's spirit, for they pressed on him a ten franc 
piece at parting. 

To return to Venice. In the year 18 19 an English 
traveller asked for a song of a man who was reported 
to have once chanted Tasso alia barcarnolo ; the old 
gondolier shook his head. " In times like these," he 
said, " he had no heart to sing." Foreign visitors had 
to fall back on the beautiful German music, at the 
sound of which Venetians ran out of the Piazza, lest 
they might be seduced by its hated sweetness. 
Meanwhile the people went on singing in their own 
quarters, and away from the chance of ministering to 
their masters' amusement It is even probable that 
the moral casemate to which they fled favoured the 
preservation of their old ways, that of poetising in- 
cluded. Instead of aiming at something novel and 
modern, the Venetian wished to be like what his 
fathers were when the flags on St Mark's staffs were 
not yellow and black. So, like his fathers, he made 
songs and sang songs, of which a good collection has 
been formed, partly in past years, and partly since 
the black-and-yellow standard has given place, not, 
indeed, to the conquered emblems of the Greek isles, 
but to the colours of Italy, reconquered for herself. 

Venetian folk-poesy begins at the cradle. The 
baby Venetian, like most other babies, is assured that 
he is the most perfect of created beings. Here and 

92 Essays in tlie Study of Folk-Songs. 

therdi underlying the baby nonsense^ is a dash of 
pathos. . "Would you weep if I were dead?'' a 
mother asks, and the child is made to answer, " How 
could I help weeping for my own mamma, who loves 
me so in her heart ? ** A child is told that if he asks 
his Another, who is standing by the door, " What are 
you doing there ? " she will reply, " I am waiting for 
thy father; I wait and wait, and do not see him 
coming; I think I shall die thus waiting." The 
little Venetian has the failings of baby-kind all the 
world over ; he cries and he laughs when he ought to 
be fast asleep. His mother tells him that he was 
bom to live in Paradise ; she is sure that the angels 
would rejoice in her darling's beauty. " Sleep well, 
for thy mother sits near thee," she sings, " and if by 
chance I go away, God will watch thee when I am 

A christening is regarded in Venice as an event of 
much social as well as religious importance. By canon 
law the bonds of relationship established by god- 
fatherhood count for the same as those of blood, for 
which reason the Venetian nobles used to choose a 
person of inferior rank to stand sponsor for their 
children, thus escaping the creation of ties prohibitive 
of marriage between persons of their own class. In 
this case the material responsibilities of the sponsor 
were slight — it was his part to take presents, and not 
to make them. By way of acknowledging the new 
connection, the child's father sent the godfather a 
marchpane, that cake of mystic origin which is still 
honoured and eaten from Nuremberg to Malaga. 
With the poor, another order of things is in force. 
The compare de Pamlo — the person who acted as 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 


groomsman at the marriage — is chosen as sponsor to 
the first-born child. His duties begin even before the 
christening. When he hears of the child's birth, he 
gets a piece of meat, a fowl, and two new-laid eggs, 
packs them in a basket, and despatches them to the 
young mother. Eight days after the birth comes the 
baptism. On returning from the church, the sponsor, 
now called compare de San Zuanc^ visits the mother, 
before whom he displays his presents — twelve or fif- 
teen lire for herself; for the baby a pair of earrings, 
if it be a girl ; and if a boy, a pair of bo/s earrings, 
or a single ornament to be worn in the right ear. 
Henceforth the godfather is the child's natural guar- 
dian next to its parents ; and should they die, he is 
expected to provide for it. Should the child die, he 
must buy the zogia (the "joy"), a wreath of flowers 
now set on the coffins of dead infants, but formerly 
placed on their heads when they were carried to the 
grave-isle in full sight of the people. This last cus- 
tom led to. even more care being given to the toilet of 
dead children than what might seem required by 
decency and affectipn. To dress a dead child badly 
was considered shameful. Tradition tells of what 
happened to a woman who was so miserly that she 
made her little girl a winding-sheet of rags and tatters. 
When the night of the dead came round and all the 
ghosts went in procession, the injured babe, instead 
of going with the rest, tapped at its mother's door 
and cried, " Mamma, do you see me ? I cannot go in 
procession because! am all ragged/V Every year on 
the night of the dead the baby girl returned to nriake 
the same reproach. 



94 Essays in the Study 0/ Folk-Smgs. 

Venetian children say before they go to bed : 

Bona sera ai vivi, 

£ riposo ai poveri morti ; 
Bon viagio ai naveganti 

£ bona note ai tuti quanti. 

There is a sort of touching simplicity in ^is ; and 
somehow the wish of peace to the '' poor dead '' recalls 
a line of Baudelaire's — 

Les morts, les pauvres morts, ont de grandes douleurt. 

But as a whole, the rhymes of the Venetian nursery 
are not interesting, save from their extreme resem- 
blance to the nursery rhymes of England, France, or 
any other European country. They need not, there- 
fore, detain us. 

Twilight is of an Eastern brevity on the Adriatic 
shore, both in nature and in life. The child of 
yesterday is the man of to-day, and as soon as the 
young Venetian discovers that he has a heart, he 
takes pains to lose it to a Tosa proportionately 
youthful. The Venetian and Provencal word Tosa 
signifies maiden, though whether the famous Cima 
Tosa is thus a sister to the Jungfrau is not sure, some 
authorities believing it to bear the more prosaic 
designation of baldheaded (" Tonsurata "). Our young 
Venetian may perhaps be unacquainted with the girl he 
has marked out for preference. In any case he walks 
up and down or rows up and down assiduously under 
her window. One night he will sing to a slow, lan- 
guorous air — possibly an operatic air, but so altered 
as to be not easy of recognition — " I wish all good to 
all in this house, to father and to mother and as many 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 95 

\ as there be ; and to Marieta who is my beloved, she 

\ whom you have in your house/* The name of the 

/ singer is most likely Nane, for Nane and Marieta are 

] the commonest names in Venice, which is explained 

\ by the impression that persons so called cannot be 

I bewitched, a serious advantage in a place where the 

% Black Art is by no means extinct The maiden long 

I remembers the night when first her rest was disturbed 
I : by some such greeting as the above. . She has rendered 

I account of her feelings : 

I Ah ! how mine eyes are weighed in slumber deep ! 

I Now all my life it seems has gone to sleep ; 

I But if a lover passes by the door, 

I Then seems it this my life will sleep no more. 

I It does not do to appropriate a serenade with too 

I much precipitation. Don Quixote gave it as his 

I experience that no woman would believe that a poem 

I was written expressly for her unless it made an 

I acrostic on her name spelt out in full. Venetian 

I damsels proceed with less caution : hence now and 

.1 then a sad disappointment. A girl who starts up all 

I pit-a-pat at the twanging of a guitar may be doomed 

l to hear the cruel sentence pronounced in Lord 

J Houghton's pretty lyric : 


^ •* I am passing— Premtf-^but I stay not for you ! 

i Prern^— not for yoii ! 


Even more unkind are the literal words of the 
Venetian : " If I pass this way and sing as I pass^ 
think not, fair one, that it is for you«-it is for another 
love, whose beauty surpasses yours I ** 
A brother or a friend occasionally undertakes the 

96 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

serenading. He is not paid like the professional 
Trovador whom the Valencian lover engages to act as 
his interpreter. He has no reward in view but empty 
thankst and it is scarcely surprising if on damp nights 
he is inclined to fall into a rather querulous vein. 
"My song is meant for the Morosa of my companion," 
says one of these accommodating minstrels. " If 
only I knew where she was ! But he told me that 
she was somewhere in here. The rain is wetting me 
to the skin!** Another exclaims more cheerfully, 
" Beautiful angel, if it pleases God, you will become 
my sister-in-law ! *' 

After the singing of the preliminary songs, Nane 
seeks a hint of the effect produced on the beloved 
Marieta. As she comes out of church, he makes her 
a most respectful bow, and if it be returned ever so 
slightly, he musters up courage, and asks in so many 
words whether she will have him. Marieta reflects 
for about three days; then she communicates her 
answer by sign or song. If she does not want him, 
she shuts herself up in the house and will not look 
out for a moment. Nane begs her to show her face 
at the window : " Come, oh ! come ! If thou comest 
not *tis a sign that thou lovest me not; draw my 
heart out of all these pangs.** Marieta, if she is quite 
decided, sings back from behind the half-closed 
shutters, ''You pass this way, and you pass in vain : 
in vain you wear out shoes and soles ; expect no fair 
words from me." It may be that she confesses to 
not knowing her own mind : " I should like to be 
married, but I know not to whom : when Nane passes, 
I long to say * Yes ; * when Toni passes, I am fain to 
look kindly at him ; when Bepi passes, I wish to cry, 

Veftettan Folk-Songs. 97 

God bless you ! " Or again, it may be that her heart 
is not hers to give : 

Wouldst thou my love ? For love I have no heart ; 

I had it once, and gave it once away ; 

To my first love I gave it on a day . . . 
Wouldst thou my love ? For love I have no heart. 

In the event of the girl intimating that she is disposed 

to listen to her Morose if all goes well, he turns to 

her parents and formally asks permission to pay his 

addresses to their daughter. That permission is, of 

course, not always granted. If the parents have 

thoughts of a wealthier match, the poor serenader 

finds himself unceremoniously sent about his business. 

\ A sad state of things ensues. Maricta steals many a 

J sorrowful glance at the despised Nane, who, on his 

I side, vents his indignation on the authors of her being 

" in terms much wanting in respect " When I behold 

J thee so impassioned,** he cries, ** I curse those who 

\ have caused this grief; I curse thy papa and thy 

I mamma, who will not let us make love." No idea is 

\ here implied of dispensing with the parental fiat ; the 

I same cannot be said of the following observations: 

\ " When I pass this house, my heart aches. The girl 

I wills me well, her people will me ill ; her people will 

I not hear of it, nor, lndeed,.will mine. So we have to 

I make love secretly. But that cannot really be done. 

I He who wishes for a girl, goes and asks for her-»out 

I of politeness. He who wants to have her, carries her 

I off.** It would seem that the maiden has been known 

I to be the first to incite rebellion : 

I Do, my beloved, as other lovers do, 

I Go t6 my father, and ask leave to woo ; 

I And if my father to reply is loth, 

I Come hack to me, for thou hast got my troth. 

98 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

When the parents have no primA facii objection to 
the youth, they set about inquiring whether he bears 
a good character, and whether the girl has a real 
liking for him. These two points cleared up satis- 
factorily, they still defer their final answer for some 
weeks' or months, to make a trial of the suitor and to 
let the young people get better acquainted. The 
lover, borne up by hope, but not yet sure of his prize, 
calls to his aid the most effective songs in his reper* 
tory. The last thing at night Marieta hears :— 

Sleep thou, most fair, in all security, 
For I have made me guardian of thy gate, 
Safe shalt thou be, for I will watch and wait ; 

Sleep thou, most fair, in all security. 

The first thing in the morning she is greeted thus : 

' Art thou awake, O fairest, dearest, best ? 

Raise thy blond head and bid thy slumbers fly ; 
This is the hour thy lover passes by, 
Throw him a kiss, and then return to rest. 

If she has any lurking doubts of Nane*s constancy 
she receives the assurance, '' One of these days I will 
surely make thee my bride — be not so pensive, fairest 
angel ! " If, on the other hand, Nane lacks complete 
confidence in her affection, he appeals to her in words 
resembling I know not what Eastern love-song : 
'' Oh, how many steps I have taken to have thee, and 
how many more I would take to gain thee 1 I have 
taken so many, many steps that I think thou wilt not 
forsake me." 

The time of probation over, the girl's parents give 
a feast, to which the youth and his parents are invited. 
He brings with him, as a first offering, a small ring 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 




ornamented with a turquoise or a cornelian. Being 
now the acknowledged lover, he nnay come and openly 
pay his court every Sunday. On Saturday Marieta 
says to herself, ^*Ancuo xe sabo^ daman xe festa^-^ 
to-morrow is ffite day, and to-morrow I expect 
Nanel" Then she pictures how he will come 
"dressed for the festa with a little flower in his 
hand;" and her heart beats with impatience. If, 
after all, by some chance — who knows? by some 
faithlessness perhaps — ^he fails to appear, what grief, 
what tears 1 Marieta*s first thought when she rises 
on Sunday morning is this; "No one works to-day 
for It is festa; I pray you come betimes, dearest 
love 1 " Then comes the second thought : " If he 
does not come betimes, it is a sign that he is near to 
death ; if later I do not see him, it is a sign that he is 
dead." The day passes, evening is here— no Nane t 
" Vespers sound and my love comes not ; either he is * 
dead, or " (the third and bitterest thought of all) " a 
love-thief has stolen him from me ! " 

Some little while after the lover has been formally 
accepted, he presents the maiden with a plain gold 
ring called el segno^ and a second dinner or supper 
takes place at her parent's house, answering to the 
iGrerman betrothal feast; henceforth he is the sposo 
and she. the ncvizza^ and, as in Germany, people look 
on the pair as very little less than wedded. The new 
bride gives the. bridegroom a silk handkerchief, to 
which allusion is made in a verse running, " What is 
that handkerchief you are wearing ? Did you steal 
it or borrow it ? I neither stole it nor borrowed it ; 
my Morosa tied it round my neck." At Easter the 
stoto gives a cake and a couple of bottles of Cyprus or 

lOO Essays in ihi Study of Folk-Songs. 

Malaga ; at Christinas a box of almond sweetmeats 
and a little jug of mostarda (a Venetian spkialiU 
composed of quinces dressed in honey and mustard) ; 
at the feast of St Martin, sweet chestnuts ; at the 
feast of St Mark, el bocolo—i}x^\ is, a rosebud, em* 
blematical of the opening year. The lover may also 
employ his generosity on New Year's day, on the 
girl's name-day, and on other days not specified, 
taking in the whole 365. Some maidens show a 
decided taste for homage in kind. *' My lover bids 
me sing, and to please him I will do it," observes one 
girl, thus far displaying only the most disinterested 
amiability. But presently she reveals her motives: 
" He has a ring with a white stone ; when I have 
sung he will give it to me." A less sordid damsel 
asks only for a bunch of flowers ; it shall be paid for 
with a kiss, she says. Certain things there are which 
may be neither given nor taken by lovers who would 
not recklessly tempt fate. Combs are placed under 
the ban, for they may be made to serve the purposes 
of witchcraft ; saintly images and church-books, for 
they have to do with trouble and repentance ; scissors, 
for scissors stand for evil speaking ; and needles, for 
it is the nature of needles to prick. 

Whether through the unwise exchange of these 
prohibited articles, or from other causes, it does some- 
times happen that the betrothed lovers who have 
been hailed by everybody as novizza and sposo yet 
manage to fall out beyond any hopes of falling in 
again. If it is the youth's fault that the match is 
broken off, all his presents remain in the girl's undis- 
puted possession ; if the girl is to blame, she must 
send back the segno and all else that she has received. 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 


It is said that in some districts of Venetia the young 
man keeps an accurate account of whatever he spends 
on behalf of his betrothed, and in the case of her 
growing tired of him, she has to pay double the sum 
total, besides defraying the loss incurred by the hours 
he has sacrificed to her, and the boots he has worn 
out in the course of his visits. 

It is more usual, as well as more satisfactory, for 
the betrothal to be followed in due time by marriage. 
After the segno has been " passed," the sposo sings a 
new song. "When," asks he, "will be the day 
whereon to thy mamma I shall say ' Madona ; ' to thy 
papa 'Missier;' and to thee, darling, 'Wife'?" 
"Madona" is still. the ordinary term for mother-in- 
law at Venice ; in Tuscan songs the word is also used 
in that sense, though it has fallen out of common 
parlance. Wherever it is to be found, it points to 
the days when the house-mother exercised an un- 
challenged authority over all members of the family. 
Even now the mother-in-law of Italian folk-songs is a 
formidable personage ; to say the truth, there is no 
scant measure of self-congratulation when she happens 
not to exist " Oh I Dio del siel, niandeme un 
ziovenin senza madona I " is the heartfelt prayer of 
the Venetian girl. 

If the youth thinks of the wedding day as the 
occasion of forming new ties — above all that dearest 
tie which will give him his anzola beta for his own— 
the maiden dreams of it as the zornada santa; the 
day when she will kneel at the altar and receive the 
solemn benediction of the church upon entering into 
a new station of life. " Ah I when shall come to pass 
that holy dayi when the priest will say to me, * Are 

I02 Essays m i/u Study of Foik'^Songs. 

you content ? * when he shall bless me with the holy 
water— ah ! when shall it come to pass ? " 

It has been noticed that the institution of marriage 
is not regarded in a very favourable light by the 
majority of folk-poets, but Venetian rhymers as a 
rule take an encouraging view of it " He who has a 
wife," sings a poet of Chioggia, " lives right merrily 
CO la sua cara sposa in cwipagnia!' Warning voices 
are not, however, wanting to tell the maiden that 
wedded life is not all roses : " You would never want 
to be married, my dear, if you knew what it was like," 
says one such ; while another mutters, " Reflect, girls, 
reflect, before ye wed these gallants ; on the Ponte di 
Rialto bird cages are sold." 

The marriage generally comes off on a Sunday. 
Who weds on Monday goes mad ; Tuesday will bring 
a bad end; Wednesday is a day good for nothing; 
Thursday all manner of witches are abroad ; Friday 
leads to early death ; and, as to Saturday, you must 
not choose that, parchi de sabo piovct '' because on 
Saturday it rains ! " 

The bride has two toilets-^one for the church, one 
for the wedding dinner. At the church she wears a 
black veil, at the feast she appears crowned with 
flowers. After she is dressed and before the bride- 
groom arrives, the young girl goes to her father's room 
and kneeling down before him, she prays with tears 
in her eyes to be forgiven whatever grief she may 
have caused him. He grants her his pardon and 
gives her his blessing. In the early dawn the wedding 
party go to church either on foot or in gondolas, for 
it is customary for the marriage knot to be tied at 
the conclusion of the first mass. When the right 

Veneiian Folk^S&ngs. 


moment comes the priest puts the vira^ or wedding 
ring, on the tip of the bride's finger, and the bride- 
groom pushes it down into its proper place.- If the 
vera hitches, it is a frightfully bad omen. When once 
it is safely adjusted, the best man steps forward and 
restores to the bride's middle finger the little ring 
which formed the lover's earliest gift ; for this reason 
he is called compare de Vanelo^ a style and title he 
will one day exchange for that of compare de San 

At the end of the service the bride returns to her 
father's house, where she remains quietly till it is time 
to get ready for dinner. As the clock strikes four, 
the entire wedding party, with the parents of bride 
and bridegroom and a host of friends and relations, 
start in gondolas for the inn at which the repast is to 
take place. The whole population of the calle or 
campo is there to see their departure, and to admire 
or criticise, as the case may be. After dinner, when 
everyone has tasted the good wine and enjoyed the 
good fare, the feast breaks up with cries of Viva 
la noifissa! followed by songs, stories, laughter, and 
much flirtation between the girls and boys, who make 
the most of the freedom of intercourse conceded to 
them in honour of the day. Then the music begins, 
the table is whisked away, and the assembled guests 
join lustily in the dance ; the women perhaps, singing 
at intervals, "Endta, en6ta, cnio!" a bunlen borne 
over to Venice frbm the Grecian shore. The romance 
is finished; Marieta and Nane are married, the 
zomada santa wanes to its closer th^ tired dancers 
accompany the bride to the threshold of her new 
home, and so adieu ! 

1 04 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Before leaving the subject of Venetian love-songs it 
may be as well to glance at a few points character- 
istic of the popular mind which it has not been 
convenient to touch upon in following the Venetian 
youth and maiden from the/r/;//a radke of their love 
to its consecration at the altar. What, for instance, 
does the Venetian singer say of poverty and riches ? 
—for there is no surer test of character than the way 
of regarding money and the lack of it. It is taken 
pretty well for granted at Venice as elsewhere, that 
inequality of fortune is a bar to matrimony. The 
poor girl says to her better-to-do lover, "Thou passest 
this way sad and grieving, thou thinkest to speak to 
my father, and on thy finger thou dost carry a little 
ring. But thy thought does not fall in with my 
thought, and thy thought is not worth a gazette. 
Thou art rich and I am a poor little one ! " Here the 
girl puts all faith in the good intentions of her suitor : 
it is not his fault if her poverty divides them ; it is the 
nature of things, against which there is no appeal. 
But there is more than one song that betrays the 
suspicion that if a girl grows poor her lover will be 
only too eager and ready to desert her. " My lady 
mother has always told me that she who falls into 
poverty loses her lover ; loses friend and loses hope, 
The purse does not sing when there is no coin in it/* 
. Still, on the whole, a more high-minded view prevails, 
" Do not look to my being a poor man," says one lover, 

Che povatk no guasta gentilissa, 

—"for poverty does not spoil or prevent gentle 
manners." A girl sings, "All telKme that I am poor, 
the world's honour is my riches ; I am poor, I am of 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 


fair fame ; poor both of us, let us make love." One 
is reminded of "how the good wife taught her 
daughter" in the old English poem of the fifteenth 
century : 

I pray the, my dere childe, loke thou b«re the so well 
That alie men may seyen thou art so trewe as stele \ 
Code name is golde wprth, my leve childe ! 

A brave little Venetian maiden cries: "How many 
there are who desire fortune ! and I, poor little thing, 
desire it not. This is the fortune I desire, to wed a 
youth of twenty-one years." One lover pines for 
riches, but only that he may offer them to his beloved : 
"Fair Marieta, I wish to make my fortune, to go 
where the Turk has his cradle, and work myself 
nearly to death, so that afterwards I may come back 
to thee, my fair one, and marry thee." Finally, a 
town youth says that if his country love has but a 
milk-pail for her dowry, what matters ? 

De dota la me dk quel viso belo ! 

The Venetian displays ho marked enthusiasm for 
fair hair, notwithstanding the fame of Giorgione*s 
sunset heads and the traditional expedients by which 
Venetian ladles of past times sought to bring their 
dark locks into conformity with that painter's favourite 
hue. In Venetian songs there is nothing about the 
" golden spun silk " of Sicily ; if a Venetian folk-poet 
docs speak of fair hair, he calls it by the common - 
place generic term of blond. The available evidence 
goes rather to show that in his own heart he prefers a 
brunette. " My lady mother always told me that I 
should never be enamoured of white rose's,'* says a 


io6 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs, 

sententious young man ; ''she told me that I should 
love the little mulberries, which are sweeter than 
honey." "Cara mora/* mora^ or mulberry, meaning 
brunette, is an ordinary caressing t<^rm. Two frank 
young people carry on this dialogue : " Will you come 
to me, fair maid ? " " No ; I will not come, for I am 
fair." " If you arc fair, I am no less so ; if you are 
the rose, I am the spotless lily." Beauty, therefore, 
is valued, especially by the possessors of it. But the 
Venetian admits the possibility of that which Keats 
found so hard to comprehend — the love of the plain. 
A girl says, and it is a pretty saying, •* Se no so bela, 
ghe piaso al mio amore " (''If I am not fair, I please 
my beloved "). A soldier, whose morosa dies, does not 
weep for her beauty, for she was not beautiful ; nor 
for her riches, for she was not rich ; he weeps for her 
sweet manners and conversation — it was that that 
made him love her. The universal weakness for a 
little flattery from the hand of the portrait painter is 
expressed in a sprightly little song : 

What does it matter if I am not fair, 
Who have a lover, who a painter is ? 
He will portray me like a star, I wis ; 

What does it matter if I am not fair? 

We hear a good deal of lovers' quarrels, and of the 
transitoriness of love. " Oh t God ! how the sky V 
overcast I It seems about to rain, and then it passes . 
so is it with a man in love ; he loves a fair womar. 
and then he leaves her." That is her version of th. 
affair. He has not anything complimentary to say : '* I : 
I get out of this squall alive, never more shall woma* 
in the world befool me. I have been befooled upc. 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 


a pledge of sacred faith : mad is the man who believes 
in women." Another man says, with more serious 
bitterness : "What time have I not lost in loving you I 
Had I lost it in saying so many prayers, I should have 
found favour before God, and my mother would have 
blessed me." A matter-of-fact girl remarks, " No one 
will grow thin on your account, nor will any one die 
on mine/' When her lover says that he has sent her 
his heart in a basket, she replies that she sends back 
both basket and heart, being in want of neither ; and 
if he should really happen to die, she unfeelingly 
meditates, ** My love is dead, and I have not wept ; I 
had thought to suffer more torment. A Pope dies, 
another is made ; not otherwise do I weep for my 
Certain vocations are looked upon with suspicion: 

Sailor's trade — at sea to. die ! 
Merchant's trade— that's bankruptcy ; 
Gambler's trade in cursing ends, 
Thiefs trade to the gallows sends. 

But in spite of the second line about 'M'arte del 
mercante," a girl does not much mind marrying a 
merchant or shopkeeper ; nay, it is sometimes her 
avowed ambition : 

I want no fisher with a fishy smell, 
A market gardener would not suit me well ; 
Nor yet a mariner who sails the sea : 
A fine flour-merchant is the man for me. 

A miller seems to think that he stands a good chance: 
" Come to the window, Columbine I I am that miller 
who brought thee, the other evening, the pure white 
flour." Shoemakers are in wtty bad odour: ^I cale« 

io8 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs^ 

gheri ga na trista fatna*" Fishermen are considered 
poor penniless folk, and she who weds a sailor, does 
so at her peril : 

L'amor del mariner no dura tin *ora, 
La dove che lu el vk, lu s* inamora. 

And even if the sailor's troth can be trusted, is it not 
his trade ** at sea to die " ? But the young girl will 
not be persuaded. ** All say to me, ' Beauty, do not 
take the mariner, for he will make thee die ;' if he make 
me die, so must it be ; I will wed him, for he is 
my soul." And when he is gone, she sings : " My 
soul, as thou art beyond the port, send me word if 
thou art alive or dead, if the waters of the sea have 
taken thee ? " She returns sadly to her work, the 
work of all Venetian maidens : 

My love is far and far away from me, 
I am at home, and he has gone to sea ; 
He is at sea, and he has sails to spread, 
I am at home, and I have beads to thread. 

The boatman's love can afford to sing in a lighter 
strain; there is not the shadow of interminable 
voyages upon her. " 1 go out on the balcony, I sec 
Venice, and t see my joy, who starts ; I go out on 
the balcony, I see the sea, and I see my love, who 
rows." Another song is perhaps a statement of fact, 
though it sounds like a poetic fancy : 

To-night their boats must seek the sea. 
One night his boat will linger yet ; 

They bear a freight of wood, and he 
A freight of rose and violet. 

Who forgets the coming into Venice in the earl ;• 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 


morning light of the boats laden with fresh flowers 
and fruit ? 

Isaac d'Israeli states that the fishermen's wives of 
the Lido, particularly those of the districts of Mala- 
mocca and Pelcstrina (its extreme end), sat along the 
shore in the evenings while the men were out fishing, 
and sang stanzas from Tasso and other songs at the 
pitch of their voices, going on till each one could 
distinguish the responses of her own husband in the 

At first sight the songs of the various Italian pro- 
vinces appear to be greatly alike, but at first sight 
•only. Under further examination they display 
essential diflfcrcnces, and even the songs which travel 
all over Italy almost always receive some distinctive 
touch of local colour in the districts where they 
obtain naturalisation. The Venetian poet has as 
strongly marked an identity as any of* his fellows. 
Not to speak of his having invented the four-lined 
song known as the " Vilota," the quality of his work 
unmistakably reflects his peculiar idiosyncracies. An 
Italian writer has said, " nella parola e nello scritto 
ognuno imita sd stesso ; " and the Venetian "imitates 
himself" faithfully enough in his verses. He has a 
well-developed sense of humour, and his finer wit 
discerns less objectionable paths than those of parody 
and burlesque, for which the Sicilian shows so fatal a 
leaning. He is often in a mood of half-playful cyni- 
cism ; if his paramount theme is love, he is yet fully 
inclined to have a laugh at the expense of the whole 
race of lovers : 

A feast I will prepare for love to eat, 
Non*tuited suitors I will ask to dine ; 

I lo Essn^s in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

They shall have pain and sorrow for their meat, 

They shall have tears and sobs to drink for wine ; 
And sighs shall be the servitors most fit 
To wait at table where the lovers sit . 

As compared with the Tuscan, the Venetian is a con- 
firmed egotist. While the former well-nigh effaces 
his individual personality out of his hymns of adora- 
tion, the latter is apt to talk so much of his private 
feelings, his wishes, his disappointments, that the 
idol stands in danger of being forgotten. There is, 
indeed, a single song — the song of one of the des- 
pised mariners — which combines the sweet humility 
of Tuscan lyrics with a glow and fervour truly 
Venetian— possibly its author was in reality some 
Istriot seaman, for the capiti popdari of Istria are 
known to partake of both styles. Anyhow, it may 
figure here, justified by what seems to me its own 
excellence of conception : 

Fair art thou born, but love is not for me ; 

A sailor's calling sends me forth to sea. 

I do desire to paint thee on my sail, 

And o'er the briny deep I'd carry thee. 

They ask. What ensign ? when the boat they bail — 

For woman's love 1 bear this effigy ; 

For woman's love, for love of maiden fair ; 

If her I may not love, I love forswear ! 

When he is most in earnest and most excited, tht 
Venetian is still homely — he has none of the Sicilian*.- 
luxuriant imagination. I may call to mind . 
remark of Edgar Poe's to the eflTect that passioi 
demands a homeliness of expression. Passionate tlu 
Venetian poet certainly is. Never a man was readic 
to ** dare e*en death *' at the behest of his mistress — 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 1 1 1 

Wouldst have me die ? Then Til no longer live. 
Grant unto me for sepulchre thy bed, 
Make me straightway a pillow of thy head. 

And with thy mouth one kiss, beloved onCi give. 

At Chioggia, where still in the summer evenings 
Orlando Furioso is read in the public places, and 
where artists go in quest of the old Venetian type, 
they sing a yet more impassioned little song, 

Oh| Morning Star, I ask of thee this grace, 

This only grace I ask of thee, and pray : 
The water where thou hast washed thy breast and face, 

In kindly pity throw it not away. 
Give it to me for medicine ; I will take 
A draught before I sleep and when I wake ; 
And if this medicine shall not make me whole, 
To earth my body, and to hell my soul ! 

It must be added that Venetian folk-poesy lacks the 
innate sympathy with all beautiful natural things 
which pervades the poesy of the Apennines. This 
is in part the result of outward conditions : nature, 
though splendid, is unvaried at Venice. The 
temperament of the Venetian poet explains the rest 
If he alludes to the bet seren con tante stelle^ it is only 
to say that " it would be just the night to run away 
with somebody ** — to which assertion he tacks the 
disreputable rider, *' he who carries oflf girls is not 
called a thief, he is called an enamoured young man." 
Even in the most lovely and the most poetic of 
cities you cannot breathe the pure air of the hills. 
The Venetian is without the intense refiniement of the 
Tuscan mountaineer, as he is without his love of 
natural beauty. The Tuscan but rarely mentions the 

112 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

beloved one's name — he respects it as the Eastern 
mystic respects the name of the Deity ; the Venetian 
sings it out for the edification of all the boatmen of 
the canal. The Tuscan has come to regard a kiss as 
a thing too sacred to talk about ; the Venetian has as 
f^w scruples on the subject as the poet of Sirmio. 
Nevertheless, it should be recognised that a not vcr> 
blameable unreservedness of speech is the most 
serious charge to be brought against all save a small 
minority of Venetian singers. I believe that the able 
and conscientious collector, Signor Bernonii has exer- 
cised but slight censorship over the mass of soni^- 
he has placed on record, notwithstanding which tlu 
number of those that can be accused of an immora' 
tendency is extremely limited. Whence it is to b. 
inferred that the looseness of manners prcvailin. 
amongst the higher classes at Venice in the decadence 
of the Republic at no time became general in th 
lower and sounder strata of society. 

At the beginning of this century, songs that wcr 
called Venetian ballads were very popular in Londo. 
drawing-rooms. That they were sung with moi 
effect before those who had never heard them in the: 
own country than before those who had, will be easi! 
believed. A charming letter-writer of that time cK 
scribed the contrast made by the gay or impassion^ 
strain of the poetry to " the stucco face of the stati 
who doles it forth ; " whilst In Venice, he added, it 
seconded by all the nice inflections of voice, grace 
gesture, play of features, that distinguish Vencti. 
women. One of the Venetian songs which gaiiu 
most popularity abroad was the story of the dam- 
who drops her ring into the sea, and of the fishcrni. 

Venetian Folk-Songs. 




who fishes it up, refusing all other reward than a 

Oh ! pescator dell 'onda, 

Vieni pescar in qua ! 
Colla bella sua barca 
Colla bella se ne va 

Findelin ! lin, la ! 

But this song is not peculiarly Venetian; it is sung 
everywhere on the Adriatic and Mediterranean 
coasts. And the version used was in pure Italian. 
Judged as poetry, the existing Venetian ballads take 
a lower place than the Vilote. They are often not 
much removed from doggerel, as may be shown by 
a lamentable history which confusedly suggests 
Enoch Arden with the moral of " Tue-la :" 

'* Who is that knocking at my gates ? 

Who is that knocking at my door ? " 
" A London captain 'tis who waits, 

Your very humble servitor." 
In deshabille the fair one ran, 

Straightway the door she opened wide : 
" Tell me, my fair one, if you can, 

Where does your husband now abide ? " 
'* My husband he has gone to France, 

Pray heaven that back he may not come ;" 
—Just then the fair one gave a glance, 

It was her spouse arrived at home ! 
•* Forgive, forgive," the fair one cried, 

" Forgive if I have dbne amiss ;" 
'* There is no pardon,'' he replied. 

For women who have sinned like this." 
Her head fell off at tbe first blow. 

The first blow wielded by his sword ; 
So does just Heaven its anger show 

Against the wife who wrongs her lord. 

1 1 4 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Venetian songs will serve as a guide to the charac* 
ter, but scarcely to the opinions, of the Venetians. 
The long struggle with Austria has left no other trace 
than a handful of rough verses dating from the Siege 
— mere strings of Ewivas to the dictator and the 
army. It may be argued that the fact is not excep- 
tional, that like the FratelH d'ltalia of Goffrcdo 
Mameli, the war-songs of the Italian movement were 
all composed for the people and not by them. Still 
there have been genuine folk* poets who have dis- 
coursed after their fashion of Italia libera. The 
Tuscan peasants sang as tliey stored the olives of 


Uamore Tho in Piamonte, 
Bandiera tricolor ! 

There is not in Venetian songs an allusion to the 
national cause so naYvely, so caressingly expressive as 
this. It cannot be that the Venetian /&/&/r7;f^ did not 
care; whenever his love of country was put to the 
test, it was found in no way wanting. Was it that to 
his positive turn of mind there appeared to be an 
absence of connection between politics and poetr>' ? 
Looking back to the songs of an earlier period, wo 
find the same habit of ignoring public events. A 
rhyme, answering the purpose of our '' Ride a cock 
horse/' contains the sole reference to the wars of 
Venice with the Porte — 

Andemo a la guera 
Per mare e per tera, 
£ cataremo i Turchi, 
Li mazzaremo tuti, &c. 

In the proverbs, if not in the songs, a somewhat 
stronger impress remains of the independent attitud^^ 

Vefution FolhSon^s. 


assumed by the Republic in its dealings with the 
Vatican. The Venetians denied Papal Infallibility by 
anticipation in the saying, " The Pope and the coun- 
tryman know more than the Pope alone ; " and in one 
line of a nursery ditty, " El Papa no xi R^," they 
quietly abolished the temporal power. When Paul V. 
laid the city under an interdict, the citizens made 
answer, " Prima Veneziani e poi cristiani," a proverb 
that survives to this day. " Venetians first *• was the 
first article of faith of these men, or rather it was to 
them a vital instinct Their patriotism was a kind of 
. magnificent amour propre. No modern nation has felt 
a pride of state so absorbing, so convinced, so tran- 
scendent: a pride which lives incarnate in the forms 
and faces of the Venetian senators who look serenely 
down on us from the walls of the Art Gallery out of 
the company of kings, of saints, of angels, and of such 
as are higher than the angels. 

A chance word or phrase now and then accidentally 
carries us back to Republican times and institutions. 
The expression, •' Thy thought is not worth a gazetal' 
occurring in a love-song cited above, reminds us that 
the term gazette is derived from a Venetian coin of 
that name, value three-quarters of a farthing, which 
was the fee charged for the privilege of hearing read 
aloud the earliest venture in journalism, a manuscript 
news-sheet issued once a month at Venice in the six- 
teenth century. The figure of speech, "We must 
have fifty-seven/' meaning, "we are entering on a 
serious business/' has its origin in the fifty-seven votes 
necessary to the passing of any weighty measure in 
the Venetian Senate. The Venetian adapter of 
Moliire*s favourite ditty, in lieu of preferring his 

1 1 6 Essays in the Study of Falk-Songs. 

sweetheart to the " bonne ville de Paris," prefers her 
to ''the Mint, the Arsenal, and the Bucentaur/* 
Every one is familiar with the quaint description of 
the outward glories of St Mark's Square : 

In St Mark's Place three standards you descry. 
And chargers four that seem about to fly ; 
There is a time-piece which appears a tower, 
And there are twelve black men who strike the hour. 

Social prejudices creep in where politics are almost 
excluded. A group of Vilote relates to the feud- 
old as Venice — between the islanders of San Nicol« 
and the islanders of CastcUo, the two sections of th 
town east of the Grand Canal, in the first of whicl. 
stands St Mark's, in the last the arsenal. The bc^' 
account of the two factions is embodied in an ancicn: 
poem celebrating the fight that rendered memorabi 
St Simon's Day, 1521. The anonymous writer tell 
his tale with an impartiality that might be envied b; 
greater historians, and he ends by putting a canto c 
peaceable advice into the mouth of a dying champior 
who urges his countrymen to dwell in harmony an 
love one another as brothers. Are they not made a 
the same flesh and bone, children alike of St Mar 
and his State ? 

Tuti a la fin no semio patrioti, 
Cresciu in sti campi, ste cale e cantoni } 

The counsel was not taken, and the old rivalry co 
. tinned unabated, fostered up to a certain point by tl 
Republic, which saw in it, amongst other things, 
check on the power of the patricians. The two sid 
represented the aristocratic and democratic elemci 

Venetian Folk- Songs. 


of the population: the Castellan! had wealth and 
birth and fine palaces, their upper classes monopolised 
the high offices of State, their lower classes worked in 
the arsenal, served as pilots to the men-of-war, and 
acted as rowers in the Bucentaur. The better-to-do 
Nicoloti came off with a share of the secondary 
employs, whilst the l?irger portion of the San Nicolo 
folk were poor fishermen. But their sense of personal 
dignity was intense. They had a doge of their own, 
usually an old sailor, who on high days and holidays 
sat beside the '* renowned prince, the Duke of Venice." 
This doge, or Gastaldo dei Nicoloti^ was answerable 
for the conduct of his people, of whom he was at once 
superior and equal. " Tt voghi el dose et mi vogo col 
dose " (" You row the doge, I row with the doge "), a 
Nicoloto would say to his rival It is easy to see how 
the party spirit engendered by the old feud produced 
a sentiment of independence in even the poorest 
members of the community, and how it thus became 
of great service to the Republic. Its principal draw- 
back was that of leading to hard blows, the last occa- 
sion of its doing so being St Simon's Day, 1817, when 
a fierce local outbreak was severely suppressed by the 
Austrians. Since then the contending forces have 
agreed to dwell in harmony ; whether they love pne 
another as brothers is not so clear. There are songs 
still sung in which mutual recrimination takes the 
form of too strong language for ears polite. " If a 
Nicoloto is bom, a Count is born ; if a Castellan is 
bom~set up the gallowsi" is the mildest dictum of a 
son of San Nicolo, to which his neighbour replies, 
''When a Castellan is bom, a god is bora; when a 
Nicoloto is bom, a brigand is born/* The feud lingers 

1 1 8 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

on even in the matter of love. ''Who is that yout- 
who passes so often ? " inquires a girl ; ^ if it be 
Castellan, bid him be oflf; if it be a Nicoloto, bid hit 
come in/' 

On the night of the Redeemer (in July) still take 
place what was perhaps one of the most ancient ( 
Venetian customs. A fantastic illumination, a brid^ 
of boats, a people's ball, a prize-giving to the be- 
gondolas, a promiscuous wandering about the publi 
gardens, these form some of the features of the fcsi 
val. But its most remarkable point is the expeditii 
to the Lido at three o'clock in the morning to sec tl 
dawn. As the sun rises from his cradle of eastc: 
gold, he is greeted by the shout of thousands. Mai 
of the youths leap into the water and disport thcr. 
selves like wild creatures of the sea. 

A word in conclusion as to the dialect in whic 
Venetian songs are composed. The earliest specimc 
extant consists in the distich — 

Lorn po far e die in pensar 

£ vega quelo che 11 po inchiontrar, 

which is to be read on the facade of St Mark's, opp 
site the ducal palace. The meaning is. Look befo: 
you leap— an adage well suited to the people wl. 
had the reputation of being the most prudent in tl 
world. This inscription belongs to the twelfth cc. 
tury. There used to be a song sung at Ascension-ti\ 
on the occasion of the marriage of the doge with tl 
Adriatic, of which the signification of the words w 
lost and only the sound preserved. It is a pity th 
it was never written out phonetically; for mode: 
scholars would probably have proved equal to t: 

Vetteiian Folk-Songs. 



task of interpreting it, even as they have given us the 
secret of the runes on thie neck of the Greek Hon at 
the arsenal. We owe to Dante a line of early Vene- 
tian—one of those tantalising fragments of dialect 
poems in his posthumous work, De Vulgari Eloquen- 
tia — fragments perhaps jotted down with the intention 
of copying the full stanzas had he lived to finish the 
treatise. Students have long been puzzled by Dante's 
judgment on the Venetian dialect, which he said was 
so harsh that it made the conversation of a woman 
resemble that of a man. The greatest master of the 
Italian tongue was ruthless in his condemnation of its 
less perfect forms, to the knowledge of which he was 
all the same indebted in no slight degree. But it 
must not be overlooked that the question in Dante's 
day was whether Italy should have a language or 
whether the nation should go on oscillating between 
Latin and patois. For reasons patriotic and political 
quite as much as literary, Dante's heart was set on 
the adoption of one " illustrious, cardinal, aulic and 
polite " speech by the country at large, and to that 
end he contributed incalculably, though less by his 
treatise than by his poem. The involuntary hatred 
o{ patois as an outward sign of disunion has reap- 
peared again in some of those who in our own time 
have done and suffered most for united Italy. Thus I 
once heard Signor Benedetto Cairoli say: "When we 
were children, our mother would on no account let us 
^peak anything but good Italian." It is possible that 
Dante's strong feeling on the subject made him un- 
just It is also possible that the Venetian and the 
other dialects have undergone a radical change, though 
this is not so likely as may at first be supposed. A 

1 30 Essays in the Study of Folk-Sangs. 

piece of nonsense written in the seventeenth centur}- 
gives an admirable idea of ^hat the popular idiom 
was then and is now : 

Mi son tanto inamorao 
I In dona Nina mia vesina 

Che me dk gran dtsciplina, 
Che me vedo desparao. 

Gnao baOy bao gnao^ 
Mi son tanto inamorao ! 

Mi me sento tanti afani 

(Tuti i porto per so amore !) 

Che par proprio che sia cani 

Ch*al mi cor fazza brusore ; 

Che d.a tute quante Tore 

Mi me sento passionao. 

Gnao bao, bao gnao. 
Mi son tanto inamorao I 

In most respects Venetian would approach closel} 
to standard Italian were it not for the pronunciation; 
yet to the uneducated Venetian, Italian sounds vet) 
strange. A maid*servant who had picked up a few 
purely Italian words, was found to be under the 
delusion that she had been learning English. TIu 
Venetian is unable to detect a foreigner by his accent. 
An English traveller had been talking for some 
while to a woman of Burano, when she asked ir. 
all seriousness!, " Are you a Roman ? ** A deficiency 
of grammar, a richness in expressive colloquialisms, 
and the possession of certain terms of Greek origin, 
constitute the main features of the Venetian dialect 
as it is known to us. It was used by the Republic 
in the affairs of state, and it was generally under- 
3tood throughout Italy, because, as Evelyn record^. 

Venetian Folk'Songs. 121 

all the world repaired to Venice "to see the folly 
and madnesse of the Camevall." With the exception 
of Dante, every one seems to have been struck by 
its merits, of which the chief, to modem ears, are 
vivacity and an exceeding softness. It can boast of 
much elegant lettered poetry, as well as of Goldoni's 
best- comedies. To the reading of the latter when a 
child, Alfieri traced his particular partiality for " the 
jargon of the lagunes.** Byron declared that its 
mivet^vrz9 always pleasant in the mouth of a woniiani 
and George Sand mentions it approvingly as '*ce 
gentil parler V6nitien, fait 4 ce qu'il me semble pour 
la bouche des enfanti." 


L'ISOLA DEL Fuoco-thc Isle of Fire, as Dante 
named it*-*-i8 singularly rich in poetic associations, 
Acis, the sweet wood-born streami Galatea, the calm 
of the summer sea, and how many more flower^^ 
children of a world which had not learned to *' look 
before and after," of a people who deified nature and 
naturalised deity, and felt at one with both, send us 
thence across the ages the fragrance of their im- 
mortal youth, bur mind's magic lantern shows us 
Sappho and Alcaeus welcomed in Sicily as guests, 
Pindar writing his Sicilian Odes, the mighty ^chylus, 
burdened always perhaps with a sorrow — untainted 
by fretful anger — because of that slight, sprung from 
the enthusiasm for the younger poet, the heat of 
politics, we know not what, which drove him forth 
from Athens : yet withal solaced by the homage paid 
to his grey hairs, and not ilUcontent to die 

On the bank of Gela productive of com. 

To Sicily we trace the germs of Greek comedy, and 
the addition of the epode to the strophe and anti- 
strophe. We remember the story of how, when the 
greatness of Athens had gone to wreck off Syracuse, 
a few of the starving slaves in the latomice were told 
they were free men, thanks to their ability to recite 
.passages from Euripides; we remember also that 

Sicilian Folk Songs. 123 

new story, narrated In English verse, of the adventure 
which befell the Rhodian maid Balaustion, on these 
Sicilian shores, and of the good stead stood her by 
the knowledge of Alcestis. We think of Sicily as 
the birth-place of the Idylllsts, the soil which bore 
through them an aftermath of Grecian song thick 
with blossom as the last autumn yield of Alpine 
meads. Then by a strange transformation scene we 
get a glimpse of Arabian Kastdes hymning the 
beauties of the Conca d'Oro, and as these disappear, 
arise the forms of the poets of whom Petrarch says — 

. . . i Sicilian! 
Che fur gi.\ primi 

— those wonderful poet discoverers, more wonderful 
as discoverers than as poets, who found out that a 
new music was to be made in a tongue, not Latin, 
nor yet Provencal — a tongue which had grown into 
life under the double foster*fathership of Arabian 
culture and Norman rule, the lingua cortigiana of the 
palaces of Palermo, the " common speech " of Dante. 
When we recollect how the earliest written essays 
in Italian were composed in what once was styled 
Sicilian, it seems a trifle unfair for the practical 
adaptator — in this case as often happens in the case 
of individuals — to have so completely borne away the 
glory from the original inventor as to cause the latter 
to be all but forgotten. We now hear only of the 
"sweet Tuscan tongue," and even the pure pronuncia* 
tion of educated Sicilians is not admitted without a 
comment of surprise. . But whilst the people of 
Tuscany quickly assimilated the lingua cortigiana 
and made it their own, the people of Sicily stuck fast 

1 24 Essays in the Study of Folk-Smgs. 

to their old wild-ilower language, and left ungathered 
the gigantic lily nurtured in Palermitan hot-houses 
and carried by the great Florentine into heaven and 
hell. They continued speaking, not the Sicilian we 
call Italian, but the Sicilian we call patois — the 
Sicilian of the folk-songs. The study of Italic dialects 
is one by no means ill-calculated to repay the trouble 
bestowed upon it, and that from a point of view not 
connected with their philological aspect. How far, 
or it may be I should say, how soon they will die out, 
in presence of the political unity of the country, and 
of the general modern tendency towards the adoption 
of standard forms of language, it is not quite easy 
to decide. Were we not aware of the astonishing 
rapidity with which dia'lccts, like some other things, 
may give way when once the least breach is opened, 
we might suppose that those of Italy were good for 
many hundred years. Even the upper classes have 
not yet abandoned them : it is said that there are 
deputies at Monte Citorio who find the flow of their 
ideas sadly baulked by the parliamentary etiquette 
which expects them to be delivered in Italian. And 
the country-people are still so strongly attached to 
their respective idioms as to incline them to believe 
that they are the " real right thing," to the disadvan- 
tage of all competitors. Not long ago, a Lombard 
peasant-woman employed as nurse to a neuralgic 
Sicilian gentleman who spoke as correctly as any 
Tuscan, assured a third person with whom she chatted 
in her own dialect — it was at a bath establishment — 
that her patient did not know a single word of Italian ! 
But it is reported that in some parts of Italy the 
peasants are beginning to forget their songs; and 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


when a generation or two has lived through the sera 
of facile inter-communication that makes Reggio but 
two or three days* journey from Turin, when every 
full-grown man has served his term of military service 
in districts far removed from his home, the vitality 
of the various dialects will be put to a severe test. 
Come when it may^ the change will have in it much 
that is desirable for Italy : of this there can be no 
question ; nor can it be disputed that as a whole 
standard Italian oflfers a more complete and plastic 
medium of expression than Venetian, or Neapolitan, 
or Sicilian. Nevertheless, in the mouth of the people 
the local dialects have a charm which standard Italian 
has not — a charm that consists in clothing their 
thought after a fashion which, like the national 
peasant costumes, has an essential suitability to the 
purpose it is used for, and while wanting neither grace 
nor richness, suggests no comparisons that can reflect 
upon it unfavourably. The naive ditty of a poet of 
Termini or Partinico is too much a thing sui generis 
for it to suffer by contrast with the faultless finish of 
a sonnet in Vita di Madonna Laura, 

Sicily is notoriously richer in songs than any 
province of the mainland ; Vigo collected 5000, and 
the number of those since written down seems almost 
incredible. It has even been conjectured that Sicily 
was the original fountain-head of Italian popular 
poetry; and that it is still the source of the greater 
part of the songs which circulate through Italy.* 

♦ •*.Noi crediamo . • . . che il Canto popolare italiano sia 
native di Sicilia. Nd con questo intendiamo asserire che le 
plebi delle altre provincie sieno prive di poetica facoltk, e che 
non vi sieno poesie popolarl sortc in altre regioni iuliane^ ed 

1 36 Essays m tht Study of Folk-Songs. 

Songs that rhyme imperfectly in the Tuscan version 
have been found correct when put into Sicilian, a fact 
which points to the island as their first home. Dr 
Pitri, however, deprecates such speculations as pre- 
mature, and when so distinguished and so conscien- 
tious an investigator bids us suspend our judgment, 
we can do no better than to obey. What can be 
stated with confidence is, that popular songs are 
inveterate travellers, and fly from place to place, no 
one knows how, at much the same electrical rate as 
news spreads amongst the people — a phenomenon 
of which the more we convince ourselves that the 
only explanation is the commonplace one that lies on 
the surface, the more amazing and even mysterious 
does it appear. 

As regards the date of the origin of folk-songs in 
Sicily, the boldest guess possibly comes nearest the 
truth, and this takes us back to a time before Theo- 
critus. Cautious students rest satisfied with adducing 
undoubted evidence of their existence as early as the 
twelfth century, in the reign of William II., whose 
court was famed for '*good speakers in rhyme of 
every condition'' Moreover, it is certain that Sicilian 
songs had begun to travel orally and in writing 
to the Continent considerably before the invention 
of printing; and it is not unlikely that many 

ivi cresciute e di Ik diramate attomo. Ma crediamo che, nella 
maggior parte des cast, il Canto abbia per patria di origine 
risola, e per patria di adoztone la Toscana : che, nato con vcstc 
di dialetto in Sicilia, in Toscana abbia assunto forma illustre e 
comune, e con siffatta veste novella sia migrato nelle altre 
provincie."— Z^ Poesia Popolare Italiana : Studj di Alessandro 
^d'Ancona^ p. 285. 

Sicilian Folk- Songs. 


eanzuni now current in the island could lay claim 
to an antiquity of at least six or stv^n hundred 
years. Folk-songs change much less than might 
at first sight be expected in the course of their 
transmission from father to son, from century to 
century ; and some among the s>ongs still popular 
in Sicily have been discovered written down in 
old manuscripts in a forni almost identical to that 
in which they are sung to-day. Although the 
methodical collection of folk-songs is a thing but 
recently undertaken, the fact of there being such 
songs in Sicily was long ago perfectly well known. 
An English traveller writing in the last century 
remarks, that '* the whole nation are poets, even the 
peasants, and a man stands a poor chance for ^ 
mistress that is not capable of celebrating her.'* He 
goes on to say, that happily in the matter of serenades 
the obligations of a chivalrous lover are not so onerous 
as they were in the days of the Spaniards, when a fair 
dame would frown upon the most devoted swain who 
had not a cold in his head — the presumed proof of his 
having dutifully spent the night ** with the heavens for 
his house, the stars for his shelter, the damp earth for 
his mattress, and for pillow a harsh thistle" — ^to 
borrow the exact words of a folk-poet. 

One class of folk-songs may be fairly trusted to 
speak for themselves as to the date of their composi« 
tion, namely, that which deals with historical facts 
and personages. Until lately the songs of Italy were 
believed, with the exception of Piedmont, to be of an 
exclusively lyrical character; but fresh researches, 
and, above all, the unremitting and enthusiastic efforts 
of Signer Salvatore Salomone-Marino^ have brought 

1 28 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

to light a goodly quantity of Sicilian songs in which 
the Greek. Arabian, Norman, and Angevin denomina- 
tions all come in for their share of commemoration. 
And that the authors of these songs spoke of the 
present, not of the past, is a natural inference, when 
actual observation certifies that such is the invariable 
custom of living folk-poets. For the people events 
soon pass into a misty perspective, and the folk-poet is 
a sort of people's journalist ; he makes his song as 
the contributor to a newspaper writes his leading 
article, about the matter uppermost for the moment in 
men's minds, whether it be important or trivial. In 
i860 he sang of "the bringers of the tricolor,*' the 
"milli famusi guirreri," and **Aribaldi lu libiraturi." 
In 1868 he joked over the grand innovation by which 
*' the poor folk of the piazza were sent to Paradise in 
a fine coach," ue., the substitution, by order of the 
municipality of Palermo, of first, second, and third 
class funeral cars in lieu of the old system of bearers. 
In 1870 he was very curious about the eclipse which 
had been predicted. •' We shall see if God confirms 
this news that the learned tell us, of the war there is 
going to be between the moon and the sun," says he, 
discreetly careful not to tie himself down to too much 
faith or too much distrust. Then, when the eclipse 
has duly taken place, his admiration knows no bounds. 
" What heads — what beautiful minds God gives these 
learned men ! " he cries ; " what grace is granted to 
man that he can read even the thoughts of God ! '* 
The Franco-German war inspired a great many poets, 
who displayed, at all events in the first stages of the 
. struggle, a strong predilection for the German side. 
All these songs long survive the period of the events 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


they allude to, and help materially to keep their 
memory alive ; but for a new song to be composed on 
an incident ten years old, would simply argue that its 
author was not a folk-poet at all, in the strict sense of 
the word. The great majority of the historical songs 
are short, detached pieces, bearing no relation to each 
other ; but now and then we come upon a group of which suggest the idea of their having once 
formed part of a consecutive whole; and in one 
instance, that of the historical legend of the Baronessa 
di Carini, the assembled fragments approach the 
proportions of a popular epic. But it is doubtful 
whether this poem — for so we may cpall it — is 
thoroughly popular in origin, though the people have 
completely adopted it, and account it "the most 
beautiful and most dolorous of all the histories and 
songs," thinking all the more of it in consequence of 
the profound secrecy with which it has been preserved 
out of fear of provoking the wrath of a powerful 
Sicilian family, very roughly handled by its author. 

Of religious songs there are a vast number in Sicily, 
and the stock is perpetually fed by the pious rhyme 
tournaments held in celebration of notable saints' 
days at the village fairs. On such occasions the 
image or relics of the saints are exhibited in the 
public square, and the competitors, the assembled 
poetic talent of the neighbourhood, proceed, one after 
the other, to improvise verses in his honour. If they 
succeed in gaining the suflfrage of their audience, 
which may amount to five or six thousand persons, 
they go home liberally rewarded. Along with these 
saintly eulogiums may be mentioned a style of com* 
position more ancient than edifying — the Sicilian 

1 30 Essays in ike Study q/ Folk-Songs. 

parodies. A pious or complimentary song is traves- 
tied into a piece of coarse abuse, or a sample of that 
unblushing, astounding irreverence which sometimes 
startles the most hardened sceptic, travelling in coun- 
tries where the empire of Catholicism has been least 
shaken — in Tyrol, for instance, and in Spain. We 
cannot be sure whether the Sicilian parodist deliber- 
ately intends to be profane, or is only indifferent as 

' to what weapons he uses in his eagerness to cast ridi- 
cule upon a rival versifier— the last hypothesis seems 
to me to be the most plausible ; but it takes nothing 
from the significance of his profanity as it stands. It 
is pleasant to turn. from these several sections of 

' Sicilian verse, which, though valuable in helping us to 
know the people from whom they spring, for the most 
part have but small merits when judged as poetry, to 
the stream of genuine song which flows side by side 
with them: a stream, fresh, clear, pure: a poe.<y 
always true in its artless art, generally bright and 
ingenious in its imagery, sometimes tersely felici** 
tous in its expression. In his love lyrics, and but 
rarely save in them, the Sicilian popolano rises from 
the rhymester to the poet 

The most characteristic forms of the love-songs of 
Sicily are those of the ciuri^ called in Tuscany stor- 
nelli^ and the cauzuni, called in Tuscany rispettL 
The ciuri (flowers) arc couplets or triplets beginning 
with the name of a flower, with which the other line 
or lines should rhyme. They abound throughout the 
island, and notwithstanding the poor estimation in 
which the peasants hold them, and the difficulty of 
persuading them that they are worth putting on 
record, a very dainty compliment— just the thing to 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


figure on a valentinp — may often be found compressed 
into their diminutive compass. To turn such airy 
nothings into a language foreign and uncongenial to 
them, is like manipulating a soap-bubble : the bubble 
vanishes, and we have only a little soapy water left 
in the hollow of our hand : a simile which unhappily 
is not far from holding good of attempts at trans- 
lating any species of Italian popular poetry. It is 
true that in Fra Lippo Lippi there are two or three 
charming imitations of the stornello ; but, then, Mr 
Browning is the poet who, of all others, has got most 
inside of the Italian mind. Here is an aubade^ which 
will give a notion of the unsubstantial stuff the ciuri 
are made of : 

Rosa marina, 

Lucinu Talba e la stidda Diana : 

Lu cantu ^ fattu, addui, duci Rusina. 

" Rose of the sea, the dawn and the star Diana are 
shining : the song is done, farewell sweet Rosina.'* 

One of these flower-poets, invoking the Violet by 
way of heading, tells his love that *'all men who 
look on her forget their sorrows ; " another takes his 
oath that she outrivals sun, and moon, and stars. 
•'Jasmine of Araby,** cries a third, "when thou art 
not near, I am consumed by rage." A fourth says, 
"White floweret, before thy door I make a great 
weeping,'* A fifth, night and day, bewails his evil 
fate. A sixth observes that he has been singing for 
five hours, but that he might just as well sing to the 
wind. A seventh feels the thorns of jealousy. An 
eighth asks, '' Who knows if Rosa will not listen to 
another lover ? " A ninth exclaims, 

133 Essays in the Study 0/ Folk-Songs. 

Flower of the night, 

Whoever wills me ill shall die to-night I 

With which ominous sentiment I will leave the ciuri, 
and pass on to the yet more interesting canzuni : 
little poems, usiually in eight lines, of which there are 
so many thousand graceful specimens that it is embar- 
rassing to have to make a selection. 

Despite the wide gulf which separates lettered from 
illiterate poetry, it is curious to note the not unfre* 
quent coincidence between the thought of the ignorant 
peasant bard and that of cultured poets. In particu- 
lar, we are now and then reminded of the pretty 
conceits of Herrick, and also of the blithe paganism, 
the happy unconsciousness that " Pan is dead/' which 
lay in the nature of that most incongruous of countr>' 
parsons. Thus we find a parallel to "Gather yc 

Sweet, let us pick the fresh and opening rose, 

Which doth each charm of form and hue display : 
Hard by the margent of yon font it blows, 

Mid guarding thorns and many a tufted spray ; 
And in yourself while springtide freshly glows. 

Dear heart, with some sweet bloom my love repay : 
Soon winter comes, all flowers to nip and close, 

Nor love itself can hinder time's decay. 

No poet is more determined to deal out his com- 
pliments in a liberal, open-handed way than is the 
Sicilian. While the Venetians and the Tuscans arc- 
content with claiming seven distinctive beauties for 
the object of their aiTection, the Sicilian boldly asserts 
that his bcdda possesses no less than thirty-three 
biddizzi. In the same manner, when he is about 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


sending his salutations, he sends them without 
stint : 

Many the stars that sparkle in the sky, 

Many the grains of sand and pebbles small ; 
And in the ocean's plains the finny fry 

And leaves that flourish in the woods and fall, 
Countless earth's human hordes that live and die, 

The flowers that wake to life at April's call, 
And all the fruits the summer heats supply— 

My greetings sent to thee out-number all. 

On some rare occasions the incident which suggested 
the song may be gathered from the lips of the person 
who recites it. In one case we arc told that a certain 
sailor, on his return from a long voyage, hastened to 
the house of his betrothed, to bid her prepare for the 
wedding. But he was met by the mother-in-law elect, 
who told him to go his way, for his love was dead — 
the truth being that she had meanwhile married a 
shoeihaker. One fine day the disconsolate sailor had^ 
the not unmixed gratification of seeing her alive and* 
well, looking out of her husband's house, and that 
night he sang her a reproachful serenade, inquiring 
wherefore she had hidden from him, that though dead 
to him she lived for another ? This deceived mariner 
must have been a rather exceptional individual, for 
although there are baker-poets, carpenter-poets, wag*, 
goner-poets, poets in short of almost every branch of 
labour and humble trade, a sailor-poet is not often to 
be heard of. Dr Pitr^ remarks that sailors pick up 
foreign songs in their voyages, mostly English and 
American, and come home inclined to look down 
upon the folk-songs and singers of their nativo land. 

The serenades and aubades are among the most 

134 Essays in tlie Study of Folk-Songs. 

delicate and elegant of all the cansuni d'amuri; this 
is one, which contains a favourite fancy of peasant 
lovers : 

Life of my life, who art my spirit and soul, 
I By no suspicions be nor doubts oppressed. 
Love me, and scorn false jealousy's control— > 

I not a thousand hearts have in my breast, 
I had but one, and gave to thee the whole. 

Come then and see, if thou the truth wbuldst test, 
Instead of my own heart, my love, my soul, 

Thou wilt thine image find within my breast ! 

Another poet treats somewhat the same idea in a 
droUy realistic way — 

Last night I dreamt we both were dead, 
And, love ! beside each other laid. 
Doctors and Surgeons filled the place 
To make autopsy of the case— 
Knives, scissors, saws, with eager zest 
Of each laid open wide the breast :— 
' Dumfounded then was every one. 

Yours held two hearts, but mine had none ! 

The cansuni differ very much as to adherence to the 
strict laws of rhyme and metre ; more oilen than not 
assonants are readily accepted in place of rhymes, 
and their entire absence has been thought to cast a 
suspicion of education on the author of a song. One 
truly illiterate living folk-poet was, however, heard 
severely to criticise some of the printed cantiuni which 
were read aloud to him, on just this ground of irregu- 
larity of metre and rhyme. His name is Salvatore 
Calafiore, and he was employed a few years ago in a 
foundry at Palermo, where he was known among the 
workmen as " the poet." Being very poor, and having 

* 1 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


a young wife and family to support, he bethought 
himself of appealing to the proprietor of the foundry 
for a rise of wages, but the expedient was hazardous : 
those who made complaints ran a great chance of get- 
ting nothing by it save dismissal. So he offered up 
his petition in a little poem to this effect : " As the 
poor little hungry serpent comes out of its hole in 
search of food, heeding not the risk of being crushed, 
thus Calafiore, timorous and hard-pressed, O most 
just sir, asks of you help I " Calafiore was once asked 
what he knew about the classical characters whose 
names he introduced into his poems: he answered 
that some one had told him of them who knew little 
more of them than he did. He added that ''Jove 
was God of heaven, Apollo god of music, Venus the 
planet of love, Cicero a good orator." On the whole, 
the folk-poets are not very lavish in mythological 
allusion ; when they do make it, it is ordinarily fairly 
appropriate. " Wherever thou dost place thy feet,** \ 
runs a Borgetto causuna, " carnations and roses, and 
a thousand divers flowers, are born. My beauti- 
ful one, the goddess Venus has promised thee seven 
and twenty things — new gardens, new heavens, new 
songs of birds in the spot where thou dost take 
thy rest'* The Siren is one of the ancient myths 
most in favour : at Partinico they sing ; 

Within her sea-girt home the Siren dwells 
And lures the spellbound sailor with her lay, 

Amid the shoals the fated bar.k compels 
Or holds upon the reef a willing prey, 

None ever *scapc her toils, while sinks and swells 
Her rhythmic chant at close and break of day — 

Thou, Maiden^ art the Siren of the sea, 

Who with thy songs dost hold and fetter me. 

1 36 Essays in tke Study of Folk^Sangs. 

It is rarely indeed that we can trace a couple 
these lyrics to the same brain — we may not say "" 
the same hand/' for the folk-poet*s hand is taken i 
with striking the anvil or guiding the plough; 
more intellectual uses he does not put it — yet c 
pressing as they do emotions which are not only t 
same at bottom, but are here felt and regarded 
precisely the same way, there results so much un: 
of design and execution, that, as we read, unawa^ 
the songs weave themselves into slight pastoral icl\ 
— typical peasant romances in which real conUxd. 
speak to us of the new life wrought in them by lo. 
Even the repeated mention of the Sicilian diminuti\ 
of the names of Salvatore and Rosina helps the i!^ 
sion that a thread of personal identity connc\ 
together many of the fugitive canzuni. Thus wc .. 
tempted to imagine Turiddu and Rusidda as a pair 
lovers dwelling in the sunny Conca d'Oro — he * 
sweet and beautiful a youth, that God himself \\\ 
surely have fashioned him"— a youth with "bl 
and laughing eyes, and a little mouth from whc: 
drops honey : " she a maiden of 

. . . quattordicianni, 
L'occhi cilestri e li capiddi biunni-* 

" fourteen years, celestial eyes, blonde hair ; " to r 
her long tresses ''shining like gold spun by t 
angels," one would think '' that she had just fa! 
out of Paradise." " She is fairer than the foam of : 

" My little Rose in January born, 

Bom in the month of cold and drifted snow, 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 1 3 7 

Its whiteness stays thy beauty to adorn, 
Nought than thy velvet skin more white can show. 

Thou art the star that shines, tho' bright the mom. 
And casts on all around a silver glow/* 

But Rusidda*s mother will have nothing to say to 
poor Turiddu ; he Complains, "Ah! God, what grief 
to have a tongue and not to be able to speak ; to sec 
her and dare not make any sign ! Ah, God in heaven, 
and Virgin Mary, tell me what I am to do ? I look 
at her, she looks at me, neither I nor she can say a 
word 1 " Then an idea strikes him ; he gets a friend 
to take her a message : '' When we pass each other in 
the street, we must not let the folk see that we are in 
love, but you will lower your eyes and I will lower 
my head ; this shall be our way of saluting one 
another. Every saint has his day, we must await 
ours." Encouraged by this stratagem, Turiddu grows 
bold, and one dark night, when none can see who it 
is, he serenades his '' little Rose : ** 

" Sleep, sleep, my hope, yea sleep, nor be afraid. 

Sleep, sleep, my hope, in confidence serene, « 
For if we both in the same scales be weighed) 

But little difference will be found between. 
Have you for me unfeigned love displayed, 

My love for you shall greater still be seen. , 
If we could both in the same scales be weighed, 

But small the difference would be found between.* 

He does not think the song nearly good enough for 
her : '' I know not what song I can sing that is worthy 
of you," h^ says : he wishes he were " a goldfinch or a 
nightingale^ and had no equal for singing ; '' or, better 
still, he would fain ^ have an angel come and sing 
her a song that had never before been heard of out 


1 38 Essays in th§ Study of Fotk-Sangs. 

Paradise/* for in Paradise alohe can a song be found 
appropriate to her. One day (it is Rusidda*s fSte- 
day), Turiddu makes a little poem, and says in it : 
'' All in roses would I be clad, for I am in love with 
roses ; I would have palaces and little houses of roses, 
and a ship with roses decked, and a little staircase all 
of r9ses9 which I the fortunate one would ascend ; but 
ere I go up it, I wish to say to you, my darling, that 
for you I languish.*' He watches her go to church : 
''how beautiful she is! Her air is that of a noble 
lady ! " The mother lingers behind with her gossips, 
and Turiddu whispers to Rusidda, '' All but the crown 
you look like a queen.*' She answers : '^ If there rode 
hither a king with his crown who said, ' I should like 
to place it on your head,* I should say this little word. 
* I want Turiddu, I want no crown.' " Turiddu tells 
her he is sick from melancholy : *' it is a sickness 
which the doctors cannot cure, and you and I both 
suffer from it It will only go away the day we go tc» 
church together." 

But there seems no prospect of their getting mar- 
ried; Turiddu sends his love four sighs, "e tutti 
quattru suspiri d'amuri : " 

^ Four sighs I breathe and send thee, 
Which from my heart love forces ; 

Health with the first attend thee. 
The next our love discourses ; 

The third a kiss comes stealing ; 
The fourth before thee kneeling ; 

And all hard fate accusing 

Thee to my sight refusing." * 

And now he has to go upon a long journey ; but 
before he starts he contrives one meeting with Rusidda 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


" Though I shall no longer see you, we yet may hope, 
for death is the only real parting," he says. " I would 
have you constant, firm, and faithful ; I would have 
you faithful even unto death." She answers, " If I 
should die, still would my spirit stay with you." A 
year passes ; on Rusidda's festa a letter arrives from 
Turiddu : " Go, letter mine, written in my blood, go 
to my dear delight ; happy paper ! you will touch the 
white hand of my love. I am far away, and cannot 
speak to her ; paper, do you speak for me." 

At last Turiddu returns — but where is Rusidda ? 
"Ye stars that are in the infinite heavens, give me 
news of my love ! " 

Through the night "he wanders like the moon," he 
wanders seeking his love. In his path he encounters 
Brown Death. " Seek her no more," says this one ; 
" I have her under the sod. If you do not believe me, 
my fine fellow, go to San Francesco, and take up the 
stone of the sepulchre : there you will find her." . • . 
Alas! "love begins with sweetness and ends in 

The Sicilian's " Beautiful ideal " would seem to be 
the white rose rather than the red, in accordance, 
perhaps, with the rule that makes the uncommon 
. always the most prized ; or it may be, from a percep- 
tion of that touch of the unearthly, that pale radiance 
which gives the fair Southerner a look of closer kin- 
ship with the pensive Madonna gazing out of her 
aureole in the wayside shrine, than with the dark 
damsels of the more predominant type. Some such 
angelical association attached to golden heads has 
possibly disposed the Sicilian folk -poet towards 
thinking too little of the national black eyes and 

I40 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

olive-carnation colouring. Not that brunettes are ' 
wholly without their singers; one of these has even 
the courage to say that since his bedda is brown and 
the moon is white, it is plain that the moon must 
leave the field vanquished. One dark beauty of Ter- 
mini shows that she is quite equal to standing up for 
herself. " You say that I am black ?" she cries, " and 
what of that? Black writing looks well on white 
paper, black spices are worth more than white curds, 
and while dusky wine is drunk in a glass goblet, the 
snow melts away unregarded in the ditch." * But the 
apologetic, albeit spirited tone of this protest, indicates 
pretty clearly that the popular voice gives the palm 
to milk-white and snowy faced maidens; the pos- 
sessors of capiddi biunni and capiddiizzi doru have no 
need to defend their charms, a hundred canzuni pro- 
claim them irresistible. " Before everything I am en- 
amoured of thy blonde tresses," says one lyrist. The 
luxuriant hair of the Sicilian women is proverbial. 
A story is told how, when once Palermo was about to 
surrender to the Saracens because there were no more 
bowstrings in the town, an abundant supply was sud- 
denly produced by the patriotic dames cutting oft* 
their long locks and turning them to this purpose. 
The deed so inspired the Palermitan warriors that 
they speedily drove the enemy back, and the siege 
was raised. A gallant poet adds : **The hair of our 
ladies is still employed in the same office, but now it 
discharges no other shafts but those of Cupid, and the 
only cords it forms are cords of love." 

» So Virgil : 

^ Alba ligustra cadunt, vaccinia nigra leguntur." 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


In the early morning, almost all the year round 
the women may be seen sitting before their doors 
undoing and doing up again this long abundant hair. 
The chief part of their domestic work they perform 
out in the sunshine; one thing only, but that the 
most important of all, has to be done in the house — 
the never finished task of weaving the clothes of the 
family. From earliest girlhood to past middle age 
the Sicilian women spend many hours every day at 
the loom. A woman of eighty, Rosa Cataldi of 
Borgctto, made the noble boast to Salomone-Marino : 
" I have clothed with stuff woven by my hands from 
fourteen to fifty years, myself, my brothers, my 
children, and their children." A girl who cannot, or 
will not, weave is not likely to find a husband. As 
they ply the shuttle, the women hardly cease from 
singing, and many, and excellent also, are the songs 
composed in praise of the active workers. The girl, 
not yet affianced, who is weaving perhaps her modest 
marriage clothes, may hear, coming up from the 
. street, the first avowal of love : 

Ciuri d'aranci. 
Bedda, tu tessi e tessennu mi vinci ; 
Bedda, tu canti, e lu me' cori chianci. 

It has been said that love begins with sweetness and 
ends in bitterness. What a fine world it would be 
were Brown Death the only agent in the bitter end 
of love ! It is not so. Rusidda, who dies, is possibly 
more fortunate than Rusidda who is married. When 
bride and bridegroom return from the marriage rite^ 
the husband sometimes solemnly strikes his wife in 
presence of the assembled guests as a sign of his 

14a Essays in the Study of Fdk-Smgs. 

henceforth uniimited authoritjr. The symbol has but 
too great appropriateness. Even in what may be 
called a happy marriage, there is a formality akin 
to estrangement, once the knot is tied. Husband and 
wife say 'Woi'* to each other, talking to a third 
person, they speak of one another as " he " and " she,'* 
as " mio cristiano," and " mia cristiana," never as 
*' my husband " and " my wife." The wife sits down 
to table with the husband, but she scrupulously waits 
for him to begin first, and takes tiny mouthfuls as if 
she were ashamed of eating before him. Then, if the 
husband be out of humour, or if he thinks that the 
wife does not work hard enough (an " enough " which 
can never be reached), the nuptial blow is repeated in 
sad and miserable earnest The woman will not even 
weep ; she bears all in silence, saying meekly after- 
wards, "We women are always in the wrong, the 
husband is the husband, he has a right even to kill 
us since we live by him." These things have been 
recorded by one who loves the Sicilian peasant, and 
who has defended him against many unfounded 
charges. A hard case it would be for wedded 
Rusidda if she had not her songs and the sun to 
console her. 

All the captsuni that have been quoted are, so far 
as can be judged, of strictly popular origin, nor is 
there any sign of continental derivation in their 
wording or shape. Several, however, are the common 
property of most of the Italian provinces. There is 
a charming Vicentine version of "The Siren," and 
the " Four Sighs " makes its appearance in Tuscany 
under a dress of pure Italian. Has Sicily, then, a 
right to the honour of their invention ? There is a 

Sicilian Folk-Sengs. 


strong presumption that it has. On the other hand, 
there are some Sicilianized songs of plainly foreign 
birth, which shows that if the island gave much to 
the peninsula, it has had at least something back in 
return. There is a third category, comprising the 
songs of the Lombard colonies of Piazza and San 
Fratello, which have a purely accidental connection 
with Sicily. The founders of this community were 
Lombards or Longobards, who were attracted to 
Sicily somewhere in the eleventh century, either by 
the fine climate and the demand for soldiers of 
fortune, or by the marriage of Adelaide of Monferrato 
with Count Roger of Hauteville. But what is far more 
curious than how or why they came, is the circum- 
stance of the extraordinary isolation in which they 
seem to have lived, and their preservation to this 
day of a dialect analogous with that spoken at Mon- 
ferrato. In this dialect there exist a good many 
songs, but a full collection of them has yet to be 

Besides the ciuri and canzuni^ there is another 
style of love-song, very highly esteemed by the 
Sicilian peasantry^ and that is the aria. When a 
peasant youth serenades his 'nnamurata with an aria^ 
he pays her by common consent the most consummate 
compliment that lies in his power. The arii arc 
songs of four or more stanzas — a form which is not 
80 germane to the Sicilian folk-poet as that of the 
canzuna; and, although he does use it occasionally, it 
niay be suspected that he more often adapts a lettered 
or foreign aria than composes a new one. An aria is 
nothing unless sung to a guitar accompaninienti and 
is heard to great advantage when performed by the 

1 44 Essays in the Study of Folk-Sangs. 

barbersi who are in the habit of whiltng away their idle 
hours with that instrument The Sicilian (lettered) 
poet, Giovanni Meli, has written some admirable arii, 
many of which have become popular songs. 

Meli's name is as oddly yoked with the title of 
abate as Herrick's with the designation of clergyman. 
He does not seem, as a matter of fact, to have ever 
been an abate at all. Once, when dining with a person 
influential at court, his host inquired why he did not 
ask to be appointed to a rich benefice then vacant 
" Because/* he replied, " I am not a priest" And it 
appeared that when a young man he had adopted the 
clerical habit for no other reason than that he intended 
to practise medicine, and wished to gain access to 
convents, and to make himself acceptable to the 
nuns. It was not an uncommon thing to do. The 
public generally dubbed him with the ecclesiastical 
title. Not long before his death, in 1815, he actually 
assumed the lesser orders, and in true Sicilian fashion, 
wrote some verses to his powerful friend to beg him 
to get him preferment, but he died too soon after to 
profit by the result. The Sicilians are very proud of 
Meli. It is for them alone probably to find much 
pleasure in his occasional odes — ^to others their noble 
sentiments will be rather suggestive of the sinfonia 
eroica played on a flute ; but the charm and light- 
ness of his Anacreontic poems must be recognised by 
all who care for poetry. He had a nice feeling for 
nature too, as is shown in a sonnet of rare beauty : 

Ye gentle hills, with intercepting vales, 

Ye rocks with musk and clinging ivy dight ; 

Ye sparkling falls of water, silvery pale, 

Still meres, and brooks that babble in the light ; 


Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


Deep chasms, wooded steeps that heaven assail, 

Unfruitful rushes, broom with blossoms bright, 
And ancient trunks, encased in gnarled mail, 

And caves adorned with crystal stalactite ; 
Thou solitary bird of plaintive song, 

Echo that all dost hear, and then repeat, 
Frail vines upheld by stately elms and strong. 

And silent mist, and shade, and dim retreat ; 
Welcome me ! tranquil scenes for which I long— 

The friend of haunts where peace and quiet meet. 

I must not omit to say a word about a class of 
songs which, in Sicily as elsewhere, affords the most 
curious illustration of the universality of certain 
branches of folk-lore — I mean the nursery rhymes. 
One instance of this will serve for all. Sicilian nurses 
play a sort of game on the babies' features, which 
consists in lightly touching nose, mouth, eyes, &c., 
giving a caressing slap to the chin, and repeating at 
the same time— 


Vucca d'aneddu, 

Nasu afililatu, 

Occht di stiddi, 

Frunti quatrata, 

E te* cc2k 'na timpulata t 

Now this rhyme has not only its counterpart in the 
local dialect of every Italian province, but also in 
most European languages. In France they have it : 

Beau front, 
Ne2 cancan, 
Bouche d'argent, 
Menton fleuri. 

1 46 Essays in th§ Study of Folk-Songs. 

We find a similar doggerel in Germany, and in 
England, as most people know, there are at least two 
versions, one being- 
Eye winker, 
Tom Tinker, 

Nose dropper. 
Mouth eater, 

Of more intrinsic interest than this ubiquitous old 
nurse's nonsense are the Sicilian cradle songs, in some 
of which there may also be traced a family likeness 
with the corresponding songs of other nations. As 
soon as the little Sicilian gets up in the morning he 
is made to say — 

While I lay in my bed five saints stood by ; 

Three at the head, two at the foot<-*in the midst was Jesus Christ. 

The Greek-speaking peasants of Terra d*Otranto have 
a song somewhat after the same plan : 

I lay me down to sleep in my little bed ; I lay me down |o 
sleep with my Mamma Mary : the Mamma Mary goes hence 
and leaves me Christ to keep me company. 

Very tender is the four-line Sicilian hushaby, in which 
the proud mother says — 

How beautiful my son is in his swaddling clothes ; Just think 
what he will be when he is big I Sleep, my babe, for the angel 
passes : he takes from thee heaviness, ahd he leaves thee 

There is in Vigo's collection a lullaby so exquisite in 
its blended echoes from the cradle and the grave that 
it makes one wish for two great masters in the pathos 
of childish things, such as Blake and Schumann, to 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 



translate and set it to music. It is called ^*The' 

Sweet, my child, in slumber lie, 
Father's dead, is dead and gone. 
Sleep then, sleep, my little son, 

Steep, my son, and lullaby. 

Thou for kisses dost not cry, 
Which thy cheeks he heaped upon. 
Sleep then, sleep, my pretty one, . 

Sleep, my child, and lullaby. 

We are lonely, thou and I, 
And with grief and fear I faint. 
Sleep then, sleep, my little saint, 

Sleep, my child, and lullaby. 

Why dost weep ? No father nigh. 

Ah, my God ! tears break his rest. 

Darling, nestle to my breast. 
Sleep, my child, and lullaby. 

Very scant information is to be had regarding the 
Sicilian folk-poets of the past ; with one exception 
their names and personalities have almost wholly 
slipped out of the memory of the people, and that 
exception is full three parts a myth. If you ask a 
Sicilian popolano who was the chief and master of all 
rustic poets, he will promptly answer, "Pietro FuUone ;" 
and he will tell you a string of stories about the poetic 
quarry-workman, dissolute in youth, devout in old 
age, whose fame was as great as his fortune was small, 
and who addressed a troop of admiring strangers who 
had travelled to Palermo to visit him, and were sur- 
prised to find him in rags, in the following dignified 
strain : 

1 48 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Beneath these pilgrim weeds so coarse and worn 
A heart may still be found of priceless worth. 

The rose is ever coupled to the thorn. 
The spotless lily springs from blackest earth. 

Rubies and precious stones are only bom 
Amidst the rugged rocks/ uncouth and swarth. 
. Then wonder not though till the end I wear 

Nought but this pilgrim raiment poor and bare. 

Unfortunately nothing is more sure than that the 
real Pietro Fullone, who lived in the 17th century, and 
published some volumes of poetry, mostly religious, 
had as little to do with this legendary FuUone as can 
well be imagined. It is credible that he may have 
begun life as a quarry workman and ignorant poet, 
as tradition reports ; but it is neither credible that a 
tithe of the cansuna attributed to him are by the 
same author as the writer of the printed and dis- 
tinctly lettered poems which bear his name, nor that 
the bulk of the anecdotes which profess to relate to 
him have any other foundation than that of popular 
fiction. But though we hear but little, and cannot 
trust the little we hear, of the folk-poet of times gone 
by, for us to become intimately acquainted with him, 
we have only to go to his representative, who lives 
and poetizes at the present moment. In this or that 
Sicilian hamlet there is a man known by the name of 
" the Poet," or perhaps " the Goldfinch." He is com- 
pletely illiterate and belongs to the poorest class; 
he is a blacksmith, a fisherman, or a tiller of the soil. 
If he has the gift of improvisation, his fellow-villagers 
have the satisfaction of hearing him applauded by 
the Great Public — the dwellers in all the surrounding 
hamlets assembled at the fair on St John's Eve. Or 
it may be he is of a meditative turn of mind, and 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 


• ^ 

makes his poetry leisurely as he lies full length under 
the lemon-trees taking his noontide rest. Should 
you pass by, it is unlikely he will give himself the 
trouble of lifting his eyes; He could not say the 
alphabet to save his life ; but the beautiful earth and 
skies and sea which he has looked on every day since 
he was born have taught him some things not learnt 
in school. The little poem he has made in his head 
is indeed a humble sort of poetry, but it is not un- 
worthy of the praise it gets from the neighbours who 
come dropping into his cottage door, uninvited, but 
sure of a friendly welcome next Sunday after mass, 
their errand being to find out if the rumour is true 
that "the Goldfinch " has invented a fresh canmna ? 
Such is the peasant poet of to-day ; such he was 
five hundred or a thousand years ago. * He presents 
a not unlovely picture of a stage in civilisation which 
is not ours. To-morrow it will not be his either ; he 
will learn to read and write ; he will taste the fruit of 
the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as it 
grows in our great centres of intellectual activity ; he 
will begin to " look before and after." Still, he will 
do all this in his own way, not in our way, and so 
much of his childhood having clung to him in youth, 
it follows that his youth will not wholly depart from 
him in manhood. Through all the wonderfully mixed 
vicissitudes of his country the Sicilian has preserved 
an unique continuity of spiritual life ; Christianity 
itself brought him to the brink of no moral cataclysm 
like that which engulfed the Norseman when he for* 
sook Odin and Thor for the White Christ. It may 
therefore be anticipated that the new epoch he is 
entering upon will modify, not change his character. 

ISO Essays in the Study of Folk-Sangs. 

That he has remained outside of it so long, is due 
rather to the conditions under which he has lived 
than to the man ; for the Sicilian grasps new ideas 
with an almost alarming rapidity when once he gets 
hold of them ; of all quick Italians he is the quickest 
of apprehension. This very intelligence of his, called 
into action by the lawlessness of his rulers and by 
ages of political tyranny and social oppression, has 
enabled him to accomplish that systemization of 
crime which at one time bred the Society of the 
Blessed Pauls, and now is manifested in the Mafia. 
You cannot do any business harmless or harmful, 
you cannot buy or sell, beg or steal, without feeling 
the hand of an unacknowledged but ever present 
power which decides for you what you are to do, and 
levies a tax on whatever profit you may get out of 
the transaction. If a costcrmonger sells a melon for 
less than the established price, his fellows consider 
that they are only executing the laws of their real 
masters when they make him pay for his temerity 
with his life. The wife of an English naval officer 
went with her maid to the market at Palermo, and 
asked the price of a fish which, it was stated, cost two 
francs. She passed on to another stall where a fish 
of the same sort was offered her for 1.50. She said 
she would buy it, and took out of her purse a note 
for five lire^ which she gave the vendor to change. 
Meanwhile, unobserved, the first man 4iad come up 
behind them, and no sooner was the bargain con- 
cluded, than he whipped a knife out of his pocket, 
and in a moment more would have plunged it in the 
second man's breast, had not the lady pushed back 
his arm, and cried by some sudden inspiration. 

Sicilian Folk-Songs. 1 5 1 

** Wait, he has not given me my change t " No 
imaginable words would have served their purpose 
so well ; the man dropped the knife, burst out laugh- 
ing, and exclaimed: "Che coraggio!" The brave 
Englishwoman nearly fainted when she returned 
home. Her husband asked what was the matter, to 
which she answered : " I have saved a man's life, and 
I have no idea how I did it" 

' Something has been done to lessen the hereditary 
evil, but the cure has yet to come. It behoves the 
Sicilians of a near future to stamp out this plague 
spot on the face of their beautiful island, and thus 
allow it to garner the full harvest of prosperity lying 
in its mineral wealth and in the incomparable fer- 
tility of its soil That it is only tod probable that 
the people will lose their lyre in proportion as they 
learn their letters is a poor reason for us to bid them 
stand still while the world moves on ; human pro- 
gress is rarely achieved without some sacrifices— the 
one sacrifice we may not make, whatever be the 
apparent gain, is that of truth and the pursuit of it 


That the connecting link between Calabria and 
Greece was at one time completely cut in two, is an 
assumption which is commonly made, but it is 
scarcely a proved fact What happened to the 
Italian Greeks on their surrender to Rome?. In a 
few instances they certainly disappeared with extreme 
rapidity. Aristoxenus, the peripatetic musician, 
relates of the Poseidonians — ''whose fate it was, 
having been originally Greek, to be barbarised, 
becoming Tuscans or Romans," that they still met to 
keep one annual festival, at which, after commemo- 
rating their ancient customs, they wept together over 
their lost nationality. This is the pathetic record of 
men who could not ' hope. In a little while, Posei- 
donia was an obscure Roman town famous only for 
its beautiful roses. But the process of " barbarisation'* 
was not everywhere so swift. Along the coast-line 
from Rhegium to Tarentum, Magna Gnecia, in the 
strict use of the term, the people are known to have 
clung so long to their old language and their old 
conditions of life that it is at least open to doubt if 
they were not clinging to them still when it came to 
be again a habit with Greeks to seek an Italian home. 
In the ninth and tenth centuries the tide of Byzantine 
supremacy swept into Calabria from Constantinople, 
only, however, to subside almost as suddenly as it 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 


advanced. Once more history well-nigh loses sight 
of the Greeks of Italy. Yet at a moment of critical 
importance to modern learning their existence was 
honourably felt. Petrarch's friend and master, Bar- 
laam, who carried the forgotten knowledge of Homer 
across the Alps, was by birth a Calabrian. In Bar- 
laam's day there were large communities of Greeks 
both in Calabria and in Terra d*Otranto. A steady 
decrease from then till now has brought their num- 
bers down to about 22,800 souls in all. These few 
survivors speak a language which is substantially the 
same as modem Greek, with the exceptions that it is 
naturally aflccted by the surrounding Italic dialects 
and that it contains hardly a Turkish or a Sclavonic 
word. Their precise origin is still a subject of conjec- 
ture. Soon after Niebuhr had hailed them as Magna 
Gnecians pure and simple, they were pronounced 
offhand to be quite recent immigrants; then the 
date of their arrival was assigned to the reign of the 
first or second Basil ; and lastly there is a growing 
tendency to push it back still further and ^ven to 
admit that some strain of the blood of the original 
colonists may have entered into the elements of their 
descent. On the whole, it seems easier to believe 
that though their idiom was divided from the Romaic, 
it yet underwent much the same series of modifica- 
tions, than to suppose them to have been in Greece 
when the language of that country was saturated 
with Sclavonic phrases, which have only been partly 
weeded out within the last thirty years. 

Henry Swinburne visited the Greek settlements in 
1780 or thereabouts, but like most of his contem- 
poraries he mixes up the Greek with the Albanians, 


1 54 Essays in the SUidy of Folk-Songs. 

of whom there are considerable colonies in Calabria, 
dating from the death of Skanderbeg. Even in this 
century a German savant was assured at Naples that 
the so-called Greeks were one and all Albanians. 
The confusion is not taken as a compliment No one 
has stayed in the Hellenic kingdom without noticing 
the pride that goes' along with the name of Greek — 
a pride which it is excusable to smile at, but which 
yet has both its touching and its practical aspect, for 
it has remade a nation. The Greeks of Southern 
Italy have always had their share of a like feeling. 
" We are not ashamed of our race, Greeks we are, 
and we glory in it," wrote De Ferraris, a Greek born 
at Galatone in 1444, and the words would be warmly 
endorsed by the enlightened citizens of Bova and 
Ammendolea, who quarrel as to which of the two 
places gave birth to Praxiteles. The letterless 
classes do not understand the grounds of the Magna 
Graecian pretensions, but they too have a vague 
pleasure in calling themselves Greek and a vague 
idea of superiority over their " Latin " fellow-country- 
men. '' Wake up," sings the peasant of Martignano 
in Terra d'Otranto, " wake up early to hear a Grecian 
lay, so that the Latins may not learn it." 

Fsunna, fsunna, na cusi ena sonetto 
Grico, na mi to matun i Latini. 

Bova is the chief place in Calabria where Greek sur- 
vives. The inhabitants call it "Vua," or simply 
" Hora." The word " hora," t/ie city, is applied by the 
Greeks of Terra d'Otranto to that part of their ham- 
lets which an Englishman would call ''the old village." 
It is not generally known that *' city " is used in an 

Greek Sengs of Calabria. 1 5 5 

identical sense by old country-folks in the English 
Eastern counties. The Bovest make a third of the 
whole Greek-speaking population of Calabria, and 
Bova has the dignity of being an episcopal seat, 
though its bishop has moved his residence to the 
Marina, a sort of seaside suburb, five miles distant 
from the town. Thirty years ago the ecclesiastical 
authorities were already agitating for the transfer, but 
the people opposed it till the completion of the rail- 
way to Reggio and the opening of a station at the 
Marina di Bova settled the case against them. The 
cathedral, the four or five lesser churches, the citadel, 
even the Ghetto, all tell .of the unwritten age of 
Bova's prosperity. Old street-names perpetuate the 
memory of the familiar spirits of the place ; the 
Lamis who lived in a particular quarter, the Fulliito 
who frequented the lane under the cathedral wall. 
Ignoring Praxiteles, the poorer Bovesi set faith in a 
tradition that their ancestors dwelt on the coast, and 
that it was in consequence of Saracenic incursions 
that they abandoned their homes and built a town on 
the crags of Aspromonte near the lofty pastures to 
which herds of cattle {bavi) were driven in the sum- 
mer. The name of Bova would thus be accounted 
for, and its site bears out the idea that it was chosen 
as a refuge. The little Greek city hangs In air. To 
more than one traveller toiling up to it by the old 
Reggio route it has seemed suggestive of an optical 
delusion. There is refreshment to be had on the 
way : a feast for the sight ia pink and white flowers 
of gigantic oleanders; a feast for the taste in the 
sweet and perfumed fruit of the wild vine. Still it is 
disturbing to see your destination suspended above 

1 56 Essays in th$ Study of Folk*Songs. 

your head at a distance that seems to get longer 
instead of shorter. Some comfort may be got fronn 
hearing Greek spoken at Ammendolea, itself an 
eyriei and again at Condufuri. A last| long, resolute 
effort brings you, in spite of your forebodings^ to 
Bova, real as far as stones and fountains, men and 
women, and lightly-clothed children can make it ; yet 
still half a dream, you think, when you sit on the 
terrace at sunset and look across the blue Ionian to 
the outline, unbroken from base to crown, of " Snowy 
iGtna, nurse of endless frost, the prop of heaven." 

There is plenty of activity among the Greeks of 
Calabria Ultra. Many of them contrive to get a live- 
lihood out of the chase ; game of every sort abounds, 
and wolves are not extinct In the mountaineers* 
cottages, which shelter a remarkable range of animals, 
an infant wolf sometimes lies down with a tame sheep; 
whilst on the table hops a domesticated eagle, taken 
when young from its nest in defiance of the stones 
dropped upon the robber by the outraged parent-birds. 
The peasants till the soil, sow com, plant vegetables, 
harvest the olives and grapes, gather the prickly pears, 
make cheese, tend cattle, and are wise in the care of 
hives. It is a kind of wisdom of which their race has 
/' ever had the secret. The Greek Calabrians love bees 
'i^!2r^W^** they were loved by the idyllic poets. "Ehi tin 
■'^A^^'* cardia to melissa'' ("he has the heart of a bee"), is 
said of a kindly and helpful man. Sicilian Hybla 
cannot have yielded more excellent honey than Bova 
and Ammendolea. It is sad to think of, but it is 
stated on good authority that the people of those lofty 
cities quarrel over their honey as much as about 
Praxiteles. Somehow envy, hatred, and all uncharit- 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 1 5 7 

ableness find a way into the best of real idylls. You 
may live at the top of a mountain and cordially detest 
your neighbour. The folk of Condufuri greet the folk 
of Bova as Vutdni dogs, which is answered by the 
epithet of Spesi-spdsu, all the more disagreeable 
because nobody knows what it means. In Terra 
d'Otranto the dwellers in the various Greek hamlets 
call each other thieves, asses, simpletons, and necro- 
mancers. The Italian peasants are inclined to class 
Greeks and Albanians alike in the category of 
" Turchi," and though the word Turk, as used by 
Italians, in some cases simply means foreign, it is a 
questionable term to apply to individuals. The 
Greeks, with curious scorn, are content to fling back 
the charge of Latin blood. 

When the day's work is done, comes the frugal 
evening meal ; a dish of ricotta, a glass of wine and 
snow. Wine is cheap in Calabria, where the finest 
variety is of a white sweet kind called Greco; and 
the heights of Aspromonte provide a supply of frozen 
snow, which is a necessary rather than a luxury in 
this climate. About the hour of Avemmaria the bag- 
pipers approach. In the mountains the flocks follow 
the wild notes of the " Zampogna " or " Ceramedda," 
unerringly distinguishing the music of their own shep- 
herd. A visit from the Zampognari to hill-town, or 
village sets all the world on the alert There is gos- 
siping, and dancing, and the singing of songs, in 
which expression takes the place of air. Two young 
men sing together, without accompaniment, or one 
sings alone, accompanied by bagpipe, violin, and 
guitar. So the evening passes by, till the moon rises 
and turns the brief, early darkness into a more glori- 

I s8 Essays in the Study 0/ Folk-Songs. 


fied day. The little hum of human sound dies in the 
silence of the hills ; only perhaps a single cleari sweet 
voice prolongs the monotone of love. 

The Italian complimentary alphabet is unknown to 
the Greek poets. The person whom they address is 
not apostrophised as Beauty or Beloved, or star, or 
angel, or Fior eterno^ or Delicatella mia. They do not 
carry about ready for use a pocketful of poetic* 
sugared rose-leaves, nor have they the art of making 
each word serve as an act of homage or a caress. It 
is true that *' caxedda/' a word that occurs frequently 
in their songs, has been resolved by etymologists into 
'' pupil of my eye ; " but for the people it means simply 
" maiden." The Greek Calabrian gives one the im- 
pression of rarely saying a thing because it is a pretty 
thing to say. If he treats a fanciful idea, he presents 
it, as it were, in the rough. Take for instance the 
following :— 

Oh ! were I earth, and thou didst tread on me, 

Or of thy shoe the sole, this too were sweet ! 
Or were I just the dress that covers thee. 

So might I fall entangling round thy feet. 
Were I the crock, and thou didst strike on me, 

And we two stooped to catch the waters fleet ; 
Or were I just the dress that covers thee, 

So without me thou couldst not cross the street. 

Here the fancy is the mere servant of the thought 
behind it The lover does not figure himself as the 
fly on the cheek of his mistress, or the flower on her 
breast There is no intrinsic prettiness in the common 
earth or the common water-vessel, in the sole of a 
worn shoe, or in a workaday gown. 

It cannot be pretended that the Greek is so ad- 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 1 59 

vanced in untaught culture as some of his Italian 
brothers ; in fact there are specimens of the Sonetto 
Grico which are so bald and prosaic that the ** Latins " 
might not be at much pains to learn them even were 
they sung at noonday. The Titianesque glow which 
illuminates the plain materials of Venetian song must 
not be looked for. What will be found in Graeco- 
Calabrian poesy is a strong appearance of sincerity, 
supplemented at times by an almost startling revela* . 
tion of tender and chivalrous feeling. To these Greek 
poets of Calabria love is another name for self-sacri- 
fice. *' I marvel how so fair a face can have a heart 
so tyrannous, in that thou bearest thyself so haughtily 
towards me, while for thee I take no rest ; and thou dost 
as thou wilt, because I love thee — if needs be that I 
should pour out my blood with all my heart for thee, 
I will do it" This is love which discerns in its own 
depths the cause of its defeat A reproach suggestive 
of Heine in its mocking bitterness changes in less 
than a moment to a cry of despairing entreaty— 

I know you love me not, say what you may, 
rU not believe, no, no, my faithless one ; 

With all the rest I see you laugh and play, 
'Tis only I, I only whom you shun. 

Ah, could I follow where you lead the way : 
The obstinate thoughts upon your traces run 
Make me a feint of love, though you have none. 

For I must think upon you night and day. 

The scene Is easily pictured : the bravery of words 
at meeting, all the just displeasure of many a day 
bursting forth ; then the cessation of anger in the 
beloved presence and the final unconditional surrender. 
A lighter mood succeeds, but love's royal clemency is 
still the text : 

i6o Essays in the Study of Foth-Sangs. 

Say» little girl, what have I done to thee. 

What have I done to thee that thou art dumb ? 
Oft wouldstthou seek me once, such friends were we, 

But now thou goest away whene'er I come. 
If thou hast missed in aught, why quick, confess itf 

For thee this heart will all, yes all, forgive ; 
If miss be mine, contrive that I should guess it ; 

And soon the thing shall finish, as I live ! 

The dutiful lover rings all the changes on humble 
remonstrance : 

I go where I may see thee all alone, 

So I may kneel before thee on the ground, 
And ask of thee how is it that unknown 

Unto thy heart is every prick and wound ? 
Canst thou not see that e'en my breath is flown, 

Thinking of thee while still the days go round ? 
If thou wouldst not that I should quickly die, 
Love only me and bid the rest good-bye. 

He might as well speak to the winds or to the stones, 
and he admits as much. '* Whensoever I pass I sing 
to make thee glad ; if I do not come for a few hours 
I send thee a greeting with my eyes. But thou dost 
act the deaf and likewise the dumb : pity thou hast 
none for my tears." If he fails to fulfil his prophecy 
of dying outright, at any rate he falls into the old age 
of youth, which arrives as soon as the bank of hope 

breaks : 

• . ! 

Come night, come day, one only thought have I, ! 

Which graven on my heart must ever stay ; 
Grey grows my hair and dismal age draws nigh, 

Wilt thou not cease the tyrant's part to play ? 
Thou seem*st a very Turk for cruelty, 

Of Barbary a very Turk I say ; 
I know not why thy love thou dost deny, 

Or why with hate my love thou dost repay. 

Greek Songs of Calabria. \ 6 1 

This may be compared with a song taken down 
from the mouth of a peasant near Reggio, an amusing 
illustration of the kind of thing in favour with Cala- 
brian herdsmen :— 

Angelical thou art and not terrene, 

Who dost kings' wives excel in loveliness ! 
Thou art a pearl, or Grecian Helen, I ween. 

For whom Troy town was brought to sore distress ; 
thine are the locks which graced the Magdalene, 

Lucrece of Rome did scarce thy worth possess : 
If thou art pitiless to me, oh, my Queen, 

No Christian thou, a Turk, and nothing less ! 

A glance at the daughter of Greek Calabria will 
throw some light on the plaints of her devoted suitors. 
The name she bears = DUiaiera^ brings directly to 
mind the Sanskrit Duhita ; and the vocation of the 
Gra^co-Calabrian girl is often as purely pastoral as 
that of the Aryan milkmaid who stood sponsor for so 
large a part of maidenhood in Asia and in Europe. 
She is sent out into the hills to keep sl\eep ; a cir- 
cumstancc not ignored by the shepherd lad who sits 
in the shade and trills on his treble reed. Ewe*s milk 
is as itiuch esteemed as in the days of Theocritus ; it 
forms the staple of the inevitable ricotta. In the 
house the Greek damsel never has her hands idle. 
She knows how to make the mysterious cakes and 
comfits, for which the stranger is bound to have as 
large an appetite in Calabria as in the isles of Greece. 
A light heart lightens her work, whatever it be. 
*' You sit on the doorstep and laugh as you wind the 
reels, then you go to the loom, e ednda magfta tra* 
vudia travudia'' (""and sing those beautiful songs'"). 
So says the ill-starred poet, who discovers to his cost 

i 62 Essays in the Study of Folk^Sangs. 

that it is just this inexhaustible merriment that lends 
a sharp edge to maiden cruelty. *' I have loved you 
since you were a little thing, never can you leave my 
heart ; you bound me with a light chain ; my mind 
and your mind were one. Now/' — such is the melan- 
choly outcome of it all — " now you are a perfect little 
fox to me, while you will join in any frolic with the 
others." The fair tyrant develops an originality of 
thought which surprises her best friends : '' Ever since 
you were beloved, ypu have always an idea and an 
opinion ! " It is beyond human power to account for 
her caprices: "You are like a fay in the rainbow, 
showing not one colour, but a thousand." When 
trouble comes to her as it comes to all — when she has 
a slight experience of the pain she is so ready to 
inflict — she does not meekly bow her head and suffer. 
''Manamu/' cries a girl who seems to have been 
neglected for some one of higher stature. '' Mother 
mine, I have got a little letter, and all sorts of despair, 
S/ie is tall, and / am little, and I have not the power 
to tear her in pieces I " — as she has probably torn the 
sheet of paper which brought the unwelcome intelli- 
gence. She goes on to say that she will put up a 
vow in a chapel, so as to be enabled to do some 
personal, but not clearly explained damage to the 
cause of her misfortunes. There is nothing new 
under the sun ; the word *' anathema " originally 
meant a votive offering: one of those execratory 
tablets, deposited in the sacred places, by means of 
which the ancient Greeks committed their enemies to 
the wrath of the Infernal Goddesses. Mr Newton has 
shown that it was the gentler sex which availed itself, 
by. far the most earnestly, of the privilege. Most 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 1 63 

likely our Lady of Hate in Brittany would have the 
same tale to tell. Impotence seeks strange ways to 
compass its revenge. 

In some extremities the lover has recourse, not 
indeed to anathemas, but to irony. '' I am not a 
reed," he protests, " that where you bend me I should 
go ; nor am I a leaf, that you should move mc with a 
breath." Then, after observing that poison has been 
poured on his fevered vitals, he exclaims, " Give your 
Iqve to others, and just sec if they will love you 
as I do ! " One poet has arrived at the conclusion 
that all the women of a particular street in Bova are 
hopelessly false : '' Did you ever sec a shepherd wolf, 
or a fox minding chickens, or a pig planting lettuces, 
or an ox, as sacristan, snuffing out tapers with his 
horns ? As soon will you find a woman of Cuveddi 
who keeps her faith." Another begins his song with 
sympathy, but ends by uttering a somewhat severe 
warning : 

Alas, alas ! my heart it bleeds to see 

How now thou goest along disconsolate ; 
And in thy sorrow I no help can be**- 

My own poor heart is in a piteous state. 
Come with sweet words— ah t come and doctor me. 

And lift from off my heart this dolorous weight. 
If thou come not, then none can pardon thee : 

Go not to Rome for shrift ; it is too late. 

The Calabrian Greek has more than his share of 
the pangs of unrequited love ; that it is so he assures 
us with an iteration that must prove convincing. 
Still, some balm is left in Gilead. Even at Bova 
there are maidens who do not think it essential to 
their dignity to. act the rdU of Eunica. The poorest 

1 64 Essays in the Siudy of Folksongs. 

herdsman, the humblest shepherd, has a chance of 
getting listened to ; a poor, bare chance perhaps^ but 
one which unlocks the door to as much of happiness 
as there is in the world. At least the accepted lover 
in the mountains of Calabria would be unwilling to 
admit that there exists a greater felicity than his. If 
he goes without shoes, still " love is enough : " 

Little I murmur against my load of woe— 
Our love will never fail, nor yet decline ; 

For to behold thy form contents me so, 
To see thee laugh with those r.ed lips of thine. 

Dost thou say not a word when past I go ? 
This of thy love for me is most sure sign ; 

Our love will no decline or failing know 

. Till in the sky the sun shall cease to shine. 

Karro, the day-labourer (to whom we will give the 
credit of inventing this song), would not, if he could, 
put one jot of his burden on Filomena of the Red 
Lips. Provided she laughs, he is sufficiently blest 
It so happens that Filomena is his master's grand- 
daughter ; hence, alas ! the need of silence as the sign 
of love. The wealthy old peasant has sworn that the 
child of his dead son shall never wed a penniless lad, 
who might have starved last winter if he had not 
given him work to do, out of sheer charity. Karro 
comes to a desperate resolution : he will go down to 
Rcggio and make his fortune. When he thinks it 
over, he feels quite confident of success : other folks 
have brought back lots of money to Bova out of the 
great world, and why should not he ? In the early 
morning he calls Filomena to bid her a cheerful 
farewell : 


Greek Sofigs of Calabria. 165 

Come hither ! run ! thy friend must go away ; 

Come with a kiss— the time is flying fast. 
Sure am I thou thy word wilt not betray, 

And for remembrance* sake my heart thou hast 
Weep not because I leave thee for a day — 

Nay, do not weep, for it will soon be past ; 
And, I advise thee, heed not if they say, 

'* Journeys like this long years are wont to last.'' 

Down at Reggio, Karro makes much poetry, and, 
were it not for his defective education, one might 
think that he had been studying Byron : 

If I am forced far from thine eyes to go, 

Doubt not, ah ! never doubt my constancy ; 
The very truth I tell, if thou wouldst know^ 

Distance makes stronger my fidelity. 
On my sure faith how shouldst thou not rely ? 

How think through distance I can faithless grow ? 
Remember how I loved thee, and reply 

If distance love like mine can overthrow. 

The fact is that he has not found fortune-making 
quite so quick a business as he had hoped. To the 
sun he says, when it rises, ''O Sun! thou that 
travcllcst from east to west, if thou shouldst see her 
whom I love, greet her from me, and see if she shall 
laugh. If she asks how I fare, tell her that many are 
my ills ; if she asks not this of thee, never can I be 
consoled." One day, in the market place, he meets a 
friend of his, Toto Sgr6, who has come from Bova 
with wine to sell. Here is an opportunity of safely 
sending a sonetto to the red-lipped Filomena. The 
public letter-writer is resorted to. This functionary 
gets out the stock of deep pink paper which is kept 
expressly in the intention of enamoured clients, and 
says gravely "Prbceed." ''An /mmc lirga an* du 

1 66 Essays in the Studjy of Folk-Smgs. 

lAodilu tu dicAssu/' begins Karro. ^ Pray use a 
tongue known to Christians/' interposes the scribe. 
Toto Sgr6, who is present^ remarks in Greek that 
such insolence should be punished ; but Karro 
counsels peace, and racks his brains for a poem in 
the Calabrese dialect. Most of the men of Bova can 
poetize in two languages. The poem, which is pro- 
duced after a moderate amount of labour, turns 
chiefly on the idle talk of mischief-makers, who are 
sure to insinuate that the absent are in the wrong. 
*' The tongue of people is evil speaking ; it murmurs 
more than the water of the stream ; it babbles more 
than the water of the sea. But what ill can folks say 
of us if we love each other ? I love thee eternally. 
Love me, Filomena, and think nothing about it" 

Amame, Filomena, e nu' pensare ! 

Towards spring-time, Karro goes to Scilla to help 
in the sword-fish taking ; it is a bad year, and the 
venture does not succeed. He nearly loses courage—^ 
fate seems so thoroughly against him. Just then he 
hears a piece of news : at the osteria there is an Ipiglese 
who has set his mind on the possession of a live wolf 
cub. ''Mad, quite mad, like all Inglesi^^ is the 
comment of the inhabitants of Scilla. "Who ever 
heard of taking a live wolf?** Karro, as a moun- 
taineeri sees matters in a diflerent light Forthwith 
he has an interview with the Englishman; then he 
vanishes from the scene for two months. " Poveru 
giuvinetto," says the host at the inn, '' he has been 
caught by an old wolf instead of catching a young 
one t " At the end of the time, however, Karro limps 
up to the door with an injured leg, and hardly a rag 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 167 

left to cover him ; but carrying on his back a sack 
holding two wolf cubs, unhurt and tame as kittens. 
The gratified Inglese gives a bountiful reward ; he is 
not the first of his race who has acted as the deus ex 
machina of a love-play on an Italian stage. Nothing 
remains to be done but for Karro to hasten back to 
Bova. Yet a kind of uneasiness mixes with his joy. 
What has Filomena been doing and thinking all this 
while! He holds his heart in suspense at the sight 
of her beauty : 

In all the world fair women met my gaze, 

But none I saw who could with thee compare ; 
. I saw the dames whom most the Rhegians praise, 

And by the thought of thee they seemed not fair. 

When thou art dressed to take the morning air 
The sun stands still in wonder and amaze ; 
If thou shouldst scorn thy love of other days, 

I go a wanderer, I know not where. 

The story ends well. Filomena proves as faithful 
as she is fair ; Karroos leg is quickly cured, and the 
old man gives his consent to the marriage — nay more, 
feeble as he is now, he is glad to hand over the whole 
management of the farm to his son-in-law. Thus the . 
young couple start in life with the three inestimable 
blessings which a Greek poet reckons as representing 
the sum total of human prosperity : a full granary, a 
dairy-house to make cheese in, and a fine pig. 

In collections of Tuscan and Sicilian songs it is 
common to find a goodly number placed under the 
heading " Dellc loro betlezze." The Greek songs of 
Calabria that exactly answer to this description are 
few. A new Zeuxis might successfully paint an 
unseen Tuscan or Sicilian girl^local Anacreons by 

i68 Essays in tJU Study cf FoUt^Sangs. 

the score would give him the needful details: the 
colour of the hair and eyes, the height, complexion, 
breadth of shoulders, smaillness of waist ; nor would 
they forget to mention the nobility of pose and 
carriage, il leggiadro portamento altero^ which is the 
crowning girt of women south of the Alps. It can 
be recognized at once that the poets of Sicily and 
Tuscany have not merely a vague admiration for 
beauty in general ; they have an innate artistic per- 
ception of what goes to constitute the particular form 
of beauty before their eyes. Poorer in words and 
ideas, the Greek Calabrian hardly knows what to say 
of his beloved, except that she is dulce ridentem^ 
*' sweetly-laughing/* and that she has small red lips, 
between which he is sure that she must carry honey — 

To meli ferri s' ettunda hilucia . . . 

He seems scarcely to notice whether she is fair or 
dark. Fortunately it is not impossible to fill in the 
blank spaces in the picture. The old Greek stamp 
has left a deep impression at home and abroad. 
Where there were Greeks there arc still men and 
. women whose features are cut, not moulded, and who 
hai'e a peculiar symmetry of form, which is not less 
characteristic though it has been less discussed. A 
friend of mine, who accompanied the Expedition of 
the Thousand, was struck by the conformity of the 
standard of proportion to be observed in the women 
of certain country districts in Sicily with the rule 
followed in Greek sculpture; it is a pity that the 
subject is not taken in hand by some one who has 
more time to give to it than a volunteer on the march. 
I have said " men or women," for it is a strange fact 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 1 69 

that the heritage of Greek beauty seems to fall to 
only one sex at a time. At Athens and in Cyprus 
young men may be seen who would have done credit 
to the gymnasia, but never a handsome girl ; whilst 
at Aries, in Sicily, and in Greek Calabria the women 
are easily first in the race. The typical Grxco- 
Calabrian maiden has soft light hair, a fairness of skin 
which no summer heats can stain, and the straight 
outline of a statue. There is another pattern of beauty 
in Calabria : low forehead, straight, strongly-marked 
eyebrows, dark, blue, serious ^yt,^^ lithe figure, elastic 
step. Place beside the women of the last type a 
man dyed copper-colour, with black, lank locks, and 
the startled look of a wild animal. The Greeks have 
many dark faces, and many ugly faces, too ; for that 
matter, uncompromising plainness was always amongst 
the possibilities of an Hellenic physiognomy. But 
the beautiful dark girl and her lank-locked companion 
do not belong to them. Whom they do belong to is 
an open question; perhaps to those early Brettians 
who dwelt in the forest of the Syla, despised by the 
•Greeks as savages, and docketed by the Romans, 
without rhyme or reason, as the descendants of 
escaped criminals. Calabria offers an inviting field 
to the ethnologist It is probable that the juxtaposi- 
tion of various races has not led in any commensurate 
degree to a mixture of blood. Each commune is a 
unit perpetually reformed out of the same constituents. 
Till lately intermarriage was carried to such a pitch 
that it was rare to meet with a man in a village who 
was not closely related to every other -inhabitant 
of it 
The Greeks of Terra d*Otranto bear a strong phy- 


1 70 Essays in the Study of Folk-Simgs. 

sical resemblance to the Greeks of Calabria Ultra. 
It is fifty or sixty years since the Hon. R. Keppel 
Craven remarked a '* striking regularity of feature and 
beauty of complexion '* in the women of Martano and 
Calimera. At Martano they have a pretty song in 
praise of some incomparable maid : 

My Sun, where art thou going ? Stay to see 

How passing beautiful is she I love. 

My Sun, that round and round the world dost move, 

Hast thou seen any beautiful as she ? 

My Sun, that hast the whole world travelled round, 

One beautiful as she thou hast not found ! 

Next to his lady's laughter, the South Italian Greek 
worships the sun. It is the only feature in nature to 
which he pays much heed. In common with other 
forms of modem Greek the Calabrian possesses the 
beautiful periphrase for sunset, o iglio vasiUggtii (o 
nKi<^ fiaaiXevei). Language, which is altogether a 
kind of poetry, has not anything more profoundly 
poetic. There is a brisk, lively ring in the ** Sun up ! " 
of the American Far West ; but an intellectual 
Atlantic flows between it and the Greek ascription of 
kingship, of heroship, to the Day-giver at the end of 
his course — 

Wie herrlich die Sonne dort untergeht. 
So stirbt ein Held 1 Anbetungswurdig ! 

When we were young, were not our hearts stirred to 
their inmost depths by this ? 

The love-songs of Bova include one composed by a 
young man who had the ilMuck to giet into prison. 
" Remember," he says, " the words I spoke to thee 
when we were seated on the grass ; for the love of 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 1 7 1 

Christ, remember them, so as not to make my life a 
torment. Think not that I shall stay in here for 
ever; already I have completed one day. But if it 
should happen that thou art forgetful of my words, 
beyond a doubt this prison awaits me ! " The singer 
seems to wish it to be inferred that his line of conduct 
in the given case will be such as to entitle him to 
board and lodging at the expense of the state for the 
rest of his days. In times still recent, prisoners at 
Bova could see and be seen, and hear and be heard, 
through the 'bars. Thus the incarcerated lover had 
not to wait long for an answer, which must have 
greatly relieved his mind: "The words that thou, 
didst say to me on the tender grass, I remember them 
— I forget them not I would not have thee say them 
over again ; but be sure I love thee. Night and day 
I go to church, and of Christ I ask this grace : • My 
Christ, make short the hours — bring to me him whom 

The Greeks have a crafty proverb, " If they see me 
I laugh ; but if not, I rob and run.'' A Graeco-Italic 
word,* mahtriy or "poignard," has been suggested as 
the origin of Mafia^ the name of one of the two great 
organisations for crime which poison the social atmo- 
sphere of southern Italy. The way of looking upon 
an experience of the penalties of the law, not as a 
retribution or a disgrace, but as a simple mischance; 
still prevails in the provinces of the ex-kingdom of 
Naples, "The prisons," says a Calabrian poet, "arc 
made for honest men," Yet the people of Calabria 
are rather to be charged with a confusion of moral 
sense than with a completely debased morality. What 

^ In classical Greek, m<Ixpihmu 

1 72 Essays in tki Study of Fotk-Songs. 

has been said of the modem Greek could with equal 
truth be said of them, whether Greeks or otherwise : 
put them upon their point of honour and they may be 
highly trusted. At a date when, in Sicily, no one 
went unarmed, it was the habit in Calabria to leave 
doors and windows unfastened during an absence of 
weeks or months ; and it is still remembered how, 
after the great earthquake of 1783, Ave Calabrians 
who happened to be at Naples brought back to the 
treasury 200 ducats (received by them out of the 
royal bounty) on learning, through private sources, 
that their homesteads were safe. The sort of honesty 
here involved is not so common as it might be, even 
under the best of social conditions. 

In that year of catastrophe — 1783 — it is more than 
possible that some of the Greek-speaking communities 
were swallowed up, leaving no trace behind. Calabria 
was the theatre of a series of awful transformation 
scenes ; heroism and depravity took strange forms, 
and men intent on pillage were as ready to rush into 
the tottering buildings as men intent on rescue. A 
horrid rejoicing kept pace with terror and despair. In 
contrast to all this was the surprising calmness with 
which in some cases the ordeal was faced. At Oppido, 
a place originally Greek, a pretty young woman, aged 
nineteen years, was immured for thirty hours, and 
shortly after her husband had extricated her she be- 
came a mother. Dolomieu asked what had been her 
thoughts in her living tomb; to which she simply 
answered, " I waited." The Prince of Scilla and four 
thousand people were swept into the sea by a single 
volcanic wave. Only the mountains stood firm. 
Bova, piled against the rock like a child's card-city. 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 173 

suflfered no harm, whilst the most solid structures on 
the shore and in the plain were pitched about as ships 
in a storm. Still, in the popular belief the whole mis- 
chief was brewed deep down in the innermost heart 
of Aspromonte. It may be that the theory grew out 
of the immemorial dread inspired by the Bitter Mount 
— a dread which seems in a way prophetic of the dark 
shadow it was fated to cast across the fair page of 
Italian redemption. 

A thousand years ago every nook and cranny in 
the Calabrian mountains had its Greek hermit Now 
and then one of these anchorites descended to the 
towns, and preached to flocks of penitents in the 
Greek idiom, which was understood by all. Under 
Byzantine rule the people generally adhered to the 
Greek rite ; nor was it without the imposition of the 
heavy hand of Rome that they were finally brought 
to renounce it. As late as the sixteenth century the 
liturgies were performed in Greek at Rossano, and 
perhaps much later in the hill-towns, where there are 
women who still treasure up scraps of Greek prayers. 
Greek, in an older sense than any attached to the 
ritual of the Eastern Church, is the train of thought 
marked out in this line from a folk-song of Bova : " O 
Juro pu en ehi jerusia " (" The Lord who hath not 
age '*). The Italian imagines the Creator as an old 
man ; witness, to take only one example, the frescoes 
on the walls of the Pisan Campo Santo. A Tuscan 
proverb, which means no evil, though it would not 
very well bear translating—*' Lascia fare a Dio che h 
Santo Vecchio "—shows how in this, as in other 
respects, Italian art is but the concrete presentation 
of Italian popular sentiment The grander idea of 

174 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

^ a Divine power which grows not old " seems very 
like an exotic in Italy. Without yielding too much 
to the weakness of seeking analogies, one other coin- 
cidence may be mentioned in passing. The Greek 
mother soothes her crying child by telling him that 
"the wild doves drink at the /lofy sea,** This "ago 
Thalassia *' recalls the oXp S\a of the greatest folk-poet 
who ever lived. Thalassia is now replaced in ordi- 
nary conversation by the Italian mare; indeed, in 
Terra d'Otranto it is currently supposed to be the 
proper name of a saint. The next step would natu- 
rally lead to the establishment of a cult of St Thal- 
assia ; and this may have been the kind of way in 
which were established a good many of those cults 
that pass for evidences of nature-worship. 

The language of the Graeco-Calabrian songs, mixed 
though it is with numberless Calabrese corruptions, 
is still far more Greek than the actual spoken 
tongue. So it always happens ; poetry, whether the 
highest or the lowest, is the shrine in which the purer 
forms of speech are preserved. The Greeks of Calabria 
are at present bi-lingual, reminding one of Horace's 
"Canusini more bilinguis." It is a comparatively 
new state of things. Henry Swinburne says that the 
women he saw knew only Greek or " Albanese," as he 
calls it, which, he adds, *' they pronounce with great 
sweetness of accent." The advance of Calabrese is 
attended by the decline of Greek, and a systematic 
examination of the latter has not been undertaken 
a moment too soon. The good work, begun by 
Domenico Comparetti and Giuseppe Morosi, Is being 
completed by professor Astorre Pellegrini, who has 

Greek Songs of Calabria. 1 75 

published one volume of Studi sui dialetti Greco^ 
Calabro di Bava^ which will be followed in due course 
by a second instalment. I am glad to be able to 
record my own debt to this excellent and most 
courteous scholar. He informs me that he hopes 
to finish his researches by a thorough inspection of 
the stones and mural tablets in Calabrian graveyards. 
The dead have elsewhere told so much about the 
living that the best results are to be anticipated. 

It need scarcely be said that the leavings of the 
past in the southern extremity of Italy are not con- 
fined to the narrow space where a Greek idiom is 
spoken. There is not even warrant for supposing 
them to lie chiefly within that area. The talisman 
which the hunter or brigand wears ndxt to his heart, 
believing that it renders him invulnerable ; the bag- 
pipe which calls the sheep in the hills, and which the 
wild herds of swine follow docilely over the marshes ; 
the faggot which the youth throws upon his mother s 
threshold before he crosses it after the day's toil ; the 
kick» aimed against the house door, which signifies 
the last summons of the debtor ; the shout of "Barcal" 
raised by boys who lie in wait to get the first glimpse 
of the returning fishing fleet, expecting largess for the 
publication of the good news ; the chafl* showered 
down by vine-dressers upon bashful maids and coun- 
try lads going home from market; the abuse of 
strangers who venture, into the vineyards at the 
vintage season — these are among the things of the 
young world that may be sought in Calabria. 

Other things there are to take the mind back to the 
time when the coins the peasant turns up with his hoe 

1 76 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

were fresh from the mint at Locri, and when the 
mildest of philosophies was first— 

dimly taught 
In old Crotona ; 

wild flowers as sweet as those that made Persephone 
forsake the plain of Enna ; maidens as fair as the five 
beautiful virgins after whom Zeuxis painted his Helm: 
grasshoppers as loudly chirping as the '^ cricket" that 
saved the prize to Eunomus ; and, high in the trans- 
parent air, the stars at which Pythagoras gazed 
straining his ears to catch their eternal harmonies. 


On a day in the late autumn it happened to me to 
be standing at a window looking down into an untidy 
back street at Avignon. It was a way of getting 
through the hours between a busy morning and a 
busy evening — hours which did not seem inclined to 
go. If ever man be tempted to upbraid the slowness 
of the flight of time, it is surely in the vacant intervals 
of travel. The prospect at the window could hardly 
be called enlivening ; by-and-by, however, the dulness 
of the outlook was lessened a little. The sounds of 
a powerful and not unmusical voice came along the 
street ; people hastened to their doors, and in . a 
minute or so a young lame man made his appearance. 
He was singing Provencal songs. Here was the last 
of the troubadours I 

If it needed some imagination to see in this humble 
minstrel the representative of the courtly adepts in 
the gay science, still his relationship to them was not 
purely fanciful. The itinerant singer used to be the 
troubadour of the poor. No doubt his more illustrious 
brother grudged him the name. " I am astonished/' 
said Giraud Riquier to Alfonso of Aragon, *'that folks 
confound the troubadours with those ignorant and 
uncouth persons who, as soon ai they can play some 
screeching instrument, go through the streets asking 
alms and singing before a vile rabble ; " and Alfonso 

1 78 Essays in the Study of Fotk-^Smgs. 

answered that in future the noble appellation of 
''JQglaria" should be granted no longer to mounte* 
banks who went about with dancing dogs, goats, 
monkeys, or puppets, imitating the song of birds, or 
for a meagre pittance singing before people of base 
extraction, but that they should be called " bufos,'* 3s 
in Lombardy, Giraud Riquier was not benevolently 
inclined when he embodied in verse his protest and 
the King's endorsement of it ; yet his words now lend 
an ancient dignity to the class they were meant to 
bring into contempt. The lame young man at 
Avignon had no dancing dogs, nor did he mimic the 
song of birds — an art still practised with wonder- 
ful skill in Italy.^ He helped out his entertainment 
by another device, one suitable to an age which reads ; 
he sold printed songs, and he presented " letters." If 
you bought two sous* worth of songs you were entitled 
to a " letter." It has to be explained that " letters " 
form a kind of fortune-telling, very popular in Provence. 
A number of small scraps of paper are attached to a 
ring ; you pull off one at hazard, and on it you find a 
full account of the fate reserved to you. Nothing 
more simple. As to the songs, loose sheets contain- 
ing four or five of them are to be had for fifteen 
centimes. I have seen on the quay at Marseilles an 
open bookstall, where four thousand of these songs 
are advertised for sale. Some are in Provencal, some 
in French ; many are interlarded with prose sentences, 
in which case they are called "cansounetto hmi parla." 
Formerly the same style of composition bore the 

1 I am told that the peasants of the country round Moscow 
have a natural gift for imitating birds, and that they intersperse 
the singing of their own sad songs with this sweet carolling. 

Folk-S<mgs of Provence. 1 79 

nsLine o( canie/adU. The subjects chosen are comic, 
or sentimental, or patriotic, or, again, simply local 
There is, for example, a dialogue between a proprietor 
and a lodger. "Workman, why are you always 
grumbling ? " asks the " moussu," who speaks French, 
as do angels and upper-class people generally in 
Provencal songs. " If your old quarters are to be 
pulled down, a fine new one will be built instead. 
Ere long the town of Marseilles will become a paradise, 
and the universe will exclaim, * What a marvel ! Fine 
palaces replace miserable hovels ! ' '* For all that, 
replies the workman in Provencal patois, the abandon- 
ment of his old quarter costs a pang to a child deis 
Carmes (an old part of Marseilles, standing where the 
Greek town stood). It was full of attraction to him. 
There his father lived before him ; there his friends 
had grown with him to manhood; there he had 
brought up his children, and lived content The 
proprietor argues that it was far less clean than could 
be wished — there was too much insectivorous activity 
in it He tells the workman that he can find a lodging, 
after all not very expensive, in some brand-new 
building outside the town; the railway will bring 
him to his work. Unconvinced, the workman returns 
to his refrain, " Regreterai toujour moun vieil MarsTo." 
I If the rhymes are bad, if the subject is prosaic, we 

I have here at least the force of a fact pregnant with 

I social danger. Is it only at Marseilles that the 

I grand improvements of modern days mean, for the 

I man who lives by his labour, the break-up of his 

I home, the destruction of his household gods, the dis* 

I persion of all that sweetened and hallowed his poverty ? 

4 The songs usually bear an author's name; but the 

i8o Essays in the Study of FolhSangs. 

authors of the original pieces, though they may enjoy 
a solid popularity in Provence, are rarely known to a 
wider fame. One of them, M. Marius F6raud, whose 
address I hold in my hands, will be happy to com- 
pose songs or romances for marriages, baptisms, and 
other such events, either in Provencal or in French, 
introducing any surname and Christian name indi- 
cated, and arranging the metre so as to suit the 
favourite tune of the person who orders the poem. 

Street ditties occupy an intermediate place between 
literate and illiterate poesy. Once the repertory of 
the itinerant bufo was drawn from a source which 
might be called popular without qualifying the term. 
With the pilgrim and the roving apprentice he was a 
chief agent in the diffusion of ballads. Even now he 
has a right to be remembered in any account of the 
songs of Provence ; but, having given him mention, 
we must leave the streets to go to the well-heads of 
popular inspiration — the straggling village, the isolated 
farm, the cottage alone on the byeway. 

When in the present century there was a revival of 
Provencal literature, after a suspension of some five 
hundred years, the poets who devoted their not mean 
gifts to this labour of love discerned, with true in- 
sight, that the only Provencal who was still thoroughly 
alive was the peasant Through the long lapse of 
time in the progress of which Provence had lost its 
very name — becoming a thing of French departments 
— the peasant, it was discovered, had not changed 
much ; acting on which discovery, the new Provencal 
school produced two works of a value that could not 
have been reached had it been attempted either to 
give an archaic dress to the ideas and interests of the 

Folk-Songs of Provence. 1 8 r 

modern world, or to galvanise the dry bones of 
mediaeval romance into a dubious animation. These 
works are Miriio and Margarido. Mistral, with the 
idealising touch of the imaginative artist, paints the 
Provence of the valley of the Rhone, whilst Marius 
Trussy photographs the ruder and wilder Provence of 
mountain and torrent. TaKcn together, the two 
poems perfectly illustrate the Wahrluit und Dichtung 
of the life of the people whose songs we have to 

Since there is record of them the Provencals have 
danced and sung. They may be said to have fur- 
nished songs and dances to all France, and even to 
lands far beyond the border of France. A French 
critic relates how, when he was young, he went night 
ailer night to a certain theatre in Paris to see a dance 
performed by a company of English pantomimists. 
The dancers gradually stripped a staff, or may-pole, 
of its many-coloured ribbons, which became in their 
hands a sort of moving kaleidoscope. This, that he 
thought at the time to be an exclusively English 
invention, was the old Provencal dance of the olivette. 
In the Carnival season dances of an analogous kind 
are still performed, here and there, by bands of young 
men, who march in appropriate costume from place 
to place, led by their harlequin and by a player on the 
galooubi^ the little pipe which should be considered 
the national instrument of Provence. Harlequin im- 
provises couplets in a sarcastic vein, and the crowd 
of spectators is not slow to apply each sally to some 
well-known person; whence it comes that Ash Wednes- 
day carries a sense of relief to many worthy indi- 
viduals. May brings with it more dances and milder 

1 82 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

songs. Young men plant a tree» with a nosegay 
atop, before their sweethearts* doors, and then go 
Lou premier jour de niaii 

O Diou d'eime ! 
Quand tout se renouvelo 
Quand tout se renouvelo. 

The great business of the month is sheep-shearing, 
a labour celebrated in a special song. '*When the 
month of May comes, the shearers come : they shear 
by night, they shear by day ; for a month, and a 
fortnight, and three weeks they shear the wool of 
these white sheep." When the shearers go, the 
washers come; when the washers go, the carders 
come; then come the spinners, the weavers, the 
buyers, and the ragmen who gather up the bits. 
Across the nonsense of which it is composed the 
ditty reflects the old excitement caused in the lonely 
homesteads by the annual visit of the plyers of these 
several trades, who turned everything upside down 
and brought strange news of the world. At harvest 
there was, and there is yet, a great gathering at the 
larger farms. Troops of labourers assemble to do the 
needful work. Sometimes, after the evening, meal, a 
curious song called the " Reapers' Grace *' is sung 
before the men go to rest It has two parts : the 
first is a variation on . the first chapter of Genesis. 
Adam and nonesiro maire Evo are put into the Garden 
of Eden. Adam is forbidden to eat of the fruit of 
life ; he eats thereof, and the day of his death is fore- 
told him. He will be buried under a palm, a cypress, 
and an olive, and out of the wood of the olive the 

Folk-Songs of Provence, 183 

Cross will be made. The second parti sung to a 
quick, lively air, is an expression of goodwill to the 
master and the mistress of the farm, every verse 
ending, " Adorem devotoment Jesu eme Mario." A 
few years ago the harvest led on naturally to the 
vintage. It is not so now. The vines of Provence, 
excellent in themselves, though never turned to the 
same account as those of Burgundy or Bordeaux, 
have been almost completely ruined by the phylloxera. 
Jhe Provencal was satisfied if his wine was good 
enough to suit his own taste and that of his neigh- 
bours; thus he had not laid by wealth to support 
him in the evil day that has come. " Is there no 
help ? " I asked of a man of the poorer class. "Only 
rain, much rain, can do good," he answered, ''and,'* 
he added, "we have not had a drop for four months." 
The national disaster has been borne with the finest 
fortitude, but in Provence at least there seems to be 
small faith in any method of grappling with it. The 
vines, they say, are spoilt by the attempt to submit 
them to an artificial deluge ; so one after the other, 
the peasant roots them up, and tries to plant cabbages 
or what not Three hundred years back the Pro- 
vengals would have known what measures to take : 
the offending insect would have been prosecuted. 
Between 1545 and 1596 there was a run of these 
remarkable trials at Aries. In 1565 the Arlesiens 
asked for the expulsion of the grasshoppers. The 
case came before the Tribunal de rOfficialit^i and 
Maitre Marin was assigned to the insects as counsel 
He defended his clients with much zeal. Sincw the 
accused had been created, he argued that they were 
justified in eating what was necessary to them. The 

1 84 Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. 

opposite counsel cited the serpent in the Garden of 
Eden, and sundry other animals mentioned in Scrip- 
ture» as having incurred severe penalties. The grass* 
hoppers got the worst of it, and were ordered to quit 
the territory, with a threat of anathematizatiom from 
the altar, to be repeated till the last of them had 
obeyed the sentence of the honourable court. 

One night in the winter of 1 8 19 there was a frost 
which, had it been a few times repeated, would have 
done as final mischief to the olives as the phylloxera 
has done to the vines. The terror of that night is 
remembered still. Corn, vine, and olive — these were 
the gifts of the Greek to Provence, and the third is 
the most precious of all. The olive has here an 
Eastern importance; the Provencals would see a 
living truth in the story of how the trees said unto it, 
" Reign thou over us." In the flowering season the 
slightest sharpness in the air sends half the rural 
population bare-foot upon a pilgrimage to the nearest 
St Briggitte or St Rossoline. The olive harvest is 
the supreme event of the year. It has its song too. 
In the warm days of St Martin's summer, says the 
late Damase Arbaud, some worker in the olive woods 
will begin to sing of a sudden — 

Ai rescountrat ma mio— diluns. 

It is a mere nonsense song respecting the meeting of 
a lover and his lass on every day of the week, she 
being each day on her way to buy provisions, and he 
giving her the invariable advice that she had better 
come back, because it is raining. Were it the rarest 
poetry the effect could be hardly more beautiful than 
it is. When the first voice has sung, " I met my 

Folk-Songs of Provence. 1 85 

love . . /* ascending slowly from a low note, the 
whole group of olive-gatherers take it up, then the 
next, and again the next, till the country-side is 
made all musical by the swell and fall of sound sent 
forth from every grey coppice ; and even long after 
the nearer singers have ceased, others unseen in the 
distance still raise the high-pitched call, " Come back, 
my love, come back ! . . . come back ! " 

On the first of November it is customary in Provence 
for families to meet and dine. The fruits of the earth 
are garnered, the year's business is over and done. 
The year has brought perhaps new faces into the 
family; very likely it has taken old faces away. 
Towards evening the bells begin to toll for the vigil 
of the feast of All Souls. Tears come into the eyes 
of the older guests, and the children are hurried off 
to bed. Why should they be present at this letting 
loose of grief ? To induce them to retire with good 
grace, they are allowed to take with them what is left 
of the dessert — chestnuts, or grapes, or figs. The 
child puts a portion of his spoils at the bottom of his 
bed for the artnettes : so are called the spirits of the 
dead who are still in a state of relation with the 
living, not being yet finally translated into their future 
abode. Children are told that if they are good the 
armettes mil kiss them this night ; if they are naughty, 
they will scratch their little feet. 

The Proven9al religious songs, poor though they 
are from a literary point of view, yet possess more 
points of interest than can be commonly looked for 
in folk-songs which treat of religion. They contain 
frequent allusions to beliefs that have to be sought 
either in the earliest apocryphal writings of the Chris- 


i86 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

tian aera, or in the lately unearthed records of rabl 
binical tradition. Various of them have regard to 
what is still, as M. Lenth^ric says, ''one of the great 
popular emotions of the South of France"*^ the 
reputed presence there of Mary Magdalene. M. 
Lenth^ric is convinced that certain Jewish Christians, 
flying from persecution at home, did come to Pro- 
vence (between the ports of which and the East there 
was constant communication) a short time after the 
Crucifixion. He is further inclined to give credit to 
the impression that Mary Magdalene and her com- 
panions were among these fugitives. I will not go 
into the reasons that have been urged against the 
story by English and German scholars ; it is enough 
for us that it is a popular credence of very ancient 
origin. One side issue of it is particularly worth 
noting, A little servant girl named Sara is supposed 
to have accompanied the Jewish emigrants, and her 
the gypsies of Provence have adopted as their pat- 
roness. Once a year they pay their respects to her 
tomb at Saintes Maries de la Men This is almost 
the only case in which the gypsy race has shown any 
disposition to identify itself with a religious cultus. 
The fairy legend of Tarascon is another offshoot from 
the main tradition. " Have you seen the Tarasque ? " 
I was asked in the course of a saunter through that 
town one cold morning between the hours of seven 
and eight. It seemed that the original animal Wias 
kept in a stall. To stimulate my anxiety to make 
its acquaintance I was handed the portrait of a beast, 
half hedgehog, half hippopotamus, out of whose some- 
what human jaw dangled the legs of a small boy. 
Later I heard the story from the lips of the sister oi 

Folk-Songs of Provence. 1 8 7 

the landlord at the primitive little inn ; much did it 
gain from the vivacious grace of the narrator, in whom 
there is as surely proof positive of a Greek descent 
as can be seen in any of the more famous daughters 
of Aries. "When the friends of our Lord landed in 
Provence, St Mary Magdalene went to Sainte Baume, 
St Lazarus to Marseilles, and St Martha came here to 
Tarascon. Now there was a terrible monster called 
the Tarasque, which was desolating all the country 
round and carrying off all the young children to eat 
When St Martha was told of the straits the folks 
were in, she went out to meet the monster with a 
piece of red ribbon in her hand. Soon it came, snort- 
ing fire out of its nostrils ; but the saint threw the red 
ribbon over its neck, and lo I it grew quite still and 
quiet, and followed her back into the town as if it 
had been a good dog. To keep the memory of this 
marvel, we at Tarascon have a wooden Tarasque, 
which we take round the town at Whitsuntide with 
Oiuch rejoicing. About once in twenty years there is 
a very grand fite indeed, and people come from far, 
far off. I have — naturally — seen this grand celebra- 
tion only once." A gleam of coquetry lit up the long 
eyes : our friend clearly did not wish to be supposed 
to have an experience ranging over too long a period. 
Then she went on, "You must know that at Beaucaire, 
just there across the Rhone, the folks have been always 
ready to die of jealousy of our Tarasque. Once upon 
a time they thought they would have one as well as 
we ; so they made the biggest Tarasque that ever had 
been dreamt of. How proud they were ! Butt ^1^ I 
when the day came to take it round the town» it was 
found that it would not come out of the door of the 

1 88 Essays in the Study of Folk^Sangs. 

woikshopl Ah! those dear Beaucairos ! ** This I 
believe to be a pure fable, like the rest ; to the good 
people of Tarascon it appears the most pleasing part 
of the whole story. My informant added, with a 
merry laugh, " There came this way an Englishman— 
a very sceptical Englishman. When he heard about 
the difficulty of the Beaucairos he asked, ' Why did 
they not have recourse to St Martha ? ' " 

As I have strayed into personal reminiscence, the 
record of one other item of conversation will perhaps 
be allowed. That same morning I went to breakfast 
at the house of a Provencal friend to meet the 
ablest exponent of political positivism, the Radical 
deputy for Montmartre. Over our host's strawberries 
(strawberries never end at Tarascon) I imparted my 
newly acquired knowledge. When it came to the 
point of saying that certain elderly persons were 
credibly stated to have preserved a lively faith in the 
authenticity of the legend, M. Cl6menceau listened 
with a look of such unmistakable concern that I said, 
half amused, " You do not believe much in poetry } " 
The answer was characteristic. " Yes, I believe in it 
much ; but is it necessary to poetry that the people 
should credit such absurdities ? " Is it necessary } 
Possibly Marius Trussy, who inveighs so passionately 
against " lou progre," would say that it is. Anyhow 
the Tarasques of the world are doomed ; whether 
they will be without successors is a different question. 
Some one has said that mankind has always lived 
upon illusions, and always will, the essential thing 
being to change the nature of these illusions from 
time to time, so as to bring them into harmony with 
the spirit of the age. 

Folk-Songs of Provence. 1 89 

Provencal folk-songs have but few analogies 
with the literature which heedlessly, though beyond 
recall, has been named Provencal. The poetry 
of the Miejour was a literary orchid of the 
fabulous sort that has neither root nor fruit A 
chance stanza, addressed to some high-bom Bianco- 
flour, finds its way occasionally into the popular verse 
of Provence with the marks of lettered authorship still 
clinging to it ; but further than this the resemblance 
does not go. The love poets of the people make use 
of a flower language, which is supposed to be a legacy 
of the Moors. Thyme accompanies a declaration; 
the violet means doubt or uneasiness; rosemary 
signifies complaint ; nettles announce a quarrel. , The 
course of true love nowhere flows less smoothly than 
in old Provence. As soon as a country girl is sus* 
pected of having a liking for some youth, she is set 
upon by her family as if she were guilty of a mon- 
strous crime. A microscopic distinction of rank, a 
divergence in politics, or a deficiency of money will 
be snatched as the excuse for putting the lover under 
the ban of absolute proscription. From the inexplic- 
able obstacles placed in the way of lovers it follows 
that a large proportion of Provencal marriages are 
the result of an elopement. The expedient never 
fails ; Provencal parents do not lock up their runaway 
daughters in convents where no one can get at them. 
The delinquents are married as fast a^ possible. 
What is more, no evil is thought or spoken of them. 
To make assurance doubly sure» a curious formality 
is observed. The girl calls upon two persons, secretly 
convened for the purpiose, to bear witness that she 
carries off her lover, who afterwards protests that his 

I90 Essays in the Study of Fol/hSangs. 

part in the comedy was purely passive. In less than 
twenty years the same drama is enacted with Mar- 
garido, the daughter, in the rdU of Mario the mother. 

L'herbo que grio 
Toujours reverdilho ; 
L'herbo d'amour 
Reverdilho toujours. 

The plant of love grows where there are young 
hearts; but how comes it that middle-aged hearts 
turn inevitably to cast iron? There is one song 
which has the right to be accepted as the t}^ical 
love-song of Provence. Mistral adapted it to his own 
use, and it figures in his poem as the '* Chanson de 
Majali.*' My translation follows as closely as may be 
after the popular version which is sung from the 
Comtat Venaissin to the Var : 

Margaret! my first love. 
Do not say me nay ! 
A morning music thou must have, 
A waking roundelay. 
—Your waking music irks me, 
And irk me all who play ; 
If this goes on much longer 
V\\ drown myself one day. 
--If this goes on much longer, 

And thou wilt drown one day, 
Why, then a swimmer I will be. 
And save thee sans delay. 
«— If then a swimmer thou wilt be, 
And save me sans delay. 
Then I will be an eel, and slip 
From 'twixt thy hands away. 
—-If thou wilt be an eel, and slip 
From 'twixt my hands away. 
Why, I will be the fisherman 
Whom all the fish obey. 

Folk- Songs of Provence. 191 

— If thou wilt be the fisherman 
Whom all the fish obey, 
\ Then I will be the tender grass 

That yonder turns to hay. 
—If thou wilt be the tender grass 
That yonder turns to hay. 
Why, then a mower I will be, 
''' And mow thee in the may. 

-; —If thou a mower then wilt be, 

And mow me in the may, 
I, as a little hare, will go 
s In yonder wood to stray. 

—If thou a little hare wilt go 
In yonder wood to stray, 
'\ Then will I come, a hunter bold, 

'\ * And have thee as my prey. 

I —If thou wilt come a hunter bold 

I To have me as thy prey, 

\ Then I will be the endive small . 

'^ In yonder garden gay. 

—If thou wilt be the endive small 
In yonder garden gay, 
Then I will be the falling dew. 
And fall on thee alway. 
—If thou wilt be the falling dew. 
And fall on me alway, 
g Then I will be the white, white rose 

^ On yonder thorny spray. 

—If thou wilt be the white, white 1 
On yonder thorny spray, 
Then I will be the honey bee, 
And kiss thee all the day. 
. —If thou wilt be the honey bee, 
And kiss me all the day, 
Then I will be in yonder (leaven 
The star of brightest ray. 
—If thou wilt be in yonder heaven 
The star of brighest ray, 
Then I will be the dawn^ and we 
Shall meet at break of day. 

192 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

-*If thou wilt be the dawn, so we 
May meet at break of day. 
Then I will be a nun professedi 
A nun of orders grey. 
-*If thou wilt be a nun professed, 
A nun of orders grey. 
Then I will be the prior, and thou 
To me thy sins must say. 
—If thou wilt be the prior, and I 
To thee my sins must say. 
Then will I sleep among the dead, 
While the sisters weep and pray. 
— If thou wilt sleep among the dead, 
While the sisters weep and pray, 
Then I will be the holy earth 
That on thee they shall lay. 
-~If thou wilt be the holy earth 

That on me they shall lay — 
WeU — since some gallant I must havei 
I will not say thee nay. 

A distinguished French scholar thought that he 
heard in this an echo of Anacreon's ode k &t icopn^. 
The inference suggested is too hazardous for accept- 
ance ; yet that in some sort the song may date from 
Greek Provence would seem to be the opinion even 
of cautious critics. Thus we are led to look back 
to those associations which, without giving a per- 
sonal or political splendour such as that attached 
to Magna Graecia, lend nevertheless to Provencal 
memories the exquisite charm, the ^^ bouquet^* (if the 
word does not sound absurd) of all things Greek. 
The legend of Greek beginnings in Provence will bear 
being once more told. Four hundred and ninety 
years before Christ a little fleet of Greek fortune- 
seekers left Phocaea, in Asia Minor, and put into a 

Folk-Songs of Provence. 193 

\ small creek on the Provencal coast, the port of the 

j future Marseilles. As soon as they had disembarked, 

I deeming it to be of importance to them to stand well 

j with the people of the land, they sent to the king of 

the tribes inhabiting those shores an ambassador 

bearing gifts and overtures of friendly intercourse. 

When the ambassador reached Aries, Nann, the king, 

I was giving a great feast to his warriors, from among 

■ whom his daughter Gyptis was that day to choose a 

I husband. The young Greek entered the banqueting- 

1 hall and sat down at the king's board. When the 

\ feasting was over, fair-haired Gyptis, the royal maiden, 

I rose from her seat and went straightway to the strange 

I guest ; then, lifting in her hands the cup of espousal, 

she offered it to his lips. He drank, and Provence 

became the bride of Greece. 

The children of that marriage left behind them a 
graveyard to tell their history. Desecrated and 
despoiled though it is, still the great Arlesian ceme- 
tery bears unique witness as well to the civilised 
prosperity of the Provencal Greeks as to their decline 
under the influences which formed the modern Pro- 
vence. Irreverence towards the dead— a compara- 
tively new human characteristic— can nowhere be 
more fully observed than in the Elysii Campi of 
Aries. The love of destruction has been doing its 
worst there for some centuries. To any king coming to 
the town the townsfolk would make a gift of a price- 
less treasure stolen from their dead ancestors, while 
the peasant who wanted a cattle trough, or the mason 
in need of a door lintel, went unrebuked and carried 
off what thing suited him. Not even the halo of 
Christian romance could save the Alyscamps. The 

194 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

l^end is well known. St Trefume, man or myth, 
summoned the bishops of Gaul and Provence to the 
consecration of this burial-ground. When they were 
assembled and the rite was to be performed, each one 
shrank from taking on himself so high an office ; then 
Christ appeared in their midst and made the sign of 
the cross over the sleeping-place of the pagan dead. 
Out of the countless stories of the meeting of the new 
faith and the old-r-stories too often of a nascent or ah 
expiring fanaticism, there is not one which breathes a 
gentler spirit. It was long believed, that the devil 
had little power with the dead that lay in Aries. 
Hence the multitude of sepulchres which Dante saw 
ove 7 Rodano stagna. Princes and archbishops and 
an innumerable host of minor folks left instructions 
that they might be buried in the Alyscamps. A 
simple mode of transport was adopted by the popula- 
tion of the higher Rhone valley. The body, bound 
to a raft or bier, was committed to the current of the 
river, with a sum of money called the ''drue de 
mourtalage'' attached to it. These silent travellers 
always reached their destination in safety, persons 
appointed to the task being in readiness to receive 
them. The sea water washed the limits of the 
cemetery in the days of the Greeks, who looked 
across the dark, calm surface of the immense lagune 
and thought of dying as of embarkation upon a 
voyage — not the last voyage of the body down the 
river of life, but the first voyage of the soul over the 
sea of death — and they wished their dead cuTrXoi. 

The Greek traces that exist in the living people of 
Provence are few, but distinct There is, in the first 
place, the type of beauty particularly associated with 

Folk-Sofigs of Provence. 195 

the women of Aries, As a rule, the Proven9al woman 
is not beautiful ; nor is she very willing to admit that 
her Arlesian sisters are one whit more beautiful than 
she. The secret of their fame is interpreted by her in 
the stereotyped remark, " C'est la coiffe ! " But the 
coif of Aries, picturesque though it is in its stern 
simplicity, could not change an ugly face into a 
pretty one, and the wearers of it are well entitled to 
the honour they claim as their birthright. Scarcely 
due attention has been paid to the good looks of the 
older and even of the aged women ; I have not seeh 
their equals save among a race of quite another type, 
the Teutonic amazons of the Val Mastalone. In 
countries where the sun is fire, if youth does not 
always mean beauty, beauty means almost always 
youth. M. Lenth^ric thinks that he detects a second 
clear trace of the Greeks in the horn wrestling prac- 
tised all over the dried-up lagune which the fork of 
the Rhone below Aries forms into an island. Astride 
of their wild white steeds, the horsemen drive one of 
the superb black bulls of the Camargue towards a 
group of young men on foot, who, catching him by 
his horns, wrestle with him till he is forced to bend 
the knee and bite the dust The amusement is dan- 
gerous, but it is not brutal. The horses escape unhurt, 
so does the bull ; the risk is for the men alone, and it 
is a risk voluntarily and eagerly run. So popular is 
the sport that it is difficult to prevent children from 
joining in it. In Thessaly it was called ice/KiTiflrift and 
the bull in the act of submission is represented on a 
I large number of Massaliote and other coins. 

Marseilles, which has lost the art and the type of 
Greece, has kept the Greek temperament It is no 

1 96 Essays in tht Study of Folk-S(mgs. 

more French than Naples is Italian : both are Greek 
towns, though the characteristics that prove them 
such have been somewhat diflerentiated by unlike 
external conditions. Still they have points in com- 
mon which are many and strong. Marsalia can match 
in MetiUs the proverbial quattordicirebcllionioV^XoydX'' 
Parthenope ; and quickness of intelligence, love of dis* 
play, mobility of feeling, together with an astounding 
vitality, belong as much to Marseillais as to Neapoli- 
tan. The people of Marseilles, the most thriftless in 
France, have thriven three thousand years, and are 
thriving now, in spite of the readiness of each small 
middle-class family to lay out a half-year's savings on 
a breakfast at Roubion's ; in spite of the alacrity with 
which each working man sacrifices a week's wages in 
order to "demonstrate" in favour of, or still better 
against, no matter whom or what. Nowhere is there 
a more overweening local pride. " Paris," say the 
Marseillais, "would be a fine town if it had our Can* 
nebiire!^ Nowhere, as has been made lamentably 
plain, arc the hatreds of race and caste and politics 
more fierce or more ruthless. Even with her own 
citizens Marseilles is stern ; only after protest does 
she grant a monument to Adolphe Thiers — himself 
just a Greek Massaliotc thrown into the French poli- 
tical arena. There is reason to think that Greek was 
a spoken tongue at Marseilles at least as late as the 
sixth century A.D. The Sanjancn, the fisherman of 
St John's Quarter, has still a whole vocabulary of 
purely Greek terms incidental to his calling. The 
Greek character of the speech of the Marseillais sailors 
was noticed by the Abbe Papon, who attributed to 
the same source the peculiar prosody and intonation 

Folk^Sangs of Provence. 197 

of the street cries of Marseilles. The Provencal his- 
torian remarks, with an acuteness rare in the s^e in 
which he wrote (the early part of the last century), 
'' I draw my examples from the people, because it is 
with them that we must seek the precious remains of 
ancient manners and usages. Amongst the great, 
amongst people of the world, one sees only the im-* 
print of fashion, and fashion never stands still/' 

The Sanjanens are credited with the authorship of 
this cynical little song : 

Fisher, fishing in the sea, 
Fish my mistress up for me. 

Fish her up before she drowns. 
Thou shalt have four hundred crowns. 

Fish her for me dead and cold, 
Thou shalt have my all in gold. 

The romantic ballads of Provence are of an import* 
ance which demands, properly speaking, a separate 
study, Provence was, beyond a doubt, one of the 
main sources of the ballad literature of France, Spain, 
and Italy. That certain still existing Provencal bal- 
lads passed over into Piedmont as early as the thir- 
teenth century is the opinion of Count Nigra, the 
Italian diplomatist, not the least of whose distin- 
guished services to his country has been the support 
he was one of the first to give to the cause of popular 
research. In all these songs the plot goes for every- 
thing, the poetry for little or nothing ; J shall there- 
fore best economise my space by giving a rough 
outline of the stories of two or three of them« 
*'Fluran(o'* is a characteristic specimen. Fluran^o, 
'Ma flour d'aquest pays/' was married when ^e 
was a little thing, and her husband at once 

1 98 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

went away to the wars. Monday they were wed, 
Tuesday he was gone. At the end of seven years 
the knight comes back, knocks at the door, and asks 
for Fluran^o.. His mother says that she is no longer 
here; they sent her to fetch water, and the Moors, 
the Saracen Moors, carried her off. " Where did they 
take her to ? " " They took her a hundred leagues 
away.*' The knight makes a ship of gold and silver ; 
he sails and sails without seeing aught but the washer- 
women washing fine linen. At last he asks of them : 
'' Tell me whose tower is that, and to whom that castle 
belongs." "It is the castle of the Saracen Moor." 
" How can I get into it ? " ** Dress yourself as a poor 
pilgrim, and ask alms in Christ's name." In this way 
he gains admittance, and Fluran9o (she it is) bids the 
servant set the table for the " poor pilgrim." When 
the knight is seated at table, Fluran9o begins to laugh. 
''What are you laughing at, Madamo.'" She con* 
fesses that she knows who he is. They collect a 
quantity of fine gold ; then they go the stable, and 
she mounts the russet horse and he mounts the grey. 
Just as they are crossing the bridge the Moor sees them. 
" Seven years," he cries, " I have clothed thee in fine 
damask, seven years I have given thee morocco shoes, 
seven years I have laid thee in fine linen, seven years 
I have kept thee — for one of my sons ! " The care- 
lessness or cruelty of a stepmother (the head-wife of 
Asiatic tales) is a prolific central idea in Proven9al 
romance. While the husband was engaged in distant 
adventures — tournaments, feudal wars, or crusading 
expeditions — the wife, who was often little more than 
a child, remained at the mercy of the occasionally 
unamiable dowager who ruled the masterless cliAteau. 


Folk-Songs of Provence, 199 

The case of cruelty Is exemplified in the story of 
Guilhem de Beauvoire, who has to leave his child* wife 
five weeks after marriage. " I counsel you, mother," 
he says as he sets out, '' to put her to do no kind of 
work : neither to fetch water, nor to spin, nor yet to 
knead bread. Send her to mass, and give her good 
dinners, and let her go out walking with other ladies/* 
At the end of five weeks the mother put the young wife 
to keep swine* The swine girl went up to the moun- 
tain top and sang and sang. Guilhem de Beauvoire, 
who was beyond the sea, said to his page, '' Does it 
not seem as though my wife were singing?" He 
travels at all speed over mountain and sea till he 
comes to his home, where no man knows him. On 
the way he meets the swine girl, and from her he 
hears that she has to eat only that which is rejected 
of the swine. At the house he is welcomed as an 
honoured guest ; supper is laid for him, and he asks 
that the swine girl whom he has seen may come and 
sup with him. When she sits down beside him the 
swine girl bursts into tears. "Why do you weep, 
swine girl ? " " For seven years I have not supped 
at table ! " Then in the bitterness of yet another out- 
-rage to which the vile woman subjects her, she cries 
aloud, *' Oh ! Guilhem de Beauvoire, who art beyond 
the sea, God help thee ! Verily thy cruel mother has 
abandoned me I " Secretly Guilhem tells her who he 
is, and in proof of it shows her the ring she gave him. 
In the morning the mother calls the swine girl to go 
after her pigs. " If you were not my mother," says 
Guilhem, *' I would have you hung ; as you are my 
mother, I will wall you up between two walls.'* 
The antiquity of the ballads of Fluranco and 

200 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

GuUhim de Beauvoire is shown by the fact that they 
plainly belong to a time when such work as fetching 
water or making bread was regarded as amongst the 
likely employments of noble ladies — ^though, from 
excess of indulgence, Guilhem did not wish his wife 
to be set even to' these light tasks. A ballad, pro- 
bably of about the same date, treats the case of a man 
who, through the weakness which is the cause of half 
the crimes, becomes the agent of his mother's guilt. 
The tragedy is unfolded with almost the sublime 
laconicism of the Divitia Commcdia, Fran^oiso was 
married when she was so young that she did not 
know how to do the service, and the cruel mother 
was always saying to her son that Fran^oiso must 
die. One day, after the young wife had laid the 
table, and had set thereon the wine and the bread, 
and the fresh water, her husband said to her, " My 
Fran^oiso, is there not anyone, no friend, who shall 
protect thy life?** "I have my mother and my 
father, and you, who are my husband, very well will 
you protect my life." Then, as they sit at meat, he 
takes a knife and kills her; and he lifts her in his 
arms and kisses her, and lays her under the flower of 
the jessamine, and he goes to his mother and says, 
'* My mother, your greatest wish is fulfilled : I have 
killed Fran^oiso." 

The genuine Provencal does not shrink from 
violence. Old inhabitants still tell tales of the 
savage brigandage of the Estferel, of the horrors of 
the Terreur blanclie. Mild manners and social 
amenities have never been characteristic of fair 
Provence. Even now the peasant cannot disentangle 
his thoughts without a volley of oaths — harmless 

Folk-Songs of Provence. 20 1 

indeed, for the most part (except those which are 
borrowed from the franciots\ but in sound terrific. 
Yet if it be true that the character«of a nation is 
asserted in its songs, it must be owned that the songs 
of Provence speak favourably for the Proven9al people. 
They say that they are a people who have a steady 
and abiding sympathy with honest men and virtuous 
women. They say further that rough and ruthless 
though they may be when their blood is stirred, yet 
. have they a pitiful heart. The Provencal singer is 
j slow to utterly condemn ; he grasps the saving incon- 
i sistencies of human nature ; he makes the murderer 
I lay his victim "souto lou flour dou jaussemin:*' 
I under the white jessamine flower, cherished beyond 
I all flowers in Provence, which has a strange passion 
j for white things — white horses, white dogs, white 
sheep, white doves, and the fair white hand of 
.\ woman. Many songs deal directly with almsgivings^ 
1 the ritual of pity. To no part of the Bible is there 
. J more frequent reference than to the parable of the 

rich man and Lazarus ; no neocatholic legend has 
I been more gladly accepted than the story in which 

some tattered beggar proves to be Christ — a story, 
• by the by, that holds in it the essence of the Christian 

I faith. If- a Greek saw a beautiful unknown youth 

I playing his pipe beside some babbling stream, he be* 

I lieved him to be a god ; the Christian of the early 

I ages recognised Christ in each mendicant in loath- 
f . some rags, in each leper succoured at the risk of 
I . mortal infection. - 

\ The Provencal tongue is not a mixture (as is too 

I often said) of Italian and French; nor Is physical 

i Provence a less fair Italy or a fairer France. A land 

I Q 

203 Essays in the Study of Folk^Sangs. 

wttdly convulsed In Its storms, mysteriously breath- 
Jess in its calms ; a garden here, a desert there ; a 
land of translucent inlets and red porphyry hills ; 
before all, a land of the illimitable grey of olive 
.and limestone — this is Provence. Anyone finding 
himself of a sudden where the Proven9al olives 
raise their dwarf heads with a weary look of eternity 
to the rainless heaven, would say that the dominant 
feature in the landscape was its exceeding serious- 
ness. Sometimes on the coast the prevailing note 
changes from grey to blue ; the blanched rocks catch 
the colour of the sea, and not the sky only, but dry 
fine air close around seems of a blueness so intense 
as to make the senses swim. Better suited to a 
Nature thus made up of crude discords and subtle 
harmonies is the old Provencal speech, howsoever 
corrupt, than the exquisite French of Parisian salons. 
But the language goes and the songs go too. Damase 
Arbaud relates how, when he went on a long journey 
to speak with a man reported to have cognisance of 
much traditional matter, he met, issuing from the 
house door, not the man, but his coflfin. The fact is 
typical ; the old order of things passes away : nouastci 
diou se'n van. 


i ■ 

In a paper published under the head of ''Chaucer's 
Night Spell " in the Folk-lore Record (part i. p. 145), 
Mr Thorns drew attention to four lines spoketi by the 
carpenter in Chaucer's Miller's Tale : 

Lord Jhesu Crist, and seynte Benedyht 
Blesse this hous from every wikked wight^ 
Fro nyghtes verray, the White Patemostre 
When wonestow now, seynte Petres soster. 

(" Verray " is commonly supposed to mean night-mare, 
but Mr Thoms referred it to "Werra," a Sclavonic 

Mention of the White Paternoster occurs again in 
White's Way to tlu True Church (1624) : 

White Paternoster, Saint Peter's brother, 
What hast i' th t'one hand ? white booke leaves, 
What hast i' th t'other hand ? heaven gate keyes. 
Open heaven gates, and streike (shut) hell gates : 
And let every crysome child creepe to its own mother. 

White Paternoster, Amen. 

A reading of the formula is preserved in the 
Enchiridion Papo: Leonis, a book translated into 
French soon after its first appearance in Latin at 
Rome in 1502: 

Au soir, m'allant coucher, je trouvit uoii anges k men lit 
couches, un aux pieds, deux au cheveti la bonne Vierge Marie 
du milieu, qui me dit que je me couchiSi que rien ne doutit. Le 

204 Essays in the Study of Folk^Sangs. 

bon Dieu est mon Pire, la bonne Vierge est ma mfere, les trois 
vterges sont mes soeurs. La chemise oil Dieu fut n<, mon corps 
en est miveloppd ; la croix Sainte Marguerite k ma poitrine est 
dcrite ; madame d'en va sur les champs ^ Dieu pleurant> ren- 
contrit Monsieur Saint Jean. Monsieur Saint Jean, d*ou venez 
vous? Je viens d' Ave Sa/us. Vous n'avez pas vu le bon 
Dieu ; si est, il est dans Parbre de la croix, les pieds pendans, 
les mains clouans, un petit chapeau d'^pine blanche sur la tcte. 
Qui la dira trois fois au soir, trois fois au matin, gagnera le 
Paradis k la 6n. 

Curious as are the above citations, they only go a 
little way towards filling up the blanks in the history 
of this waif from the fabric of early Christian popular 
lore. A search of some years has yielded evidence 
that the White Paternoster is still a part of the living 
traditional matter of at least five European countries. 
Most persons are familiar with the English version 
which runs thus : 

Four comers to my bed. 
Four angels round my head, 
One to watch, one to pray. 
And two to bear my soul away. 

A second English variant was set on record bj- 
Aubrey, and may also be read in Ady's " Candle in 
the Dark" (1655): 

Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, 
Bless the bed that I lye on ; 
And blessed guardian angel keep 
Me safe from danger while I sleep. 

Halliwell suggests that the two last lines were imitatci 
from the following in Bishop Ken*s Evening Hymn: 

Let my blest guardian, while I sleep. 
His watchful station near me keep. 

Tlie White Paternoster. 205 

But if there was any imitation in the case; it was the 
bishop who copied from the folk-rhymer, not the 
folk-rhymer from the bishop. 

The thought of the coming of death in sleep, is 
expressed in a prayer that may be sometimes seen 
inscribed at the head and foot of the bed in Norw^ian 


Here is my bed and sleeping place ; 
God, let me sleep in peace 
And blithe open my eyes 
And go to work. 


Go into thy bed, take thee a slumber,. 
Reflect now on the last hour ; 
Reflect now, 
That thou mayest take thy last slumber. 

! Analogous in spirit is a quatrain that has been known 
I to me since childhood, but which I do not remember 
I to have seen in print : 

I I lay me down to rest me. 

And pray the Lord to bless me. 
If I should sleep no more to wake 
I pray the Lord my soul to take. 

The Petite Patendtre Blamlie lingers in France in a 
variety of shapes. One version was written down as 
late as 1872 from the mouth of an old woman named 
Catherine Bastien, an inhabitant of the department 
of the Loire. It was afterwards communicated to 

Jdsu m'endort, 
Si je tr^passe, mande mon corps, 
Si je tr^passe, mande mon dme. 

2o6 Essays in the Study of Folk-Sangs* 

Si je vis, mande mon esprit. 

(Je) prends ies anges pour mes amis, 
Le bon Dieu pour mon pire, 
La Sainte Vierge pour ma m^e. 
Saint Louis de Gonzague, 
Aux quatre coins de ma chambre, 
Aux quatre coins be mon lit ; 
Preser\'ez moi de Tennemii 
Seigneur, a Theure de ma mort 

Quenot, in his Statistiqui de la Charanti (i8i8)» 
gives the subjoined : 

Dieu Ta faite, je la dit ; 
J'ai trouv^ quatre anges couchds dans mon lit ; 
Deux h, la t^te, deux aux pieds, 
£t le bon Dieu aux milieu. 
De quoi puis-je avoir peur? 
Le bon Dieu est mon p^re, 

La Vierge ma m^re, 

Les saints mes fr^res, 

Les saints mes sceurs ; 

Le bon Dieu m'a dit :. 

L^ve-toi, couche-toi, 
Ke crains rien ; le feu, Torage, et la tempdte 

Ne peuvent rien contre toi. 
Saint Jean, Saint Marc, Saint Luc, et St Matthieu, 
Qui mettez les &mes en repos, , 
Mettez-y la mienne si Dieu veut. 

In Provence many a worthy country woman re- 
peats each night this /r^i>Y7 doou soir: — 

Au liech de Diou 

Me couche iou, 
Sept anges n'en trouve iou, 

Tres es peds, 

Quatre au capet (caput — head) ; 
La Buoeno Mero es au mitan 
Uno roso bianco k la man. 

The White Paternoster. 207 

The white rose borne by the Good Mother is a 
pretty and characteristic interpolation peculiar to 
flower-loving Provence. In the conclusion of the 
prayer the Boneno Mere tells whosoever recites it to 
have no fear of dog or wolf, or wandering storm or 
running water, or shining fire, or any evil folk. M. 
Damase Arbaud got together a number of other de- 
votional fragments that may be regarded as oflfshoots 
from the parent stem. St Joseph, " Nourricier de 
Diou," is asked to preserve the supplicant from sudden 
death, ''ct de Tinfer et de ses flammos.*' St Ann, 
"mero-grand de Jfesus Christ," is prayed to teach the 
way to Paradise. To St Denis a very practical peti- 
tion is addressed : 

Grand Sant Danis de Franco, 
• Gardetz me moun bouen sens, ma boueno remembran^o. 

Another verse points distinctly to a desire for protec* 
tion against witchcraft. The Provencals, by the bye, 
are of opinion that the Angelns was instituted to scare 
away any ill-conditioned spirits that might be tempted 
out by the approach of night. 

In Germany the guardian saints are dispensed 
with, but the angels are retained in force. I am in- 
debted to Mr C. G. Leland for a translation of the 
most popular German even-song : 

Fourteen angels in a band 
Every night around me stand. 
Two to my left hand, 

Two to my right, 
Who watch me ever 
By day and night. 
Two at my head, 
Two at my feet. 
To guard my slumber 
Soft and sweet; 

2o8 Essays in the Sttuiy of Folk-Sengs. 

Two to wake me 

At break of day, 
When night and darknest 

Pass away ; 
Two to cover me 

Warm and nice. 
And two to lead me 

To Paradise. 

Passing on to Italy we find an embarrassing abund- 
ance of folk-prayers framed after the self-same model 
The repose of the Venetian is under the chaige of the 
Perfect Angel, the Angel of God, St Bartholomew, the 
Blessed Mother, St Elizabeth, the Four Evangelists, 
and St John the Baptist Venetian children are 
taught to say : '' I go to bed, I know not if I shall 
arise. Thou, Lord, who knowest, keep good watch 
over me. Before my soul separates from my body, 
give me help and good comfort. In the name of the 
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, so be it. Bless 
my heart and my soul ! " The Venetians also have 
a " Paternoster pichenin," and a " Paternoster grande,*' 
both of which are, in their existing form, little else 
than nonsense. The native of the Marches goes to 
his rest accompanied by our Lord, the Madonna, the 
Four Evangelists, V Angela perfetto^ four greater angels, 
and three others — one at the foot, one at the head, 
one in the middle. The Tuscan, like the German, 
has only angels around him : of these he has seven — 
one at the head, one at the foot, two at the sides, one 
to cover him, one to watch him, and one to bear him 
to Paradise. The Sicilian says ; '' I lay me down in 
this bed, with Jesus on my breast. I sleep and he 
watches. In this bed where I am laid, five saints I 

The White Patermsier. 209 

find : two at the head, two at the feet, in the middle 
IS St Michael." 

Perhaps the best expression of the belief in the 
divine guardians of sleep is that' given to it by an 
ancient Sardinian poet : — 

Su letto meo est de battor cantonetf 
Et battor anghelos si bie ponen ; 
Duos in pes» et duos in cabittaf 
Nostra Segnora a costazu m*ista. 
Eamenarat: Dormi e reposa» 
No hapas paura de mala cosa. 
No hapas paura de mala fine. 
' S' Anghelu Serafine, 

S' Anghelu BiancUi 

S' Ispiridu Santu, 

Sa Vigine Maria, 
Tote Slant in cumpagnia mea. 

Anghelu de Deu, 

Custodio meo, 

Custa nott* illuminame ! 
Guarda e difende a me 
Ca eo mi incommando a tie. 

My bed has four corners and four angels standing by it Two 
at the foot and two at the head ; our Lady is beside me. And 
to me she says, '' Sleep and repose ; have no fear of evil things ; 
have no fear of an evil end.** The angel Serafine, the angel 
Blanche, the Holy Spirit, the Virgin Mary--all are here to keep 
me company. Angel of God, thou my guardian, illuminate me 
this night Watch and defend me,' for I commend myself to 

A Spanish verse, so near to this that it would be 
needless to give it a separate translation, was sent by 
a friend who at that time was in the Royal Collq:e 
of Santa Ysabel at Madrid : 

7 lo Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Quatro pirondelitas 

Tiene mi cama ; 
Quatro angelitos 

Me la acompafta. 
La madre de dios 

Esta enmedio, 
Dicendotne : 

Duerme y reposa, 
Que no te sucedera 

Ninguna mala cosaJ 


In harmony with the leading idea of the White 
Paternoster, the recumbent figures of the Archbishops 
in Canterbury Cathedral have angels kneeling at each 
comer of their altar tombs. It is worth remarking, 
too, how certain English lettered compositions have 
become truly popular through the fact of their intro- 
ducing the same idea. A former Dean of Canterbury 
once asked an old woman, who lived alone without 
chick or child, whether she said her prayers ? •* Oh ! 
yes," was the reply, " I say every night of my life, 

*' Hush, my babe, lie still in slumber, 
Holy angels guard thy bed ! " 

The White Paternoster itself, in the form of " Matthew, 
Mark, Luke, John," was, till lately, a not uncommon 
evening prayer in the agricultural parts of Kent. At 
present the orthodox night and morning prayers of 
the people in Catholic countries are the Lord's 
Prayer, Credo and Ave Maria, but to these, as has 
been seen, the White Paternoster is often added, and 
at the date of the Reformation — when the "Hail 
Mary" had scarcely come into general use — it is 
probable that it was rarely omitted. Prayers that 
partake of the nature of charms, have always been 

The White PcUernoster. 2 1 1 

popular, and people have ever indulged in odd, little 
roundabout devices to increase the efficacy of even 
the most sacred words. Boccaccio, for instance, 
speaks of " the Paternoster of San Giuliano," which 
seems to have been a Paternoster said for the repose 
of the souls of the father and mother of St Julian, in 
gratitude for which attention, the Saint was bound to 
give a good night's lodging. It remains to be asked, 
why the White Paternoster is called white? In the 
actual state of our knowledge, the reason is not 
apparent ; but possibly the term is to be taken 
simply in an apologetic sense, as when applied to a 
stated form of dealing with the supernatural. White 
charms had a recognised place in popular extra-belief. 
It was sweet to be able to compel the invisible powers 
to do what you would, and yet to feel secure from 
uncomfortable consequences. Of course, in such a 
case, the thing willed must be of an innocent nature. 
The Breton who begs vengeance of St Yves, knows 
tolerably well that what he is doing is very black 
indeed, even though the saint were ten times a saint 
Topsy-turvy as may be his moral perceptions, he 
would not call this procedure a "white charm." He 
has, however, white charms of his own, one of whieh 
was described with great spirit by Auguste Brizeux, 
the Breton poet who wove many of the wild supersti- 
tions of his country into picturesque verse. Brizeux* 
poems are not very well known either in France or out 
of it, but they should be dear to students of folk-lor«« 
The following is a version of ** La Poussi^re Sainte : '• 

Sweeping an ancient chapel through the night 
(A ruin now), built *neath a rocky height. 
The aged Coulm*8 old wife was muttering, 
As if some secret strange abroad to fling. 

7 1 2 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

** I brave, thee tempest, and will do alone 
What by my grand-dame in her youth was done, 
When at her beck (of Leon's land, the prideX 
The ocean, lion-headed, curbed its tide. 

** Sweep, sweep, my broom, until my charm uproars 
A force more strong than sighs, more strong than tears : 
Charm loved of heaven, which forces wind and wave. 
Though fierce and mad, our children's lives to save. 

** My angel knows, a Qiristian true am I.; 
No Pagan, nor in league with sorcery. 
Hence I dispense to the four winds of God, 
To quell their rage, dust from the holy sod. 

" Sweep on my broom ; by virtues such as these 
Oft through the air I scattered swarms of bees. 
And you, old Coulm, to-morrow shall be prest. 
You, and my children three, against my breast." 

In Enn-Teirs port meanwhile, the pier along 

Pressed forward, mute, dismayed, the anxious throng. 

And as the billows howl, the lightnings dash, 

And skies, lead-black, to earth seem like to dash : 

Neighbours clasped hand to hand, and each one piayed, 

Through superstition, speechless, while afraid. 

Still as the port a sail did safely reach. 

All shouting hurried forward to the beach : 

" Father, is't you ? Speak, father is it true ? " 

Others, " Hast seen my son ? " " My brother, you ?*' 

*' Brave man, the truth, whatever has happened, say, 

Am 1 a widow ? *' Night in such dismay 

Dragged *neath a sky without a moon or star. 

Thank God ! Meanwhile all boats in safety are. 

And every hearth is blazing— all save one. 

The Columban's. But that was void and lone. 

But you, Coulm's wife, still battle with the storm, 

Fixed on the rocks, your task you still perform,— 

You cast, towards east, towards west, and towards the north, 

And*towards the south, your incantation^ forth. 

Tlu While Paternoster. 2 1 3 

** Go, holy dust, 'gainst all the winds that fly. 
No sorceress, but a Christian true am I. 
By the lamp's light, when I the Are had lit, 
In God's own house, my hands collected it. 

'* You from the statues of the saints I swept, 
And silken flags, still on the pillars kept. 
And the dark tombs, of those whose sons neglecti 
But you, with your white winding-sheet protect 

*' Go, holy dust ! To stem the winds depart I 
Bom beneath Christian feet, thou glorious art : 
When from the porch, I to the altar sped, 
I seemed upon som€ heavenly path to tread. 

'' On you the deacons and the priests have trod, 
Pilgrims who live, forefathers 'neath the sod ; 
Wood flowers, sweet grains of incense, saintly bones ; 
By dawn you will restore my spouse and sons.** 

She ceased her charm ; and from the chapel then 

She saw approach four bare-foot flshermen* 

The aged dame in tears fell on her knees 

And criedi ** I knew they would escape the ^eas \ " 

Then cleansing sand and sea**weed o'er them spreadi 

With haj^y lips she kissed each cherished head. 


!•— Lord Ronald in Italy. 

Several causes have combined to give the profes- 
sional minstrel a more tenacious hold on life in Italy , 
than in France or Germany or England. One. of 
them is, that Italian culture has always been less- 
dependent on education — or what the English poor 
call •* book -learning" — than the culture of those 

To this day you may count upon finding a blind 
ballad-singer in every Italian city. The connection of 
blindness with popular songs is a noteworthy thing. 
It is not, perhaps, a great exaggeration to say that, 
had there been no blind folks in the worlds there 
would have been few ballads. Who knows, indeed, 
but that Homer would not have earned his bread by 
bread-making instead of by enchanting the children 
and wise men of all after-ages, had he not been " one 
who followed a guide " ? Every one remembers how 
it was the singing of a ''blinde crowder, with no 
rougher voice than rude style," that moved the heroic 
heart of Sidney more than the blare of trumpets. 
Every one may not know that in the East of Europe 
and in Armenia, " blinde crowders " still wander from 
village to village, carrying, wheresoever they go, the 


The Diffusion of Ballads. 2 1 5 

songs of a former day and the news of the latest 
hour ; acting, after a fashion, as professors of history 
and " special correspondents/' and keeping alive the 
sentiment of nationality under circumstances in which, 
except for their agency, it must almost without a 
doubt have expired.' 

When the Austrians occupied Trebinje in the 
Herzegovina, they forbade the playing of the " guzla," 
the little stringed instrument which accompanies the 
ballads ; but the ballads will not be forgotten. Pro- 
scription does not kill a song. What kills it some- 
times, if it have a political sense, is the fulfilment of 
the hopes it expresses ; then it may die a natural 
death. I hunted all over Naples for some one who 
could sing a song which every Neapolitan, man and 
boy, hummed through the year when the Redshirts 
brought freedom : Camicia rossa, camicia ardcnte. It 
seemed that there was not one who still knew it. 
Just as I was on the point of giving up the search, a 
blind man was produced out of a tavern at Posilippo; 
a poor creature in threadbare clothes, holding a 
wretched violin. He sang the words with spirit and 
pathos; he is old, however, and perhaps the know- 
ledge of them will not survive him. 

Our present business is not with songs of a national 
or local interest, but with those which can hardly be 
said to belong to any country in particular. And, 
first of all, we have to go back to a ixx\A\Xi Camillo^ 
detto it Bianchino deco fionntifio^ who sang ballads at 
Verona in the year 1629, and who had printed for 
the greater diffusion of his fame a sort of rhymed 
advertisement containing the first few lines of some 

3 1 6 Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. 

twenty songs that belonged to his repertory. Last 
bi)t one of these samples stands the following : 

^ Dov* andastd JerserSi 
Figlioul mio riccoi savio e gentii ; 
Dov' andastil jersera ? ** 

!' When I come to look at it/' adds Camillo, ''this is 
too long; it ought to have been the first to be sung^ 
— alludingi^of course, to the song, not to the sample. 
Later in the same century, the ballad mentioned 
above had the honour of being cited before a more 
polite audience than that which was probably in the 
habit of listening to the blind Florentine. On the 
24th of September 1656, Canon Lorenzo Panciatichi 
reminded his fellow-academicians of the Crusca of 
what he called '' a fine observation '* that had been 
made regarding the song : 

*' Dov' andastd a cena figUoul mio 
Ricco, savio, e gentile ? 

The observation (continued the Canon) turned on the 
answer the son makes to the mother when she asks 
him what his sweetheart gave him for supper. " She 
gave me," says the son, ** un' anguilla arrosto cotta nel 
pentolin delt olio'' The idea of a roasted eel cooked 
in an oil pipkin offended the academical sense of the 
fitness of things ; it had therefore been proposed to 
say instead that the eel was hashed : 

^ Madonna Madre, 
II cuore std male, 
Per un anguilla in guazzetto." 

Had we nothing to guide us beyond these fragments, 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 2 1 7 

there could be no question but that in this Italian 
ballad we might safely recognise one of the most 
spirited pieces in the whole range of popular literature 
—the song of Lord Ronald, otherwise Rowlande, or 
Randal, or " Billy, my son : ** 

" O where hac ye been, Lord Ronald, my son ? 
O where hae ye been, my handsome young man ?" 
** 1 hae been to the wood ; mother, make my bed soon, 
For Tm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down/' 

'' Where gat ye your dinner, Lord Ronald, my son ? 
Where gat ye your dinner, my handsome young man ?" 
'* I dined wi' my love ; mother, make my bed soon, 
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down.*' 

" What gat ye to dinner, Lord Ronald, my son ? 
What gat ye to dinner, my handsome young man ? " 
*' 1 gat eels boil'd in broo ; mother, make my bed soon, 
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down." 

*' And where are your bloodhounds, Lord Ronald, my son ? 
And where ard your bloodhounds, my handsome young man ? " 
" O they sweird and they died ; mother, make my bed soon. 
For I'm weary wi' hunting, and fain would lie down/' 

"01 fear ye are poison'd, Lord Ronald, my son 1 
O I fear ye are poison*d, my handsome young man ! " 
** O yes, I am poison'd I mother, make my bed soon, 
For I'm sick at the hea.rt, and I fain would lie down." 

This version, which I quote from Mr AUingham's 
Ballad Book (1864), ends here ; so does that given by 
Sir Walter Scott in the Border Miftstrelsy. There is, 
however, another version which goes on : 

"What will ye leave to your father, Lord Ronald, my son ? 
What will ye leave to your father, my handsome young man ? ^ 
** Baith my houses and land ; mither, mak' my bed sune 
For I'm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie doun." 


2 1 8 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

^ What will ye leave to your britheri Lord Ronald» my son ? 
What will ye leave to your brither» my handsome young man? * * 
^ My horse and my saddle ; mither, male* my bed sune, 
For Fm sick at the heart, and I fain wad lie doun.** 

** What will ye leave to your sister, Lord Ronald, my son ? 
What will ye leave to your sister, my handsome young man ? !* 
^ Baith my gold box and rings ; mither, mak* my bed suncr 
For I'm sick at the heart| and I fain wad lie doun " 

*^ What will ye leave to your true love, Lord Ronald, my son? 
What will ye leave to your true love, my handsome young man?" 
'' The tow and the halter, for to hang on yon tree, 
And let her hang there for the poisoning o^ me." 

Lord Ronald has already been met with, though 
sonnewhat disguised, both in Germany and in Sweden, 
but his appearance two hundred and fifty years ago 
at Verona has a peculiar interest attached to it That 
England shares most of her songs with the Northern 
nations is a fact familiar to all ; but, unless I am mis- 
taken, this is almost the first time of discovering a 
purely popular British ballad in an Italian dress. 

It so happens that to the fragments quoted by 
Camillo and the Canon can be added the complete 
story as sung at the present date in Tuscany, Venetia, 
and Lombardy. Professor d'Ancona has taken pains 
to collate the slightly different texts, because few 
Italian folk-songs now extant can be traced even as 
far back as the seventeenth century. The learned 
Professor, whose great antiquarian services are well 
known, docs not seem to be aware that the song has 
currency out of Italy. The best version is one set 
down from word of mouth in the district of Como, 
and of this I subjoin a literal rendering : 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 219. 

" Where were you yester eve ? 
My son, beloved, blooming, and gentle bredy 

Where were you yester eve ? " 

** I with my love abode ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

I with my love abode ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die.** 

" What supper gave she you ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred, 

What supper gave she you ? *• 

" 1 supped on roasted eel ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

I supped on roasted eel ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die." 

" And did you eat it all ? 
My son, beloved, blooming, and gentle bred| 

And did you eat it all ? " 

" Only the half I eat ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

Only the half I eat ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die." 

" Where went the other half? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bredi 

Where went the other half ?" 

^ I gave it to the dog ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

I gave it to the dog ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die?*^ 

'* What did you with the dog ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle lired, 

What did you with the dog ?" 

^ It died upon the-way ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

It died upon the way ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die" 

220 Essays in the Study of Folk Songs. 

^ Poisoned it must have been ! 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred, 

Poisoned it must have been 1" 

** Quick for the doctor send ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

Quick for send ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die. 

" Wherefore the doctor- call ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred, 
Wherefore the doctor call ?" 
' •* That he may visit me ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

That he may visit me ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die." 
• . . . 

" Quick for the parson send ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick ; 

' Quick for the parson send ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die." 

'• Wherefore the parson call ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred, 
^ Wherefore the parson call ? " 
" So that I may confess ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

So that I may confess ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die.** 
* * • t • 

"Send for the notary; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

Send for the notary; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die.** 

"Why call the notary? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred. 

Why call the notary?" 

" To make my testament ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

To make my testament ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die.** 

754^ Diffusion of Ballads. 2 2 1 

" What to your mother leave ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred. 

What to your mother leave ? ** 

** To her my palace goes j 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

To her my palace goes ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die." 

•* What to your brothers leave ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred, 

What to your brothers leave ? " 

** To them the coach and team ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

To them the coach and team ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die." 

" What to your sisters leave ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred. 

What to your sisters leave ? " 

" A dower to marry them ; 
lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

A dower to marry them ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die.'' 


" What to your servants lesive ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred. 

What to your servants leave ?" 

" The road to go to Mass ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

The road to go to Mass ; 
AlaS| alas, that I should have to die." 

" What leave you to your tomb ? 
My son beloved, blooming, and gentle bred, 

What leave you to your tomb ?" 

" Masses seven score and ten ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

Masses seven score and ten j 
AlaSi alaSi that I should have to die,'' 

323 Essays in the Study of Fplk-Sangs. 

^ What leave you to your love ? 
My ton beloved, blooming, and gentle bred, 

What leave you to your love ? " 

" The tree to hang her on ; 
O lady mother, my heart is very sick : 

The tree to hang her on ; 
Alas, alas, that I should have to die.** 

At first sight it would seem that the supreme dra* 
matic element of the English song — the circumstance 
that the mother does not know, but only suspects, 
with increasing conviction, the presence of foul play 
— is weakened in the Lombard ballad by the refrain, 
" Alas, alas, that I should have to die/* But a little 
more reflection will show that this is essentially of 
the nature of an aside. In many instances the office 
of the burden in old ballads resembles that of the 
chorus in a Greek play : it is designed to suggest to 
the audience a clue to the events enacting which is 
not possessed by the dramatis persona — at least not 
by all of them. 

In the northern songs, Lord Ronald i$ a murdered 
child : a character in which he likewise figures in the 
Scotch lay of "The Croodlin Doo." This is the 
Swedish variant : 

'' Where hast thou been so long, my little daughter ?'' 
" I have been to Boenne to see my brother ; 

Alas 1 how 1 suffer." 

" What gave they thee to eat, my little daughter ? ^ 
" Roast eel and pepper, my step-mother. . 

Alas! how I suffer." 

^ What didst thou do with the bones, my little daughter ?" 
^ I threw them to the dogs, my step-mother. 

Alas ! how I suffer/' 

^ What happened to the dogs, my little daughter ? " 
'" Their bodies went to pieces, my step-mother. 

Alas ! how I suffer.'' 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 223 

<* What dost thou wish for thy father, my little daughter ? " 
'' Good grain in the grange, my step*mother. 

Alas ! how I suffer." 

** What dost thou wish for thy brother, my little daughter ?'* 
" A big ship to sail in, my step-mother. 

Alas I how I suffer.** 

<' What dost thou wish for thy sister, my little daughter ? " 
" Coffers and caskets of gold, my step-mother. 

Alas ! how I suffer." 

" What dost thou wish for thy step-.mother, my little daughter ? * 
" The chains of hell, step-mother. 

Alas ! how I suffer." 

" What dost thou wish for thy nurse, my little daughter ? " 
" The same hell, my nurse. 

Alas I how I suffer," 

A point connected with the diflfusion of ballads is 
the extraordinarily wide adoption of certain conven- 
tional forms. One of these is the form of testamentary 
instructions by means of which the plot of a song is 
worked up to its climax. It reappears in the ** Cruel 
Brother" — which, I suppose, is altogether to be re- 
garded as of the Roland type : 

'* O what would ye leave to your father, dear ? " 

With a heigh-ho / and a lily gay, 
'' The milk-white steed that brought me herti" 
^ As the primrose spreads so sweetly. 

" What would ye give to your mother, dear ? " 

IVith a heigh-ho ! and a lily gay, 
** My wedding shift which I do wear," 
; As the primrose spreads so sweetly, 

\ ^ But she must wash it very clean," 

With a hiigh'ho / and a lily gay^ 
\ ^ For my heart's blood sticks in every seam," 

« As the primrosi spreads so iwaUy. 

a«4 Assays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

** What would ye give to your sister Anne ? * 

tyM a h€igh-ho i and a lily gay. 
** My gay gold ring and my feathered fan,** 

As thepHmrosi spreads so sweetly. 

*' What would ye give to your brother John ? " 

With a heigh-ho / and a lily gay. 
** A rope and a gallows to hang him on ! ** 

As the primrose spreads so sweetly. 

**What would ye give to your brother John's wife?*' 

With a heigh'ho / aftd a lily gay, 
'^ Grief and sorrow to end her life ! " 

As the pritnrose spreads so sweetly* 

•* What would ye give to your own true lover ? " 

With a heigh-ho ! and a lily gay, 
" My dying kiss, and my love for ever ! " 

As the primrose spreads so sweetly* 

The Portuguese ballad of " Helena/* which has not 
much in common with " Lord Roland '* — except that 
it is a story of treachery — is brought Into relation 
with it by its bequests. Helena is a blameless wife 
whom a cruel mother-in-law first encourages to pay a 
visit to her parents, and then represents to her hus- 
band as having run away from him in his absence. 
No sooner has he returned from his journey than he 
rides irate after his wife. When he arrives he is met 
by the news that a son is born to him, but unappeased 
he orders the young mother to rise from her bed and 
follow him. She obeys, saying that in a well-ordered 
marriage it is the husband who commands; only, 
before she goes, she kisses her son and bids her 
mother tell him of these kisses when he grows up. 
Then her husband takes her to a high mountain, 
where the agony of death comes upon her. The 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 225 

husband asks : *' To whom leavest thou thy jewels ? " 

She answers : " To my sister ; If thou wilt permit it." 

" To whom leavest thou thy cross and the stones of 

thy necklace ? " " The cross I leave to my mother ; 

surely she will pray for me ; she will not care to 

have the stones, thou canst keep them— if to another 

thou givest them, better than I, let her adorn herself 

with them." ** Thy substance, to whom leavest thou ?" 

*To thee, my husband; God grant it may profit 

thee." " To whom leavest thou thy son, that he may 

be well brought up ? " " To thy mother, and may it 

please God that he should make himself loved of 

her." «* Not to that dog," cries the husband, his eyes 

at last opened, ^ she might well kill him. Leave him 

rather to thy mother, who will bring him up well ; 

she will know how to wash him with her tears, and 

she will take the coif from her head to swaddle him." 

A strange, wild Roumanian song, translated by Mr 

C F. Keary {Nineteenth Century, No. IxviiL), closes 

with a list of " gifts " of the same character : 

'' But mother, oh mother, say how 
Shall I speak, and what name call him now?" 
'' My beloved, my step-son. 
My heart's love, my cherished one.'' 
'* And her, O my mother, what word 
Shall I give her, what name ? " 
'^ My step-daughter, abhorred, 
The whole world's shame." 
'' Then, my mother, what shall I take him ? 
What gift shall I make him?" 
/* A handkerchief fine, little daughter. 
Bread of white wheat for thy loved one to eat, 
And a glass of wine, my daughter." 
" And what shall I take A/r, little mother. 

326 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

What gift shall I make il^f'' 

^ A kerchief of thorns, little daughter ; 

A loaf of black bread for her whom he wed. 

And a cup of poison, my daugher," 

Before parting with ^' Lord Ronald " it should be 
noticed that the song clearly travelled in song-shape, 
not simply as a popular tradition ; and that its 
different adaptators have been still more faithful to 
the shape than to the substance. It is not so easy to 
decide whether the victim was originally a child or a 
lover, whether the north or the south has preserved 
the more correct version. Some crime of the middle 
ages may have been the foundation of the ballad ; on 
the other hand it is conceivable that it formed part of 
the enormous accumulation of literary odds and ends 
brought to Europe from the east, by pilgrims and 
crusaders. Stories that, as we know them, seem dis- 
tinctly mediaeval, such as Boccaccio's ** Falcon,*' have 
been traced to India. If a collection were made of 
the ballads now sung by no more widely extended 
class than the three thousand ballad singers inscribed 
in the last census of the North-Westem Provinces and 
Oude, what a priceless boon would not be conferred 
upon the student of comparative folk-lore 1 We can- 
not arrive at a certainty even in regard to the minor 
question of whether Lord Ronald made his appear- 
ance first in England or in Italy. The English and 
Italian songs bear a closer affinity to each other than 
is possessed by either towards the Swedish variant. 
Supposing the one to be directly derived from the 
other — a supposition which in this case does not 
seem improbable — the Italian was most likely the 
original. There was a steady migration into England 

j The Diffiistofi of Ballads. 227 

f of Italian literature, literate and probably also ilti- 

^ terate, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, 

The English ballad-singers may have been as much 
! on the look-out for a new, orally communicated song 

from foreign parts, as Chaucer was for a poem of 

Petrarch's or a tale of Boccaccio's. 

II.— The Theft of a Shroud. 

The ballad with which we have now to deal has 
had probably as wide a currency as that of •'Lord 
Ronald." The student of folk-lore recognises at once, 
in its evident ' fitness for local adaptation, its simple 
yet terrifying motive, and the logical march of its 
events, the elements that give a popular song a free 
pass among the peoples. 

M. AUfcgre took down from word of mouth and 
communicated to the late Damase Arbaud a Pro- 
venfa! version, which runs as follows : 

. His scarlet cape the Prior donned, ^ 

i' Ding dong, dong ding dong { 

I His scarlet cape the Prior donned, 

^ And all the souls in Paradise 

With joy and triumph RU the skies. 

His sable cape the Prior donned, 
^ Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

His sable cape the Prior donned. 
And all the spirits of the dead 
Fast tears within the graveyard shed. 

Now, Ringer, to the belfry speed, 
} Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Now, Ringer, to the belfry speed. 

Ring loud, to-night thy ringing tolls 
An office for the dead men's souls. 

228 Essays in tfie Study of FolhSongs. 

Ring loud the bell of good St John : 
Ding dong, dong ding dong t 

Ring loud the bell of good St John : 

Pray all, for the poor dead ; aye pray, 
Kind folks, for spirits passed away. 

Soon as the midnight hour strikes, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong { 

Soon as the midnight hour strikes, 

The pale moon sheds around her light, 
And all the graveyard waxeth white. 

What seest thou, Ringer, in the close ? 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 
What seest thou, Ringer, in the clese ? 

'' 1 see the dead men wake and sit 

Each one by his deserted pit/* 

Full thousands seven and hundreds five, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Full thousands seven and hundreds live, 
Each on his grave's edge, yawning wide. 
His dead man's wrappings lays aside. 

Then leave they their white winding-sheets, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Then leave they their white winding-sheets, 
And walk, accomplishing their doom, 
In sad procession from the tomb. 

Full one thousand and hundreds five, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Full one thousand and hundreds five, 
And each one falls upon his knees 
Soon as the holy cross he sees. 

Full one thousand and hundreds five, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Full one thousand and hundreds five 
Arrest their footsteps, weeping sore * 
When they have reached their children** door. 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 229 

Full one thousand and hundreds five, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Full one thousand and hundreds five 
Turn them aside and, listening, stay 
Whene'er they hear some kind soul pray. 

Full one thousand and hundreds five, 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! ^ 

Full one thousand and hundreds five. 
Who stand apart and groan bereft, 
Seeing for them no friends are left 

But soon as ever the white cock stirs. 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 
But soon as ever the wl\|lte cock stirs, 

They take again their cerements white, 

And in their hands a torch alight. 

But soon as ever the red cock crows, 

Ding dong, dong ding dong 1 
But soon as ever the red cock crows. 

All sing the Holy Passion song. 

And in procession march along. 

But soon as the gilded cock doth shine, 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 
But soon as the gilded cock doth shine. 

Their hands and their two arms they cross, 

And each descends into his foss, 

Tis now the dead men's second night, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Tis now the dead men's second night : 
Peter, go up to ring ; nor dread 
If thou shouldst chance to see the dead. 

'* The dead, the dead, they fright me not,'' 
Ding dong, dong ding dong t 

''The dead, the dead, they fright me not, 

—Yet prayers are due for the dead, I ween^ 
And due respect should they be seen.** 

230 Essays in the Study of Folk^Sangs. 

Whea next the midnight hour strikes. 
Ding dongi dong ding dong ! 

When next the midnight hour strikesi 

The graves gape wide and ghastly show 
The dead who issue from below. ' 

Three diverse ways they pass along. 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Three diverse ways they pass along. 

Nought seen but wan white skeletons 
Weeping, nought heard but sighs and moans. 

Down from the belfry Peter came, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Down from the belfry Peter came, 

While still the bell of good St John 
Gave forth its sound : barin, baron. 

He carried off a dead man's shroud, 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 
He carried off a dead n\an*s shroud ; 

At once it seemed no longer night, 

The holy close was all alight. 

The holy Cross ihat midmost stands. 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

The holy Cross that midmost stands 

Grew red as though with blood 'twas dyed, 
And all the altars loudly sighed. 

Now, when the dead regained the close. 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

Now, when the dead regained the close 
— The Holy Passion sung again*— 
They passed along in solemn train. 

Then he who found his cerements gone. 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 
Then he who found his cerements gone. 

From out the graveyard gazed and signed 
«. His winding-sheet should be resigned. 

The Diffusion of Ballads. , 231 

But Peter every entrance closed, . 
Ding dongy dong ding dong I 

But Peter every entrance closed 

With locks and bolts, approach defies. 
Then looks at him— but keeps the prize ! 

He with his arm, and with his hand. 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 
He with his arm, and with his hand, 

Made signs in vain, two times or three, 

And then the belfry entered he. 

A noise is mounting up the stair, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong I 

A noise is mounting up the stair. 

The bolts are shattered, and the door 
Is burst and dashed upon the floor; 

The Ringer trembled with dismay. 

Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 
The Ringer trembled with dismay, 

And still the bell of good St John 

For ever swung : barin, baron. 

At the first stroke of Angelus, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong ! 

At the first stroke of Angelus 

The skeleton broke all his bones. 
Falling to earth upon the stones. 

Peter upon his bed was laid, 
Ding dong, dong ding dong I 

Peter upon his bed was laid. 

Confessed his sin, repenting sore. 
Lingered three days, then lived no more. 

It will be seen that, in this ballad, which is locally 
called " Lou Jour des Mouerts,*' the officiating priest 
assumes red vestments in the morning, and changes 
them in the course of the day for black. The vest- 
ments appropriate to the evening of All Saints* Day 

332 Assays in the Study of Folk- Songs. 

are still black (it being the Vigil of All Souls*), but in 
the morning the colour worn is white or gold. An 
explanation, however, is at hand. The feast of All 
Saints had its beginning in the dedication of the 
Roman Pantheon by Boniface IV., in the year 607, 
to S. Maria ad Martyres^ and red ornaments were 
naturally chosen for a day set apart especially to the 
commemoration of martyrdom. These were only 
discarded when the feast came to have a more general 
character, and there is evidence of their retention here 
and there in French churches till a date as advanced 
as the fifteenth century. Thus, wc gain incidentally 
some notion of the age of the song. 

Not long after giving a first reading to the Pro- 
vencal ballad of the Shroud-theft, I became convinced 
of its substantial identity with a poem whose author 
holds quite another rank to that of the nameless folk- 
poet. Goethe's " Todten .Tanz " tends less to edifi- 
cation than "Lou jour des Mouerts;" nor has it, I 
venture to think, an equal power. We miss the 
pathetic picture of the companies of sad ghosts ; 
these kneeling before the wayside crosses; these 
lingering by their children's thresholds ; these listen- 
ing to the prayers of the pious on their behalf; these 
others weeping, en vesetii que n^ant plus damics. But 
the divergence of treatment cannot hide the fact that 
the two ballads are made out of one tale. 

The Dance of Death. 

The watcher looks down in the dead of the night 

On graves in trim order gleaming ; 
The moon steeps the world all around in her light— 

Tis clear as if noon were beaming. 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 233 

One grave gaped apart, then another began ; 
Here forth steps a woman, and there steps, a mani 
White winding-sheets trailing behind them. 

On sport they determine, nor pause they for long, 

All feel for the measure advancing ; 
The rich and the poor, the old and the young ; 

But winding-sheets hinder the dancing. 
Since sense of decorum no longer impedes, 
They hasten to shake themselves free of their weeds, 

And tombstones are quickly beshrouded. 

Then legs kick about and are lifted in air, 

Strange gesture and antic repeating ; 
The bones crack and rattle, and crash liere and there, 

As if to keep time they were beating. 
The sight fills the watcher with mirth 'stead of fear, 
And the sly one, the Tempter, speaks low in his ear : 

" Now go and a winding-sheet plunder ! '' 

The hint he soon followed, the deed it was done. 
Then behind the church-door he sought shelter ; 

The moon in her splendour unceasingly shone, 
And still dance the dead helter-skelter. 

At last, one by one, they all cease from the play, 

And, wrapt in the winding-sheets, hasten away. 
Beneath the turf silently sinking. 

One only still staggers and stumbles along. 

The grave edges groping and feeling ; 
^is no brother ghost who has done him the wrong ; 

Now his scent shows the place of concealing. 
The church-door he shakes, but his strength is represt ; 
'Tis well for the watcher the portals are blest 

By crosses resplendent protected. 

His shirt he must have, upon this he is bent, 

No time has he now for reflection ; 
Each sculpture of Gothic some holding has lent. 

He scales and he climbs each projection. 
Dread vengeance overtakes him, *tis up with the spy! 
From arch unto arch draws the skeleton nigh. 

Like lengthy-legged horrible spider. 

234 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

The watcher turns pale, and he trembles full soret 

The shroud to return he beseeches ; 
But a claw (jx is done, he is living no more), 

A daw to the shroud barely reaches. 
The moonlight grows faint; it strikes one by the clock; 
A thunderclap burst with a terrible shock ; 

To earth falls the skeleton shattered. 

It needed but small penetration to guess that Goethe 
had neither seen nor heard of the Provencal song. It 
seemed, therefore, certain that a version of the Shroud- 
theft must exist in Germany, or near it — an inference 
I found to be correct on consulting that excellent 
work, Goethe's Gedichte erlautert von Heinrich Vielioff 
(Stuttgart, 1870). So far as the title and the incident 
of the dancing are concerned, Goethe apparently had 
recourse to a popular story given in Appel's Book of 
Spectres^ where it is related how, when the guards of 
the tower looked out at midnight, they saw Master 
Willibert rise from his grave in the moonshine, seat 
himself on a high tombstone, and begin to perform 
on his pocket pipe. Then several other tombs opened, 
and the dead came forth and danced cheerily over 
the mounds of the graves. The white shrouds flut- 
tered round their dried-up limbs, and their bones 
clattered and shook till the clock struck one, when 
each returned into his narrow house, and the piper 
put his pipe under his arm and followed their example 
The part of the ballad which has to do directly with 
the Shroud-theft is based upon oral traditions col- 
lected by the poet during his sojourn at Teplitz, in 
Bohemia, in the summer of 1813. Viehoff has ascer- 
tained that there are also traces of the legend in 
Silesia, Moravia, and Tyrol. In these countries the 

Tlu Diffusion of Ballads. 235 

story would seem to be oftenest told In prose ; but 
ViehoflT prints a rhymed rendering of the variant 
localised in TjrroU where the events are supposed to 
have occurred at the village of Burgeis : 

The twelve night strokes have ceased to sound| 
The watchman of Burgeis looks around, 

The country all in moonlight sleeps; 
Standing the belfry tower beneath 
The tombstones, with their wreaths of death, 

The wan moon's ghastly pallor steeps. 

'* Does the young mother in child-birth dead 
Rise in her shroud from her lonely bed, 

For the sake of the child she has left behind ? 
To mock them (they say) makes the dead ones grieve^ 
Let's see if I cannot her work relieve. 

Or she no end to her toil may find." 

So spake he, when something, with movement slow, 
Stirs in the deep*dug grave below, 

And in its trailing shroud comes out ; 
And the little garments that infants have 
It hangs and stretches on gate and grave, 

On rail and trellis, the yard about. 

The rest of the buried in sleep repose. 
That nothing of waking or trouble knows, 

For the woman the sleep of the grave is killed ; 
Her leaden sleep, each midnight hour, 
Flees, and her limbs regain their power, . 

And she hastes as to tend her new-bom child. 

All with rash spite the watchman views, 
And with cruel laughter the form pursues, * 

As he leans from the belfre/s narrow height, 
And in sinful scorn on the tower rails 
Linen and sheets and bands he trails, 

Mocking her acts in the moon's wan light 

236 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Loa with twift steps, foreboding doom, 

From the churchyard's edge o'er grave and tomb 

The ghost to the tower wends its ways ; 
And climbs and glides, ne'er fearing (all, 
Up by the ledges, the lofty wall, 

Fixing the sinner with fearful gaze. 

The watcher grows pale, and with hasty hand, 
Tears from the tower the shrouds and bands ; 

Vainly ! That threatening grin draws nigh ! 
With a trembling hand he tolls the hour, 
And the skeleton down from the belfry-tower, 

Shattered and crumbling, falls from high. 

This story overlaps the great cycle of popular 
belief which treats of the help given by a dead 
mother to her bereaved child. They say in Ger- 
many, when the sheets are ruffled in the bed of a 
motherless infant, that the mother has lain beside it 
and suckled it. Kindred superstitions stretch through 
the world. The sin of the Burgeis watchman is that 
of heartless malice, but it stops short of actual robbery* 
which is perhaps the reason why he escapes with his 
life, having the presence of mind to toll forth the first 
hour of day, when — 

Whether in sea or fire, in earth or air, 
The extravagant and erring spirit hies 
To his conBne. 

The prose legends which bear upon one or another 
point in the Shroud-theft, are both numerous and 
important. Joseph Mac6, a cabin-boy of Saint Cast» 
in Upper Brittany, related the following to the able 
collector of Breton folk-lore, M. Paul Sfebillot There 
was a young man who went to see a young girl ; his 
parents begged him not to go again to her, but he 
replied : " Mind your own business and leave me to 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 237 

mind mine." One evening he invited two or three of 
his comrades to accompany him, and as they passed 
by a stile they saw a woman standing there, dressed 
all in white. " Til take off her coif," said the youth. 
" No," said the others, " let her alone." But he went 
straight up to her and carried off her coif— there only 
remained the little skullcap underneath, but he did 
not see her face. He went with the others to his 
sweetheart, and showed her the coif. "Ah I " said 
he, " as I came here I met a woman all in white, and 
I carried off her coif." " Give me the coif," replied 
his sweetheart ; " I will put it away in my wardrobe." 
Next evening he started again to see the girl, and on 
reaching the stile he saw a woman in white like the 
one of the day before, but this one had no head. 
"Dear me," he said to himself, "it is the same as 
' yesterday ; still I did not think I had pulled off her 
head." When he went in to his sweetheart, she said, 
" I wore to-day the coif you gave me ; you can't think 
how nice I look in it ! ." " Give it back to me, I beg 
of you," said the young man. She gave it back, and 
when he got home he told his mother the whole story. 
"Ah, my poor lad," she said, "you have kept sorry 
company. I told you some ill would befall you." He 
went to bed, but in the night his mother heard sighs 
coming from the bed of her son. She woke her good 
man and said, " Listen ; one would say someone was 
moaning." She went to her son's bed and found him 
bathed in sweat. "What is the matter with you?^' 
she asked. " Ah, niy piother, I had a weight of more 
than three hundred pounds on my body ; it stifled me, 
I could bear it no longer."' Next day the youth went 
to confession, and he told all to the curate. '*My 

2 3 K Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

boy/' said the prtesti ** the person you saw was a 
woman who came from the grave to do penance ; it 
was your dead sister." '' What can I do ? " asked the 
young man. ^ You must go and take her back her 
coif, and set it on the neck on the side to which it 
leans." *^ Ah ! sir, I should never dare^ I should die 
of fright i " Still he went that evening to the stile, 
where he saw the woman who was dressed in white 
and had no head ; he set the coif just on the side 
the neck leant to ; all at once a head showed itself 
inside it, and a voice said, "Ah! my brother, you 
hindered me from doing penance ; to-morrow you will 
come and help me to finish it." The young man went 
b&ck to bed, but next day he did not get up when the 
others did, and when they went to his bed he was 

At Saint Suliac a young man saw three young girls 
kneeling in the cemetery. He took the cap off one of 
them, saying that he would not give it back till she 
came to embrace him. Next day, instead of the cap 
he found a death's head. At midnight he carried it 
back, holding in his arms a new-born infant The 
death's head became once more a cap, the woman 
disappeared, and the young man, thanks to the child, 
suffered no harm. 

In a third Breton legend a child commits the theft, 
but without any consciousness of wrong-doing. A 
little girl picked up a small bone in a graveyard and 
took it away to amuse herself with it. In the evening, 
when she returned home, she heard a voice saying : 

Give me back my bone ! 
Give me back my bone ! 

The Dtffiision of Ballads. 2 39 

j " What's that ? " asked the mother. 

I " Perhaps it is because of a bone I picked up in the 

! cemetery." 

1 ••Well, it must be given back." 

I The little girl opened the door and threw the bone ^ 

I into the court, but the voice went on saying : 


i Give me back my bone ! 

J Give me back my bone ! 

I '* Maybe it is the bone of a dead man ; take the 

I candle, go into the court and give it back to him." 

I It is most unfortunate to possess a human bone, 

I even by accident. It establishes unholy relations 

1 between the possessor and the spirit world which 

I render him defenceless spells and enchant- 
ments. A late chaplain to the forces in Mauritius 
told me that the witches, or rather wizards, who have 
it all their own way in that island, contrived, after 
a course of preparatory persecution, to surreptitiously 
introduce into his house the little finger of a child. 

I He could not think what to do with it : at last he 

I consulted a friend, a Catholic priest, who advised him 

I to burn it, which was done. We all know **the 

1 finger of birth-strangled babe" in the witches' caul- 

I dron in Macbeth; but it is somewhat surprising to 

I find a similar '' charm for powerful trouble " in current 

I use in a British colony. 

I A Corsican legend, reported by M. Fr^^ric Ortoli, 

I shbuld have a place here. On the Day of the Dead 

1 a certain man had to go to Sartena to sell chestnuts. 

I ' Overnight he filled his panniers, so as to be ready to 

I * start with the first gleam of daylight The only thing 

I left for him to do was to go and get his horse, which 


340 Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. 

was out at pasture not far from the village. So he 
went to bed, but hardly had he lain down when a 
fearful storm broke over the bouse. Cries and curses 
echoed all round : *' Cursed be thou ! cursed be thy 
wife ! cursed be thy children ! " The wretched man 
grew cold with fear ; he got quite close to his wife, who 
asked : '* Did you put the water outside the window ? " 
•* Sangu di Cristu ! " cried the man, " I fofgot ! " He 
rose at once to put vessels filled with water on the 
balcony. The dead— whose vigil it was — were in fact 
come, and finding no water either to drink or to 
wash and purify their sins in, they had made a fright- 
ful noise and hurled maledictions against hiixi who 
had forgotten their wants. The poor man went to 
bed again, but the storm continued, though the 
cursing and blaspheming had ceased. 

Towards three in the morning the man wished to 
get up. " Stay," said his wife, " do not go." 
" No, go I must" 

" The weather is so bad, the wind so high ; some 
V mischief will come to you." 

\ " Never mind ; keep me no more." 

' And so saying the husband went out to find his 

horse. He had barely reached the cross>vay when by 
the path from Giufari, he saw, marching « towards 
him, the squadra d'Arrozza — the Dead Battalion. 
Each dead man held a taper, and chanted the 

The poor peasant was as if petrified ; his blood 
stood still in his veins, and he could not utter a word. 
Meanwhile the troop surrounded him, and he who 
was at its head offered him the taper he was carrying. 
" Take hold ! " he said, and the poor wretch took it. 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 24 1 

Then the most dreadful groans, and cries were 
heard. " Woe ! woe 1 woe ! Be accursed, be accursed, 
be accursed/* 

The villager soon came to himself, but oh ! horrid 
sight ! in his hand was the arm of a little child. It 
was that, and not a taper, that the dead had given 
him. He tried to get rid of it, but every effort proved 
fruitless. In despair, he went to the priest, and told 
him all about it " Men should never take what 
spirits offer them," said the priest, " it is always a 
snare they set for us ; but now that the mischief is 
done, let us sec how best we can repair it." 

" What must I do ? " 

" For three successive nights the Dead Battalion 
will come under your windows at the same hour as 
when you met it : some will cry, some will sob, others 
will curse you, and ask persistently for the little child's 
arm ; the bells of all the churches will set to tolling 
the funeral knell, but have no fear. At first you 
must riot throw them the arm— only on the third day 
may you get rid of it, and this is how. Get ready a 
lot of hot ashes ; then when the dead come and begin 
to cry and groan, throw them a part. That will 
make them furious ; they will wish to attack your 
house — ^you will let them in, but when all the spectres . 
are inside, suddenly throw at them what is left of 
the hot ashes with the child's arm along with it 
The dead will take it away, and you will be saved." 

Everything happened just as the priest said ; for 
three nights cries, groans, and imprecations surrounded 
the man's house, while the bells tolled the death- 
knell. /It was only by throwing hot ashes on the 
ghosts that he got rid of the child's arm. Not long 

242 Essays m the Study of Folk-Songs. 

after, he died ^ Woe be to him who forgets to give 
drink to the dead/' 

The Dead Battahon,or Confraternity of Ghosts, walk 
abroad dressed aspenitents, with hoods over their heads. 
The solitary night traveller sees them from time to time, 
defiling down the mountain gorges ; they invariably 
try to make him accept some object, not to be recog- 
nised in the dark — but beware, lest you accept ! If 
some important person is about to die, they come out 
to receive his soul into their dread brotherhood. 

Ghost stories are common in Corsica. What wilder 
talc could be desired than that of the girl, betrayed by 
her lover to wed a richer bride, who returns thrice, and 
lies down between man and wife— twice she vanishes 
at cock-croW| the third time she clasps her betrayer in 
her chilly arms, saying, " Thou art mine, O beloved I 
mine thou wilt be forever, we part no more." While 
she speaks he breathes his last breath. 

The dead, when assembled in numbers, and when 
not employed in rehearsing the business or calling of 
their former lives, are usually engaged either in 
dancing or in going through some sort of religious 
exercise. On this point there is a conformity of 
evidence. A spectre's mass is a .very common super- 
stition. On All Soul's Eve an old woman went to 
pray in the now ruined church of St Martin, at Bonn. 
Priests were performing the service, and there was a 
large congregation, but by and by the old woman 
became convinced that she was the only living mortal 
in the church. She wished to get away, but she could 
not ; just as Mass was ending, however, her deceased 
husband whispered to her that now was the time to 
fly for her life. She ran to the door, but she stopped 

The Diffusion of Ballads. 243 

\ for one moment at the spot in the aisle where two of 

\ her children were buried, just to say, "Peace be unto 

\ them." The door swung open and closed after her : 

^ a bit of her cloak was shut in, so that she had to leave 

I it behind. Soon after she sickened and died ; the 

$ neighbours said it must be because a piece of her 

\ clothes had remained in the possession of the dead. 

i The dance of the dead sometimes takes the form 

I not of an amusement but of a doom. One of the 

^ most curious instances of this is embodied in a Rhine- 

I land legend, which has the advantage of giving names, 

\ dates, and full particulars. In the 14th century, 

\ Freiherr von Metternich placed his daughter Ida in a 

convent on the island of Oberworth, in order to 
separate her from her lover, one Gerbert, to whom 
she was secretly betrothed. A year later the maiden 
lay sick in the nunnery, attended by an aged lay 
sister. "AlasT' she said, *•! die unwed though a 
betrothed wife." " Heaven forefend 1 " cried her com- 
panion, " then you would be doomed to dance the 
death-dance." The old sister went on to explain 
I that betrothed maidens who die without having either 

\ married or taken religious vows, are condemned to 

I dance on a grassless spot in the middle of the island, 

! there being but one chance of escape— the coming of 

I a lover, no matter whether the original betrothed or 

\ another, with whom the whole company dances round 

.1 and round till he dies ; then the youngest of the 

I ghosts makes him her own, and may henceforth rest 

I in her grave. The old nun's gossip docs not delay 

\ (possibly it hastens) the hapless Ida's departure, and 

I Gerbert, who hears of her illness on the shores of the 

3 Boden See, arrives at Coblent2 only to have tidings 


344 Essays in tki Study of Folk-Songs. 

of her death. He rows over to Oberwdrth : it is 
midnight in midwinter. Under the moonlight dance 
the unwed brides, veiled and in flowing robes ; Ger- 
bert thinks he sees Ida amongst them. He joins in 
the dance ; fast and furious it becomes, to the sound 
of a wild, unearthly music. At last the clock strikes, 
and the ghosts vanish-r*only one, as it goes, seems to 
stoop and kiss the youth, who sinks to the ground. 
There the gardener finds him on the morrow, and in 
spite of all the care bestowed upon him by the sister- 
hood he dies before sundown. 

In China they are more practical. In the natural 
course of things the spirit of an engaged girl would 
certainly haunt her lover, but there is a way to pre- 
vent it, and that way he takes. He must go to the 
house where she died, step over the coffin containing 
her body, and carry home a pair of her shoes. Then 
he is safe. 

A story may be added which comes from a Dutch 
source. The gravedigger happened to have a fever 
on All Saints* Day. " Is it not unlucky ? " he said to 
a friend who came to see him, *' I am ill, and must go 
to-night in the cold and snow to dig a grave." **0h, 
rU do that for you,'' said the gossip. " That's a little 
service." So it was agreed. The gossip took a spade 
and a pick-axe, and cheered himself with a glass at 
the alehouse ; then, by half-past eleven, the work was 
done. As he was going away from the churchyard 
he saw a procession of white friars — they went round 
the close, each with a taper in his hand. When they 
passed the gossip, they threw down the tapers, and 
the last flung him a big ball of wax with two wicks. 
The gossip laughed quite loudly : all this wax would 

I The Diffusion of Ballads. 245 

f sell for a pretty sum 1 He picked up the tapers and 
1 hid them under his bed. Next day was All Souls'. 

The gossip went to bed betimes, but he could not get 
to sleep, and as twelve struck he heard three knocks. 
He jumped up and opened the door— there stood all 
the white monks, only they had no tapers ! The 
gossip fell back on his bed from fright, and the monks 
marched into the room and stood all round him. 
Then their white robes dropped off, and, only to 
think of it I they were all skeletons I But no skeleton 
was complete ; one lacked an arm, another a leg, 
another a backbone, and one had no head. Some- 
how the cloth in which the gossip had wrapped the 
wax came out from under the bed and fell open ; 
instead of tapers it was full of bones. The skeletons 
now called out for their missing members : " Give me 
my rib," ** Give me my backbone," and so on. The 
gossip gave back all the pieces, and put the skull on 
the right shoulders— it was what he had mistaken 
I for a ball of wax. The moment the owner of the 

I head had got it back he snatched a violin which was 

\ hanging against the wall, and told the gossip to 

I begin to play forthwith, he himself extending his 

I arms in the right position to conduct the music. All 
\ the skeletons danced, making a fearful clatter, and 
I the gossip dared not leave off fiddling till the morning 

-\^ came and the monks put on their clothes and went 
\ away. The gossip and his wife did not say one word 
I of what had happened till their last hour, when they 
j thought it wisest to tell their confessor. 
\ Mr Benjamin Thorpe saw a link between the above 

^ legend, of which he gave a translation in his '* Northern 
I Mythology,*' and the Netherlandish proverb, ".Let no 

946 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

one take a bone from the churchyard : the dead will 
torment him till he return it** Its general analogy 
with our Shroud-theft does not admit of doubt, though 
the proceedings of the expropriator of wax lights are 
more easily accounted for than are those of the Shroud- 
thief. Peter of Provence either stole the winding- 
shctet out of sheer mischief, or he took it to enable 
him to see sights not lawfully visible to mortal ty^s. 
In any case a well- worn shroud could scarcely enrich 
the thief, while the wax used for ecclesiastical candles 
waS| and is still, a distinctly marketable commodity. 
A stranger who goes into a church at Florence in the 
dusk of the evening, when a funeral ceremony is in 
the course of performance, is surprised to see men 
and boys dodging the footsteps of the brethren of the 
Misericordia^ and stooping at every turn to the pave- 
ment ; if he asks what is the object of their peculiar 
antics, he will hear that it is to collect 

The droppings of the wax to sell again. 

The industry is time-honoured in Italy. At Naples 
in the last century, the wax-men flourished exceed- 
ingly by reason of a usage described by Henry Swin- 
burne. Candidates for holy orders who had not 
money enough to pay the fees, were in the habit of 
letting themselves out to attend funerals, so that they 
might be able to lay by the sum needful. But as 
they were often indisposed to fulfil the duties thus 
undertaken, they dressed up the city vagrants in 
their clothes and sent them to pray and sing instead 
of them. These latter made their account out of the 
transaction by having a friend near, who held a paper 
bag» into which tliey made the tapers waste plen- 

Tlie Diffusion of Ballads. 247 

teously. Other devices for improving the trade were 
common at that date in the Neapolitan kingdom. 
Once, when an archbishop was to be buried, and four 
hundred genuine friars were in attendance, suddenly 
a mad bull was let loose amongst them, whereupon 
they dropped their wax lights, and the thieves, who 
'- had laid the plot, picked them up. At another great 
funeral, each assistant was respectfully asked for his 
taper by an individual dressed like a sacristan ; the 
tapers were then extinguished and quietly carried 
away--only a(lei;wards it was discoverd that the 
supposed sacristans belonged to a gang of thieves. 
The Shroud-theft is a product of the peculiar fas- 
i cination exercised by the human skeleton upon the 

I mcdia!val fancy. The part played by the skeleton in 

the early art and early fiction of the Christian aera is 
! one of large importance ; the horrible, the grotesque^ 

\ the pathetic, the humorous — all are grouped round 

the bare remnants of humanity. The skeleton, figur- 
ing as Death, still looks at you from the fagadis of 
the village churches in the north of Italy and the 
Trentino — sometimes alone, sometimes with other 
^; stray members of the Datise Macabre; carrying 

I generally an inscription to this purport : 

\ Giunge la morte piena de egualezai 

Sole ve voglio e non vostra richcza. 
Digna mi son de portar corona, 

i £ che signoresi ogni persona. 

The Dansi Macabre itself is a subject which is well 
• nigh exhaustless. The secret of its immense popu* 

larity can be read in the lines just quoted: it pro* 
\ claimed equality. " Nous mourrons tous,*' said the 

i French preacher— then, catching the eye of the king, 

% , 


348 Mssays in the Study 0/ Folk-Songs. 

he politely substituted **frisqu$ tous.** Now there is 
no **presque** in the Dance of Death. Whether 
painted by Holbein's brush, or by that of any 
humble artist of the Italian valleys, the moral is the 
same : grand lady and milkmaid, monarch and herds- 
man, all have to go. Who shall fathom the grim 
comfort there was in this vivid, this highly intelligible 
showing forth of the indisputable fact? It was a . 
foretaste of the declaration of the rights of man. 
Professor Pellegrini, who has added an instructive 
monograph to the literature of thf Danse Macabrcy 
mentions that on the way to the cemetery of Galliatc 
a wall bears the guiding inscription: ''Via al vero 
comunismo I " 

The old custom of way-side ossuaries contributed 
no doubt towards keeping strongly before the people 
the symbol and image of the great King. I have 
often reflected on the effect, certainly if unconsciously 
felt, of the constant and unveiled presence of the 
dead. I remember once passing one of the still 
standing chapels through the gratings of which may 
be seen neatly ranged rows of human bones, as I was 
descending late one night a mountain in Lombardy. 
The moon fell through the bars upon the village 
ancestors ; one old man went by along the narrow 
way, and said gravely as he went the two words : 
"fe tardi!" It was a scene which always comes 
back to me when I study the literature of thp 


One of the first of living painters has pointed to the 
. old English custom of carrying about flowers on May 
Day as a sign that, in the Middle Ages, artistic 
sensibility and a pleasure in natural beauty were not 
dead among the common people of England. Nothing 
can be truer than this way of judging the observance 
of the Rite of May. Whatever might be the foolish- 
ness that it led to here and there, its origin lay always 
in pure satisfaction at the returned glory of the earth; 
in the wish to establish a link that could be seen and 
felt^ — if only that of holding a green bough or of 
wearing a daffodil crown— between the children of 
men and the new and beautiful growth of nature. 
The sentiment is the same everywhere, but the 
manner of its expression varies. In warmer lands it 
finds a vent long before the coming of May. March, 
in fact, rather than May, seems to have been chosen 
as the typical spring month in ancient Greece and 
Rome ; and when we see the almond*trees blooming 
down towards Ponte MoUe in the earliest week in 
February, even March strikes us as a little late for the 
beginning of the spring festival A few icicles next 
morning on the Trevi, act, however, as a corrective to 
our ideas. In a famous passage Ovid tells the reason 
why the Romans kept holiday on the first of March : 
''The ice being broken up, winter at last yields, and 


a50 Essays in the Study of Folk^Songs. 

the snow melts away, conquered by the sun's gentle 
warmth ; the leaves come back to the trees that were 
stripped by the cold, the sap-AUed bud swells with 
the tender twig, and the fertile grass, that long lay 
unseen, finds hidden passages and uplifts itself in the 
air. Now is the field fruitful, now is the time of the 
birth of cattle, now the bird prepares its house and 
home in the bough." {Fastorum^ lib. iii.) 

March day is still kept in Greece by bands of 
youngsters who go from house to house in the hopes 
of getting little gifts of fruit or cheese. They take 
with them a wooden swallow which they spin round 
to the song : 

The swallow speeds her flight 

O'er the sea-foam white, 
And then a-singing she doth slake her wing. 

** March, March, my delight, 

And February wan and wet, 

For all thy snow and rain thou yet 
Hast a perfume of the spring.** 

Or perhaps to the following variant, given by Mr 
Lewis Sergeant in New Greece : 

She is here, she is here. 

The swallow that brings us the beautiful year ; 

Open wide the door. 

We are children, again, we are old no more. 

These little swallow-songs are worth the attention 
of the Folk- Lore student, since, they are of a greater 
antiquity than can be proved on written evidence in 
the case, so far as I know, of any other folk-song 
' still current. More than two thousand years ago 
they existed in the form quoted from Theognis by 

Sofigs for the Rite of May. 251 

Athenxus as ^'an excellent song sung by the children 
of Rhodes." 

The swallow comes ! She comes, she brings 
Glad days and hours upon her wings. 

See on her back 

Her plumes are black, 

But all below 

As white as snow. 
Then from your well-stored house with haste, 
Bring sweet cakes of dainty taste. 
Bring a flagon full of wine, 
Wheaten meal bring, white and fine ; 
And a platter load with cheese. 
Eggs and porridge add — for these 
Will the swallow not decline. 
Now shall we go, or gifts receive i 
Give, or ne*er your house we le^ve, 
Till we the door or lintel break, 
Or your little wife we take ; 
She so light, small toil will make. 

But whatever ye bring us forth. 
Let the gift be one of worth. 
Ope, ope your door, to greet the swallow then. 
For we are only boys, not bearded men. 

In iEgina the children's prattle runs : ^ March is 
come, sing, ye hills and ye flowers and little birds I 
Say, say, little swallow, where hast thou passed? 
where hast thou halted?*' And in Corfu: "Little 
swallow, my joyous one, joyous my swallow ; thou 
that cornet from the desert, what good things bringest 
thou ? Health, joy, arid red egga" Yet another ver- 
sion of the swallow song deals in scant compliments 
to the month of March, which was welcomed so gladly 
at its first coming : 

252 Essays in ths Study of Folk-Songs. 

From the Black Sea the swallow cometi 

She o'er the waves has sped, 
And she has built herself a nest 

And resting there she said : 
^ Thou February cold and wet. 

And snowy March and drear. 
Soft April heralds its approach, 

And soon it will be here, 
liie little birds begin to sing, 

Trees don their green array, 
Hens in the yard begin to cluck, 

And store of eggs to lay. 
The herds their winter shelter leave 

For mountain-side and top ; 
The goats begin to sport and skip, 

And early buds to crop ; 
Beasts, birds, and men all give themselves 

To joy and merry heart. 
And ice and snow and northern winds 

Are melted and depart 
Foul February, snowy March, 

Fair April will not tarry. 
Hence, February ! March, begone ! 

Away the winter carry ! " 

When they leave off singing, the children cry ^ Pritz! 
Pritz ! " imitating the sound of the rapid flight of a 
bird. Longfellow translated a curious Stork-carol 
sung in spring-time by the Hungarian boys on the 
islands of the Danube : 

Stork ! Stork ! Poor Stork ! 
Why is thy foot so bloody ? 
A Turkish boy hath torn it, 
Hungarian boy will heal it, 
With fiddle, fife, and drum. 

Before the sun was up on May-day morning, the 
people of Edinburgh assembled at Arthur's Seat to 

Songs for the Rite of May. 253 

" meet the dew/' May-dew was thought to possess 
all kinds of virtues. English girls went into the fields 
at dawn to wash their faces in it, in order to procure 
a good complexion. Pepys speaks of his wife going 
to Woolwich for a little change of air, and to gather 
the May-dew. In Croatia, the women get from the 
woods flowers and grasses which they throw into^ 
water taken from under a mill-wheel, and next morn- 
ing they bathe in the water, imagining that thus the 
new strength of Nature enters into them. There is 
said to also exist a singular rain-custom in Croatia* 
When a drought threatens to injure the crops, a young 
girl, generally a gipsy, dresses herself entirely in 
flowers and grasses, in which primitive raiment she 
is conducted through the village by her companions, 
who sing to the skies for mercy. In Greece, too, 
there are many songs and ceremonies in connection 
with a desire for the rain, which never comes during 
the whole pitiless summer. 

If there be a part of the world where spring plays 
the laggard, it is certainly the upper valley of the Inn. 
Nevertheless the children of the Engadine trudge 
forth bravely over the snow, shaking their cow-bells 
and singing lustily : 

Chalanda Mars, chaland'Avrigl 
Lasch^ las vachias our d'nuilg. 

Were the cows to leave their stables as is here en- 
joined, they would not find a blade of grass to eat — 
but that does not matter. The children have pro- 
bably sung that song ever since their forefathers 
came up to the mountains ; came up in all likelihood 
from sunny Tuscany. The Engadine lads, after doing 

254 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

justice to their March-day fare^ set out for the boun- 
daries of their commune, where they are met by 
another band of boys, with whom they contend ;n 
various trials of strength, which sometimes end in 
hand-to-hand fights. This may be analc^ous to the 
old English usage of beating the younger generation 
*once a year at the village boundaries in order to im- 
press on them a lasting idea of local geography. By 
the Lake of Poschiavo it is the custom to " call after 
the grass " — '^chiamar Terba "—-on March-day. 

In the end, as has been seen, March gets an ill-word 
from the Greek folk>singer, who is not more constant 
in his praise of April. It is the old fatality which 
makes the Better the Enemy of the Good. 

May is coining, May is coming, comes the month so blithe and 

April truly has its flowers, but all roses bloom in May ; 
April, thou accurst one, vanish 1 Sweet May-month 1 long to 

May fills all the world with flowers. May will give my love to me. 

May is pre-eminently the bridal month in Greece ; 
a strange contradiction to the prejudice against May 
marriages that prevails in most parts of Europe. 
"Marry in May, rue for aye." The Romans have 
been held responsible for this superstition. They 
kept their festival of the dead during May, and while 
it lasted other forms of worship were suspended. To 
contract marriage would have been to defy the fates. 
Traces of a spring feast of souls survive in France, 
where, on Palm Sunday, Pdqttes fleuries as it is called, 
it is customary to set the first fresh flowers of the 
year upon the graves. Nor is it by any means unin- 

Songs for the Rite of May. 255 

teresting to note that in one great empire far outside 
of the Roman world ^^fcte des marts is assigned not 
to the quiet close of the year but to the delightful 
spring. The Chinese festival of Clear Weather which 
falls in April is the chosen time for worshipping at 
the family tombs. 

The marriage of Mary Queen of Scots and Jame^ 
Bothwell was celebrated on the i6th of May; an 
unknown hand wrote upon the gate of Holyrood 
Palace Ovid*s warning : 

Si te proverbia tangunt, 
Mense malas Maio nubere vulgus ait. 

Of English songs treating of that ** observance " or 
"rite" of May to which Chaucer and Shakespeare 
bear witness, there are unfortunately few. The old 
nursery rhyme : 

Here we go a-piping, 

First in spring and then in May, 

tells the usual story of housc-to-housc visiting and 
expected largess. In Devonshire, children used to 
take round a richly-dressed doll ; such a doll is still 
borne in triumph by the children of Great Missenden» 
BuckSi where a doggerel is sung, of which these are 
the concluding verses : 

A branch of May I have you brought, 

And at your door I stand ; 

Tis but a spray that's well put out 

By the works of the mighty Lord's hand. 

If you have got no strong beer, 
We'll be content with small ; 
And take the goodwill of your house, 
And give good thanks for alL 

7 $6 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Gud bless the master of this house, 
The mistress also ; 
Likewise the little children 
That round the table ga 

My song is done, I must be gone, 
No longer can I stay ; 
God bless you all, both great and smalli 
And send you a joyful May. 

The poets of Great Missenden not being prolific, the 
two middle stanzas arc used at Christmas as well as 
on May-day. 

May-poles were prohibited by the Long Parliament 
of 1644, being denounced as a ''heathenish vanity 
generally abused to superstition and wickedness." A 
long while before, the Roman Floralia, the feast when 
people carried green boughs and wore fresh garlands, 
had been put down for somewhat the same reasons. 
With regard to May-poles I am not inclined to think 
too harshly of them. They died hard : an old Essex 
man told me on his death-bed of how when he was a 
lad the young folks danced regularly round the May- 
pole on May-day, and in his opinion it was a good 
time. It was a time, he went on to say, when the 
country was a different thing; twice a day the 
postillion's horn sounded down the village street, the 
Woolpack Inn was often full even to the attics in its 
pretty gabled roof, all sorts of persons of quality fell 
out of the clouds, or to speak exactly, emerged from 
the London coach. The life of the place seemed to 
be gone, said my friend, and yet " the place " is in the 
very highest state of modern prosperity. 

The parade of sweeps in bowers of greenery lingered 
on rather longer in England than May-poles. It is 

Songs for ttu Rite of May. 257 

stated to have orip^inatcd in this way. Edward 
Wortley Montagu (born about 17 14), who later was 
destined to win celebrity by still stranger freaks» 
escaped when a boy from Westminster School and . 
borrowed the clothes of a chimney sweep» in whose 
trade he became an adept. A long search resulted 
in his discovery and restoration to his parents on 
May I ; in recollection of which event Mrs Elizabeth 
Montagu is said to have instituted the May-day feast 
given by her for many years to the London chimney- 

In the country west of Glasgow it is still remembered 
how once the houses were adorned with flowers and 
branches on the first of May, and in some parts of 
Ireland they still plant a May-tree or May-bush before 
the door of the farmhouse, throwing it at sundown 
into a bonfire. The lighting of fires was not an 
uncommon feature of May-day observance, but it is 
a practice which seems to me to have strayed into 
that connection from its proper place in the great 
festival of the summer solstice on St John's Eve. 
Among people of English speech, May-day customs 
arc little more than a cheerful memory, Herrick 

Wash, dress, be brief in praying, 

Few beads are best when once we go a-maying. 

People neglect their " beads " or the equivalents now 
from other motives. 

May night is the German Walpurgis-nacht The 
witches ride up to the Brocken on magpies' tails, not 
a magpie can be seen for the next twenty-four hours 
— they are all gone and they have not had time to 

258 Essays in the Study of Folk-Sofigs. 

return. The witches dance on the Brocken till they 
have danced away the winter's snow. May-brides and 
May-kings are still to be heard of in Germany, and 
children run about on May-day with buttercups or 
with a twist of bread, a Bretzel^ decked with ribbons, 
or holding imprisoned may-flies, which they let loose 
whilst they sing : 

Maikiiferchen fliegc, 
Dein Vater ist in kriege, 
Deine Mutter ist in Pommerland, 
Pommerland ist abgebrannt, 
Maikaferchen fltege. 

May chafer giust fly away home, his father is at the 
wars, his mother is in Pomerania, Pomerania is all 
burnt May chafer in short is the brother of our lady- 
bird. Dr Karl Blind is of opinion that '* Pommer- 
land " is a later interpolation for " Holler-land "—the 
land of Freya — Holda, the Teutonic Aphrodite ; and 
he and other German students of mythology see in 
the conflagation an allusion to the final end and doom 
of the kingdom of the gods. It is pointed out that 
the ladybird was Freya's messenger, whose business it 
was to call the unborn from their tranquil sojourn 
amongst celestial flowers, into the storms of human 
existence. There is an airy May chafer song in 
Alsace — Teutonic in tradition, though French in 
tongue : 

Avril, tu t*en vas, 
Car Mai vicnt 1^-bas, 
Pour balayer ta figure 
De pluie, aussi de froidure. 
Hanneton, vole ! 
Hanneton, vole ! 

Songs for the Rite of May. 259 

Au ftrmament bleu 
Ton nid est en feu, 
Les Turcs avec leur <5p<5e 
Viennent tuer ta couv^e. 

Hanneton, vole ! 
Hanneton, vole ! 

Dr Blind recollects taking part, as a boy, in an 
extremely curious children's drama, which is still 
played in some places in the open air. It is an alle- 
gory of the expulsion of winter, who is killed and 
burnt, and of the arrival of summer, who comes 
decked with flowers and garlands. The children 
repeat : 

Now have we chased death away, 
And we bring the summer weather ; 
Summer dear and eke the May, 
And the flowers all together : 
Bringing sununer we are come, 
Summer tide and sunshine home. 

With this may be compared an account given by 
Olaus Magnus, a Swedish writer of the fifteenth cen- 
tury, of how -May Day was celebrated in his time, 
^ A number of youths on horseback were drawn up 
in two lines facing each other, the one party repre- 
senting 'Winter* and the other 'Summer.* The 
leader of the former was clad in wild beasts' skins, 
and he and his men were armed with snow-balls and 
pieces of ice. The conimander of the latter — *Maj 
Greve,* or Count May — was, on the contrary, de- 
corated with leaves and flowers, and his followers had 
for weapons branches of the birch or linden tree, 
which, having been previously steeped in water« were 
then in leaf. At a given signal, a sham fight ensued 

36o Essays in ihe Study 0/ Folk-Songs. 

between the opposing forces. If the season was cold 
and backward, 'Winter' and his party were im- 
petuous in their attack, and in the beginning the 
advantage was supposed to rest with them ; but if 
the weather was genial« and the spring had fairly set 
in, ' Maj Greve * and his men carried all before them. 
Under any circumstancesi however, the umpire always 
declared the victory to rest with 'Summer/ The 
winter party then strewed ashes on the ground, and a 
joyous banquet terminated the game." Mr L. Lloyd, 
author of "Peasant Life in Sweden" (1870), records 
some lines sung by Swedish children when collecting 
provisions for the Maj gille or May feast, which recall 
the " Swallow-song " : 

'^ Best loves from Mr and Mrs Magpie, 
From all their eggs and all their fry, 
O give them alms, if ever so small, 
Else hens and chickens and eggs and all, 
A prey to * Piet ' will surely fall." 

The Swedes raise their Maj sting or May-pole» not 
on May, but on St John's Eve, a change due, I sus* 
pect, to the exigencies of the climate. 

German Mailieder are one very much like the 
other ; they are full of the simple gladness of children 
who have been shut up in houses, and who now can 
run about in the sunny air. I came across the follow- 
ing in Switzerland : 

^ Alles neu macht der Mai, 
Macht die Seele frisch und frei. 
Lasst dans Haus ! 
Kommt hinaus I 
Windet einen Strauss ! 

Songs for Uu Rite of May. 26 1 

^ Rings erglanzet Sonnenscheini 
Dustend pranget Flur und Hain. 
Lust'ger Klang 
T6nt den Wald cntlang." 

In Lorraine girls dressed in white go from village 
to village stringing off couplets, in which the inhabit- 
ants are turned into somewhat unmerciful ridicule. 
The girls of this place enlighten the people of that 
as to their small failings, and so vice versA. All the 
winter the village poets harvest the jokes made by 
one community at Uie expense of another, in order to 
shape them into a consecutive whole for recital on 
May Day, The girls are rewarded for their part in 
the business by small coin, cakes and fruit. The 
May-songs of Lorraine are termed " Trimazos," from 
the fact that they are always sung to the refrain, 

" O Trimazot, <j'at lo Mayc ; 
O mi-Maye ! 
Q'at lo joli mois de Maye, 

9at lo TrimMot" 

The derivation of Trimazo is uncertain ; someone 
suggested that Tti stands for three» and mazo for 
maidens ; but I think maso is more likely to be con- 
nected with the Italian ntazso^ ^ nos^ay." The word 
is known outside Lorraine : at Islettes children say : 

" Trimatot I en nous allant 
Nous pormends eddans lea champs 
i Nous y ons trouvd les bids si grands 

^ Les Aubdpin* en fleurissant.*' 

They beg for money to buy a taper for the Virgin's 
altar ; for it must not be forgotten that the month of 

262 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

May is the month of Mary. The villagers s^dd a little 
flour to their pious ofTering, so that the children may 
make cakes. Elsewhere in Champagne young girls 
collect the taper money; they cunningly appeal to 
the tenderness of the young mother by bringing to 
her mind the hour *" when she takes her pretty child 
up in the morning and lays him to sleep at night'* 
There was a day on which the girls of the neighbour- 
hood of Remiremont used to way-lay every youth 
they met on the road to the church of Dommartin and 
insist on sticking a sprig of rosemary or laurel in his 
cap, saying, " We have found a fine gentleman, God 
give him joy and health ; take the May, the pretty 
May I " The fine gentleman was requested to give 
** what he liked ** for the dear Virgin's sake. In the 
department of the Jura there are May-brides, and in 
Bresse they have a May-queen who is attended by a 
youth, selected for the purpose, and by a little boy 
who carries a green bough ornamented with ribands. 
She heads the village girls and boys, who walk as in 
a marriage procession, and who receive eggs, wine, or 
money. A song still sung in Burgundy recalls the 
pne-revolutionary aera and the respect inspired by the 
seigneurial woods : — 

'^ Le voil^ venu le joii mois, 

Laissez bourgeonner le bois ; 
Le voil^ venu le joli mois, 

Le joli bois bourgeonne. 
II faut laisser bourgeonner le bois, 

Le bois du gentilhomme.'^ 

The young peasants of Poitou betake themselves to 
the door of each homestead before the dawn of the 

Songs for the Rite of May. 263 

May morning and summon the mistress of the house 
to waken her daughters : — 

^ For we are come before hath come the day 
To sing the coming of the month of May.'' 

But they do not ask the damsels to stand there 
listening to compliments ; " Go to the hen-roost/' 
they say, " and get eighteen, or still better, twenty 
new laid eggs." If the eggs cannot be had, they can 
bring money, only let them make haste, as day-break 
is near and the road is long. By way of acknowledg- 
ment the spokesman adds a sort of '' And your peti- 
tioners will ever pray ; " they will pray for the purse 
which held the money and for the hen that laid the 
eggs. If St Nicholas only hears them that hen will 
cat the fox, instead of the fox eating the Jien. The 
gift is seemly. Now the dwellers in the homestead 
may go back to their beds and bar doors and win- 
dows ; " as for us, we go through all the night singing 
at the arrival of sweet spring." 

The antiquary in search of May-songs will turn to 
the Motets and Pastorals of that six-hundred-year-old 
Comic Opera "Li gieus de Robin ct de Marion." 
Its origin was not illiterate, but in Adam de la Halle's 
time and country poets who had some letters and 
poets who had none did not stand so widely apart. 
The May month, the summer sweetness, the lilies of 
the valley, the green meadows — these constituted 
pretty well the whole idea which the French rustic 
had formed to hiniself of what poetry was. It cannot 
be denied that he came to use these things occasion- 
ally as mere commonplaces, a tendency which in- 
creased as time wore on. But he has his better 

264 Essays in tlu Stndy of Folk^Sangs. 

moods, and some of his ditties are not wanting in 
elegance. Here is an old song preserved in Bur- 

Void venu le mois des fleurs 
Det chansons et des senteurs ; 
Le mois qui tout enchante 
Le mois de douce attente. 
Le buisson reprend ses couleurs 
Au bois Toiseau chante. 

II est venu sans mes amours 
(^ue j'attends, h(51as, toujours ; 

Tandis que I'oiseau chante 

£t que le mai 1' on plante 
Seule en ces bois que je parcours 

Seule je me lamente. 

In the France of the sixteenth century, the planting 
of the May took a literary turn. At Lyons/ for 
instance, the printers were in the habit of setting up 
what was called ''Le Mai des Imprimeurs" before 
the door of some distinguished person. The members 
of the illustrious Lombard house of Trivulzii who 
between them held the government of Lyons for 
more than twenty-five years, were on several occa- 
sions chosen as recipients of the May-day compli- 
ment. " Le Grand Trivulce," marshal of France, 
was a great patron of literature, and the encourage- 
ment of the liberal arts grew to be a tradition in the 
family. In 1539 Theodore de Trivulce had a May 
planted in his honour bearing a. poetical address from 
the pen of Clement Marot, and Pompone de Trivulce 
received a like distinction in I535> when Etienne 
Dolet wrote for the occasion an ode in the purest 
Latin, which may be read in Mr R. C. Christie's 
biography of its author. 

Songs /or t/te Rite of May. 265 

Giulio Cesare froce, the famous ballad-singer of 

Bologna (born 1550), wrote a "Canzonetta vaga in 

lode del bel mese di maggio et delle regine o contesse 

che si fanno quel giorno in Bologna/' and in i622| 

a small book was published at Bologna, entitled: 

'' Ragionamenti piacevoli intorno alle contesse di 

maggio ; plantar il maggio ; nozze che si fanno in 

maggio/* The author, Vincenzo Giacchiroli, observes: 

"These countesses, according to what I have read, 

the Florentines call Dukes of May — perhaps because 

there they have real dukes/* The first of May, he 

continues, the young girls select one from among 

them and set her on a high scat or throne in some 

public street, adorned and surrounded with greenery, 

and with such (lowers as the season affords. To this 

maiden, in semblance like the goddess Flora, they 

compel every passer-by to give something, either by 

catching him by his clothes, or by holding a cord 

across the street to intercept him, singing at the same 

time, ^ Alia contessa, alia contessa 1 ** They who pass, 

therefore, throw into a plate or receptacle prepared 

for the purpose, money, or flowers, or what not, for 

the new countess. In some places it was the custom 

to kiss the countess ; " neither/' adds the author, '' is 

this to be condemned, since so were wont to do the 

ancients as a sign of honour/* 

Regarding a similar usage at Mantua, Merlinus 
Coccaius (Folengo) wrote : 

" Accidil una dies qua Mantua tota bagordat 
Prima dies mensis Mali quo quisquie piantat 
Per itradas ramos frondosos nomine mazios/' &c 

Exactly the same practice lingers in Spain. In the 


366 Essays in the Study of Folk-Stmgs. 

town of Almeria, improvised temples are raised at 
the street comers and gateways, where, on an altar 
covered with damask or other rich stuff, a girl decked 
with flowers is seated, whilst around her in a circle 
stand other girls, also crowned with flowers, who hold 
hands, and intone, like a Greek chorus — 

" Un cuartito para la Maya, 
Que no tiene manto ni saya.' 

'^ A penny for the May who has neither mantle nor 
Lorenzo de' Medici says in one of his ballads : 

Se tu vuo* appiccare un maio. 
A quaicuna che tu ami 

In his day ''Singing the May" was almost a trade; 
the country folk flocked into Florence with their May 
trees and rustic instruments and took toll of the 
citizens. The custom continues along the Ligurian 
coast. At Spezia I saw the boys come round on 
May-day piping and singing, and led by one, taller 
than the rest, who carried an Italian flag covered with 
garlands. The name of the master of the house 
before which they halt is introduced into a song that 
begins : 

Siam venutt a cantar maggio, 

Al Signore 

Come ogn' anno usar si suole, 

Nella stagion di primavera. 

Since Chaucer, who loved so dearly the " May Kalen- 
des " and the " See of the day," no one has celebrated 
them with a more ingenuous charm than the country 
lads of the island of Sardinia, who sing '' May, May, 

Songs far the Rite of May. 267 

be thou welcome/ with all Sun and Love; with the 
Flower and with the Soul, and with the Marguerite." 
A Tuscan and a Pisan Rispeito may be taken as 
representative of Italian May-song : 

Twas in the Calends of the month of May, 

I went into the garden for a flower, 
A wild bird there I saw upon a spray, 

Singing of love with skilled melodious power. 
O little bird, who dost from Florence speed 
Teach me whence loving doth at first proceed ? 
Love has its birth in music and in songs 
Its 6nd, alas ! to tears and grief belongs. 

. Era di maggio, se ben mi ricordo 

Quando c'incominciammo a ben volere 
Eran fiorite le rose deU'orto, 
£ le ciliege diventavan nere ; 

Ciliege nere e pere moscatelle, 
Siete il trionfo delle donne belle 

Ciliege nere e pere moscatate. 
Siete il trionfo delle innamorate 

Ciliege nere e pere moscatine. 
Siete il trionfo delle piu belline. 

The child's or lover's play of words in this last baffles 
all attempt at translation : it is not sense but sweet- 
ness, not poetry but music. It is as much without 
rule or study or conventionality as the song of birds 
when in Italian phrase^ /anno primavera. 

In the Province of Brescia the Thursday of Mid- 
Lent is kept by what is called *' Burning the old 
women." A doll made of straw or rags, representing 
the oldest woman, is hung outside the window ; or, if 
in a street, suspended from a cord passed from one 
side to the other. Everyone makes tiie tour of town 
or village to see /r VeccMi who at sundown are con* 

968 Essays in the Study of Folk Songs. 

signed to the flamesi generally with a distaff placed 
in their hands. It b a picturesque sight at Sal6^ 
when the bonfires blaze at different heights up the 
bills, casting long reflections across the clear lake- 
water. The sacrifice is consummated — ^but what sac- 
rifice ? I was at first disposed to 3imply consider the 
'' old woman *' as a type of winter, but I am informed 
that by those who have studied relics of the same 
usage in other lands, she is held to be a relative of the 
'' harvest-man " or growth-genius, who must be either 
appeased or destroyed. Yet a third interpretation 
occurs to me, which I offer for what it is worth. 
Might not the Vecchia be the husk which must be 
cast off* before the miracle of new birth is accom- 
plished? "The seed that tliou sowest shall not 
quicken unless it die/' Hardly any idea has furnished 
so much occasion for symbolism as this, that life is 
death, and death is life. 

Professor d'Ancona believes, that to the custom of 
keeping May by singing from house to house and 
collecting largess of eggs or fruit or cheese, may be 
traced the dramatic representations, which, under the 
name of Maggi, can still be witnessed in certain 
districts of the Tuscan Hills and of the plain of Pisa. 
These May-plays are performed any Sunday in 
Spring, just after Mass ; the men, women, and child- 
ren, hastening from the church-door to the roughly- 
built theatre which has the sky for roof, the grey 
olives and purple hills for background. The verses 
of the play (it is always in verse) are sung to a sort of 
monotonous but elastic chant, in nearly every case 
unaccompanied by instruments. No one can do more 
than guess when that chant was composed ; it may 

Songs for the Rite of May. 269 

have been five hundred years ago and it may have 
been much more. Grief or joy, love and hate, all are 
expressed upon the same notes. It is possible that 
some such recitative was used in the Greek drama. 
A play that was not sung would not seem a play to 
the Tuscan contadino. The characters are acted by 
men or boys, the peasants not liking their wives and 
daughters to perform in public. A considerable num« 
ber of Maggi exist in print or in MS. carefully copied 
for the convenience of the actors. The subjects range 
from King David to Count Ugolinoi from the siege 
of Troy to the French Revolution. They seem for 
most part modem compositions, cast in a form which 
was probably invented before the age of Dante. 


In the early world of Greece and Italy, the beliefs 
relating to Fate had a vital and penetrative ^orce 
which belonged only to them. *' Nothing/* says 
Sophocles, ^ is so terrible to man as. Fate/' It was 
the shadow cast down the broad sunlight of the roof- 
less Hellenic life. All Greece, its gods and men, 
bowed at that word which Victor Hugo saw, or 
imagined that he saw, graven on a pillar of Ndtre 
Dame : 'Avdyxn. Necessity alone of the supernatural 
powers was not made by man in his own image. It 
had no sacred grove, for in the whole world there was 
no place where to escape from it, no peculiar sect of 
votaries, for all were bound equally to obey ; it could 
not be bought ofT^vith riches nor withstood by valour ; 
no man worshipped it, many groaned under its dis- 
pensation ; but by all it was vaguely felt to be the 
instrument of a pure justice. If they did not, with 
Herder, call Fate's law " Eternal Truth," yet their 
idea of necessity carried these men nearer than did 
any other of their speculative guesses to the idea of a 
morally-governed universe. 

The belief in one Fate had its train of accessorial 
beliefs. The Parcae and the Erinnyes figured as dark 
angels of Destiny. Then, in response to the double 
needs of superstition and materialism, the impersonal 

The Idea of Fate in Sou t fur n Traditions. 271 

Vate itself took the form of the Greek Tyche, and of 
that Fortuna, who, in Rome alone, had no less than 
eight temples. There were some indeed who saw in 
Fortune nothing else than the old dira uecessitas ; but 
to the popular mind, she was nearer to chancethan to 
necessity; she dealt out the favourable accident 
which goes further to secure success than do the 
subtlest combinations of men. The Romans did not 
only demand of a military leader that he should have 
talent, foresight, energy ; they asked, was he /?/ar— 
happy, fortunate ? Since human life was seen to be, 
on the whole, but a sorry business, and since it was 
also seen that the prosperous were not always the 
meritorious, the inference followed that Fortune was 
capricious, changeable, and, if not immoral, at least 
unmoral With this character she came down to the 
Middle Ages, having contrived to outlive the whole 
Roman pantheon. 

So Dante found her, and inquired of his guide who 
and what she might really be ? 

Maestro, dissi lui, or mi di' anche : 
Questa Fortuna di che tu mi tocche, 
Che 6, che i ben del mondo ha si tra branche ? 

Dante had no wish to level the spiritual windmills 
that lay in his* path : he left them standing, only 
seeking a proper reason for their being there. There- 
fore he did not answer himself in the words of the 
Tuscan proverb: "Chi crede in sorte, non crede in 
Dio;" but, on the contrary, tried to prove that the 
two beliefs might be perfectly reconciled. "He 
whose knowledge transcends all things" (is the reply) 
"fashioned the heavens, and gave unto them a control* 

a/a Essays tn tks Study of Folk-Songs. 

ling force in such wise that each part shines upon 
each, distributing equally the light. Also to worldly 
splendours he ordained a general minister, and 
captain, who should timely change the tide of vain 
prosperity from race to race and from blood to 
blood. Why these prevail, and those languish, ac- 
cording to her ruling, is hidden, like the snake in 
the grass ; your knowledge has tnr her no counterpart; 
she provides, judges, and pursues her governance, as 
do theirs the other gods. Her permutations have no 
truce, necessity makes her swift; for he is swift in 
coming who would have his turn. This is she who is 
upbraided even by those who should praise her, giving 
her blame wrongfully and ill-repute; but she con- 
tinues blessed, and hearkens not; glad among the > 
other primal creatures, she revolves her sphere, and 
being blessed, rejoices." 

The peasants, the pagani of Italy, did not give 
their name for nothing to the entire system of anti- 
quity. They were its last, its most faithful adherents, 
and to this day their inmost being is watered from 
the springs of the antique. They have preserved old- 
world thoughts as they have preserved old-world pots 
and pans. In the isolated Tuscan farm you will be 
lighted to your bed by a woman carrying an oil lamp 
identical in form with those buried in Etruscan 
tombs; on the Neapolitan hill-side a girl will give 
you to drink out of a jar not to be distinguished from 
the amphorae of Pompeii. A stranger hunting in the 
campagna may often hear himself addressed with the 
**Tu" of Roman simplicity. The living Italian 
people are the most interesting of classical remains. 
Even their religion has helped to perpetuate practices 

The Idea of Fate in Southern Tradittofts. 273 

older than Italy. How is it possible, for instance, to 
see the humble shrine by vineyard or maize field, with 
its posy of flowers and its wreath of box hung before 
the mild countenance of some local saint, without re- 
membering what the chorus says to Admetus : **Deem 
not, O king, of the tomb of thy wife as of the vulgar 
departed ; rather let it be kept in religious veneration, 
a cynosure for the way-faring man. And as one 
climbs the slanting pathway, these will be the words 
he utters : * This was she who erewhile laid down her 
life for her husband ; now she is a saint for evermore. 
Hail, blessed .spirit, befriend and aid us I ' Such the 
words that will be spoken." 

Can it be doubted that the Catholic honour of the 
dead — nay, even the cult of the Virgin, which crept so 
mysteriously into the exercise of Christian worship- 
had birth, not in the councils of priests and school- 
men, but in the all-unconscious grafting by the people 
of Italy of the new faith upon an older stock ? 

With this persistency of thought, observable in out- 
ward trifles, as in the deepest yearnings of the soul, it 
would be strange if the Italian mind had ceased to 
occupy itself with the old wonder about fate. The 
folk-lore of the country will show the* mould into 
which the ancient speculations have been cast, and in 
how far these have undergone change, whether in the 
sense of assimilating new theories or in that of revert- 
ing to a still earlier order of ideas. 

They tell at Venice the story of a husbandman 
who had set his heart on finding one who was just to 
be sponsor to his new-bom child. He took the babe 
in his arms and went forth into the public ways to 
seek El Giusto. He walked and walked and met a 

7J4 Essays in the Study of Fotk-Songs. 

man (who was our Lord) and to him he said, ^ I have 
got this son to christen, but I do not wish to give him 
to any one who is not just Are you just ? " To him 
the Lord replied, " But I do not know if I am just" 
Then the husbandman went a little further and met 
a woman (who was the Madonna), and to her he 
said, '' I have this son to christen, but I only wish to 
give him to one who is just Are you just ? " "I 
know not," said the Madonna ; '' but go a little further 
and you will meet one who is just** After that, he 
went a little further, and met another woman who 
was Death. " I have been sent to you,** he said, 
'' for they say you are just. I have a child to christen, 
and I do not wish to give him except to one who is 
just Are you just?** "Why, yes; I think I am 
just,*' said Death ; " but let us christen the babe and 
afterwards I will show you if I am just." So the boy 
was christened, and then this woman led the husband- 
man into a long, long room where there were an 
immense number of lighted lamps. '' Gossip,** said 
the man, who marvelled at seeing so many lamps, 
^' what is the meaning of all these lights ? ** Said 
Death : '' These are the lights of all the souls that are in 
the world. Would you like just to see. Gossip ? That 
is yours, and that is your son's.** And the husband- 
man, who saw that his lamp was going out, said, 
" And when there is no more oil. Gossip } " '* Then," 
replied Death, "one has to come to me, for I am 
Death.** "Oh! for charity," said the husbandman, 
" do let me pour a little of the oil out of my son's 
lamp into mine ! *' " No, no. Gossip,** said Death, " I 
don't go in for that sort of thing. A just one you 
wished to meet, and a just one you have found. 

The Idea of Fate in Southern Traditions. 275 

And now, go you to your house and put your aflfairs 
in order, for I am waiting for you." * 

In this parable, we see a severe fatalism, which is 
still more oriental than antique. 

. . . God gives each man one life, like a lamp, then gives 
That lamp due measure of oil • , • 

The Mahomedans say that there are trees in heaven 
on each of whose leaves is the name of a human being, 
and whenever one of these leaves withers and falls, 
the man whose name it bears dies with it. The con- 
ception of human life as of something bound up and 
incorporated with an object seemingly foreign, lies at 
the very root of elementary beliefs. In an Indian 
talc the life of a boy resides in a gold necklace 
which is in the heart of a fish ; in another a woman's 
life is contained in a bird : when the bird is killed, the 
woman must perish. In a third a prince plants a 
tree before he goes on a journey, sayingf as he does 
so, "This tree is my life. When you see the tree 

Mn a Breton variant the '* Bon Dieu " is the first to offer him- 
self as sponsor, but is refused by the peasant, " Because you are 
not just ; you slay the honest bread-winner and the mother 
whose children can scarce run alone, and you let folks live who 
never brought aught but shame and sorrow oh their kindred.*^ 
Death is accepted, *' Because at least you take the rich as well 
as the poor, the young as well as the old." The German tale of 
"Godfather Death'* begins in the same way, but ends rather 
. differently, as it is the godson and not the father who is shown 
the many candles, and who vainly requests Death to give him a 
new one instead of his own which is nearly burnt out. A poem 
by Hans Sachs (1553) contains reference to the legend, of which 
there are alto Provencal and Hungarian versions. 

376 Essays in the Study of Folk-Simgs. 

green and fresh, then know that it is well with me. 
When you see the tree fade in some parts, then know 
that I am in an ill case. When you see the whole 
tree fade, then know that I am dead and gone." 

According to a legend of wide extension — it is 
known from Esthonia to the Pyrenees — all men were 
once aware of the hour of their death. But one day 
Christ went by and saw a man raising a hedge of 
straw. '* That hedge will last but for a short while/* 
He said; to which the man answered, *'It will be 
good for as long as I live ; that it should last longer, 
matters not ; *' and forthwith Christ ordained that no 
man should thereafter know when he should die. 

The southern populations of Italy cling to the idea 
that from the moment of a man's birth his future lot 
is decided, whether for good or evil hap, and that he 
has but little power of altering or modifying the 
irrevocable sentence. There are lucky and unlucky 
days to be bom on ; lucky and unlucky circumstances 
attendant on an entry into the world, which affect all 
stages of the subsequent career. He who is born on 
the last day of the year, will always arrive late. It 
is very unfortunate to be born when there is no moon. 
Anciently the moon was taken as symbol both of 
Fortune, and of Hecate, goddess of Magic. The 
Calabrian children have a song : " Moon, holy moon, 
send me good fortune ; thou shining, and I content, 
lustrous thou, I fortunate." Also at Cagliari, in 
Sardinia, they sing: "Moon, my moon, give me 
luck ; give me money, so I may amuse myself ; give 
it soon, so I may buy sweetmeats." The changing 
phases of the moon doubtless contributed to its 
identification with fortune ; " Wind, women, and for- 

The Idea of Fate in Soutlurn Traditions. 277 

tunc," runs the Basque proverb, "change like the 
moon." But yet more, its influence over terrestrial 
phenomena, always mysterious to the ignorant ob- 
server and by him readily magnified to any extent, 
served to connect it with whatever occult, unaccount- 
able power was uppermost in people's minds. 

In Italy, nothing is done without consulting the 
Luftario. All kinds of roots and seeds must be 
planted with the new moon, or they will bear no 
produce. Timber must be cut down with the old 
moon, or it will quickly rot. These rules and many 
more are usually followed ; and it is reported as a 
matter of fact, that their infringement brings the 
looked-for results. In the Neapolitan province, old 
women go to the graveyards by night and count the 
tombs illuminated by the moonlight ; the sum total 
gives them a " number" for the lottery. The extraordi- 
nary vagaries of superstition kept alive by the public 
lotteries are of almost endless variety and complexity. 
No well-known man dies without thousands of the 
poorest Neapolitans racking their brains with abtruse 
calculations on the dates of his birth, death, and so 
on, in the hope of discovering a lucky number. For- 
tune, chance (what, after all, shall it be called ?) some- 
times strangely favours these pagan devices. When 
Pio Nono died, the losses of the Italian exchequer 
were enormous; and in January 1884, the numbers 
staked on the occasion of the death of the patriot De 
Sanctis, produced winnings to the amount of over two 
million francs. During the last cholera epidemic, the 
daily rate of mortality was eagerly studied with a 
view to happy combinations. Even in North Italy 
such things are not unknown. At Venice, when a 

2 78 Essays in the Study of Fotk^Sangs. 

notable Englishman died some years ago In a hoteli 
the number of his room was played next day by half 
the population. Domestic servants are among the 
most Inveterate gamblers ; they all have their cabal* 
istic books, and a large part of their earnings goes to 
the insatiable 'Motto." 

The feeling of helplessness in the hands of Fate is 
strongest in those countries where there is the least 
control over Nature. The relations between man and 
Nature affect not only the social life» but also the 
theology and politics of whole races of men. A 
learned Armenian who lives at Venice, came to Lon- 
don for a week in June to see some English friends. 
It rained every day, and when he left Dover, the 
white cliffs were enveloped in impenetrable fog. '' I 
asked myself" (he wrote, describing his experiences) 
*' how it was possible that a great nation should exist 
behind all that vapour ? " It was suggested to him 
that in the continual but, in the long run, victorious 
struggle with an ungenial climate might lie the secret 
of the development of that great nation. Different 
are the lands where the soil yields its increase almost 
without the labour of man, till one fine day the whole 
is swallowed up by flood or earthquake. 

The songs of luck, or rather of ill-luck, nearly all 
come from the Calabrias. There are hundreds of 
variations upon the monotonous theme of predestined 
misery. " In my mother's womb I began to have no 
fortune ; my swaddling clothes were woven of melan- 
choly; when we went to church, the woman who 
carried me died upon the way, and the godfather who 
held me at the font said, ' Misfortunate art thou bom, 
my daughter ! ' " Here is another : " Hapless was I 

The Idea of Fate in SatUheni Traditions. 279 

bom, and with a darkened moon ; never did a fair 
day dawn for me. Habited in weeds, and attended 
by cruel fortune, I sail upon a sea of grief and 
trouble." Or this : " Wretched am I, for against me 
conspired heaven and fortune and destiny ; and the 
four elements decreed that never should I prosper : 
earth would engulf me; air took away my breath; 
water flowed with my tears; fire burnt this poor 
heart" Again: ''I was created under an ill-star ^ 
never had I an hour's content. By my friends I saw 
myself forsaken, and chased away by my mistress. 
The heavens moved against me, the stars, the planets, 
and fortune; if there is no better lot for me, open 
thou earth and give me sepulchre!" The luckless 
wretch imagines that the sea, even where it was 
deepest, dried up at his birth ; and the spring dried 
up for that year, and all the flowers that were in the 
uorld dried up ; and the birds went singing : " I am 
the most luckless wight on earth ! " Human friend- 
ship is a delusion : '' I was the friend of all, and a true 
friend — for my friends I reckoned life as little." But 
he is not served so by others : •* Wretched is he who 
trusts in fortune; sad is he who hopes in human 
friendship 1 Every friend abandons thee at need, and 
walks afar from thy sorrow." No good can come to 
him who is born for ill : '' When I was born, it was at 
sea, amongst Turks and Moors. A gipsy asked to 
tell niy fortune ; ' Dig/ she said, ' and thou shalt And 
a great treasure.' I took the spade in my hand to 
dig, but I found neither silver nor gold. Traitress 
gipsy who deceived me V Who is born afflicted, dies 
So continues the long tale of woe ; childish in part, 

38o Essays in the Study of Fotk-Snngs. 

but withal tragic by other force of iteration. This 
song of Nard6 may be taken as its epitome : 

The heavens were overcast when I was born ; 
No luck for me, no, luckless and forlorn, 
E*en from my cradle, all forlorn was I ; 
No luck for me, no, grief for ever nigh* 
I loved— my love was paid by fraud and scorn ; 
No luck for me, no, luckless and forlorn. 
The stars and moon were darkened in the sky, 
No luck for me, no, naught but misery ! 

The Calabrians have a house-spirit called the 
Auguriellu, who appears generally dressed as a little 
monk, and who has his post especially by babies' 
cradles : he is thought to be one of the less erring 
fallen angels, and is harmless and even beneficent if 
kindly treated. The " house-women " {Donne dicasa) 
of Sicily are also in the habit of watching the sleep of 
infants. But in no part of Italy does there seem to 
be any distinct recollection of the Parcae. In Greece, 
on the other hand, the three dread sisters are still 
honoured by propitiatory rites, and they figure fre- 
quently in the folk-lore of Bulgaria and Albania. A 
Bulgarian song shows them weaving the destiny of 
the infant Saviour. In M. Auguste Dozon's collection 
of Albanian stories, there is one called "The sold 
child," which bears directly on the survival of the 
Parcae. "There was an old man and woman who 
had no children *' (so runs the tale). "At last at the 
end of I do not know how many years, God gave 
them a son, and their joy was without bounds that 
the Lord had thus remembered them. Two nights 
had passed since the birth, and the third drew nigh, 
when the Three Women would come to assign the 
child his destiny. 

The Idea of Fate in Southern Traditions. 281 

"That night it was raining so frightfully that 
nobody dared put his nose out of doors, lest he should 
be carried away by the waters and drowned. Never- 
theless, who should arrive through the rain but a 
Pasha, who asked the old man for a nights lodging. 
The latter, seeing that it was a person of importance, 
was very glad.; he put him in the place of honour at 
the hearth, lit a large fire, gave him to eat what he 
could find ; and putting aside certain objects, which 
he set in a comer, he made room for the Pasha*s 
horse — for this house was only half covered in, a part 
of the roof was missing. 

'' The Pasha, when he was warmed and refreshed, 
had nothing more to do but to go to sleep ; but how 
can one let himself go to sleep when he has I know * 
not how many thousand piastres about him ? 

•• That night, as we have said already, the Three 
Women were to come and apportion the child his 
destiny. They came, sure enough, and sat down by 
the fire. The Pasha, at the sight of that, was in a 
great fright, but he kept quiet, and did not make the 
least sound. 

'* Let us leave the Pasha and busy ourselves with 
these women. The first of the thre^ said, • This child 
will not live long; he will die early.' The second 
said, replying to her who had just spoken, * This child 
will live many years, and then he will die by the 

1 hand of his father.' Finally the third spoke as 

I follows : * My friends, what are you talking about ? 

I This child will live sufficiently long to kill the Pasha 

\ you see there, rob him of his authority, and marry his 

\ daughter.'" 

I How the Pasha froze with fear when he heard that 

1 X 

7Bi Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

sentence, how he persuaded the old man to let him 
have the child under pretence of adopting him, how 
he endeavoured by every means, but vainly, to put 
him out of the way, and how, in the end, he fell into 
an ambush he had prepared for his predestined suc- 
cessor, must be read in M. Dozon's entertaining pages. 
Though not precisely stated, it would seem that the 
mistaken predictions of the two first women arose 
rather from a misinterpretation of the future than 
from complete ignorance. The boy but narrowly 
escaped the evils they threatened. In Scandinavian 
traditions a disagreement among the Noms is not 
uncommon. In one case, two Norns assign to a new* 
born child long life and happiness, but the third and 
-youngest decrees that he shall only live while a 
lighted taper burns. The eldest Norn snatches the 
taper, puts it out, and gives it to the child's mother, 
not to be kindled till the last day of his life. 

In India it is the deity Bidhata-Purusha who fore- 
casts the events of each man's life, writing them 
succinctly on the forehead of the child six days after 
birth. The apportionment of good and evil fortune 
belongs to Lakshmi and Sani. Once they fell out 
in heaven, and Sani, the giver of ill, said that he 
ranked higher than the beneficent Lakshmi. The 
gods and goddesses were equally ranged on either 
side, so the two disputants decided to refer the case 
to a just mortal. To which end they approached a 
wise and wealthy man called Sribatsa. Now Sribatsa 
means " the child of Fortune," Sri being one of the 
names of Lakshmi. Sribatsa did not know what to 
do lest he should give offence to one or the other of 
the celestial powers. At last he set out two stools 

Tfu Idea of Fate in Southern Traditions. 283 

without saying a word ; one was silver, and on that 
he bade Sani sit ; the other was gold, and to that he 
conducted Lakshmi. But Sani was furious at having 
only the silver stool, so he swore that he would cast 
his evil eye upon Sribatsa for three years, " and I 
should like to see how you fare at the end of that 
time," he added. When he was gone, Lakshmi said : 
" My child, do not fear ; Til befriend you." Needless 
to say that after the three trial years were passed» 
Sribatsa became far more prosperous than he had 
ever been before. 

Among the Parsis, a tray with writing materials 
including a sheet of blank paper is placed by the 
mother's bed on the night of the sixth day. The 
goddess who rules human destiny traces upon the 
paper the course of the child's future, which hence- 
forth cannot be changed, though the writing is 
invisible to mortal eyes. 

In Calabria there is a plant called ''Fortune's 
Grass," which is suspended to the beams of the ceil- 
ing: if the leaves turn upwards, Fortune is sure to 
follow ; if downwards, things may be expected to go 
wrong. The oracle is chiefly consulted on Ascension 
Day, when it is asked to tell the secrets confided to 
it by Christ when He walked upon the earth. 

Auguries, portents, charms, waxen images, votive 
offerings, the evil eye and its antidotes, happy " finds," 
such as horseshoes, four-leaved shamrocks, and two- 
tailed lizards: these, and an infinite number of 
kindred superstitions, are closely linked with what 
may be called the Science of Luck. Fortune and 
Hecate come into no mere chance contiguity when 
they meet in the moon. For the rest, there is hardly 

284 Essays in th$ Study of folk-Songs. 

any popular belief that has not points of contact with 
magici and that is not in some sort made the more 
comprehensible by looking at the premises on which 
magical rites rest Magic is the power admitted to 
exist among all classes not so very long ago, of enter- 
ing by certain processes into relation with invisible 
powers. For modern convenience it was distinguished 
into black magic, and natural, and white — the latter 
name being given when the intention of the operant 
was only good or allowable, and when the powers 
invoked were only such as might be supposed, 
whether great or small, to be working in good under- 
standing with the Creator. The reason of existence 
of all magic, which runs up into unfathomable anti- 
quity, lies in the maxim of the ancient sages, Egyptian, 
Hebrew, Platonist, that all things visible and sensible 
are but types of things or beings immediately above 
them, and have their origin in such. Hence, in magi- 
cal rites, black or white, men used and offered to the 
unseen powers those words or actions or substances 
which were conceived to be in correspondence with 
their character or nature, employing withal certain 
secret traditional manoeuvres. The lowest surviving 
form is fetish ; sacrifice also had a similar source ; 
so had the Mosaic prescriptions, in which only 
innocent rites and pure substances were to be em- 
ployed. Whereas the most horrible practices and 
repulsive substances have always been associated with 
witches, necromancers, &c., who are reported to have 
put their wills at the absolute disposal of the infernal 
and malevolent powers who work in direct counter- 
action of the decrees and providence of the Deity. 
Hence the renunciation of baptism, treading on holy 

Tlu Idea 0/ Fate in Sontfiem TradUians. 285 

things, the significant act of saying the Lord's Prayer 
backwards, ix,^ in the opposite intention to that of 
the author. This is the consummate sin of pacti^ 
or, as it is said, "selling the soul," and is the very 
opposite of divine magic or the way of the typical 
saint: "Present yourselves a living sacrifice (not a 
dead carcase) in body, soul, and spirit." To persons 
in the last condition unusual efiects have been 
ascribed, as it was believed that those who had put 
themselves at the absolute disposal of the malignant 
powers were also enabled to effect singular things, on 
the wrong side, indeed, and very inferior in order, so 
long as the agreement held good. 

The most sensible definition of magic is '' an effect 

sought to be produced by antecedents obviously 

inadequate in themselves." Certain words, gestures, 

I practices, have been recognised on the tradition of 

* ancient experience to have certain remedial or other 

i properties or consequents, and they are used in all 

I simplicity by persons who can find no other reason 

\ than that they are thought to succeed. 

I One of the most remarkable of early ideas still 

K current about human destiny is that which pictures 

1 * each man coupled witH a personal and individualised 

I fate. This fate may be beneficent or maleficent, a 

\ guardian angel or a possessive fiend ; or it may, in 

appearance at least, combine both functions. The 

belief in a personal fate was deeply rooted among the 

Greeks and Romans, and proved especially acceptable 

to the Platonists. Socrates* dxmon comes to mind : 

but in that case the analogy is not clear, because the 

inward voice to which the name of daemon was after* 

wards given, was rather a personal conscience than a 

286 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

personal fate — a difference that involves the whole 
question of the responsibility of man. But the evil 
genii of Dion the Syracusan and of Brutus were 
plainly '' personal fates." Dion's evil genius appeared 
to him when he was sitting alone in the portico before 
his house one evening ; it had the form of a gigantic 
woman, like one of the furies as they were represented 
on the stage, sweeping the floor with a broom. It 
did not speak, but the apparition was followed by the 
death of Dion's son, who jumped in a fit of childish 
passion from the house-top, and soon after, Dion him- 
self was assassinated. Brutus' dxmon was, as ever>'- 
one knows, a monstrous spectre that seemed to be 
standing beside him in his tent one night, a little 
while before he left Asia, and which, on being ques- 
tioned, said to him, '' I am thy evil genius, Brutus, 
thou wilt see me at Philippi.'* 

We catch sight again of the personal fate in the 
relations of Antony with the young Octavius. An- 
tony had in his house an Egyptian astrologer, who 
advised him by all means to keep away from the 
young man, " for your genius," he said, " is in fear of 
his; when it is alone its port is erect and fearless, 
when his approaches it, it is dejected and depressed/* 
There were circumstances, says Plutarch, that carried 
out this view, for in every kind of play, whether they 
cast lots or cast the die, Antony was still the loser ; 
in their cock fights and quail fights, it was still 
'* Cxsar's cock and Cssar's quail." 

In ancient Norse and Teutonic traditions, where 
Salida, or Frau S%lde, takes the place of Fortuna, we 
find indications of the personal fate, both kindly and 
unkindly. The fate appeared to its human turn 

Tlie Idea of Fate in Southern Traditions. 287 

chiefly in the hour of death, that is, in the hour of 
parting company. Sometimes it was attached not to 
one person, but to a whole family, passing on from 
one to another, as in the case of the not yet extinct 
superstition of (he White Lady of the HohenzoUerns. 

In a very old German story, quoted by Jacob 
Grimm, a poor knight is shown, eating his frugal meal 
in a wood, who on looking up, sees a monstrous 
creature among the boughs which cries, '' I am thy 
nngelucke I " The knight asks his " ill-luck " to share 
his meal, and when it comes down, catches it, and 
shuts it up in a hollow oak. Someone, who wishes to 
do him an ill-turn, lets out the ungeliUke; but instead 
of reverting to. the knight, it jumps on the back of its 
evil-minded deliverer. 

In the Sicilian story of "Feledico and Epomata," 
one of those collected by Fraulein Laura Gonzcnbach,* 
a childless king and queen desire to have children. 
One day they see a soothsayer going by : they call 
him in, and he says that the queen will bear a son, 

1 Laura Gonzenbach was the daughter of the Swiss Consul at 
Messina, where she was born. At an early age she developed 
uncommon gifts, and she was hardly twenty when she made 
her collection of Sicilian stories, almost exclusively gathered 
from a young servant-girl who did not know how to write or 
read. It was with great difficulty that a publisher was found 
who would bring out the book. Fratulein Gonzenbach niamed 
Colonel La Racine, a Piedniontese officer, and died five or six 
i years ago, being still quite young. A relation of hers, from 

whom I have these particulars, was much surprised to hear 
that the Sicilianische Mdrchen is widely known as one of the 
best works of its class. It is somewhat singular that the pre- 
servation of Italian folk-tales should have b^n so substantially 
aided by two ladies not of Italian origin : Friiulein Gonzenbach 
and Miss R. M. Busk, author of ^ The Folk-lore of Rome." 

288 Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. 

but that he will die when he is eighteen years of age. 
The grief of the royal pair is extreme, and they ask 
the soothsayer for advice what to do. He can only 
suggest that they should shut the child up in a tower 
till the unlucky hour be past, after which his fate will 
have no more power over him. This is accordingly 
done, and the child sees no one in the tower but the 
nurse and a lady of the court, whom he believes to be 
his mother. One day, when the lady has gone to 
make her report to the queen, the boy hears his fate 
crying to him in his sleep, and asking why he stays 
shut up there, when his real father and mother arc 
king and queen and live in a fine castle ? He makes 
inquiries, and at first is pacified by evasive answers, 
but after three visits of his fate, who always utters the 
same words, he insists on going to the castle and 
seeing his father and mother. '* His fate has found 
him out, there is no good in resisting it," says the 
queen. However, by' the agency of Epomata, the 
beautiful daughter of an enchantress, who had con- 
veyed the prince to her castle, and had provided for 
his execution on the very day ordained by his fate, 
Feledico tides over the fatal moment and attains a 
good old age. 

Hahn states that the Greek name of Moipai is given 
by the Albanians to what I have called personal fates, 
as well as to the Parcae ; but the Turkish designation 
of Bakht^ meaning a sort of protecting spirit, seems 
to be in more common use. The Albanian story- 
teller mentions a negress who is in want of some 
sequins, and who says, *' Go and find my fortune 
(Bakht), but first make her a cake, and when you 
offer it to her, ask her for a few gold pieces." 

Tlu Idea of Fate in Southerfi Traditiofts. 289 

A like propitiatory offering of food to one's per* 
sonal fate forms a feature of a second Sicilian story 
which is so important in all its bearings on the sub- 
ject in hand, that it would not do to abridge it Here 
it is, therefore, in its entirety. 

There was a certain merchant who was so rich that he had 
treasures which not even the king possessed. In his audience 
chamber there were three beautiful arm-chairs, one of silver, 
one of gold, and one of diamonds. This merchant had an only 
daughter of the name of Caterina, who was fairer than the sun. 
One day Caterina sat alone in her room, when suddenly the door 
opened of itself, and there entered a tall and beautiful lady, who 
held a wheel in her hands.* '' Caterina," said she, " when would 
you like best to enjoy your life ? in youth, or in age?" Cater* 
ina gazed at her in amazement, and could not get over her 
stupor. The beautiful lady asked again, '* Caterina, when do 
you wish to enjoy your life in youth or in age ? " Then Caterina 
thought, " If I say in youth, I shall have to suifer in age ; hence 
I I prefer to enjoy my life in age, and in youth I must get on as the 

1 Lord wills." So she said, *' In age.'* '* Be it unto you according 

\ to your desire," said the beautiful lady, who gave a turn to her 

I wheel, and disappeared. This tall and beautiful lady was poor 

I Caterina's fate. After a few days her father received the sudden 

I news that several of his ships had gone down in a storm ; again, 

\ after a few days, other of his ships met with the same fote, and 

I ' to make a long story short, a month had not gone by before he 

I saw himself despoiled of all his wealth. He had to sell every- 

I thing, and remained poor and miserable,, and finally he fell ill 

I and died. Thus poor Caterina was left alone in the world, and 

no one would give her a home. Then she thought, ^ I will go 
to another city and will seek a place as serving*maid." She 
wandered a long way till she reached another city. As she 
passed down the street, she saw at a window a worthy*looking 
lady,* who questioned her. ** Where are you going, all alone, 
fair girl ? ** '* Oh ! noble lady, I am a poor girl, and I would will- 
ingly go into service to earn my bread. Could you, by chance, 
employ me?" The worthy lady engaged her, and Caterina 
served her faithfully. After a few days the lady said one even* 

390 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

ins* '* Caterina, I am going out, and shall lock the house-door." 
^ Very welly" said Caterina, and when her mistress was gone, she 
took her work and began to sew. Suddenly the door opened, 
and her fate came in. *' So ! " cried this one, "you are here, 
Caterina, and you think that I shall leave you in peace ! " With 
these words, she ran to the cupboards and turned out the linen 
and clothes of Caterina's mistress, and threw them all about the 
room. Caterina thought, " When my mistress returns and finds 
everything in such a state, she will kill me 1 '' And out of fear 
she broke open the door and fled. But her fate made all the 
things right again, and gathered them up and put them in their 
places. When the mistress came home, she called Caterina, 
but she could not find her anywhere. She thought she must 
have robbed her, but when she looked at her cupboards, she 
saw that nothing was missing. She wondered greatly, but 
Caterina never came back — she ran and ran till she reached 
another city, when, as she passed along the street, she saw once 
more a lady at a window, who asked her, '* Where are you going, 
all alone, fair girl ? '' ^' Ah ! noble lady, I am a poor girl, and 1 
wish to find a place so as to earn my bread. Could you take 
me ? " The lady took her into her service, and Caterina thought 
now to remain in peace. Only a few days had passed, when 
one evening, when the lady was out, Caterina's fate appeared 
again, and spoke hard words to her, saying, '* So you are here, 
are you? and you think to escape from me?" Then she 
scattered whatever she could lay hands on, and poor Caterina 
once more fled out of fright. 

To be brief, poor Caterina had to lead this terrible life for 
seven years, flying from city to city in search of a place. 
Whenever she entered service, after a few days her fate always 
appeared and disordered her mistress' things, and so the poor 
girl had to fly. As soon as she was gone, however, her fate re- 
paired all the damage that had been done. At last, after seven 
years, it seemed as if the unhappy Caterina's fate was weary of 
persecuting her. One day she arrived in a city where she saw 
a lady at a window, who said, ^* Where go you, all alone, fair 
girl?" "Ah ! noble lady, I am a poor girl, and willingly woulti 
I enter service to earn my bread; could you employ me? 
The lady replied, ** I will take you, but every day you will have 

Tfie Idea of Fate in Southern Traditions. 291 

to do me a certain service, and I am not sure that you have the 
strength." " Tell me what it is," said Caterina, " and if I can, I 
will do it." '* Do you see that high mountain ? " said the lady ; 
'^ every morning you will have to carry up to the top a bakers 
tray of new bread, and then you must cry aloud, < O fate of my 
mistress I ' three times repeated. My fate will appear and will 
receive the bread.'* ** I will do it willingly," said Caterina, and 
thereupon the lady engaged her. With this lady Caterina 
stayed many years, and every morning she carried the tray of 
fresh bread up the mountain, and after she had cried three times, 
" O fate of my mistress I " there appeared a beautiful, stately 
lady, who' received the bread. Caterina often wept, thinking 
how she, who was once so rich, had now to work like any poor 
girl, and one day her mistress asked her, '* Why are you always 
crying?" Caterina told her how ill things had gone with her, 
and her mistress said, *' You know, Caterina, when you take the 
bread up the mountain to-morrow ? Well, do you beg my fate 
to try and persuade yours to leave you in peace. Perhaps this 
may do some good." The advice pleased poor Caterina, and 
the following morning when she carried up the bread, she told 
her mistress' fate of the sore straits she was in, and said, ''O 
fate of my mistress, pray ask my fate no longer to torment me." 
** Ah ! poor girl," the fate answered, " your fate is covered with a 
sevenfold covering, and that is why she cannot hear you. But 
to-morrow when you come, I will lead you to her." When 
Caterina had gone home, her mistress' fate went to her fate, 
and said, *' Dear sister, why are you not tired of persecuting 
poor Caterina ? Let her once again see happy days." The fate 
replied, " To-morrow bring her to me ; I will give her something 
that will supply all her needs." The next morning, when Cater- 
ina brought the bread, her mistress' fate conducted her to her 
own fate, who was covered with a sevenfold covering. The fate 
gave her a skein of silk, and said, <* Take care of it, it will be of 
use to you." After she had returned home, Caterina said to her 
mistress, ^ My fate has made me a present of a skein of silk ; 
what ought I to do with it?" '* It is not worth three grains of 
com,'* said the mistress. '* Keep it, all the same ; who knows 
what it may be good for ? " 

After some time, it happened that the young king was 

29 a Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. 

about to take a wife, and, therefore, lie had himself made some 
new clothes. But when the tailor was going to make up one 
fine piece of stuflT, he could not anywhere find silk of the same 
colour with which to sew it. The king had it cried through the 
land, that whosoever had silk of the right colour was to bring it 
to court, and would be well paid for his pains. '* Caterina,** saiil 
her mistress, ** your skein of silk is of that colour ; take it to the 
king and he will make you a fine present*' Caterina put on her 
best gown, and went to court, and when she came before the 
king, she was so beautiful that he could not take his eyes off hei . 
'^ Royal Majesty,'Vshe said, " I have brought a skein of silk of tht 
colour you could net find.*' ** Royal majesty,** cried one of tlu 
ministers, ** we should give her the weight of her silk in gold.' 
The king agreed, and the scales were brought in. On one sid 
the king plac6d the skein of silk, and on the other a gold piece 
Now, what do you think happened ? The silk was always th^ 
heaviest, no matter how many gold pieces the king placed i 
the balance. Then he ordered a larger pair of scales, and I: 
put all his treasure to the one side, but the silk remained tl. 
heaviest. Then he took his gold crown off his head' and set . 
with the other treasure, and upon that the two scales becan. 

<< Where did you get this silk?" asked the king. '*Ro> 
Majesty, my mistress gave it to me." " That is not possible 
cried the king. " If you do not tell me the truth I will ha\ 
your head cut off ! " Caterina related all that had happcnt 
to her since the time when she was a rich maiden. At Col 
there was a very wise lady, who said : " Caterina, you ha\ 
suffered much, but now you will see happy days, and since t) 
gold crown made the balance even, it is a sign that you will li*. 
to be a queen." " She shall be a queen," cried the king, " 1 w 
make her a queen ! Caterina and no other shall be my bridt 
And so it was. The king sent to his bride to say that he i 
longer wanted her, and married the fair Caterina, who, afi 
much suffering in youth, enjoyed her age in full prosperity, 1. 
ing happy and content, whereof we have assured testimony. 

The most suggestive passages in this ingenio. 
story arc those which refer to the relative positions . 

The Idea of Fate in Southern Traditions. 293 

a man and his fate, and of one fate to another. On 
these points something further is to be gleaned from 
an Indian, a Servian, and a Spanish tale, all having a 
family likeness amongst themselves, and a strong 
affinity with our story. The Indian variant is one of 
the collection due to the youthful energies of Miss 
Maive Stokes, whose book of " Indian Fairy Tales" 
is a model of what such a book ought to be. The 
Servian tale is to be found in Karadschitsch's 
'' Volksmaerschen der Serben; " the Spanish in Fernan 
Caballero's " Cuentos y Poesias Populares Andaluses/' 
The chief characteristics of the personal fates, as they 
appear in folk-lore, may be briefly summarised. In 
the first place, they know each other, and are ac- 
quainted up to a given point with one another s 
secrets. Thus, in the Servian story, a man who goes 
to seek his fate is commissioned by persons he meets 
on the road to ask it questions touching their own 
private concerns. A rich householder wants to know 
why his servants are always hungry, however much 
food he gives them to eat, and why " his aged, miser- 
able father and mother do not die ? '* A farmer 
would have him ask why his cattle perish; and a 
river, whose waters bear him across, is anxious to 
know why no living thing dwells in it. The fate 
gives a satisfactory answer to each inquiry. 

The fates exercise a certain influence, one over the 
other, and hence over the destinies of the people in 
their charge. Caterina's mistress' fate intercedes for 
her with her own fate. The attention of the fates is 
not always fixed on the persons under them : they 
may be prevented from hearing by fortuitous cir- 
cumstances, such as the " seven coverings or veib ** of 

294 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Caterina's fate, or they may be asleep, or absent from 
home. Their home, by the by, is invariably placed 
in a spot very difficult to get at. In the Spanish 
variant, the palace of Fdrtune is raised ''where our 
Lord cried three times and was not heard *'— it is up 
a rock so steep that not even a goat can climb it, 
and the sunbeams lose their footing when trying to 
reach the top. A personal fate is propitiated by 
suitable offerings, or, if obdurate, it may be brought 
to reason by a well-timed punishment.. The Indian 
beats his fate-stone, just as the Ostyak beats his 
fetish if it does not behave well and bring him sport. 
The Sicilian story gives no hint of this alternative, 
but it is one strictly in harmony with the Italian way 
of thinking, whether ancient or modem. Statius' 
declaration : 

Fataque, et injustos rabidis pulsare querelis 
Caclicoias solamen erat ... 

was frequently put into practice, as when, upon the 
death of Germanicus, the Roman populace cast stones 
at the temples, and the altars were levelled to the 
ground, and the Lares thrown into the street. Again, 
Augustus took revenge on Neptune for the loss ot 
his fleet, by not allowing his image to be carried in 
the procession of the Circensian games. It is or. 
record that at Florence, in 1498, a ruined gamester 
pelted the image of the Virgin with horse dung. 
Luca Landucci, who tells the story, says that the 
Florentines were shocked ; but in the southern king- 
dom the incident would have passed without mucli 
notice. The Neapolitans have hardly now left ot. 
heaping torrents of abuse on San Gennaro if he fail 

The Idea of Fate in Soutlurn Traditions. 295 

to perform the miracle of liquefaction quick enough. 
Probably every country could furnish an illustra- 
tion. In the grand procession of St Leonhard, 
the Bavarians used from time to time to drop the 
Saint into the river, as a sort of gentle warning. 

The physical presentment of the personal fate 
differs considerably. According to the Indian ac- 
count, "the fates are stones, some standing, and 
others lying on the ground.** It has been said that 
this looks like a relic of stock and stone worship: 
which is true if it can be said unreservedly that any- 
one ever worshipped a stock or a stone. The lowest 
stage of fetish worship only indicates a diseased 
spiritualism-— a mental state in which there is no 
hedge between the real and the imagined. No 
savage ever supposed that his fetish was a simple 
three-cornered stone and nothing more. If one 
could guess the thoughts of the pigeon mentioned 
by Mr Romanes as worshipping a gingerbeer bottle, 
it would be surely seen that this pigeon believed 
his gingerbeer bottle to be other than a piece 
of unfeeling earthenware* It is, however, a sign 
of progress when man begins to picture the ruling 
powers not as stones, or even as animals, but as 
men. This point is reached in the Servian narra- 
tive, where the hero's fortune is a hag given to 
him as his luck by fate. In the Spanish tale, the 
aspect of the personal fate varies with its character : 
the fortunate man's fate is a lovely girl, the fate of 
the unfortunate man being a toothless old woman. 
In the PeHtamerone of Giambattista Basile, Fortune 
is also. spoken of as an old woman^ but this seems 
a departure from the true Italian ideal, which is 

296 Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. 

neither a stone nor a luck*hag, nor yet a varying 
fair-and-foul fortune, but a "bella, alta Signora;" the 
imposing figure that surmounts the wheel of fortune 
on the marble pavement of the Cathedral of Siena. 
It is a graver conception than the gracefully fickle 
goddess of Jean Cousin's •* Liber Fortunse *' : 

• On souloit la pourtrairci 
Tenant un voile afin d'aller au gx€ du vent 
Des aisles aux costez pour voler bien avant. 

Shakespeare had the Emblematist s Fortune in his 
mind when he wrote : ** Fortune is painted blind, 
with a mufHer afore her eyes, to signify to you, which 
is the moral vOf it, that she is turning, and inconstant, 
and mutability, and variation : and her foot» look 
you, is fixed upon a spherical stone, which rolls, and 
rolls, and rolls." 

In hands less light than Cousin's, it was easy for 
the Fortune of the emblem writers to become 
grotesque, and to lose all artistic merit. The Italian 
Fortuna does not in the least lend herself to carica- 
ture. In Italy, the objects of thought, even of the 
common people, have the tendency to assume con- 
crete and aesthetic forms — a fact of great significance 
in the history of a people destined to render essential 
service to art. 

The "tall, beautiful lady" of the Sicilian story, 
reappears in a series of South Italian folk-song.- 
which contains further evidence of this unconsciously 
artistic instinct The Italian folk-poet, for themes: 
part, lets the lore of tradition altogether alone, li 
does not lie in his province, which is purely lyrical 
But he has seized upon Fortune as a myth very cap 

The Idea of Fate in Southerft Traditions. 297 

able of lyrical treatment, and following the free bent 
of his genius, he has woven out of his subject the 
delicate fancies of these songs. A series in the sense 
of being designed to form a consecutive whole, they, 
of course, are not. No two, probably, had the same 
author; the perfect individuality of the figure pre- 
sented, only showing how a type may be so firmly 
fixed that the many have no difficulty in describing 
it with the consistency of one man who draws the 
creation of his own brain. 

Once in the gloaming, Fortune met me here ; 
Fair did she seem, and Love was on me laid, 
Her hair was raised, as were it half a sphere, 
Flowered on her breast a rose that cannot fade. 
Then said I, " Fortune, thou without a peer, 
What rule shall tell the measure of thine aid?" 
^ The pathway of the moon through all the year, 
The channel of the exhaustless sea," she said. 

One night, the while I slept, drew Fortune near, 
At once I loved, such beauty she displayed ; 
A crescent moon did o'er her brows appear. 
And in her hand a wheel that never stayed. 
Then said I to her, ** O my mistress dear, 
Grant all my wishes, mine if thou wilt aid.'' 
But she turned from me with dark sullen cheer 
And " Never I " as she turned, was all she said. 

I saw my Fortune midst the sounding sea 
Sit weeping on a rocky height and steep, 
Said I to her, " Fortune, how is't with thee ? " 
^ I cannot help thee, child'' (so answered she), 
^' I cannot help thee more— so must I weep." 
How sweet were those her tears, how sweet, ah me ! 
Even the fishes wept within the deep. 

298 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 


One day did Fortune call me to her side, 

''What are the things," she asked, '< that thou hast done? " 

T&en answered I, " Dear mistress, I have tried 

To grave them upon marble, every one.** 

^ Ah ! maddest of the mad ! ** so she replied, 

^ Better hadst writ on sand than wrought in stone ; 

He who to marble should his love confide. 

Loves when he loves till all his wits are gone." 


There where I lay asleep came Fortune in, 

She came the while I slept and bid me wake, 

'^ What dost thou now ? '* she said, ^ companion mine ? 

What dost thou now ? Wilt thou then love forsake ? 

Arise," she said, ^' and take this violin, 

And play till every stone thereat shall wake." 

I was asleep when Fortune came to me, 

And bid me rise, and led me unto thee ! 

These songs come from different villages; from 
Caballino and Morciano in Calabria, from Corigliano 
and Calimera in Terra d'Otranto ; the two last are in 
the Greek dialect spoken In the latter district There 
are a great many more, in all of which the same sweet 
and serious type is preserved ; but the above quintet 
suffices to give a notion of this modern Magna 
Graecian Idyll of Fortune. 


• • . A nurse's song 

Of lullaby, to bring her babe asleep. 

Infancy is a great mystery. We know that we each 
have gone over that stage in human life, though even 
this much is not always quite easy to realise. But 
what else do we know about it? Something by 
observation, something by intuition ; by experience 
hardly anything at all. We have as much personal 
acquaintance with a lake-dwelling or stone age infant 
as with our proper selves at the time when we were 
passing through the " avatar " of babyhood. The re- 
collections of our earliest years are at most only as 
the confused remembrance of a morning dream, which 
at one end fades into the unconsciousness of sleep, 
whilst at the other it mingles with the realities of 
awaking. And yet, as a fact, we did not sleep through 
all the dawn of our life, nor were we unconscious ; only 
we were different from what we now are ; the term 
" thinking animal " did not then fit us so well We 
were less reasonable and less material. Babies have 
a way of looking at you that makes you half suspect 
that they belong to a separate order of beings. You 
speculate as to whether they have not invisible wings, 
which drop off afterwards as do the birth wings of the 
young ant There is one thing, however, in which the 
baby is very human, very manlike. Of all new- 

300 Essays in the Study of Folk-Stmgs. 

born creatures he is the least happy. You may some* 
times see a little child crying softly to himself with a 
look of world woe on his face that is positively appal- 
ling. Perhaps human existence, like a new pair of 
shoes, is very uncomfortable till one gets accustomed 
to it Anyhow the child, being for some reason or 
reasons exceedingly disposed to vex its heart, needs 
much soothing. In one highly civilised country a 
good many mothers are in the habit of going to the 
nearest druggist for the means to tranquillise their 
ofTspring, with the result that these latter are not 
unfrequently rescued from the sea of sorrows in the 
most final and expeditious way. In less advanced 
states of society another expedient has been resorted 
to from time immemorial — to wit, the cradle song. 

Babies show an early appreciation of rhythm. 
They rejoice in measured noise, whether it takes the 
form of words, music, or the jingle of a bunch of 
keys. In the way of poetry I am afraid they must be 
admitted to have a perverse preference for what goes 
by the name of sing-song. It will be a long time 
before the infantine public are brought round to Walt 
Whitman's views on versification. For the rest, they 
are not very severe critics. The small ancient Roman 
asked for nothing better than the song of his nurse— 

Lalla, lalla, lalla, 
Aut domii, aut lacta. 

This two-line lullaby constitutes one of the few but 
sufficing proofs which have come down to us of the 
existence among the people of old Rome of a sort of 
folk verse not by any means resembling the Latin 
classics, but bearing a considerable likeness to the 

^ Folk-Lullabies. 301 

canti popolari of the modern Italian peasant. It may 
be said parenthetically that the study of dialect tends 
altogether to the conviction that there are country 
people now living in Italy to whomi rather than to 
Cicero, we should go if we want to know what style 
of speech was in use among the humbler subjects of 
the Caesars. The lettered language of the cultivated 
classes changes ; the spoken tongue of the uneducated 
remains the same ; or, if it too undergoes a process of 
change, the rate at which it moves is to the other 
what the pace of a tortoise is to the speed of an 
express train. About eight hundred years ago a 
handful of Lombards went to Sicily, where they still 
preserve the Lombard idioni. The Ober-Engadiner 
could hold converse with his remote ancestors who 
took refuge in the Alps three or four centuries before 
Christ ; the Aragonese colony at Alghero, in Sardinia, 
yet discourses in Catalan ; the Roumanian language 
still contains terms and expressions which, though 
dissimilar to both Latin and standard Italian, find 
their analogues in the dialects of those eastward- 
facing " Latin plains '* whence, in all probability, the 
people of Roumania sprang. But we must return to 
our lullabies. 

There exists another Latin cradle song, not indeed 
springing from classical times, but which, were popular 
tradition to be trusted, would have an origin greatly 
more illustrious than that of the laconic eflfusion of 
the Roman nurse. It is composed in the person of 
the Virgin Mary, and was, in bygone days, believed 
to have been actually sung by her. Authorities differ 
as to its real age, some insisting that the peculiar 
structure of the verse was unknown before the 12th 

302 Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. 

centuiy. There is, however, good reason to think 
that the idea of composing lullabies for the Virgin 
belongs to an early period. 

Donnii fill, donni ! • mater 

Cantat unigenito : 
Dormi puer, dohni I pater 

Nato clamat parvulo : 
Milliei tibi laudes canimui 

Mille, millei miUies. 

Xectum stravi tibi soli, 

Dormi, nate bellule ! 
Stravi lectum foeno moUi : 

Dormi mi animule. 
Millies tibi laudes canimus 

Miliei mille, millies. 

Dormi, decus et corona ! 

Dormi, nectar lacteum I 
Dormi, mater dabo dona, 

Dabo favum melleum. 
Millies tibi laudes canimus 

Mille, mille, millies. 

Dormi, nate mi mellite I 

Dormi plene saccharo, 
Dormi, vita, meae vitae, 

Casto natus utero. 
Millies tibi laudes canimus 

Mille, mille, millies. 

Quidquid optes, volo dare ; 

Dormi, parve pupule 
Dormi, fili ! dormi carae, 

Matris deliciolae t 
Millies tibi laudes canimus 

Mille, mille, millies. 

Folk-Lullabies. 303 


Dormi cor, et meus thfonus ; 
\ Dormi matris jubilum ; • 

I Aurium caelestis sonus, 

I £l suave sibilum ! 

f Millies tibi laudcs canimus 

^ Mille, millei milltes. 

Dormi fili ! dulce, mater 
Dulce melos conclnam ; 

Dormi, nate ! suave, pater, 
Suave carmen accinam. 

Millies tibi laudes canimus 
Mille, mille, millies. 

Ne quid desit, stemam rosiSi 
Stemam foenum violis, 

Pavimentum hyacinthis 
Et praesepe liliis. 

Millies tibi laudes canimus 
Mille, mille, miliics. 

Si vis musicam, pastores 

Convocabo protinus ; 
Illis nulli sunt priores ; 

Nemo canit castius. 
Millies tibi laudes canimus 

Mille, mille, millies. 

Everybody who is in Rome at Christmas-tide 
makes a point of visiting Santa Maria in Ara Coeli, 
the church which stands to the right of the Capitol, 
where' once the temple of Jupiter Feretrius is sup- 
posed to have stood. What is at that season to be 
seen in the Ara Coeli is well enough known — to one 
side a *' presepio," or manger, with the ass, the ox, St 
Joseph, the Virgin, and the Child on her knee ; to the 
other side a throng of little Roman children rehears* 
ing in their infantine voices the story that is pictured 

304 Essays in the Study of Fotk^Sangs. 

opposite.^ The scene may be taken as typical of the 
cult of the Infant Saviour, which, under one form or 
another, has existed distinct and separable from the 
main stem of Christian worship ever since a Voice in 
Judaea bade man seek after the Divine in the stable 
of Bethlehem. It is almost a commonplace to say 
that Christianity brought fresh and peculiar glory 
alike to infancy and to motherhood. A new sense 
came into the words of the oracle — 

Thee in all children, the eternal Child . . • 

And the mother, sublimely though she appears 
against the horizon of antiquity, yet rose to a higher 
rank-— because the highest — at the founding of the 
new faith. Especially in art she left the second place 
that she might take the first. The sentiment of 
maternal love, as illustrated, as transfigured, in the 
love of the Virgin for her Divine Child, furnished the 
great Italian painters with their master motive, whilst 
in his humble fashion the obscure folk-poet exempli- 
fies the selfsame thought. I am not sure that th<:^ 
rude rhymes of which the following is a rendering d6 
not convey, as well as can be conveyed in articulate 
speech, the glory and the grief of the Dresden 
Madonna : 

Sleep, oh sleep, dear Baby mine, 

King Divine ; 
Sleep, my Child, in sleep recline ; 

^ The ** Preaching of the children'' took place as usual in the 
Christmas week of 1885, but as the convent in connection with 
the church of Santa Maria is about to be pulled down, I cannoi 
tell whether the pretty custom will be adhered to in future 
The church, however, which was also threatened with demoli 
tion, is now safe. 

Folk-Lullabies. • 305 

Lullaby, mine Infant fair, 

Heaven's King 

All glittering, 
FttU of grace as lilies rare. 

Close thine eyelids, O my treasure, 

Loved past measure, 
Of my soul, the Lord, the pleasure; 
Lullaby, O regal Child, 

On the hay 

Love celestial, meek and milA 

Why dost weep, my Babe ? alas I 

Cold winds that pass 
Vex, or is 't the little ass? 
Lullaby, O Paradise; 

Of my heart 

Though Saviour art ; 
On thy face I press a kiss. 

Wouldst thou learn so speedily. 

Pain to try. 

To heave a sigh ? 
Sleep, for thou shalt see the day 


Of dreadful death, 
To bitter scorn and shame a prey. 

. Rays now round thy brow extend, 

But in the end 
A crown of cruel thorns shall bend. 
Lullaby, O little one, 

Gentle guest 

Who for thy rest 
A manger hast, to lie upon. 

Bom in winter of the year, 
Jesu dear. 
As the lost world^s prisoner. 

306 Essays in the Study of Folk-Sangs. 

Lullaby (fi>r thou an bound 

Pain to know, 

And want and woeX 
Mid the cattle standing round. 

Beauty mine, sleep peacefully ; 

Heaven's monarch! see, 
With my veil I cover thee. 
Lullaby, my Spouse, my Lord, 

Fairest Child 

Pure, undefiled, 
Thou by all my soul adored. . 

Lo I the shepherd band draws nigh ; 

Horns they ply 
Thee their Lord to glorify. 
Lullaby, my souFs delight, 

For Israel, 

Faithless and fell, 
Thee with cruel death would smite. 

Now the milk suck from my breast. 

Holiest, best, 
Thy kind eyes thou openest. 
Lullaby, the while I sing ; 


Now sleep anew. 
My mantle is thy sheltering. 

Sleep, sleep, thou who dost heaven impart 

My Lord thou art; 
Sleep, as I press thee to my heart 
Poor the place where thou dost lie, 

Earth's loveliest ! 

Yet take thy rest ; 
Sleep my Child, and lullaby. 

It would be interesting to know if Mrs Browning: 
ever heard any one of the many variants of this lul- 
laby before writing her poem " The Viiigin Mary to 

Folk' Lullabies. 307 

the Child Jesus." The ve:rsion given above was com- 
municated to me by a resident at Vallauriay in the 
heart of the Ligurian Alps. In that district it is 
sung in the churches on Christmas Eve, when oiit 
abroad the mountains sleep soundly in their snows 
and a stray wolf is not an impossible apparition, 
nothing reminding you that you are within a day's 
journey of the citron groves of Mentone. 

There are several old English carols which bear a 
strong resemblance to the Italian sacred luItaUes. 
One, current at least as far back as the time of Henry 
IV., is preserved among the Sloane MSS. : 

LuUay ! lullay ! lytel child, myn owyn dere fode, 
How xalt thou sufferih be nayled on the rode. 

So blyssid be the tyme ! 

Lullay 1 lullay ! lytel child, myn owyn dere smerte, 
How xalt thou sufferin the scharp spere to Thi herte ? 
So blyssid be the tyme ! 

Lullay I lullay ! lytel child, I synge all for Thi sake. 
Many on is the scharpe schour to Thi body is schape* 
So blyssid be the tyme ! 

Lullay! lullay ! lytel child, fayre happis the befalle, 
How xalt thou sufferin to drynke esyl and galle ? 
So blyssid be the tyme ! 

Lullay ! lullay ! lytel child, I synge al befom 
How xalt thou sufferin the scharp garlong of thorn } 
So blyssid be the tyme ! 

LuUay ! lullay ! lytel child, gwy wepy Thou so sore. 
Thou art bothin God and man, gwat woldyst Thou be more ? 
So blyssid be the tyme ! 

Here, as in the Piedmontese song, the "shadow of 
the cross " makes its presence distinctly felt, whereas 

308 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

in the Latin lullaby it is wholly absent Nor are 
there any dark or sad forebodings in the fragment : 

Dormi JesUy mater ridcti 
Qu« tarn dulcem somnum vtdeti 
Dormi, Jesu blahdule. 
Si non dermis, mater plorat, 
Inter (ila cantans orat : 
Blande, veni Somnule. 

Many Italian Christmas cradle songs are in this 
lighter strain. In Italy and Spain a prtstpio or naci^ 
mento is arranged in old-fashioned houses on the eve 
of Christmas/ and all kinds of songs are sung or 
recited before the white image of the Child as it lies 
in its bower of greenery. " Flower of Nazareth sleep 
upon my breast, my heart is thy cradle," sing the 
Tuscans, who curiously call Christmas " the Yule-log 
Easter." In Sicily a thousand endearing epithets are 
applied to the Infant Saviour: "figghiu duci," "Gesi- 
uzzi beddu/' ^'Gesiuzzi picchiureddi." The Sicilian 
poet relates how once, when the Madunazza was 
mending St Joseph's clothes, the Bambineddu cried 
in His cradle because no one was attending to Him ; 
so the archangel Raphael came down and rocked 
Him, and said three sweet little words to Him, " Lul- 
laby, Jesus, Son of Mary I " Another time, when the 
Child was older and the mother was going to visit St 
Anne, he wept because He wished to go too. The 
mother let Him accompany her on condition that 
He would not break St Anne's bobbins. Yet another 
time the Virgin went to the fair to buy flax, and the 
Child said that He too would like to have a fairing. 
The Virgin buys Him a tambourine, and angels de- 
scend to listen to His playing. Such stories are end- 

Folk'Lullabies. 309 

less ; some, no doubt, are invented on the spur of the 
moment, but the larger portion are scraps of old 
legendary lore. Not a few of the popular beliefs, re- 
lating to the Infant Jesus may be traced to the apo- 
cryphal Gospels, which were extensively circulated 
during the earlier Christian centuries. There is, for 
instance, a Provencal song containing the legend of 
an apple-tree that bowed its branches to the Virgin, 
which is plainly derived from this source. Speaking 
of Provence, one ought not ta forget the famous 
"Troubadour of Bethlehem," Saboly, who was bom 
in 1640, and who composed more than sixty no^ls. ' 
Five pretty lines of his form an epitome of sacred 
lullabies : 

Faudra dire, faudra dire, 
Quauco cansoun, 
Au gar^oun, 
A la faqoun 
D^aquelo de soutn-sotan. 

George Wither deserves remembrance here for 
what he calls a " Rocking hymn," written about the 
year of Saboly's birth. ** Nurses," he says, "usually 
sing their children asleep, and through want of perti- 
nent matter they oft make use of unprofitable, if not 
worse, songs; this was therefore prepared that it 
might help acquaint them and their nurse children 
with the loving care and kindness of their Heavenly 
Father." Consciously or unconsciously, Wither caught 
the true spirit of the ancient carols in the verses—- 
charming in spite, or perhaps because of their demure 
simplicity-^which follow his tittle exordium : 

Sweet baby, sleep : what ails my dear ; 
What ails my darling thus to cry ? 

3 10 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Be stiUi my chil^ and lend thine ear, 
To hear me ling thy lullaby. 

My pretty Iambi forbear to weep ; 

Be still, my dear ; iweet baby, sleep. 

Thou blessed soul, what canst thou fear? 
What thing to thee can mischief do? 
Thy God is now thy Father dear. 
His holy Spouse thy mother toa 

Sweet baby, then forbear to weep ; 

Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep. . . • 

Whilst thus thy lullaby I sing, 
For thee great blessings ripening be ; 
Thine eldest brother is a king, 
And hath a kingdom bought for thee. 

Sweet baby, then forbear to weep ; 

Be still, my babe ; sweet baby, sleep, ftc, && 

Count Gubernatis, in his '' Usi Natalizj,'* quotes a 
popular Spanish lullaby, addressed to any ordinary 
child, but having reference to the Holy Babe : 

The Baby Child of Mary, 

Now cradle He has none ; 
His father is a carpenter. 

And he shall make Him one. 

The lady good St Anna, 

The lord St Joachim, 
They rock the Baby*s cradle, 

That sleep may come to Him. 

Then sleep thou too, my baby, 

My little heart so dear ; 
The Virgin is beside thee. 

The Son of God is near. 

When they are old enough to understand the mean- . 

Folk-Lullabies. 311 

ing of words, children are sure to be interested up to 
a certain point by these saintly fables, but, taken as a 
whole, the songs of the South give us the impression 
that the coming of Christmas kindles the imagina- 
tion of the Southern mother rather than that of the 
Southern child. On the north side of the Alps it is 
otherwise ; there is scarcely need to say that in the 
Vaterland, Christmas is before all the children's feast. 
We, who have borrowed many of the German yule- 
tide customs, have left out the "Christkind ;'* and it 
is well that we have done so. Transplanted to foreign 
soil, that poetic piece of extra-belief would have 
become a mockery. As soon try to naturalise Koly- 
ada, the Sclavonic white-robed New-year girl. The 
Christkind in His mythical attributes is nearer to 
Kolyada than to the Italian Bambinella He belongs 
to the people, not to the Church. He is not swathed 
in jewelled swaddling clothes; His limbs are free, 
and He has wings that carry Him wheresoever good 
children abide. There is about Him all the dreamy 
charm of lands where twilight is long and shade and 
shine intermingle softly, and where the earth's wintry 
winding-sheet is more beautiful than her April bride 
gown. The most popular of German lullabies is a 
truly Teutonic mixture of piety, wonder-lore, and 
homeliness. Wagner has introduced the music to 
which it is sung into his ''Siegfried-Idyl.'' I have to 
thank a Heidelberg friend for the text ; 

Sleep, baby, sleep : 

Your father tends the sheep ; 

Your mother shakes the branches small, 
Whence happy dreams in showers fall : 

Sleep, baby, sleep. 

313 Essay t in the study of Folk-Simgs. 

Sleep) baby, sleep : 

The sky is full of sheep ; 

The stars the lambe of heaven are, 

For whom the shepherd moon doUi care : 

Sleepi baby, sleep. 

Sleep, baby, sleep ; 

The Christ Child owns a sheep ; 

He is Himself the Lamb of God ; 

The world to save, to death He trod : 
Sleep, baby, sleep. 

Sleep, baby, sleep : 

111 give you then a sheep 

With pretty bells, and you shall play 

And frolic with him all the day : 
Sleep, baby, sleep. 

Sleep, baby, sleep : 

And do not bleat like sheep, 

Or else the shepherd's dog will bite 
My naughty, little, crying spright : 

Sleep, baby, sleep. 

Sleep, baby, sleep : 

Begone, and watch the sheep, 

You naughty little dog ! Begone, 

And do not wake my little one : 
Sleep, baby, sleep. 

In Denmark children are sung' to sleep with a 
cradle hymn which is believed (so I am informed by 
a youthful correspondent) to be " very old." It has 
seven stanzas, of which the first runs, " Sleep sweetly, 
little child ; lie quiet and still ; as sweetly sleep as 
the bird in the wood, as the flowers in the meadow. 
God the Father has said, 'Angels stand on watch 
where mine, the little ones, are in bed.* " A corre-. 
spondent at Warsaw (still more youthful) sends me 
the even-song of Polish children : 

Folk-Lullabies. 313 

The stars shine forth from the blue sky ; 

How great and wondrous is God's might ; 
Shine, stars, through all eternity. 

His witness in the night. 

O Lord, Thy tired children keep : 
Keep us who know and feel Thy might ; 

Turn Thine eye on us as we sleep, 
And give us all good-night 

Shine, stars, God's sentinels on high, 
Proclaimers of His power and might ; 

May all things evil from us fly : 
O stars, good-night, good-night ! 

Is this "Dobra Noc" of strictly popular origin? 
From internal evidence I should say that it is not 
It seems, however, to be extremely popular in the 
ordinary sense of the word. Before me lie two or 
three settings of it by Polish musicians. 

The Italians call lullabies ninne-nanne, a term used 
by Dante when he makes Forese predict the ills 
which are to overtake the dames of Florence : 

E se Tanteveder qui non m' inganna, 

Prima flen triste che le guance impeli 
Colui che mo si consola con nanna. 

Some etymologists hav.e sought to connect '* nanna " 
with neni(B or P7i/tT09> but its most apparent relation- 
ship is with vawapio'iiaTai the modern Greek name for 
cradle songs, which is derived from a root signifying 
' the singing of a child to sleep. The ninm-nanne of 
the various Italian provinces are to be found scattered 
here and there through volumes of folk poesy, and no 
attempt has yet been made to collate and compare 
them. Signor Dal Medico did indeed publish, some 

3 14 Essays tn th$ Study of Folk^Songs. 

ten years ago, a separate collection of Venetian nur- 
sery rhymes, but his initiative has not been followed 
up. The difficulty I had in obtaining the little work 
just mentioned is charact^istic of the way in which 
Italian printed matter vanishes out of all being; 
instead of passing into the obscure but secure limbo 
into which much of English literature enters, it attains 
nothing short of Nirvana — a happy state of non- 
existence. The inquiries of several Italian book- 
sellers led. to no other conclusion than that the book 
in question was not to be had for love or money; 
and most likely I should still have been waiting for it 
were it not for the courtesy of the Baron Giovanni di 
Sardagna, who, on hearing that it was wanted by a 
student of folk-lore, borrowed from the author the 
only copy in his possession and made therefrom a 
verbatim transcript. The following is one of Signor 
Dal Medico's lullabies : 

Hush ! lulla, lullaby ! So mother sings ; 

For hearken, 'tis the midnight bell that rings. 

But, darling, not thy mother's bell is this : 

St Lucy's priests it calls to prayer, I wis. 

St Lucy gave thee eyes— a matchless pair — 

And gave the Magdalen her golden hair ; 

Thy cheeks their hue from heaven's angels have ; 

Her little loving mouth St Martha gave. 

Love's mouth, sweet mouth, that Florence hath for home, 

Now tell me where love springs, and how doth come? . . . 

With music and with song doth love arise, 

And then its end it hath in tears and sighs. 

The question and answer as to the beginning and 
end of love run through all the songs of Italy, and in 
nearly every case the reply proceeds from Florence. 

Folk- Lullabies. 315 

The personality of the answerer changes : sometimes 
it is a little wild bird ; on one occasion it is a preacher. 
And the idea has been suggested that the last is the 
original form, and that the Preacher of Florence who 
preaches against love is none other than Jeronimo 
. Savonarola. 

In an Istriot variant of the above song, " Santa 
Luceta " is spoken of as the Madonna of the eyes ; 
*' Santa Puluonia " as the Madonna of the teeth : we 
hear also something of the Magdalene's old shoes and 
of the white lilies she bears in her hands. It is not 
always quite clear upon what principle the folk-poet 
shapes his descriptions of religious personages ; if the 
gifts and belongings he attributes to them are at times 
purely conventional, at others they seem to rest on 
no authority, legendary or historic Most likely his 
ideas as to the personal appearance of such or such a 
saint are formed by the paintings in the church where 
he is accustomed to go to mass ; it is probable, too, 
that he is fond of talking of the patrons of his village 
or of the next village, whose names are associated 
with the/irj/^, which as long as he can recollect have 
constituted the great annual events of his life. But 
two or three saints have a popularity independent of 
local circumstance. One of these is Lucy, whom the 
people celebrate with equal enthusiasm from her 
native Syracuse to the port of Pola. Perhaps the 
maiden patroness of the blessed faculty of vision has 
come to be thought of as a sort of gracious embodi«- 
ment of that which her name signifies : of the sweet 
light which to the southerner is not a mere helpmate 
in the performance of daily tasks, but a providential 
luxury. Concerning the earthly career of their 

3 1 6 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

favourite^ her peasant votaries have vague notions: 
once when a French traveller in the Apennines sug- 
gested that St Januarius might be jealous of her 
praises, he received the answer, '' Ma che^ excellenza^ 
St Lucy was St Januarius' wife I " 

In Greece we find other saints invoked over the 
baby's cradle. The Greek of modern times has his 
face, his mind, his heart, set in an undeviating east- 
ward position. To holy wisdom and to Marina, the 
Alexandrian martyr, the Greek mother confides her 
cradled darling : 

Put him to bed, St Marina ; send him to sleep, St Sophia * 
Take him out abroad that he may see how the trees flower and 
how the birds sing ; then come back and bring him with you, 
that bis father may not ask for him, may not beat his servants, 
that his mother may not seek him in vain, for she would weep 
and fall sick, and her milk would turn bitter. 

At Gessopalena, in the province of Chieti (Abruzzo 
Citeriore) there would seem to be much faith in 
numbers. Luke and Andrew, Michael and Joseph, 
Hyacinth and Matthew are called in, and as if these 
were not enough to nurse one baby^ a summons is 
sent to Sant Giusaffat, who, as is well known, is 
neither more nor less than Buddha introduced into 
the Catholic calendar. 

Another of Signor Dal Medico's ninne-nanne pre- 
sents several points of interest : 

O Sleep, O Sleep, O thou beguiler, Sleep, 

Beguile this child, and in beguilement keep. 

Keep him three hours, and keep him moments three ; 

Until I call beguile this child for me. 

And when I call Til call : — My root, my heart. 

The people say my only wealth thou art. 

Thou art my only wealth ; I tell thee so. 

Now, bit by bit, this boy to sleep will go ; 

Folk-Lullabies. 3 1 7 

He falls and falls to sleeping bit by bit, 
Like the green wood what time the fire is lit. 
Like to green wood that never flame tan dart, 
Heart of thy mother, of thy father heart I 
Like to green wood, that never Aame can shoot. 
Sleep thou, my cradled hope, sleep thou, my rooti 
My cradled hope, my spirit's strength and stay ; 
Mother, who bore thee, wears her life away ; 
. Her life she wears away, and all day long 
She goes a-singing to her child this song. 

Now, in the first place, the comparison of the child's 
gradual falling asleep with the slow ignition of fresh- 
cut wood is the comnion property of all the popula- 
tions whose ethnical centre of gravity lies in Venice. 
I have seen an Istriot version of it, and I heard it 
sung by a countrywoman at San Martino di Castrozza 
in the Trentino ; so that, at all event, Italia redenta 
and irredenta has a community of song. The second 
thing that calls for remark is the direct invocation of 
sleep. A distinct little group of cradle ditties displays 
this characteristic. '* Come, sleep," cries the Grecian 
mother, " come, sleep, take him away ; come sleep, 
and make him slumber. Carry him to the vineyard 
of the Aga, to the gardens of the Aga. The Aga 
will give him grapes ; his wife, roses ; his servant, 
pancakes." A second Greek lullaby must have sprung 
from a luxuriant imagination. It comes from Schio : 

Sleep, carry off my son^ o'er whom three sentinels do watch, 
Three sentinels, three warders brave, three mates you cannot 

These guards : the sun upon the hill, the eagle on the plain, 
And Boreas, whose chilly blasts do hurry o'er the main. 
*— The sun went down into the west, the eagle sank to sleep, 
Chill Boreas to his mother sped across the briny deep* 

3 1 8 Essays tn the Study of Folk-Smgs. 

^ My soiii where were you yesterday? Where on the former 

Or with the moon or with the stars did you contend in fight ? 
Or with Orion did you strive— though him I deem a friend ?" 
^ Nor with the stars, nor with the moon, did I in strife contend, 
Nor with Orion did I fight, whom for your friend I hold, 
But guarded in a silver cot a child as bright as gold." 

The Greeks have a curious way of looking at sleep ; 
they seem absorbed in the thought of what dreams 
may come -^ if indeed the word dream rightly 
describes their conception of that which happens to 
the soul while the body takes its rest — if they do 
not rather cling to some vague notion of a real 
severance between matter and spirit during sleep^ 

The mothers of La Bresse (near Lyons) invoke 
sleep under the name of '' le souin-souin." I Vish I 
could give here the sweet, inedited melody which 
accompanies these lines : 

Le poupon voudrait bien domir ; 
Le souin-souin ne veut pas venir. 
Souin-souin, vend, vend, vend ; 
Souin-souin, vend, vend, done ! 

The Chippewaya Indians were in the habit of 
personifying sleep as an immense insect called Weeng, 
which someone once saw at the top of a tree en- 
gaged in making a buzzing noise with its wings. 
Weeng produced sleep by sending fairies, who beat 
the foreheads of tired mortals with very small clubs. 

Sleep acts the part of questioner in the lullaby of 
the Finland peasant woman, who sings to her child 
in its bark cradle: *' Sleep, little field bird; sleep 
sweetly, pretty redbreast. God will wake thee when 

Folk-LullabieSn 319 

it is time. Sleep is at the door, and says to me, ' Is 
not there a sweet child here who fain would sleep ? 
a young child wrapped in swaddling clothes, a fair 
child resting beneath his woollen coverlet ? ' " A 
questioning sleep makes his appearance likewise in a 
Sicilian ninna :— 

My little son, 1 wish you well, your mother's comfort when in 

My pretty boy, what can I do ? Will you not give one hour^s 

Sleep has just past, and me he asked if this my son in slumber 

Gose, close your little eyes, my child ; send your sweet breath 

far leagues away. 
You are the fount of rose water ; you are with every beauty 

Sleep, darling son, my pretty one, my golden button richly 


A vein of tender reproach is sprung in that inquiry, 
"Ca n* ura ri riposu 'un vuo rari?" The mother 
appeals to the better feeling, to the Christian charity 
as it were, of the small but implacable tyrant An- 
other time she waxes yet more eloquent " Son, my 
comfort, I am not happy. There are women who 
laugh and enjoy themselves while I chafe my very 
life out Listen to me, child ; beautiful is the lullaby 
and all the folk are asleep— but thou, no I My wise 
little son, I look about for thy equal ; nowhere do I 
find him. Thou art mamma's consolation. There, 
do sleep just a little while.** So pleads the Sicilian ; 
her Venetian sister tries to soften the obduracy of 
her infant by still more plaintive remonstrances. 
'' Hushaby ; but if thou dost not sleep, hear me. Thou 

3ao Essays in the Study cf Folk-Smigs. 

hast robbed me of my heart and of all my sentiments. 
I really do not know for what cause thou lamentest, 
and never will have done lamenting." On this occa- 
sion the appeal seems to be made to some purpose, 
for the song concludes, " The eyes of my joy are clos- 
ing; they open a little and then they shut. Now is 
my joy at peace with me and no longer at war." So 
happy an issue does not always arrive; It may 
happen that the perverse babe flatly refuses to listen 
to the mother's voice, sing she never so sweetly. 
Perhaps he might have something to say for himself 
could he but speak, at any rate in the matter of mid- 
day slumbers. It must no doubt be rather trying to 
be called upon to go straight to sleep just when the 
sunbeams are dancing round and round and wildly 
inviting you to make your first studies in optics. 
Most often the long-suffering mother, if she does not 
see things in this light, acts as though she did. Her 
patience has no limit ; her caresses are never done ; 
with untiring love she watches the little wakeful, 
wilful culprit — 

Chi piangendo e ridendo pargoleggia .... 

But it is not always so ; there are times when she 
loses all patience, and temper into the bargain. 
Such a contingency is only too faithfully reflected in 
a Sicilian ninna which ends with the utterance of a 
horrible wish that Doctor Death would come and 
quiet the recalcitrant baby once for all. I ought to 
add that this same murderous lullaby is nevertheless 
brimful of protestations of affection and compli- 
ments ; the child is told that his eyes are the finest 
imaginable, his cheeks two roses, his countenance 

Folk-Lullabies. 321 

like the moon's. The amount of Incense which the 
Sicilian mother burns before her offspring would 
suffice to fill any number of cathedrals. Every 
moment she breaks forth into words such as, *^ Hush ! 
child of my breath, bunch of jasmine, handful of 
oranges and lemons ; go to sleep, my son, my beauty : 
I have got to take thy portrait." It has been re- 
marked that a person who resembled an orange 
would scarcely be very attractive, whence it is in- 
ferred that the comparison came into fashion at the 
date when the orange tree was first introduced into 
Sicily and when its fruit was esteemed a rare novelty. 
A little girl is described as a spray of lilies and a 
bouquet of roses. A little boy is assured that his 
mother prefers him to gold or fine silver. If she lost 
him where would she find a beloved son like to him ? 
A child dropped out of heaven, a laurel garland, one 
under whose feet spring up flowers ? Here is a string 
of blandishments prettily wound up in a prayer : 

Hush, my little round-faced daughter ; thou art like the stormy 

Daughter mine of finest amber, godmother sends sleep to thee. 
Fair thy name, and he who gi^ve it was a gallant gentleman. 
Mirror of my soul, I marvel when thy loveliness 1 scan. 
Flame of love, be good. I love thee better far than life I love. 
Now my child sleeps. Mother Mary, look upon her from 


The form taken by parental flattery shows the 
tastes of nations and of individuals. The other day 
a young and successful English artist was heard to 
exclaim with profound conviction, whilst contemplat- 
ing his son and heir, twenty-four hours old, *^ There is 
a great deal of tcm about that baby t " 

$t2 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

The Hungarian nurse tells her charge that his cot 
must be of rosewood and his swaddling clothes of 
rainbow threads spun by angels. The evening breeze 
is to rock him, the kiss of the falling star to awake 
him ; she would have the breath of the lily touch 
him gently, and the butterflies fan him with their 
brilliant wings. Like the Sicilian, the Magyar has 
an innate love of splendour. 

Corsica has a ninna-nanna into which the whole 
genius of its people seems to have passed. The 
village y?/^^, with dancing and music, the flocks and 
herds and sheep-dogs, even the mountains, stars, and 
sea, and the perfumed air off the macc/ii, come back 
to the traveller in that island as he reads — 

Hushaby, my darling boy ; 
Hushaby, my hope and joy. 
You're my little ship so brave 
Sailing boldly o*er the wave ; 
One that tempests doth not fear. 
Nor the winds that blow from high. 
Sleep awhile, my baby dear ; 
Sleep, my child, and hushaby. 

Gold and pearls my vessel lade. 
Silk and cloth the cargo be. 
All the sails are of brocade 
Coming from beyond the sea ; 
And the helm of finest gold. 
Made a wonder to behold.' 
Fast awhile in slumber lie ; 
Sleep, my child, and hushaby. 

After you were born full soon 
You were christened all aright ; 
Godmother she was the moon, 
Godfather the sun so bright ; 

Folk-Lullabies. 323 

All the stars in heaven told 
Wore their necklaces of gold. 
Fast awhile in slumber lie ; 
Sleep, my child, and hushaby* 

Pure and balmy was the air. 
Lustrous all the heavens were ; 
And the seven planets shed 
All their ^'irtues on your head ; 
And the shepherds made a feast 
Lasting for a week at least. 
Fast awhile in slumber lie ; 
Sleep, my child, and hushaby; 

Nought was heard but minstrelsy, 
Nought but dancing met the eye. 
In Cassoni's vale and wood 
And in all the neighbourhood ; 
Hawk and Blacklip, stanch and true, 
Feasted in their fashion too. 
Fast awhile in slumber lie ; 
Sleep, my child, and hushaby. 

Older years when you attain, 
You will roam o'er field and plain ; 
Meadows will with flowers be gay, 
And with oil the fountains play. 
And the salt and bitter sea 
Into balsam changed be. 
F«ist awhile in slumber lie ; 
Sleep, my child, and hushaby. 

And these mountains, wild and steep. 
Will be crowded o'er with sheep, 
And the wild goat and the deer 
Will be ume and void of fear ; 
Vulture, fox, and beast of prey. 
From these bounds shall flee away. 
Fast awhile in slumber lie ; 
Sleep, my child» and hushaby. 

324 Essays in the Study of Folk^Songs. 

You are savory, sweetly blowing, 
You are thyme, of incense smelling, 
Upon Mount Basella growing, 
Upon Mount Cassoni dwelling; 
You the hyacinth of the rocks 
Which is pasture for the flocks. 
Fast awhile in slumber lie ; 
Sleep, my child, and hushaby. 

At the sight of a new-born babe the Corsican in- 
voluntarily sets to work making auguries. The moun- 
tain shepherds place great faith in divination based on 
the examination of the shoulder-blades of animals : 
according to the local tradition the famous prophecy 
of the greatness of Napoleon was drawn up after this 
method. The nomad tribes of Central Asia search 
the future in precisely the same way. Corsican lulla- 
bies are often prophetical. An old woman predicts a 
strange sort of millennium, to begin with the coming 
of age of her grandson : 

''There grew a boy in Palneca of Pumonti, and his dear 
grandmother was always rocking his cradle, aiways wishing 
him this destiny :— 

'' Sleep, O little one, thy grandmother's joy and gladness, for 
I have to prepare the supper for thy dear little father, and thy 
elder brothers, and I have to make their clothes. 

*' When thou art older, thou wilt traverse the plains, the grass 
will turn to flowers, the sea-water will become sweet balm. 

*' We will make thee a jacket edged with red and turned up in 
points, and a little peaked hat, trimmed with gold braid. 

'* When thou art bigger, thou wilt carry arms; neither soldier 
nor gendarme will frighten thee, and if thou art driven up into a 
corner, thou wilt make a famous bandit. 

'' Never did woman of our race pass thirteen years unwed, for 
when an impertinent fellow dared so much as look at her, he 
escaped not two weeks unless he gave her the ring. 

Folk- Lullabies. 325 

'*But that scoundrel of Morando surprised the kinsfolk, 
arrested them all in one day, and wrought their ruin. And the 
thieves of Palneca played the spy. 

'' Fifteen men were hung, tUl in the market-place : men of 
great worth, the flower of our race. Perhaps it will be thou, O 
dearest ! who shall accomplish the vendetta l** 

An unexpected yet logical development leads from 
the peaceful household cares, the joyous images of the 
familiar song, the playful picture of the baby boy in 
jacket and pointed hat, to a terrible recollection of 
deeds of shame and blood, long past, and perhaps 
half-forgotten by the rest of the family, but at which 
the old dame's breast still burns as she rocks the 
sleeping babe on whom is fixed her last passionate 
hope of vengeance fulfilled. 

In the mountain villages scattered about the borders 
of the vast Sila forest, Calabrian mothers whisper 
to their babes, '' brigantiellu miu, brigantiellu della 
mamma." They tell the little ones gathered round 
their knees legends of Fra Diavolo and of Talarico, 
just as Sardinian mothers tell the legend of Tolu of 
Florinas. This last is a story of to-day. In 1850, 
Giovanni Tolu married the niece of the priest's house- 
keeper. The priest opposed the marriage, and soon 
after it had taken place, in the absence of Tolu, he 
persuaded the young wife to leave her husband's 
house, never to return. Tolu, meeting his enemy in 
a lonely path, fired his pistol, but by some accident 
it did not go off, and the priest escaped with his life. 
Arrest and certain conviction, however, awaited Tolu, 
who preferred to take to the woods, where he remained 
for thirty years, a prince among outlaws. He pro- 
tected the weak ; administered a rude but wise justice 

3a6 Essays in ike Study of Fdk-Sangs. 

to the scattered peasants of the waste country between 
Sassari and the sea ; his swift horse was always ready 
to fly in search of their lost or stolen cattle ; his gun 
was the terror of the thieves who preyed upon these 
poor people. In Osilo lived two families, hereditary 
foes, the Stacca and the Achena« An Achena offered 
Tolu five hundred francs to kill the head of the Stacca 
family. Tolu not only refused, he did not rest till 
he had brought about a reconciliation between the 
two houses. At last, in the autumn of 1880, the 
gendarmes, after thirty years' failure, arrested Tolu 
without a struggle at a place where he had gone to 
take part in a country y^x/a. For two years he was 
kept untried in prison. In September 1882 he was 
brought before the Court of Assize at Frosinone. 
Not a witness could be found to testify against him. 
••Tolu,'* they said, "d un Dio." When asked by the 
President what he had to say in his defence, he re- 
plied : " I never fired first. The carabineers hunted 
me like a wild beast, because a price was set on my 
head, and like a wild beast I defended myself." The 
jury brought in a verdict of acquittal ; and if any one 
wishes to make our hero*s acquaintance, he has only 
to take ship for Sardinia and then find the way to the 
village of Florinas, where he is now peaceably living, 
beloved and respected by all who know him. 

The Sardinian character has old-world virtues and 
old-world blemishes; if you live in the wilder districts 
you may deem it advisable to keep a loaded pistol on 
the table at meal-time ; but then you may go all over 
the island without letters of introduction, sure of a 
hearty welcome, and an hospitality which gives to the 
stranger the best of everything that there is. If the 

Folk-Lullabies. 327 

Sardinian has an imperfect apprehension of the sac- 
redness of other laws, he is blindly obedient to that 
of custom ; when some progressive measure is pro- 
posed, he does not argue— he says quietly : " Custu 
non est secundu la moda nostra," No man sweeps 
the dust on antique time less than he. One of his 
distinctive traits is an overweening fondness of his 
children ; the ever-marvellous baby is represented not 
only as the glory of its mother, but also as the light 
even of its most distant connexions — 

Lullaby, sweet lullaby. 

You our happiness supply ; 

Fair your face, and sweet your ways, 

You, your mother's pride and praise. 

As the coral, rare and bright, 

In your life does father live ; 

You, of all the dear delight, 

All around you pleasure give. 

All your ways, my pretty boy,' 
Of your parents are the joy ; 
You were born for good alone, 
Sunshine of the family ! 
Wise, and land to every one. 
Light of every kinsman's eye ; 
Light of all who hither come, 
And the gladness of our home. 

Lullaby, sweet lullaby. 

On the northern shore the people speak a tongue 
akin to that of the neighbouring isle, and the dialect 
of the south is semi-Spanish; but in the midland 
Logudoro the old Sard speech is spoken much as it 
is known to have been spoken a thousand years ago. 
It is simply a rustic Latin. Canon Spano's loving 
• rather than critical labours have left Sardinia a fine 

3a8 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

field for some future folk-lore collector. The Sar- 
dinian is short in speech, copious in song. I asked a 
lad Just returned to Venetia from working in Sardinian 
quarries, if the people there had many songs ? ^ Oh ! 
tanti ! " he answered, with a gesture mpre expressive 
than the words. He had brought back more than a 
touch of that malarious fever which is the scourge of 
the island and a blight upon all efforts to develop its 
rich resources. A Sardinian friend tells me that the 
Sard poet often shows a complete contempt for metri- 
cal rules ; his poesy is apt to become a rhythmic chant 
of which the words and music cannot be dissevered. 
But the Lc^udorian lullabies are regular in form, 
their distinguishing feature being an interjection with 
an almost classical ring that replaces the fa la nanna 
of Italy— 

Oh ! ninna and anninta ! 

Sleep, baby boy ; 
Oh ! ninna and anninia ! 

God give thee joy. 
Oh ! ninna and anninia ! 

Sweet joy be thine ; 
Oh ! ninna and anninia ! 

Sleep, brother mine. 

Sleep, and do not cry. 

Pretty, pretty one, 
Apple of mine eye, 

Danger there is none ; 
Sleep, for I am by. 

Mother's darling son. 

Oh 1 ninna and anninia ! 

Sleep, baby boy ; 
Oh 1 ninna and anninia 1 
... God give thee joy. 

Folk-Lullabies. 329 

Oh ! ninna and anninia ! 

Sweet joy be thine ; 
Oh ! ninna and anninia ! 

Slecpi brother mine. 

The singer is the little mother-sister : the child who, 
while the mother works in the fields or goes to 
market, is left in charge of the last-come member of 
the family, and is bound to console it as best she 
may, for the absence of its natural guardian. The 
baby is to her somewhat of a doll, just as to the chil- 
dren of the rich the doll is somewhat of a baby. She 
may be met without going far afield ; anyone who 
has lived near an English village must know the 
curly-headed little girl who sits on the cottage door- 
step or among the meadow buttercups, her arms 
stretched at full length, round a soft, black-eyed 
creature, small indeed, yet not much smaller than 
herself. This, she solemnly informs you, is her baby. 
Not quite so often can she be seen now as before the 
passing of the Education Act, prior to which all 
truants fell back on the triumphant excuse, '^ I can't 
go to school because I have to mind my baby," some 
neighbouring infant brother, cousin, nephew, being 
producible at a moment's notice in support of the 
assertion. In those days the mere sight of a baby 
filled persons interested in the promotion of public 
instruction with wrath and suspicion. Yet woman- 
hood would lose a sweet and sympathetic phase were 
the little mother-sister to wholly disappear. The 
songs of the child-nurse are of the slenderest kind ; 
the tether of her imagination has not been cut by 
hope or memory. As a rule she dwells upon the 
important fact that mother will soon be here, and 


330 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

when she has said that, she has not much more to 
say. So it is in an Istriot song : '* This is a child 
who Is always crying ; be quiet, my soul, for mother 
is coming back; she will bring thee nice milk, and 
then she will put thee in the crib to hushaby/* A 
Tuscan correspondent sends me a sister-rhyme which 
is introduced by a pretty description of the grave-eyed 
little maiden, of twelve or thirteen years perhaps, re- 
sponsible almost to sadness, who leans down her face 
over the baby brother she is rocking in the cradle ; 
and when he stirs and begins to cry, sings softly the 
oft-told tale of how the dear mamma will come 
quickly and press him lovingly to her breast : 

Che fa mai cqI volto chino, 
Quella tacita fanciulla ? 
Sta vegliando il frateUino, 
Adagiato nella culla. 

Ed il pargolo se desta, 

£ il meschino prorompe in pianto, 
La bambina, mcsta, mesta, 
Vuol chetarlo col suo canto : 

BamboUno mio, riposa. 
Presto mamma tornerk ; 
Cara mamma che amorosa 
Al suo sen ti stringerk. 

The little French girl turns her thoughts to the hot 
milk and chocolate that are being prepared, and of 
which she no doubt expects to have a share :-— 

Fais dodo, Colin, mon p*tit fr&re, 

Fais dodo, t'auras du lolo. 

Le papa est en haut, qui fait le lolo, 
Le maman est en bas, qui fait le colo ; 

Fais dodo, Colin, mon p'tit fr^re 
Fais dodo 

Folk-Lullabies, 331 

In enumerating the rewards for infantine virtue — 
which is sleep — I must not forget the celebrated * 
hare*s skin to be presented to Baby Bunting, and the 
" little fishy " that the English father, set to be nurse 
ad interim^ promises his "babby" when the ship 
comes in ; nor should I pass over the hopes raised 
in an inedited cradle song of French Flanders, 
which opens, like the Tuscan lullaby, with a short 

Un jour un' pauv* dentilli^re 
En amicliton ch'un petiot garchuti, 
Qui d*puis le matin n'fesions que blalre, 
Voulait rendormir par une canchun. 

In this barbarous patios^ the poor lace-maker tells 
her " p'tit pocchin " (little chick) that to-morrow he 
shall have a cake made of honey, spices, and rye flour; 
that he shall be dressed in his best clothes " com* un 
bieau milord ; *' and that at *' la Ducasse,'* a local /(f/<^, 
she will buy him a laughable Folchinello and a bird« 
organ playing the tune of the sugar-loaf hat Toys 
are also promised in a Japanese lullaby, which the 
kindness of the late author of " Child-life in japan '^ 
has enabled me to give in the original : 

N<n-ne ko y5--n<A*n< ko yd 
Ndn-n< no mori wa— -doko ye yuta 
Ano yama koy<td-*->8ato ye yuta 
Sato no rniyag^ ni— nani morota 
T^n*t<n taiko ni^shd no fuy^ 
Oki*agari koboshima— Inu hari-ka 

Signifying in English: 

Lullaby, baby, lullaby, baby 
Baby's nursey, where has she gone 

332 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

Over those mountains she 's gone to her village ; 

And from her village, what will she bring? 

A tum*tum dnimi and a bamboo flute, 

A '' daruma" (which will never turn over) and a paper dog. 

Scope is allowed for unlimited extension, as the 
singer can go on mentioning any number of toys. 
The Daruma is what English children call a tumbler ; 
a figure weighted at the bottom, so that turn it how 
you will, it always regains its equilibrium. 

More ethereal delights than chocolate, hare's skins, 
bird-organs, or even paper dogs (though these last 
sound irresistibly seductive), form the subject of a 
beautiful little Greek song of consolation : '' Lullaby, 
lullaby, thy mother is coming back from the laurels 
by the river, from the sweet banks she will bring thee 
flowers ; all sorts of flowers, roses, and scented pinks." 
When she does come back, the Greek mother makes 
such promises as eclipse all the rest: "Sleep, my 
child, and I will give thee Alexandria for thy sugar, 
Cairo for thy rice, and Constantinople, there to reign 
three years!" Those who see deep meaning in 
childish things will look with interest at the young 
Greek woman, who sits vaguely dreaming of empire 
while she rocks her babe. The song is particularly 
popular in Cyprus ; the English residents there must 
be familiar with the melody— an air constructed on 
the Oriental scale, and only the other day set on 
paper. The few bars of music are like a sigh of pas- 
sionate longing. 

From reward to punishment is but a step, and next 
in order to the songs that refer to the recompense of 
good, sleepy children, must be placed those hinting at 
the serious consequences which will be the result of 
unyielding wakefulness. It must be confessed that 

Folk- Lullabies. 333 

retribution does not always assume a very awful form ; 
in fact, in one German rhyme, it comes under so 
gracious a disguise, that a child might almost lie 
awake on purpose to look out for it : 

Sleep, baby, sleep, 
I can see two little sheep ; 
One is black and one is white, 
And, if you do not sleep to-night, 
First the black and then the white 
Will give your little toes a bite. 

The translation is by " Hans Breitmann " 

In the threatening style of lullaby, the bogey plays a 
considerable part. A history of the bogeys of all 
nations would be an instructive book. The hero of 
one people is the bogey of another. Wellington and 
Napoleon (or rather " Boney " ) served to scare 
naughty babies long after the latter, at least, was laid 
to rest. French children still have songs about 'Me 
Prince Noir/* and the nurses sang during the siege of 
Paris : 

As-tu vu Bismarck 

A la porte de Chatillon ? 
II lance les obus 

Sur le Panthdon. 

The Moor is the nursery terror of many parts of 
Southern Europe; not, however, it would seem of 
Sicily— a possible tribute to the enlightened rule of 
the Kalifs. The Greeks do not enjoy a like immu* 
nity ; Signor Avolio mentions, in his " Canti popolari 
di Noto," that besides saying "the wolf is coming," 
it is common for mothers to frighten their little ones 
with, '' Zlttiti, ca viinunu i Riece ; Nu sciri ca 'ndanu 

334 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

ci sil i Rieci'VC'Hush, for the Greeks are coming'; 
don't go outside for the Greeks are there.") Noto 
was the centre of the district where the ancient Sikeli 
made their last stand against Greek supremacy: a 
coincidence that opens the way to bold speculation^ 
though the originals of the bogey Greeks may have 
been only pirates of times far less remote. 

In Germany the same person distributes rewards 
and punishments : St Nicholas in the Rhenish pro* 
vinces, Knecht Ruprecht in Northern and Central 
Germany, Julklapp in Pomerania. On Christmas 
eve, some one cries out '^ Julklapp I " from behind a 
door, and throws the gift into the room with the 
child's name pinned upon it. Even the gentle St 
Lucy, the Santa Claus of Lombardy, withholds her 
cakes from erring babes, and little Tuscans stand a 
good deal in awe of their friend the Befana; delight* 
ful as are the treasures she puts in their shoes when 
satisfied with their behaviour, she is credited with an 
unpleasantly sharp eye for youthful transgressions. 
She has a relative in Japan of the name of Hotii. 
Once upon a time Hotii^ who belongs to the sterner 
sex, lived on earth in the garb of a priest His birth- 
land was China, and he had the happy fame of being 
extremely kind to children. At present he walks 
about Japan with a big sack full of good things for 
young people, but the eyes with which the back of 
his head is furnished, enable him to see in a second 
if any child misconducts itself. Of more dubious, 
antecedents is another patron of the children of Japan, 
Kishi Mojin, the mother of the child-demons. Once 
Kishi Mojin had the depraved habit of stealing any 
young child she could lay hands on and eating it. In 

Folk'Lullabies. 335 

spite of this, she was sincerely attached to her own 
family, which numbered one thousand, and when the 
exalted Amida Niorai hid one of its members to 
punish her for her cruel practices, she grieved bitterly. 
Finally the child was given back on condition that 
Kishi Mojin would never more devour her neighbours' 
infants : she was advised to eat the fruit of the pome* 
granate whenever she had a craving for unnatural 
food. Apparently she took the advice and kept the 
compact, as she is honoured on the 28th day of every 
month, and little children are taught to solicit her 
protection. The kindness shown to children both in 
Japan and China is^well known ; in China one baby 
is said to be of more service in insuring a safe journey 
than an armed escort. 

" El coco," a Spanish bogey, figures in a sleep-song 
from Malaga: ''Sleep, little child, sleep, my soul; 
sleep, little star of the morning. My child sleeps with 
eyes open like the hares. Little baby girl, who has 
beaten thee that thine eyes look as if they had been 
crying ? Poor little girl 1 who has made thy face red? 
The rose on the rose-tree is going to sleep, and to 
sleep goes my child, for already it is late. Sleep little 
daughter for the coco comes.'* 

The folk-poet in Spain reaps the advantage of a 
recognised freedom of versification ; with the great 
stress laid upon the vowels, a consonant more or less 
counts for nothing : 

A dormir va la rosa 

Delos resales;* 
A doraiir va mi nTna 

Porque ya es tarde. 

All folk-poets, and notably the English, have recourse 

336 Essays in On Study of Folk-Songs. 

to an occasional assonant, but the Spaniard can trust 
altogether to such. Verse- making is thus made easy, 
provided ideas do not fail, and up to to^ay, they 
have not failed the Spanish peasant. He has not, 
like the Italian, begun to leave off composing songs. 
My correspondent at Malaga writes that at that place 
improvisation seems innate in the people: they go 
before a house and sing the commonest thing they 
wish to express. Love and hate they also turn into 
songs, to be rehearsed under the window of the 
individual loved or hated. There is even an old 
woman now living in Malaga who rhymes in Latin 
with extraordinary facility. To the present section 
falls one other lullaby— ^oo-aby, perhaps I ought to 
say, since the Spanish arrullo means the cooing of 
doves as well as the lulling of children. It is quoted 
by Count Gubernatis : 

Isabellita, do not pine 

Because the flowers fade away ; 

If flowers hasten to decay 
Weep not, Isabellita mine. 

Little one, now close thine eyes, 
Hark, the footsteps of the Moor ! 
And she asks from door to door, 

Who may be the child who cries i 

When I was as small as thou 

And within my cradle lying, 

Angels came about me flying 
And they kissed me on my brow. 

Sleep, then, little baby, sleep : 

Sleep, nor cry again to-night. 

Lest the angels take to flight 
So as not to see thee weep. 

Folk Lullabies. 337 

" The Moor " is in this instance a benignant kind of 
bogey, not far removed from harmless "wee Willie 
Winkile" who runs upstairs and downstairs in his 
nightgown : 

Tapping at the window. 

Crying at the lock, 
'* Are the babes in their beds ? 
For it's now ten o'clock." 

These myths have some analogy with a being known 
as *' La Dormette " who frequents the neighbourhood 
of Poitou. She is a good old woman who throws 
sand and sleep on children's eyes, and is hailed with 
the words : 

Passez la Dormette, 

Passez par chez nous ! 
Endormir gars et fillettes 
La nuit et le jou. 

Now and then we hear of an angel who passes by at 
nightfall ; it is not clear what may be his mission, 
but he is plainly too much occupied to linger with 
his fellow seraphs, who have nothing to do but to kiss 
the babe in its sleep. A little French song speaks of 
this journeying angel : 

11 est tard, i'ange a pass^ 

Le jour a d^ja baissd ; 

£t Pon n'entend pour tout bruit 

Que le ruisseau qui s'enfuit. 

Endors toi, 

Mon fils ! c'est mot. 

II est tard et ton ami, 

L*oiseau blue, s'est endormi. 

In Calabria, when a butterfly flit9 around a baby^s 
cradle, it is believed to be either an angel or a baby's 

338 Essays in th$ Study o/Folk-Sanp. 

The pendulum of good and evil is set swinging 
from the moment that the infant draws its first 
breath. Angelical visitation has its complement in 
demonial influence; it is even difficult to resist the 
conclusion that the ministers of light are frequently 
outnumbered by the powers of darkness. In. most 
Christian lands the unbaptised child is given over 
entirely to the latter. Sicilian women are loth to 
kiss a child before its christening, because they con- 
sider it a pagan or a Turk. In East Tyrol and 
Styria, persons who take a child to be baptised say 
on their return^— "A Jew we took away, a Christian 
we bring back." Some Tyrolese mothers will not 
give any food to their babies till the rite has been 
performed. . The unbaptised Greek is thought to be 
simply a small demon, and is called by no other 
designation than ^puKo^ if a boy, and ^pwcovKa if a 
girl Once when a christening was unavoidably dc* 
layed, the parents got so accustomed to calling their 
little girl by the snake name, that they continued doing 
so even after she had been presented with one less 
equivocal. Dead unchristened babes float about on the 
wind ; in Tyrol they are marshalled along by Bcrchte, 
t6e wife of Pontius Pilate ; in Scotland they may be 
heard moaning on calm nights. The state to which 
their baby souls are relegated, is probably a lingering 
recollection of that into which, in pagan days, all 
innocent spirits were conceived to pass : an explana- 
tion that has also the merit of being as little offensive 
as any that can be oflered. There is naturally a 
general wish to make baptism follow as soon as pos- 
*sible after birth — an end that is sometimes pursued 
regardless of the bodily risks it may involve. A poor 

Folk-Lullabies. 339 

woman gave birth to a child at the mines of Val- 
lauria j it was a bitterly cold winter ; the snow lay 
deep enough to efface the mountain tracks, and 
all moisture froze the instant it was exposed to the 
air. However, the grandmother of the new-bom 
babe ^carried it off immediately to Tenda— many 
miles away — for the christening rite. As she had 
been heard to remark that it was a useless encum- 
brance, there were some who attributed her action to 
other motives than religious zeal ; but the child sur- 
vived the ordeal and prospered. In several parts of the 
Swiss mountains a baptism, like a funeral, is an event 
for the whole community. I was present at a chris- 
tening in a small village lying near the summit of the 
Julier Pass. The bare, little church was crowded, 
and the service was performed with a reverent care- 
fulness contrasting sharply with the mechanical and 
hurried performance ojf a baptism witnessed shortly 
before in a very different place, the glorious baptistry 
at Florence. It ended with a Lutheran hymn, sung 
sweetly without accompaniment, by five or six youngs 
girls. More than half of the congregation consisted 
of men, whose weather- tried faces were wet with tears, 
almost without exception. I could not find out that 
there was anything particularly sad in the circum- 
stances of the case ; the women certainly wore black, 
but then, the rule of attending the funerals even of 
mere acquaintances, causes the best dress in Switzer- 
land to be always one suggestive of mourning. It 
seemed that the pathos of the dedication of a dawning 
life to the Supreme Good was sufficient to touch the 
hearts of these simple folk, starved from coarser 

340 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

In iCalabria it is thought unlucky to be either bom 
or christened on a Friday. Ss^turday is likewise 
esteemed an inauspicious day, which points to its 
association with the witches' Sabbath, once the subject 
of numerous superstitipus beliefs throughout the 
southern provinces of Italy. Not far from the battle- 
field near Benevento where Charles of Anjou defeated 
Manfred, grew a walnut tree, which had an almost 
European fame as the scene of Sabbatical orgies. 
People used to hang upon its branches the figure of a 
two-headed viper coiled into a ring, a symbol of 
incalculable antiquity. St Barbatus had the tree cut 
down, but the devil raised new shoots from the root 
and so it was renewed. Shreds of snake-worship ^ 

may be still collected. The Calabrians hold that the 
cast-off skin of a snake is an excellent thing to put \ 

under the pillow of a sick baby. Even after their | 

christening, children are unfortunately most suscepti- | 

ble to enchantment. When a beautiful and healthy i 

child sickens and dies^ the Irish peasant infers that \ 

the genuine baby has been stolen by fairies, and this | 

miserable sprite left in its place. Two ancient anti- | 

dotes have great power to counteract the effect of j 

spells. One is the purifying Fire. In Scotland, as | 

in Italy, bewitched children, within the memory of 1 

living men, have been set to rights by contact with \ 

its salutary heat. My rels^tive, Count Belli of Viterbo, 
was "looked at" when an infant by 2, Jettatrice^ and 
was in consequence put by his nurse into a mild oven 
for half-an-hour. One would think that the remedy 
was nearly as perilous as the practice of the lake- 
dwellers of cutting a little hole in their children's 
heads to let out the evil spirits, but in the case men- 
tioned it seems to have answered well. 

Folk' Lullabies. 341 

The other important curative agent is the purifying 
spittle. In Scotland and in Greece, any one who 
should exclaim, '' What a beautiful child 1" is expected 
to slightly spit upon the object of the remark, or 
some misfortune will follow. Ladies in a high posi- 
tion at Athens have been observed to do this quite 
lately. The Scotch and Greek uneasiness about the 
" well-faured " is by no means confined to those 
peoples ; the same anxiety reappears in Madagascar ; 
and the Arab does not like you to praise the beauty 
of his horse without adding the qualifying "an it 
please God." Fersius gives an account of the pre- 
cautions adopted by the friends of the infant Roman: 
"Look here — a grandmother or superstitious aunt 
has taken baby from his cardie, and is charming his 
forehead and his slavering lips against mischief by 
the joint action of her middle finger and her purifying 
spittle ; for she knows right well how to check the 
evil eye. Then she dandles him in her arms, and 
packs off the little pinched hope of the family, so far 
as wishing can do it, to the domains of Licinus, or to 
the palace of Croesus. ' May he be a catch for my 
lord and lady's daughter I May the pretty ladies 
scramble for him I May the ground he walks on turn 
to a rose-bed.' " (Prof. Conington's translation.) 

One of the rare lullabies that contain allusion to 
enchantment is the following. Roumanian ^Nani- 

Lullaby, my little one. 

Thou art mother's darling son ; 

Loving mother will defend thee, 

Mother she will rock and tend thee, 

Like a (lower of delight, 

Or an angel swathed in white. 

The last lines might be taken for a paraphrase 


« puellao 

Hunc raplant : quicquid calcaverit hie, rosa fiat 

The Three Fates have still their cult at Athens. 
When a child is three days old, the modier places by 
its cot a little table spread with a clean linen cloth, 
upon which she sets a pot of honey, sundry cakes and- 
fruits, her wedding ring, and a few pieces of money 
belonging to her husband. In the honey are stuck 
three almonds. These are the preparations for the 
visit of the Mocpcu. In some places the Norns or 
Parcae have got transformed into the three Maries ; 
in others they closely retain their original character; 
A perfect sample of the mixing up of pagan and 
Christian lore is to be found in a Bulgarian legend, 
which shows the three Fates weaving the destiny of 
the infant Saviour during a momentary absence of 
the Virgin — the whole scene occurring in the middle 
of a Balkan wood. In Sicily exists a belief in certain 
strange ladies (" donni-di-fora "), who take charge of 

343 Essays in th$ Study of Folk-Songs. / 

Sleep with mother, mother well 

Knows the charm for ever)' spelL I 

Thou shalt be a hero as i 

Our good lord, great Stephen^ was, [ 

Brave in war, and strong in hand, | 

To protect thy fatherland. 1 

Sleep, my baby, in thy bed ; 
God upon thee blessings shed. 
Be thou dark, and be thine eyes 
Bright as stars that gem the skies. 
Maidens' love be thine, and sweet 
Blossoms spring beneath thy feet. 

Folk-Lullabies* 343 

the new-born babe, with or without permission. The 
Palermitan mother says aloud, when she lifts her 
child out of the cradle, " 'Nnome di Dio I " (" In God's 
name I ")— but she quickly adds sotto voce : *' Cu licenzi, 
signuri miu I " (" By your leave, ladies "). 

At Noto, Ronni^di-casa^ or house-women, take the 
place of the DonnUdufora. They inhabit every house 
in which a fire burns. If offended by their host, they 
revenge themselves on the children : the mother finds 
the infant whom she left asleep and tucked into the 
cradle, rolling on the floor or screaming with sudden 
fright When, however, the Ronni^i<asa are amiably 
disposed, they make the sleeping child smile, after the 
fashion of angels in other parts of the world. Should 
they wish to leave an unmistakable mark of their good 
will, they twist a lock of the baby's hair into an inex- 
tricable tress. In England, elves were supposed to 
tangle the hair during sleep {yidc King Lear: "Elf 
all my hair in knots ; " and Mercutio's Mab speech). 
The favour of the Sicilian house-women is not with- 
out its drawbacks, for if by any mischance the knotted 
lock be cut off, they will probably twist the child's 
spine out of spite. "'Ccussi lu lassurii li Ronni-di- 
casa,'' says an inhabitant of Noto when he points out 
to you a child suffering from spinal curvature. The 
voice is lowered in mentioning these questionable 
guests, and there are Noticiani who will use any 
amount of circumlocution to avoid actually naming 
them. The are often called ''certi signuri/' as in this 
characteristic lullaby : 

My love, I wish thee well ; so lullaby I 
Thy little eyes are likie the cloudless sky, 
My little lovely girl, my pretty one, 
Mother will liiake of thee a little rittn : 

344 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

A sitter of the Saviour's Priory 

Where noble dames and.ladies great there be. 

Sleep, moon-faced treasure, sleep, the while I sing : 

Thou hadst thy cradle from the Spanish king. 

When thou hast slept, Til love thee better still 

(Sleep to my daughter comes and goes at will 

And in her slumber she is made to smile 

By certain ladies whom I dare not style.) 

Breath of my body, thou, my love, my care, 

Thou art without a flaw, so wondrous fair. 

Sleep then, thy mother's breath, sleep, sleep, and rest. 

For thee my very soul forsakes my breast. 

My very soul goes forth, and sore my heart : 

Thou criest ; words of comfort I impart. 

Daughter, my flame, lie still and take repose. 

Thou art a nosegay culled from off the rose. 

At Palermo, mothers dazzled their little girls with 
the prospect of entering the convent of Santa Zita or 
Santa Chiara. In announcing the birth of his child, 
a Sicilian peasant commonly says, "My wife has a 
daughter-abbess." *' What I has your wife a daughter 
old enough to be an abbess ? " has sometimes been 
the innocent rejoinder of a traveller from the main- 
land. The Convent of the Saviour, which is the 
destination of the paragon of beauty described in the 
above lullaby, was one of the wealthiest, and what is 
still more to the point, one of the most aristocratic 
religious houses in the island. To have a relation 
among its members was a distinction ardently coveted 
by the citizens of Noto ; a town which once rejoiced 
in thirty-three noble families, one loftier than the other. 
The number is now cut down, but according to Signor 
Avolio such as remain are regarded with undiminished 
reverence. There are households in which the whole 
conversation runs on the Barone and Baronessa, when 

Folk-LullabUs. 345 

not absorbed by the Baronello and the Baronessella. 
It is just possible that the same phenomenon might 
be observed without going to Noto. Tuito it mondo 
i paese: a proverb which would serve as an excellent 
motto for the Folk-lore Society. 

Outside Sicily the cradle-singer's ideal of felicity is 
rather matrimonial than monastic. The Venetian is 
convinced that who never loved before must succumb 
to her daughter's incomparable charms. It seems, . 
by-the-by, that the " fatal gift " can be praised with- 
out fear or scruple in modern Italy ; the visitors of a 
new-born babe ejaculate in a chorus, ''Quant' h 
bellino I bimbo I Bimbino I " and Italian lullabies, 
far more than any others, are one long catalogue of 
perfections, one drawn-out reiteration of the boast of 
a Greek mother of Terra d*Otranto : " There are 
children in the street, but like my boy there is not 
one ; there are children before the house, but like my 
child there arc none at all." The Sardinian who 
wishes to say something civil of a baby will not do 
less than predict that " his fame will go round the 
world." The cradle-singer of the Basilicata desires 
for her nursling that he may outstrip the sun and 
moon in their race. It has been seen that the Rou* 
manian mother would have her son emulate the famous 
hero of Moldavia ; for her daughter she cherishes a 
gentler ambition : 

Sleep, my daughter, sleep an hour ; ' 
Mother's darling gilliflower. 
Mother rocks thee, standing near, 
She will wash thee in the clear 
Waters that from fountains ran. 
To protect thee from the sun. 

346 Essays in iki Study of Folk-Songs. 

Sleepi my darling, sleep an hour; 
Grow thou as the giUiflower. 
As a tear*drop be thou white. 
As a willow, tall and slight ; 
Gentle as the ring-doves are, . 
And be lovely as a star I 

This ftani-nam calls to mind some words in a letter 
of Sydney Dobeirs: "A little girl-child! The very 
idea is the most exquisite of poems I a child-daughter 
—^wherein it seems to me that the spirit of all dews 
and flowers and springs and tender, sweet wonders 
* strikes its being into bounds/ " '• Tear drop " 
{lacrimibra) is the poetic Roumanian name for the 
lily of the valley. It may be needful to add that 
giUiflower is the English name for the clove-pink ; 
at least an explanatory foot-note is now attached to 
the word in new editions of the old poets. Exiled 
from the polite society of "bedding plants" — all 
heads and no bodies — the " matted and clove gilli- 
flowers " which Bacon wished to have in his garden, 
must be sought for by the door of the cottager who 
speaks of them fondly yet apologetically, as "old- 
fashioned things." To the folk-singers of the small 
Italy on the Danube and the great Italy on the Arno 
they are still the type of the choicest excellence, of the 
most healthful grace. Even the long stalk, which has 
been the flower's undoing, from a worldly point of 
view, gets praised by the unsophisticated Tuscan. 
" See," he says, " with how lordly an air it holds itself 
in the hand ! " (" Guarda con quanta signoria si 
tiene in mano I '') 

The anguish of the Hindu dying childless has its 
root deeper down in the human heart than the reason 

Folk- Lullabies. 347 

he gives for it, the foolish fear lest his funeral rites be 
not properly performed. No man quite knows what 
it is to die who leaves a child in the world ; children 
are more than a link with the future — they are the 
future : the portion of ourselves that belongs not to this 
day but to to-morrow. To them may be transferred 
all the hopes sadly laid by, in our own case, as illu- 
sions ; the " to be " of their young lives can be turned 
into a beautiful '' arrangement in pink/' even though 
experience has taught us that the common lot of 
humanity is *' an Imbroglio in Whity-brown." Most 
parents do all this and much niore; as lullabies 
would show were there any need for the showing of 
it One cradle-song, however, faces the truth that of 
all sure things the surest is that sorrow and dis* 
appointment will fall upon the children as it has fallen 
upon the fathers. The song comes from Germany ; 
the English version is by Mr C. G. Leland : 

Sleep, little darling, an angel art thou ! 

Sleep, while Tm brushing the flies from your brow. 

All is as silent as silent can be ; 

Close your blue eyes from the daylight and me. 

This is the time, love, to sleep and to play ; 
Later, oh later, is not like to-day, 
When care and trouble and sorrow come sore 
You never will sleep, love, as sound as before. 

Angels from heaven as lovely as thou 

Sweep round thy bed, love, and smile on thee now ; 

Later, oh later, the/lt come as to-day, 

But only to wipe all the tear-drops away. 

Sleepy little darling, while night's coming rounds 

Mother will still by her baby be found ; 

If it be early, or if it be late, 

Still by her baby shell watch and she'll wait, 

348 Essays in thi Study of Folk-Sangs. 

The sad truth is there, but with what tenderness Is 
it not hedged about! These Teutonic angels are 
worth more than the too sensitive little angels of 
Spain who fly away at the sight of tears. And the 
last verse conveys a second truth, as consoling as the 
first is sad ; pass what mus^ change what may, the 
mother's love will not change or pass; its healing 
presence will remain till death ; who knows ? perhaps 
after. Signor Salomone-Marino records the cry of 
one, who out of the depths blesses the haven of 
maternal love : 

Mamma, Mammuzza mia, vu' siti I'arma, 
Lu m^ rifugiu nni la sort! orrenna, 
Vui siti la culonna e la giurlanna, 
Lu celu chi vi guardi e vi mantegna ! 

The soul that directs and inspires, the refuge that 
shelters, the column that supports, the garland that 
crowns — such language would not be natural in the 
mouth of an English labourer. An Englishman who 
feels deeply is almost bound to hold his tongue ; but 
the poor Sicilian can so express himself in perfect 
naturalness and simplicity. 

There is a kind of sleep-song that has only the 
form in common with the rose-coloured fiction that 
makes the bulk of cradle literature. It is the song of 
the mother who lulls her child with the overflow of 
her own troubled heart. The child may be the very 
cause of her sorest perplexity : yet from it alone she 
gains the courage to live, from it alone she learns a 
lesson of duty : 

** The babe I carry on my arm, 
He saves for me my precious soul." 

Folk' Lullabies. 349 

A Corsican mother says to the infant at her breast, 
" Thou art my guardian angel 1 " — ^which is the same 
thought spoken in another way. 

The most lovely of all sad lullabies is that written 
much more than two thousand years ago by Simoni- 
des of Ceos. Acrisius, king of Argos, was informed 
by an oracle that he would be killed by the son of his 
daughter DanaS, who was therefore shut up in a tower, 
where Zeus visited her In the form of a shower of 
gold. Afterwards, when she gave birth to Perseus, 
Acrisius ordered mother and child to be exposed in a 
wicker chest or coffin on the open sea. This is the 
story which Simonides took as the subject of his 

Whilst the wind blew and rattled on the decorated ark, and 
the troubled deep tossed as though in terror—her own fair 
cheek also not unwet— around Perseus Danac threw her arms, 
and cried : " O how grievous, my child, is my trouble ; yet thou 
sleepest, and with tranquil heart slumberest within this joyless 
house, beneath the brazen-barred, black-gleaming, musky 
heavens. Ah I little reckest thou, beloved object, of the howl- 
ing of the tempest, nor of the brine wetting thy delicate hair, as 
there thou liest, clad in thy little crimson mantle 1 But even 
were' this dire pass dreadful also to thee, yet lend thy soft ear to 
my words : Sleep on, my babe, I say ; sleep on, I charge thee ; 
nay, let the wild waters sleep, and sleep the immeasurable wo^. 
Let me, too, see some change of will on thy part, Zeus, father ! 
or if the speech be deemed too venturous^ then, for thy child's 
sake, I pray thee pardon.** 

This is not a folk-song, but it has a prescriptive 
right to a place among lullabies. 

Passing over the beautiful Widow's Song, quoted in 
a former essay, we come to some Basque lines, which 
bring before us the blank and vulgar ugliness of 

350 Essays m the Study of Folk-Songs. 

modem misery with a realism that would please 
M. Zola: 

Hushy poor child, hush thee to sleep : 
(See him lying in slumber deep !) 
Thou first, then following I| 
We will hush and hushaby. 

Thy bad father is at the inn ; 
Oh f Ihe shame ot it, and the sin f 
Home at midnight he will fare. 
Drunk with strong wine of Navarre. 

After each verse the singer repeats again and again : 
Lo to, h lOf on three lingering notes that have the 
plaintive monotony of the chiming of bells where 
there are but three in the belfry. 

Almost as dismal as the Basque ditty is the English 
nursery rhyme : 

Bye, O my baby ! 

When I was a lady 
O then my poor baby didn't cry ; 

But my baby is weeping 

For want of good keeping ; 
Oh I I fear my poor baby will die ! 

—which may have been composed to fit in with some 
particular story, as was the tearful little song occur- 
ring in the ballad of Childe Waters : 

She said : LuUabyei mine own dear child, 

Lullabye, my child so dear ; 
I would thy father were a king. 

Thy mother laid on a bier. 

One feels glad that that story ends happily in a 
''churching and bridal" that take place upon the 
same day. 

Folk-Lullabies. 351 

I have the copy of a lullaby for a sick child, written 
down from memory by Signor Lerda, of Turin, who 
reports it to be popular in Tuscany : 

Sleepy dear child, as mother bids : 

If thou sleep thou shalt not die ! 

Sleepy and death shall pass thee by. 
Close worn eyes and aching lids, 

Yield to soft forgetfulness ; , 

Let sweet sleep thy senses press : 
Child, on whom my love doth dwell, 
Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt be well. 

See, I strew thee, soft and light. 

Bed of down that cannot pain ; 

Linen sheets have o'er it lain 
More than snow new-fallen white. 

Perfume sweet, health-giving scent, • 

The meadows' pride, is o'er it sprent : 
Sleep, dear son, a little spell, 
Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt be well 

Change thy side and rest thee there, 

Beauty ! love ! turn on thy side, 

O my son, thou dost not bide 
As of yore, so fresh and fair. 

Sickness mars thee with its spite, 

Cruel sickness changes quite ; 
How, alas t its traces tell ! 
Yet sleep, and thou shalt be well. 

Sleep, thy mother's kisses poured 

On her darling son. Repose; 

God give end to all our woes. 
Sleep, and wake by sleep restored. 

Pangs that make thee faint shall fly ! 

. Sleep, my child, and lullaby ! 
sleep, and fears of death dispel ; 
Sleep, sleep, and thou shalt be well 

353 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

** Se tu dormi, non morrai I *' In how many tongues 
are not these words spoken every day by trembling 
lips, whilst the heart seems to stand still, whilst the 
eyes dare not weep, for tears would mean the victory 
of hope or fear ; whilst the watcher leans expectant 
over the beloved little wasted form, conscious that all 
that can be done has been done] that all that care or 
skill can try has been tried, that there are no other 
remedies to fall back upon, that there is no more 
strength left for battle, and that now, even in this 
very hour, sleep or his brother death will decide the 

When a Sicilian hears that a child is dead, he 
exclaims, "Glory and Paradise I" The phrase is 
jubilant almost to harshness; yet the underlying 
sentiment is not harsh. The thought of a dead 
child makes natural harmonies with thoughts of 
bright and shining things. A mother likes to dream 
of her lost babe as fair and spotless and little. If 
she is sad| with him it is surely well. He is gone to 
play with the Holy Boys. He has won the crown of 
innocence. There are folk-songs that reflect this radi- 
ancy with which love clothes dead children; songs 
for the last sleep full of all the confusion of fond 
epithets commonly addressed to living babies. 

Only in one direction did my efforts to obtain 
lullabies prove fruitless. America has, it seems, no 
nursery rhymes but those which are still current in 
the Old World.* Mr Bret Harte told me: "Our 

^ This is confirmed by Mr W. Newell in his admirable, book, 
^* Games and Songs of American Children'' (1885), which might 
be called with equal propriety, *' Games and Songs of British 
Children.** It is indeed the best collection of English nursery 

Folk-Lullabies. 9 353 

lullabies are the same as in England^ but there are 
also a few Dutch ones/' and he went on to relate how, 
when he was at a small frontier town on the Rhine, 
he heard a woman singing a song to her child : it was 
the old story,— 'if the child would not sleep it would 
be punished, its shoes would be taken away ; if it 
would go to sleep at once, Santa Claus would bring 
it a beautiful gift. Words and air, said Mr Bret 
Harte, were strangely familiar to him ; then, after a 
moment's reflection, he remembered hearing this 
identical lullaby. sung amongst his own kindred in 
the Far West of America. 

rhymes that exisu. Thus America will have given the mother 
country the .most satisfactory editions, f)Oth of her ballads (Prof. ' 
F. T. Child's splendid work, now in course of publication) and 
of her children's songs. 


There are probably many persons who could repeat 
by heart the greater portion of the last scene in the 
last book of the Iliad^ and who yet have never been 
struck by the fact, that not its least excellence con- 
sists in its setting before us a carefully accurate pic- 
ture of a group of usages which for the antiquity of 
their origin, the wide area of their observance, and 
the tenacity with which they have been preserved, 
may be fairly said to occupy an unique position 
amongst popular customs and ceremonials. First, 
we are shown the citizens of Troy bearing their 
vanquished hero within the walls amidst vehement 
demonstrations of grief: the people cling to the 
chariot wheels, or prostrate themselves on the earth ; 
the wife and the mother of the dead tear their hair and 
cast it to the winds. Then the body is laid on a bed 
of state, and the leaders of a choir of professional 
minstrels sing u dirge, which Is at times interrupted 
by the wailing of the women. When this is done, 
Andromache, Hecuba, and Helen in turn give voice 
each one to the feelings awakened in her by their 
common loss ; and afterwards — so soon as the proper 
interval has elapsed — the body is burnt, wine being 
poured over the embers of the pyre. Lastly, the 
ashes are consigned to the tomb, and the mourners 
sit down to a banquet. *' Such honours paid they to 

Folk- Dirges. 355 

the good knight Hector;" and such, in their main 
features, are the funeral rites which may be presumed 
to date back to a period not only anterior to the siege 
of Troy, granting for the moment that event to have 
veritably taken place, but also previous to the cry* 
stallisation of the Greek or any other of the Indo- 
European nationalities which flowed westward from 
the uplands of the Hindu Kush. The custom of 
hymning the dead, which is just now what more 
particularly concerns us, once prevailed over most if 
not all parts of Europe ; and the firmness of its hold 
upon the affections of the people may be inferred 
from the persistency with which they adhered to it, 
even when it was opposed not only by the working 
of the gradual, though fatal, law of decay to which all 
old usages must in the end submit, but also by the 
active interposition of persons in authority. Charle- 
magne, for instance, tried to put it down in Provence 
— desiring that all those attending funeraU, who did 
not know by rote any of the appropriate psalms, 
should recite aloud Wit Kyrie eleison instead of singing 
" profane songs " made to suit the occasion. But the 
edict seems to have m^t with a signal want of success ; 
for some five hundred years after it was issued, the 
Provencals still hired Praefics, and still introduced 
within the very precincts of their churches, whole 
choirs of lay dirge-singers, frequently composed of 
' young girls who were stationed in two companies, 
that chanted songs alternately to the accompaniment 
of instrumental music ; and this notwithstanding that 
.the clergy of Provence showed the strongest objection 
to. the performance of observances at funerals, other 
than such as were approved by ecclesiastical sanction. 

356 Essays in tlu Study of Folk-Stmgs. 

The custom in question bears an obvious affinity to 
Highland coronachs and Irish keens, and here in 
England there is reason to believe it to have survived 
as late as the seventeenth century. That Shakespeare 
was well acquainted with it is amply testified by the 
fourth act of Cymbeline; for it is plain that the song 
pronounced by Guiderius and Arviragus over the 
supposed corpse of Imogene Was no mere poetic out- 
burst of regret, but a real and legitimate dirge, the 
singing or saying of which was held to constitute 
Fidele's obsequies. In the Cotton Library there is a 
MS., having reference to a Yorkshire village in the 
reign of Elizabeth, which relates : " When any dieth, 
certaine women sing a song to the dead bodie recyt- 
ing the jorney that the partye deceased must goe." 
Unhappily the English Neniae are nearly all lost and 
forgotten ; I know of no genuine specimen extant, 
except the famous Lyke Wake (i>., Death Watch) 
dirge beginning : 

This ae nighte, this ae nighte, 

Everie nighte and o//^. 
Fire and sleete and candle lighte, 

And Christe receive thy saule^ &c. 

To the present day we find practices closely analo* 
gous with those recounted in the Iliad scattered here 
and there from* the shores of the Mediterranean to the 
banks of Lake Onega ; and the Trojan threnody is 
even now reproduced in Ireland, in Corsica, Sardinia, 
and Roumania, in Russia, in Greece, and South Italy. 
Students who may be tempted to make observations 
on this strange survival of the old world, will do well, 
however, to set about it at once, in parts which are 

Folk' Dirges. 357 

either already invaded or else threatened with an im- 
.minent invasion of railways, for ihe screech of the 
engine sounds the very death-knell of ancient customs. 
Thus the Irish practice of keening is becoming less 
and less general. On recently making inquiries of a 
^ gentleman residing in Leinster, I learnt that it had 
gone quite out in that province ; he added that he 
had once seen keeners at a funeral at Clonmacncise 
(King's County), but was told they came from the 
Connaught side of the Shannon. The keens must 
not be confused with the peculiar wail or death-cry 
known as the Ullagone ; they are articulate utter- 
ances, in a strongly marked rhythm, extolling the 
merits of the dead, and reproaching him for leaving 
his family, with much more in the same strain. The 
keeners may or may not be professional, and the keens 
are more often of a traditional than of an improvised 
description. One or two specimens in Gaelic have 
appeared in the Journal of tlu Irish Arcfiaological 
Association^ but on the whole the subject is far from 
having received the attention it deserves. The Irish 
keeners are invariably women, as also are all the 
continental dirge-singers of modern times. Whether 
by reason of the somewhat new-fashioned sentiment 
which forbids a man to exhibit his feelings in publiCi 
or from other motives not unconnected with selfish- 
ness, the. onus of discharging the more active and 
laborious obligations, prescribed in popular funeral 
rites has bit by bit been altogether shifted upon the 
shoulders of the weaker sex; <r^., in places where 
scratching and tearing of the face forms part of the 
traditional ritual, thti women are expected to con- 
tinue the performance of this unpleasant ceremony 

358 Esu^s in thi Study of Folk-Songs. 

which the men have long since abandoned. Together 
with the dirge, a more or less serious measure of self- 
disfigurement has come down from an early date. An 
Etruscan funeral urn, discovered at Clusi, shows an 
exact picture of the hired mourners who tear their hair 
and rend their garments, whilst one stands apart, in a 
prophetic attitude, and declaims to the accompaniment 
of a flute. Of the precise origin of the employment of 
Public Wallers, or Prscficae, not much has been ascer- 
tained. One distinguished writer on folk-lore sug- 
gests that it had its rise not in any lack of considera- 
tion for the dead, but in the apprehension lest the 
repose of their ghosts should be disturbed by a dis- 
play of grief on the part of those who had been 
nearest and dearest to them in life ; and his theory 
gains support in the abundant evidence forthcoming 
to attest the existence of a widely-spread notion that 
the dead are pained, and even annoyed and exasper- 
ated, by the iiears of their kindred. Traces of this 
belief are discoverable in Zend and Hindu writings; 
also amongst the Sclavs, Germans, and Scandinavians 
— and| to look nearer home, in Ireland and Scotland. 
On the other hand, it is possible that the business of 
singing before the dead sprang from the root of well- 
nigh every trade — that its duties were at first exclu- 
sively performed by private persons, and their passing 
into public hands resulted simply from people finding 
out that they were executed with less trouble and 
more efficiency by a professional functionary ; a com- 
mon-place view of the matter which is somewhat 
borne out* by the circumstance, that whenever a mem- 
ber of the family is qualified and disposed to under- 
take the dirge-singing, there seems to be no prejudice 

Folk Dirges. 359 

against her doing so. It is often far from easy to 
determine whether such or' such a death-song was 
composed by a hired prxfica who for the time being 
assumed the character of one of the dead man's 
relatives, or by the latter speaking in her own person. 
Iii Corsica, the wailing and chanting are kept up, off 
and on, from the hour of death to the hour of burial. 
The news that the head of a family has. expired is 
quickly communicated to his relations and friends in 
the surrounding hamlets, who hasten to form them- 
selves into a troop or band locally called the Scirrata, 
and thus advance in procession towards the house of 
mourning. If the death was caused by violence, the. 
scirrata makes a halt when it arrives in sight of the 
village ; and then it is that the Corsican women tear 
their hair and scratch their faces till the blood flows — 
just as do their sisters in Dalmatia and Montenegro. 
Shortly after this, the scirrata is met by the deceased's 
fellow-villagers, accompanied by all his near relatives 
with the exception of the widow, to whose abode the 
whole party now proceeds with loud cries and lamen- 
tations. The widow awaits the scirrata by the door 
of her house, and, as it draws near, the leader steps 
forward and throws a black veil over her head to 
symbolise her widowhood ; the term of which must 
offer a dreary prospect to a woman who has the mis- 
fortune to lose her husband while she is still in the 
prime of life, for public opinion insists that she remain 
for years in almost total seclusion. The mourners 
and as many as can enter the room assemble round 
the body, which lies stretched on a table or plank 
support^ by benches ; it is draped in a long maiitlei 
or it is clotlied in the dead man's best suit Now 

36o Essays in the Study of Folh-SoHgs. 

b^ns the dirge» or Vocera Two persons will per* 
haps start off singing together, and in that case the 
words cannot be distinguished ; but more often only 
one gets up at a time. She will open her song with a 
quietly-delivered eulogy of the virtues of the dead, 
and a few pointed allusions to the most important 
events of his life ; but before long she warms to her 
work, and pours forth volleys of rhythmic lamenta- 
tion with a fire and animation that stir up the women 
present into a frenzied delirium of grief, in which, as 
the praefica pauses to take breath, they howl, dig their 
nails into their flesh, throw themselves on the ground, 
and sometimes cover their heads with ashes. When 
the dirge is ended they join hands and dance franti- 
cally round the plank on which the body lies. More 
singing takes place on the way to the church, and 
thence to the graveyard. After the funeral the men 
do not shave for weeks, and the women let their hair 
go loose and occasionally cut it off at the grave — 
cutting off the hair being, by the way, a universal 
sign of female mourning ; it was done by the women of 
ancient Greece, and it is done by the women of India. 
A good deal of eating and drinking brings the cere- 
monials to a close. If the bill of fare comes short of 
that recorded of the funeral feast of Sir John Paston, 
of Barton, when 1300 eggs, 41 pigs, 40 calves, and 10 
nete were but a few of the items — nevertheless the 
Corsican baked meats fall very heavily upon the 
pockets of such families as deem themselves com- 
pelled to ''keep up a position." Sixty persons is 
not an extraordinary number to be entertained at the 
banquet, and there is, over and above, a general dis- 
tribution of bread and meat to poorer neighbours. 

Folk-Dirges. 361 

Mutton in summer, and pork in winter, are esteemed 
the viands proper to the occasion. In happy contrast 
to all this lugubrious feasting is the simple cup of 
milk drunk by each kinsman of the shepherd who 
dies in the mountains ; in which case his body is laid 
out, like Robin Hood's, in the open air, a green sod 
under his head, his loins begirt with the pistol belt, 
his gun at his side, his dog at his feet Curious are 
the superstitions of the Corsican shepherds touching 
death. The dead, they say, call the living in the 
night time, and he who answers will soon follow 
them ; they believe, too, that, if you listen attentively 
after dark, you may hear at times the low beating of 
a dnim, which announces that a soul has passed. 

A notable section of the voceri treats of that insa- 
tiable thirst after vengeance which formerly provided 
as fruitful a theme to French romancers as it presented 
a perplexing problem to French legislators. In these 
dirges we see the vendetta in its true character, as the 
outgrowth and relic of times when people were, in 
self-defence, almost coerced into lawlessness through 
the perpetual miscarriage of constituted justice, and 
they enable us to better understand the process by 
which what was at the outset something of the nature 
of a social necessity, developed into the ruling passion 
of the race, and led to the frightful abuses that are 
associated with its name. AH that he held sacred in 
heaven or on earth became bound up in the Corsican*s 
mind with the obligation to avenge the blood of hia 
' kindred. Thus he made Hat^ his deity, and the old 
inexorable spirit of the Greek Oresteia lived and 
breathed in him anew, the Furies themsdves finding 
no bad counterpart in the frenzied women who offici- 


363 Essays iu the Study of Folk-Songs. 

ated at his funeral rites. As is well known» when no 
man was to be found to do the deed a woman would 
often come forward in his stead, and this not only 
among the lower orders, but in the highest ranks of 
society. A lady of the noble house of Pozzo di Borgo 
once donned male attire, and in velvet-tasselled cap, 
red doublet, high sheepskin boots, with pistol, gun, 
and dagger for her weapons, started off in search of 
an assassin at the head of a band of partisans. When 
he was caught, however, after the guns had been two 
or three times levelled at his breast, she decided to 
give him his life. Another fair avenger whose name 
has come down to us was Maria Felice di Calacuccia, 
of Niolo. Her vocero may be cited here as affording 
a good idea of the tone and spirit of the vendetta 
dirges in general. 

** I was spinning at my distaff when I heard a loud 
noise ; it was a gun-shot, it re-echoed in my heart 
It seemed to say to me : ' Fly I thy brother dies.' I 
ran into the upper chamber. As I unlatched the door, 
' I am struck to the heart,' he said ; and I fell sense- 
less to the ground. If I too died not, it was that one 
thought sustained me. Whom wouldst thou have to 
avenge thee? Our mother, nigh to death, or thy 
sister Maria ? If Lario was not dead surely all this 
would not end without bloodshed. But of so great a 
race, thou dost only leave thy sister: she has no 
cousins, she is poor, an orphan^ young. Still be at 
rest — to avenge thee, she suffices ! " 

A dramatic vocero, dealing with the same subject, 
is that of the sister of Canino, a renowned brigand, 
who fell at Nazza in an encounter with the military. 
She begins by regretting that she has not a voice of 

Folk-Dirges. 363 

thunder wherewith to rehearse • his prowess. Alas I 
one early morning the soldiers ("barbarous set of 
bandits that they are I ") sallied forth on his pursuit, 
and pounced upon him like wolves upon a lamb. 
When 5he heard the bustle of folks going to and fro 
in the street, she put her head out oC window and 
asked what it was all about " Thy brother has been 
slaughtered in the mountains/' they reply. Even so 
it was ; his arquebuse was of no use to him ; no, nor 
his dagger, nor his pistol, nor yet his amulet. When 
they brought him in, and she beheld his wounds, the 
bitterness of her grief redoubled. Why did he not 
answer her— did he lack heart to do so ? '* Canino, 
heart of thy sister," she cries, " how thou art grown 
pale ! Thou that wert so stalwart and so full of grace, 
thou who didst appear like unto a nosegay of flowers. 
Canino, heart of thy sister, they have taken thy life. 
I will plant a blackthorn in the land of Nazza, that 
none of our house may henceforth pass that way — for 
there were not three or four, but seven men against 
one. Would I could make my bed at the foot of the 
chestnut tree beneath whose shade they fired upon 
thy breast. I desire to cast aside these women's 
skirts, to arm me with poniard, and pistol, and gun, 
to gird me with the belt and pouch ; Canino, heart 
of thy sister, I desire to averige thy death.'* In the 
lamentations over one Matteo, a doctor who was 
murdered in 1745, we have an example of the songs 
improvised along the road to the grave. This time 
there are plenty of male relatives — brothers^ brothers- 
in-law, and cousins -^ to accomplish the vendetta. 
The funeral procession passes through the village 
where the crime was committed, and one of the 

364 Essays in the Sfuify of Folk-Sfmgs. 

inhabitants, perhaps as a peace^flfering, invites the 
whole party to come in and refresh themselves. To 
this a young girl replies: *'We want none of your 
bread and wine; what we do want is your blood.*' 
She invokes a thunderbolt to exterminate every soul 
in the blood-guilty place, liut an aged dame inter- 
poses, for a wonder, with milder counsels ; she bids . 
her savage sisters calm their wrath : '' Is not Matteo 
in heaven with the Lord ? Look at his winding sheet/' 
says she, '' and learn from it that Christ dwells above, 
who teaches forgiveness. The waters are troubled 
enough already without your goading on your men to 
violence." It is not unlikely that the Corsicans may 
have been in the habit, like the Irish, of intentionally 
parading the coffin of a murdered man past the door 
of the suspected murderer, in order that they might 
have a public opportunity of branding the latter with 

Having glanced at these hymns of the avenger, we 
will turn to the laments expressive of grief unmixed 
with threats or anger. In these, also, Corsica is 
very rich. Sometimes it is a wife who deplores her 
husband struck down by no human hand, but by fever 
or accident. In one such vocero the widow pathetic- 
ally crowds epithet on epithet, in the attempt to give 
words to her affection and her sorrow. "You were 
my flower, my thornless rose, my stalwart one, my 
column, my brother, my hope, my prop, my eastern 
gem, my most beautiful treasure," she says to her 
lost " Fetru Francescu I " She curses fate which in a 
brief moment has deprived her of her paladin — she 
prayed so hard that he might be spared, but it was 
all in vain. He was laid low, the greatly courageous 

Folk'Dirges. 365 

one» who seemed so strong I Is it indeed true, that 
he, the clever-headed, the handy-handed, will leave 
his Nunziola all alone? Then she bids Mari, her 
little daughter, come hither to where papa lies, and 
beg him to pray God in paradise that she may have 
a better lot than her little mother. She wishes her 
eyes may change into two fountains ere she forgets 
his name; for ever would she call him her Petru 
Francescu. But most of all she wishes that her heart 
might break so that her poor little soul could go with 
his, and quit this treacherous world where is no more 
joy. The typical keen given in Carleton*s Traits atid 
Stories of t/te Irish Peasantry is so like Nunziola's 
vocero, that in parts it might be taken for a transla- 
tion of it Sometimes it is a plaint of a mother whose 
child has met the fate of those " whom the gods love.** 
That saying about the gods has its equivalent in the 
Corsican lines : 

Chi nasci pe u paradisu 

A stu mondu un po' imbecchia, 

which occur in the lament of La Dariola Danesi, of 
Zuani, who mourns her sixteen-year-old daughter 
Romana* Decked in feast-day raiment the damsel 
sleeps * in the rest of death, after all her sufferings, 
Her sweet face has lost its hues of red and white; it 
is like a gone-out sun. Romana was the fairest of 
all the young girls, a rose among flowers ; the yoqths 
of the country round were consumed by love of her, 
but in her presence they were filled with decorous 
respect. . She was courteous to all, familiar with none ; 
in church everybody gazed at her, but she looked at 
no one; and the minute mass was over she would 

366 Essays in the Study of Folk^Sangs. 

say : *' Mamma, let ua go/' Never can the mother 
be consoled, albeit she knows her darling fares well 
up there in heaven where all things smile and are 
glad. Of a surety this earth was not worthy to con- 
tain so fair a face. '^ Ah I how much more beautiful 
Paradise will be now she is in itT* cries the vocera- 
trice, with the sublime audacity of maternal love. In 
another dirge we have pictured a troop of girls coming 
early to the house of Maria, their young companion, 
to escort her to the Church of St Elia: for this morn- 
ing the father of her betrothed has settled the mar- 
riage portion, and it is seemly that she should hear 
mass, and make an offering of wax tapers. But the 
maiden's mother comes forth to (ell the gladsome 
band that to-day's offering to St Elia is not of waxen 
tapers; it is a peerless flower, a bouquet adorned 
with ribands— surely the saint will be well pleased 
with such a fmc gift I For the bride elect lies dead ; 
who will now profit by her possessions— the twelve 
mattresses, the twenty-four lambs ? ''I will pray the 
Virgin," says the mother, " I will pray my God that 
I may go hence this morning, pressing my flower to 
my heart." The playfellows bathe Maria's face with 
tears : sees she not those who loved her ? Will she 
leave them in their sadness? One runs to pluck 
flowers, a second to gather roses ; they twine her a 
garland, a bridal crown — will she depart all the same, 
lying upon her bier ? But, after all, why should there 
be all this grief? ''To-day little Maria becomes the 
spouse of the Lord ; with what honour will she not 
be greeted in paradise!" Alas for broken hearts! 
they were never yet healed by that line of argument 
Up the street steals the chilling sound of the funeral 

Folk-Dirges. 367 

chant, Orapro ed. They are come to bear the maiden 
to St Elia*s Church ; the mother sinks to the ground ; 
•fain would she follow the body to the grave, but she 
faints with sorrow ; only her streaming tears can pay 
the tribute of her love. 

It will be observed that it is usual for the survivors 
to be held up as objects of pity rather than the dead, 
who are generally regarded as well oflf; but now and 
then we come across less optimist presages of the 
future life. A woman named Maddel^ complains 
that they have taken her blonde daughter, her snow- 
white dove, her *• Chill, cara di Mamma," to the worst 
possible of places, where no sun penetrates, and no 
fire is lit 

Sometimes to a young girl is assigned the task of 
bewailing her playmate. "This morning my com* 
panion is all adorned," begins a maiden dirge-singer ; 
** one would think she was going to be married." But 
the ceremony about to take place differs sadly from 
that other. The bell tolls slowly, the cross and 
banner arrive at the door; the dead companion is 
setting out on a long journey, she is going to find 
their ancestors— the voceratrice*s father, and her uncle 
the cur^ — in the land whither each one must go in 
his turn and remain for ever. Since she has made 
up her mind thus to change country and climate 
(though it be all too soon, for she has not yet done 
growing), will she at any rate listen for an instant to 
her friend of other days ? She wishes to give her a 
tittle letter to carry to her father ; and, besides the 
letter, she would like her to take him a message, and 
give him news of the family he left so young, all 
weeping round his hearth. She is to tell him that all 

368 Essays in ike Study of Folk-Songs. 

goes well; that his eldest daughter is married and 
has a boy, a flowering lily, who already knows his 
father, and points at him with his finger. The boy is 
called after the grandpapa, and old friends declare 
him to be his very image. To the cur^ she is to say 
that his flock flourish and do not forget him. Now 
the priest enters, bringing the holy water ; everyone 
lifts his hat; they bear the body away: '*Go to 
heaven, dear ; the Lord awaits you." 

It is hardly necessary to add that the voceri of 
Corsica are without exception composed in the native 
speech of the country, which the accomplished scholar, 
lexicographer, and poet, Niccol6 Tommaseo, spoke 
of with perfect truth as one of *' the most Italian of 
the dialects of Italy." The time may come when 
< the people will renounce their own language in favour 
of the idiom of their rulers, but it has not come yet ; 
nor do they show much disposition to abandon their 
old usages, as may be guessed from the fact that even 
in their Gallicanised capital the dead are considered 
slighted if the due amount of wailing is left undone. 

The Sardinian Attitido — a word which has been 
thought to have some connection with the Greek 
ororoi, and the Latin atat — is made on exactly the 
same pattern as the Corsican vocero. I have been 
told on trustworthy authority that in some districts 
in the island the keening over a married man is per- 
formed not by a dirge-singer but by his own children, 
who chant a string of homely sentences, such as : 
" Why art thou dead, papa ? Thou didst not want 
for bread or wine!" A practice may here be men- 
tioned which recalls the milk and honey and nuts of. 
the Roman Inferis, and which, so far as I am aware. 

FolhDirges. 369 

lingers on nowhere excepting Sardinia ; the attidora 
whilst she sings, scatters on the bier handfuls of 
almonds or — if the family is well-to-do — of sweet- 
meats, to be subsequently buried with the body. 

Very few specimens of the attitido have found their 
way into print; but amongst these few, in Canon 
Spano's Canti popolari Tempiesi^ there is one that is 
highly interesting. Doubts have been raised as to 
whether the bulk of the songs in Canon Spano's 
collection are of purely illiterate origin ; but even if 
the author of the dirge to which I allude was guilty 
of that heinous offence in the eyes of the stricffolk- 
lore gleaner— the knowledge of the alphabet — it must 
still be judged a remarkable production. The attidora 
laments the death of a much-beloved bishop : — 

" It was the pleasure of this good father, this gentle 
pastor," she says, " at all hours to nourish his flock ; 
to the bread of the soul he joined the bread of the 
body; Was the wife naked, her sons starving and 
destitute } He laboured unceasingly to console them 
all. The one he clothed, the others he fed. None 
can tell the number of the poor whom he succoured. 
The naked came to him that they might be clothed, 
the hungry came to him that they might be fed, and 
all went their way comforted! How many had suf- 
fered hunger in the winter's cold, had not his tender 
heart proffered them help ! It was a grand sight to 
behold so many poor gathered together in his house 
-^abovci below, they were so numerous there was no 
room to pass. And thes6 were the comers of every 
day. I do not count those to whom once a month 
he supplied the needful food, nor yet those other poor 
to whose necessities he ministered in secret By the 

3 /O Essays in ike Study of Foik-Smgs. 

needy rogue he let himself be deceived with shut eyes : 
he recognised the fraud, but he esteemed it gain so to 
lose. Ah, dear father, father to us all, I ought not ta 
weep for thee! I mourn our common bereavement, 
for thy death this day has been a blow to all of us, 
even to the strongest men/' 

It would be hard to conceive a more lovely portrait | 

of the Christian priest ; it is scarcely surpassed by that i 

of Monseigneur Bicnvenu in I^s MislrabUs^ of whose i 

conduct in the matter of the silver candlesticks we are \ 

not a little reminded by the good Sardinian bishop's \ 

compassion for the needy rogue. Neither the one nor \ 

the other realises an ideal which would win the uncon- ' 

ditional approval of the Charity Oi^anisation Society, 
and we must perhaps admit that humane proclivities 
which indirectly encourage swindling are more a mis- 
chief than an advantage to the State. Yet who can . : 
be insensible to the beauty of this unconquerable pity \ 
for the evil-doer, this charity that believeth all things, 
hopeth all things, endureth all things ? Who can say 
how much it has done to make society possible, to 
keep the world on its wheels } It is the bond that 
binds together all religions. $ix thousand years ago 1 
the ancient Egyptian dirge-singers chanted before | 
their dead : '* There is no fault in him. No answer ; 
riseth up against him. In the truth he liveth, with 
the truth he nourisheth himself. The gods are satis- 
fied with all he hath done. . . . He succoured 
the afflicted, he gave bread to the hungry, drink to 
the thirsty, clothes to the naked, he sheltered the 
outcast, his doors were open to the stranger, he was 
a father to the fatherless.*' 

The part of France where dirge-singing stayed the 

Folk' Dirges. 371 

longest seems to have been the south-west. The old 
women of Gascony still preserve the memory of a 
good many songs, some of which have been for- 
tunately placed on record by M. Blad^ in his coUec 
tion of Gascon folk-lore. The Gascon dirge is a kih) 
of prose recitative made up of distinct exclamatiofr. 
that fall into irr^lar strophes. Each has a burctc 
of this description : 

Ah ! Ah t Ah ! 
Ah ! Praube ! 
Ah ! Praube ! 
Moun Diu ! 
Moun Diu ! Moun Diu ! 

The wife mourns for the loss of "Praube Jan;" 
when she was a young girl she loved only him. " No, 
no 1 I will not have it ! I will not have them take thee 
to the graveyard I " " What will become of us } " 
asks the daughter ; '^ my poor mother is infirm, my 
brothers and sisters are too small ; there is only me 
to rule the house." The mother bewails her boy; 
" Poor little one I I loved thee so much, thou wert so 
pretty, thou wert so good. Thou didst work so well ; 
ail I bid thee do, thou didst ; all I told thee, didst 
thou believe ; thou wert very young, yet already didst 
thou earn thy bread. Poor little one, thou art dead; 
they carry thee to the grave, with the cross going 
before. They put thee into the earth. • • . Poor 
little one, I shall see thee no more; never! never! 
never 1 Thou goest and I stay. My God ! thou wilt 
be very lonely in the graveyard this night ; and I, I 
shall weep at home." 

373 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

If we transport ourselves to the government of 
Olonetz, we discover the first cousin of the Corsican 
voceratnce in the Russian Vopldnitsa ('' the sobbing \ 

one "). But the jurisdiction of this functionary is of \ 

wider extent; she is mistress of the ceremonies at \ 

marriages as well as at funerals, and in both cases 
either improvises new songs or adapts old ones. Mr \ 

Ralston has familiarised English readers with some 
excellent samples of the Russian neniae in his work 
on the Songs oft/te Russian People. In Montenegro 
dirge-singing survives in its most primitive form« 
During the war of 1877 therie were frequent opportu- 
nities -of observing it One such occurred at Ostrog. 
A wounded man arrived at that place, which was 
made a sort of hospital station, with his father and 
mother, his sisters and a brother. Another brother 
and a cousin had fallen by his side in the last fight — 
the Montenegrins have always gone into battle in 
families — and the women had their faces covered with 
scratches, self-inflicted in their mourning for these 
kindred The man was young, lively, and courageous ; 
he might have got well but there were no surgical 
instruments to extract the ball in his back, and so in ; 

a day or two he was dead. At three in the morning [ 

the women began shrieking in spite of the orders [ 

given by the doctors in the interest of the other \ 

wounded ; the noise was horrible, and no sooner were 
they driven away than they came back and renewed | 

it. The Prince, who has tried to put down the custom \ 

as barbarous, was quartered at Ostrog, and he sue- % 

ceeded in having the wailers quieted for a moment, * 

but when the body was borne to the cemetery the \ 

uproar began again. The women beat their breasts, \ 

Folk' Dirges. 373 

scratched their faces, and screamed at a pitch that 
could be heard a mile off. It is usual to return to the 
house where the person died — they made their way 
therefore back into the hospital (the Prince being 
absent), and it was only after immense efforts on the 
part of the sisters of charity and those who were in 
authority that they were expelled. Then they seated 
themselves in the courtyard, and continued beating 
their breasts and reciting their death-song. An eye- 
witness of the scene described the dirge as a mono- 
tonous chant. One of the dead man's sisters had 
worked herself up into a state of hysterical frenzy, in 
which she seemed to have lost all control over her 
words and actions; she led the dirge, and her rhythmic 
ejaculations flowed forth as if she had no power to 
contain them. The father and brother went to salute 
the Prince the day after the funeral ; the old man 
appeared to be extremely cheerful, but was doggedly 
inattentive to the advice to go home and fight no 
more, as his family had suffered enough losses. He 
had a son of ten, he said, who could accompany him 
now as there was a gun to spare, which before had 
not been the case. He wished he had ten sons to 
bring them all to fight the Turks. 

The Sclavs are everywhere very strict in all that 
regards the cult of the dead, and the observances 
which have to be gone through by Russians who have 
lost friends or relations are by no means confined to 
the date of death and burial Even when they have 
experienced no personal loss, they are still thought 
called upon to visit the cemeteries on the second 
Tuesday after Easter, and howl lustily over the tombs 
of their ancestors. Nor would it be held suflicient 

374 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

to strew flowers upon the graves, as is done on the 
Catholic All Souls' day ; the most orthodox ghosts 
want something more substantial, and libations of 
beer and spirits are poured over their resting-places. 
Furthermore, disagreeable consequences have been 
said to result upon an omission of like marks of 
respect due to *• the rude forefathers of the hamlet ; " 
there is no making sure that a highly estimable indi* 
vidual will not, when thus incensed, re-enter an ap- \ 

pearance on life's stage in the shape of a vampire. ^ 

A small volume might be written on the preventive j 

measures adopted to procure immunity from such-like ) 

visitations. The people of Havellend and Altmark 
put a small coin into the mouths of the dead in the ; 

hope that, so appeased, they will not assume vampire \ 

form ; but this time the superstition, like a vast num- 
ber of others, is clearly a later invention to explain a ; 
custom, the original significance of which is forgotten. i 
The peasants of Koumelia also place pieces of money \ 
in the cofRns, not as an insurance against vampires * 
— who they think may be best avoided by burtiing \ 
instead of burying the mortal remains of any person 1 
they credit with the prospect of becoming one — but | 
to pay the entrance fee into Paradise ; a more authen- 
tic version of the old fable. The setting apart of a 
day, fixed by the Church or varying according to 
private anniversaries, for the special commemoration 
of the dead, is a world-wide custom. 

If, as Mr Herbert Spencer thinks^ the rudimentary 
form of all religion is the propitiation of dead ances- 
tors who are supposed still to exist, some kind of 
fite des marts was probably the oldest of religious 
feasts. A theory has been started, to the effect that 




Folk- Dirges. 375 

the time of its appointment has been widely influenced 

by the rising of the Pleiades, in support of which is 

cited the curious fact that the Australians and Society 

Islanders keep the celebration in November, though 

with them November is a spring month. But this 

may be no more than a coincidence. In ancient 

Rome, in Russia, in China, the tendency has been to 

commemorate the dead in the season of resurrection. 

\ The Letts and Esthonians observe the Feast of 

1 Souls, by spreading a banquet of which they suppose 

I their spirit relatives to partake ; they put torches on 

the graves to light the ghosts to the repast, and they 

I imagine every sound they hear through the day to be 

f caused by the movements of the invisible guests. 

I Both these people celebrate death-watches with much 

i singing and drinking, the Esthonians addressing long 

\ speeches to the dead, and asking him why he did not 

stay longer, if his puddro (gruel) was not to his taste, 

I &c.| precisely after the style of the keeners of less 

\ remote parts. In some countries the entire system of 

life would seem to be planned and organised mainly 

with a view to honouring the dead. In Albania, for 

example, one of the foremost objects pursued by the 

peasantry is that of marrying their daughters near 

home ; not so much from any aflectionate unwilling- 

ncss to part with them, as in order to secure their 

attendance at the vat ox lamentations which take 

place on the death of a member of the family ; and 

so rigorous are the mourning regulations, that even 

married women who have lost thdr fathers remain 

year afler year shut up in houses deprived of light 

and draped in black— they may not even go out to 

\ church. The Albanian keens are not always vers!- 

376 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

fied ; they sometimes consist simply in the endless 
reiteration of a single phrase. M. Auguste Dozon 
reports that he was at one time constantly hearing 
^ les hurlcments " of a poor Mussulman widow who 
bewailed two sons ; on certain anniversaries she took 
their clothes out of a chest, and, placing them before 
her, she repeated, without intermission, x^^^^^^ M^k 
The Greeks have the somewhat analogous practice, 
on the recurrence of the death-days of their dear ones, 
of putting their lips close to the graves and whisper- 
ing to their silent tenants that they still love them. 

The near relations in Greece leave their dwelling, 
as soon as they have closed the eyes of the dead, to 
take refuge in the house of a friend, with whom they 
sojourn till the more distant connections have had 
time to arrive, and the body is dressed in holiday 
gear. Then they return, clothe themselves in white 
dresses, and take up their position beside the bier. 
After some inarticulate wailing, which is strenuously 
echoed back by the neighbours, the dirge is sung, the 
chief female mourner usually leading off, and who- 
soever feels disposed following wake. When the 
body is lowered into the earth, the best-beloved of 
the dead — his mother or perhaps his betrothed — 
stoops down to the ground and imploringly utters his 
name, together with the word "Come!" On his 
making no reply, he is declared to be indeed dead, 
and the grave is closed.^ The usage points to a 

^ '' Calling the dead " was without doubt once general amongst 
all classes— which may be true of all the customs that we are 
now inclined to associate with only the very poor. In the 
striking mediseval ceremonial performed at the entombment of 
King Alfonso in the vault at the Escurial, the final act was that 

Folk-Dirges. ^jy 

probability that all the exhortations to awaken and 
to return with which the dirges of every nation are 
interlarded are remnants of ancient makeshifts for a 
medical certificate of death ; and we may fancy with 
what breathless excitement these apostrophes were 
spoken in former days when they were accompanied 
by an actual, if faint, expectation that they would be 
heard and answered. It is conceivable that the com- 
plete system of making as much noise as possible at 
funerals may be derived from some sort of notion 
that the uproar would wake the dead if he were not 
dead at all, but sleeping. As elsewhere, so in 
Greece, the men take no part in the proceedings 
beyond bidding one last farewell just before they 
retire from the scene. Praeficse are still employed 
now and then ; but the art of improvisation seems to 
be the natural birthright of Greek peasant women, 
nor do they require the inspiration of strong grief to 
call their poetic gifts into operation ; it is stated to be 
no unusual thing to hear a girl stringing elegies over 
some lamb, or bird, or flower, which may have died, 
while she works in the fields. The Greeks send com- 
munications and even flowers by the dead to the 
dead : "Now is the time," the folk-poet makes one 
say whose body is about to be buried, "for you to 
give me any messages or commissions ; and if your 
grief is too poignant for utterance, write it down 
on paper and bring me the letter." The Greek neniae 
are marked by great vigour and variety of imagery 

of the Lord Chlkmberlain, who unlocked the coffin, and in the 
midst of profound silence shouted into the king's ear, '' Seftor, 
Sefior, Senor." After which he rose; saying, " His majesty does 
not answer. Then it is true the king i& dead.** 


378 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

as is apparent in the subjoined extract from the dirge 
of a poor young country-woman who was left a widow 
with two children :— 

'^The other day I beheld at our threshold a youth 
of lofty stature and threatening mien ; he had out- 
stretched wings of gleaming white, and in his hand 
was a sword. ^ Woman, is thy husband in the house ?' 
* Yes ; he combs our Nicos* hair, and caresses him so 
he may not cry. Go not in, terrible youth ; do not 
frighten our babe/ The white-winged would not 
listen ; I tried to drive him back, but I could not ; he 
darted past me, and ran to thy side, O my beloved. 
Hapless one^ he smote thee ; and here is thy little 
son, thy tiny Nicos, whom likewise he was fain to 
strike." . • • 

So vivid was the impression created by the woman*s 
fantasy that some of the spectators looked towards 
the door, half expecting the white-winged visitant to 
advance in their midst ; others turned to the child, 
huddled by his mother's knees. She, coming down 
from flights of imagination to the bitter realities of 
her condition, exclaimed, as she flung herself sobbing 
upon the bier : " How can I maintain the children } 
How will they be able to live ? What will they not 
sufler in the contrast between the rough lot in store 
for them and the tender care which guarded them in 
the happy days when their father lived ? " At last, 
worn out by the force of her emotions, she sank sense- 
less to the floor. The laments of widows, which are 
very rare in some localities, are often to be met with 
in Greece. In one of them we come upon an original 
idea respecting the requirements of spirits : the singer 
prays that her tears may swell into a lake or a sea, so 

Folk-Dirges.. 379 . 

they may trickle through the earth to the nether 
** regions, to moisten those who get no rain, to be drink 
to those who thirst, and— to fill up the dry inkstands 
of the writers 1 " Then will they be able to chronicle 
the chagrins of the loved ones who cross the river, 
taste its wave, and forget their homes and their poor 
orphans." Every species of Grecian peasant-song 
abounds in classical reminiscences, which are easy to 
identify, although they betray some mental confusion 
of the attributes and functions belonging to the per- 
sonages of antiquity. Of all the early myths, that of 
the Stygian ferryman is the one which has shown 
greatest longevity. Far from falling into oblivion, 
the son of Erebus has gone on diligently accumulat- 
ing honours till he has managed to get the arbitra- 
ment of life and death into his power, and to enlist 
the birds of the air ' as a staff of spies, to give him 
prompt information should any unlucky individual 
refer to him in a tone of mockery or defiance. Per- 
haps this is not development but reversion. Charon 
may have been a great Infernal deity before he was a 
boatman. The Charun of the Etruscans could destroy 
life and torment the guilty — ^the office of conducting 
shades to the other world forming only one part of 
his duties. 

The opinion of Achilles, that it was better to be a 
slave amongst men than a king over ghosts, is very 
much that which prevails in the Greece of to-day. 
Visions of a Christian paradise above the skies have 
much less hold on the popular mind than dread of a 
pagan Tartarus under the earth ; and that full con* 
viction that ailer all it was a very bad thing to die, 
that tendency to attach a paramount value to life^ 

380 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

ptr Ut and guand mimi^ which constituted so sIgnU 
ficant a feature of the old Greeks, is equally charac* 
teristic of their modem representatives. The next 
world of the Romaic songs is far from being a place 
^ where all smiles and is glad;*' the forebodings of 
the Corsican^ Chilina's mother are common enough 
here in Greece. " Rejoice in the present world, re- 
joice in the passing day," runs a fivpoKoyiov^ quoted 
by Fauriel ; " to-morrow you will be under the sod, 
and will behold the day no more." Down in Tar- 
tarus youths and maidens spend their time dismally 
in asking if there be yet an earth and a sky up above. 
Are there still churches and golden icons ? Do people 
continue to work at their several trades ? " Blessed 
are the mountains and the pastures/* it is said, '* where 
we meet not Charon." The parents of a dying girl 
ask of her why she is resolved to hasten into the 
other world where the cock crows not, and the hen 
clucks not; where there is no water and no grass, 
and where the hungry find it impossible to eat, and 
the tired are incapable of sleep. Why is she not 
content to abide at home? The girl replies she 
cannot, for yesterday, in the late evening, she was 
married, and her consort is the tomb. That is the 
peasant elegist*s way of speaking of a sudden death, 
caused very likely by the chill of nightfall. Of 
another damsel, who succumbed to a long illness, 
"who had suffered as none before suffered under 
the sun," he narrates how she pressed her father*s 
hand to her heart, saying : " Alas ! my father, I am 
about to die." She clasped her mother's hand to her . 
breast, saying : ** Alas I my mother, I am about to 
die." Then she sent for her betrothed, and she bent 

Folk'Dirges. 381 

over him and kissed him, and whispered softly into 
his car : " Oh, my friend, when I am dead deck my 
grave as you would have decked my nuptial bed." 
We find in Greek poesy the universal legend of the 
lover who kills himself on hearing of the death of his 
mistress; but, as a rule, the regret of survivors is 
depicted as neither desperate nor durable. Long ago, 
three gallant youths plotted together to contrive an 
escape from Hades, and a fair-haired maiden prayed 
that they would take her with them ; she did so wish 
to see her mother mourning her loss, her brothers weep- 
ing because she is no more. They answered : " As 
to thy brothers, poor girl, they are dancing, and thy 
mother diverts herself with gossiping in the street." 
The mournfully beautiful music that Schubert wedded 
to Claudius's little poem Der Tod und das Madchen 
nriight serve as melodious expression to many a one 
of these Grecian lays of dead damsels. Death will 
not halt because he hears a voice crying : ** Tarry, I 
am still so young I" The future is as irrevocably 
fixed as the past ; and if fate deals hardly by mortals, 
there is nothing to fall back upon but the sorry 
resignation of despair ; such is the sombre folk philo- 
sophy of the land of eternal summer. Perhaps it is 
the very brightness of the sky and air that makes the 
quitting of this mortal coil so unspeakably grievous. 
The most horribly painful idea associated With death 
in the mind of the modern as of the ancient Greek is 
the idea of darkness, of separation from what.DantCi. 
yet more Greek than Italian in his passionate sun- 
worship, describes in a line which seems somehow to 
hold incarnate the thing it tells of— 

• . • Taer dolce che dal sol s'allegra. 

382 Essays in the Study of Folk-Smgs. 

It is worth noting that» whether the view entertained 
of immortality be cheerful or the reverse, in the songs 
of Western nations the disembodied soul is univers- 
ally taken to be the exact duplicate of the creature 
of flesh and bloody in wants, tastes, and semblance. 
The European folk-singer could no more grasp a 
metaphysical conception of the eternity of spirit, such 
as that implied in the grand Indian dirge which craves 
everlasting good for the '' unborn part *' in man, than 
he would know what to make of the scientific tlieory 
of the indestructibility of matter shadowed forth in the 
ordinary Sanskrit periphrases for death, signifying 
'' the resolution of the body into its five elementary 

Among the Greek-speaking inhabitants of Southern 
Italy a peculiar metre is set apart to the composition 
of the nenix, and the office of public wailer is trans- 
mitted from mother to daughter ; so that the living 
prseficae are the lineal descendants of the praefioe who 
lived of old in the Grecian Motherland. Unrivalled 
in the matter of her improvisations as in the manner 
of their delivery, the hereditarj' dirge-singer no doubt, 
like a good actress, keenly realises at the moment the 
sorrow not her own, of which she undertakes the in- 
terpretation in return for a trifling gratuity, and to 
her hearers she appears as the genius or high priestess 
of woe : she excites them into a whirlwind of ecstatic 
paroxysms not greatly differing from kindred pheno- 
mena vouched for by the historians of religious mys- 
ticism. There are, however, one or two of the Graeco- 
Italic death-songs which bear too clear and touching 
a stamp of sincerity for us to attribute them even to 
the most skilled of hired '' sobbing ones.'* There is 

Folk-Dirges. 38^ 

no savour of vicarious mourning in the plaint of the 
desolate girl, who says to her dead mother that she 
will wait for her, so that she may tell her how she has 
passed the day : at eight she will await her, and if she 
does not come she will begin to weep ; at nine she 
will await her, and if she comes not she will grow 
black as soot ; at ten she will await her, and if she 
does not come at ten she will turn to earth, to earth 
that may be sown in. And it is difficult to believe 
that aught save the anguish of a mother's broken 
heart could have quickened the senses of an ignorant 
peasant to the tragic intensity of the following 
lament : 

Now they have buried thee, my little one, 

Who will make thy little bed ? 

Black Death will make it for me 

For a very long night. 
Who will arrange thy pillows, 

So thou mayst sleep softly ? 

Black Death will arrange them for me 

With hard stones. 
Who will awake thee, my daughter, 

When day is up } 

Down here it is alwayn sleep. 

Always dark night. 
This my daughter was fair. 
When I went (with her) to high mass, 
The columns shone, 
The way grew bright. 

The neniae of Terra d*Otranto and of Calabria are 
not uncommonly composed in a semi-dramatic form. 
Professor Comparetti cites one^ in which the friend 
of a dead girl is represented as going to pay her a 
visit, in ignorance of the misfortune that has happened. 

384 Essays in the Study of Folk-Songs. 

She sees a crowd at the door, and she exclaims : 
'* How many folks are in thy house I they come from 
all the neighbourhood ; they are bidden by thy mother, 
who shows thee the bridal array 1 *' But on crossing 
the threshold she finds that the shutters are closed : 
" Alas 1 " she cries, ** I deceive myself— I enter into 
darkness.*' Again she repeats : ** How many folks 
are in thy house I All Corigliano is there/' The 
mother says : '* My daughter has bidden them by the 
tolling of the bell." Then the daughter is made to 
ask: "What ails thee, what ails thee, my mother? 
wherefore dost thou rend thy hair ? " The mother 
rejoins : " I think of thee, my daughter, of how thou 
liest down in darkness." '* What ails thee, what ails 
thee, my mother, that all around one can hear thee 
wailing ? " "I think of thee, my daughter, of how 
thou art turned black as soot.'' A sort of chorus 
is appended: ''Ail, all the mothers weep and rend 
their hair : let them weep, the poor mothers who lose 
their children." Here are the last four lines as they 
were originally set on paper : 

Ole sole i mane i cluene 

Isirnune anapota ta maddia, 
Afi n^ clapsune tio mane misere 

Pu ichannune ta pedia ! 

Professor Comparetti has shaped them into looking 
more like Greek : 

OXait, tfXait jn fidwai i)cXaiouvff 
*llffCp¥W¥e d^dvoda rd /ioXXid 
'A0i}a'e »d K\d^ov¥€ rcut fidvait mUtre 
II oO i^xcli'Oi'vc rd xaidid ! 

In his "Tour through the Southern Provinces of 

Folk-Dirges. 385 

the Kingdom of Naples/' the Hon. R, Keppel Craven 
gave an account of a funeral at Corigliano. The 
deceased, a stout, swarthy man of about fifty, had 
been fond of field sports ; he was, therefore, laid on 
his open bier in the dress of a hunter. When the 
procession passed the house of a friend of the dead 
man, it halted as a mark of respect, and the friend got 
up from his dinner and looked out for a few minutes, 
afterwards philosophically returning to the interrupted 
meal. The busy people in the street, carpenters, 
blacksmiths, cobblers, and fruitsellers, paused from 
their several occupations — all carried on, as usual, in 
the open air, when the dismal chant of the priests 
announced the approach of the funeral, resuming 
them with redoubled energy as soon as it had moved 
on. A group of weeping women led the widow, 
whose face was pale and motionless as a statue ; her 
black tresses descended to her knees, and at regular 
intervals she pulled out two or three hairs — the women 
instantly taking hold of her hands and replacing them 
by her side, where they hung till the operation was 
next repeated. 

The practice of plucking out the hair was so general 
in the last century that even at Naples the old women 
had hardly a hair left from out-living many relations. 
It was proper also to observe the day of burial as a 
fast day. Two unlucky women near Salerno lost 
their characters for 'ever because the dog of a visitor 
who had come to condole, snifled out a dish of tripe 
which had been hastily thrust into a corner. 

The Italian, or rather Calabrese-speaktng popula- 
tion of Calabria, call their preficae— where they still 
have zny—Repiitatrici. Some remarkable songs have 

386 Essays in the Sttidy of Folk^Sotigs. 

been collected in the commune of Pizzo, the place of 
dubious fame by whose peasants Murat was caught 
and betrayed. There is something Dantesque in the 
image of Death as '«// gran levreri crouching in a 
m|ountain defile : 

Joy, I saw death ; Joy» 1 saw her yesterday ; I beheld her in 
a narrow way, like unto a great greyhound, and I was very 
curious. '^ Death, whence comest thou?'' 'M am come from 
Germany, going thence to Count Roger. I have killed princes, 
counts, and cavaliers ; and now I am come for a young maiden 
so that with me she may go. 

Weep, mamma, weep for me, weep and never rest ; weep for 
me Sunday, Easter, and Christmas Day ; for no more wilt thou 
see thy daughter sit down at thy board to eat, and no more 
shalt thou await mc. 

One conclusion forced upon us incidentally by folk- 
dirges must seem strange when wc remember how 
few are the cultured poetesses who have attained 
eminence — to wit, that with the unlettered multitude 
the poetic faculty is equally the property of women 
as of men. 

In various parts of Italy the funerals of the poor 
are conducted exclusively by those of like sex with 
the dead — a custom of which I first took note at 
Varese in the year 1879. The funeral procession 
came up slowly by the shady paths near the lake ; 
long before it appeared one could hear the sound of 
shrill voices chanting a litany. When it got near to 
the little church of S. Vittore, it was seen that only 
women followed the bier, which was carried by women. 
** Una povera donna morta in parto," said a peasant 
standing by, as she pointed to the coffin with a 
gesture of sympathy. The mourners had black 
shawls thrown over their heads and bore tapers. A 

Folk-Dirges. 38 ;r 

sight yet stranger to unaccustomed eyes is the funeral 
of a child at Spezia. A number of little girls, none 
older than eleven or twelve, some as young as five, 
carry the small coffin to the cemetery. Some of the 
.children hold candles ; they are nicely dressed in their 
best frocks; the sun plays on their bare black or 
golden curls. They have the little serious look of 
children engaged in some business of work or play, 
but no look of gloom or sadness. The coffin is 
covered with a white pall on which lies a large nose- 
gay. No priests or elder persons are there except 
one man, walking apart, who has to see that the 
children go the right way. About twenty.children is 
the average number, but there may be sometimes a 
hundred. When they return, running across the grass 
between the road and the sea-wall, they tumble over 
one another in the scramble to snatch daisies from 
the ground. 

It is still common in Lombardy to ring the bells 
d'alUgrezza on the death of an infant, " because its 
soul goes straight to Paradise." This way of ringing, 
or, rather, chiming, consists in striking the bell with a 
clapper held in the hand, when a light, dancing sound 
is produced, something like that of hand-bells. On a 
high/f^/a all the bells are used ; for dead babies, only 
two. I have often heard the sad message sounding 
gaily from the belfry at Sal6. 

Were I sure that all these songs of the Last Parting 
would have for others the same interest that they have 
had for me, I should be tempted to add a study dedi- 
cated solely to the dirges of savage nations and of thosie 
nations whose civilization has not followed the same 
course as ours. I must, at all events, indicate the won- 

388 Essays in thi Study o/Fotk-Swgs. 

dcrfully strange and wild Polynesian ** Death-talks** and 
*" Evas ** (dirges proper) collected by the Rev. W. W. 
Gill. The South Pacific Islanders say of the dying* 
'' he is passing over the sea.** Their dead set out in 
a canoe on a long and perilous voys^e to the regions 
of the sun-setting. When they get there, alasi— 
when they reach the mysterious spirit-land, a horrid 
doom awaits them : children and old men and women 
— all, in short, who have not died in battle, are de- 
voured by a dreadful deity, and perish for ever. But 
this fate does not overtake them immediately; for a 
time they remain in a shadowy intermediate state 
till their turn comes. The spirit-journey is described 
in a dirge for two little children, composed by their 
father about the year 1796 : 

**' Thy god,^ pet-child, is a bad one ; 
For thy body is attenuated ; 
This wasting sickness must end thy days. 
Thy form, once so plump, now how changed ! 
Ah ! that god, that bad god ! 
Inexpressibly bad, my child ! 

Thou hast entered the expanse ; 

And wilt visit ' the land of red parrot feathers,' 

Where Oarangi was once a guest. 

Thou feedest now on ocean spray, 

And sippest fresh water out of the rocks, 

Travelling over nigged cliffs, 

To the music of murmuring billows. 

Thy exile spirit is overtaken . 

By darkness at the ocean's edge. 

Fourapapa' there sleeps. All three * 

Stood awhile to gaze wistfully 

At the glories of the setting sun.'' 

1 The child's *• personal fate." • The brother. 

* A little sister had died before. 

Folk-Dirges. 389 

There is much more, but this is perhaps sufficient to 
show the particular note struck. 

I will give, in its entirety, one more dirge^the 
death-chant of the tribe of Badagas, in the Neilgherry 
Hills — because it is unique, so far as I know, in re- 
versing the rule de mortiuSf and in charging, instead, 
the dead man with every sin, to make sure that none 
are omitted of which he is actually guilty. It is 
accompanied by a singular ceremony. ' An unblem- 
ished buffalo- calf is led into the midst of the mourners, 
and as after each verse they catch up and repeat the 
refrain, '*It is a sinT' the performer of the dirge 
lays his hand upon the calf, to which the guilt is 
transferred. At the end the calf is let loose ; like the 
Jewish scape-goat, it must be used for no secular 
work; it bears the sins of a human being, and is 
sacred till death. The English version is by Mr C E. 
Gover, who has done so much for the preservation of 
South'Indian folk-songs. 


In the presence of the great Bassava, 
Who sprang from Banig^ the holy cow. 

The dead has sinned a thousand times. 
E'en all the thirteen hundred sins 
' That can be done by mortal men 
May stain the soul that fled to-day. 
Stay not their flight to God's pure feet 

Chorus^Stay not their flight 

He killed the crawling snake 

Chorus— It is a sin. 
The creeping lixard slew. 

It is d sin. 

390 Essays in the Study of Folksongs. 

Also the harmleM frog. 

It it a sin. 

Of brothers he told Ulet. 

It is a sin. 

The landmark stone he moved« 

It is a sin. 

Called in the Sircar's aid.' 

It is a sin. 

Put poison in the milk. 

It is a sin. 

To strangers straying on the hillSi 
He offered aid but guided wrong. 

It is a sin. 

His sisters tender love he spumed 
And showed his teeth to her in rage. 

It is a sin. 
He dared to drain the pendent teats 
Of holy cow in sacred fold. 

It is a sin. 

The glorious sun shone warm and bright 
He turned its back towards its beams.* 

It is a sin. 
Ere drinking from the babbling brook, 
He made no bow of gratitude. 

It is a sin. 

His envy rose against the man 
Who owned a fruitful buffalo. 

It is a sin. ^ 

He bound with cords and made to plough ^ 

The budding ox too young to work. I 

It is a sin. \ 

While yet his wife dwelt in his house 1 

He lusted for a younger bride. « 

It is a sin. ! 

^ He had recourse to the Rajahs, whose courts under the j 

old r^mOi had become a byeword for oppression and comip- \ 

tion. \ 

^ Compare Infento^ Canto vii. 

Folk- Dirges. 391 

Th« hungry begged— he gave no meat, 
The cold asked warmth— he lent no fire. 

It is a sin* 
He turned relations from his door, 
Yet asked unworthy strangers home. 

It is a sin. 
The weak and poor called for his aid, 
He gave no alms, denied their woe. 

It Is a sin* 
When caught by thorns, in useless rage 
He tore his cloth from side to side. 

It is a tin. 
The father of his wife sat on the floor 
Yet he reclined un bench or couch. 

It is a tin. 
He cut the bund around a tank, 
Set free the living waters store. 

It is a sin. 

What though he sinned so much. 
Or that his parents sinned ? 
What though the sins' long score 
Was thirteen hundred crimes ? 
O let them every one, 
Fly swift to BasVa's feet. 

Chorus— Fly swift. 

The chamber dark of death 
Shall open to his soul. 
The sea shall rise in waves ; 
Surround on every side, 
But yet that awful bridge 
No thicker than a thread. 
Shall stand both firm and strong. 
The dragon's yawning mouth 
Is shut— it brings no fear. 
The palaces of heftven 
Throw open wide their doors. 

Chorus—Open wide their doors. 

393 Essays in thi Study of Folk^Sangs. 

The thorny path It itcep, 
Yet shall hit toul go tafe. 
Th6 tilver pillar ttandt 
So near--be touchet it. 
He may approach the wall 
The golden wall of heaveih 
The burning pillar't flame 
Shall have no heat for him« 

Chorus—Shall have no heat 

Oh let ut never doubt 
That all hit tint are gone, 
That Dattava forgives. 
May it be well with him I 

Chorut— May It be well I 
Let all be well with him I 

Chorus— Let all be well 

Surely an impressive burial service to have been 
found in use amongst a poor little obscure tribe of 
Indian mountaineers t 

It cannot be said that this moral attitude is often 
reached. Research into funeral rites, of whatever 
nature, confronts us with much that would be 
ludicrous were it not so very pitiful, for humanity has 
displayed a fatal tendency to rush into the committal 
of ghastly absurdities by way of showing the most 
sacred kind of grief. Yet, take them all in all, the 
death laments of the people form a striking and beau* 
tiful manifestation of such homage as ** Life may give 
for love to death." 


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