Mudcat Café message #3941022 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #162666   Message #3941022
Posted By: GUEST,Pseudonymous
02-Aug-18 - 05:56 AM
Thread Name: New Book: Folk Song in England
Subject: RE: New Book: Folk Song in England
Hello Jim

I hope you had a nice birthday.

I am perfectly aware of the derivations of the word 'popular', but thank you for reminding me of them.

It is not the case that my summary of Child arises from any bent towards 'dismantling and undermining the work of the past'. It arises from a desire to be as clear as possible about the work of the past, about what people in the past with an interest in ballads said about them. This work includes the piece by Child.

Child did like a particular kind of ballad; he did not like other sorts. I think you have yourself often quoted his remark about dunghills. My comment is perfectly reasonable.

I then go on to say something about his opinions about those ballads he did like, and about their place, as he saw it, in relationship to 'the poetry of art', and about who, in his view wrote those songs.

On the latter point, the article, as I have said before, seems self contradictory. This is not 'dismantling and undermining' the work of the past: it is an attempt, however clumsily truncated', to spell out that work.

On the former point, Child sees the ballad as the forerunner of a more civilised and cultivated written literature, which he calls 'the poetry of art'.

Unlike some other folklorists, Child did not see folk songs as originating with peasants or the lower ranks in society. He makes this crystal clear several times in the article. I did not want to quote large chunks of his piece, but as you took up my use of the word 'popular' I will quote some more to demonstrate how Child used the term at the start of the article.

" The 'popular' ballad, for which our language has no unequivocal term (interesting caveat applied by Child here), is a distinct and very important species of poetry. Its historical and natural place is anterior to the poetry of art, to which it has formed a step and by which it has regularly been displaced, and, in some cases, all but extinguished. Whenever a people in the course of its developement reaches a certain intellectual and moral stage, it will feel an impulse to express itself and the form of expression to which it is first impelled is, as is well known, not prose but verse, and in fact narrative verse. The condition of a society in which a truly national or popular poetry appears explains the character of such poetry. It tis a condition in which the people are not divided by political organisation or book culture into markedly distinct classes, in which consequently there is such community of ideas and feelings that the whole people form an individual'"

It seems to me worth making Child's points clear when discussing the work of the past. It was not as monolithic as your comments appear to suggest. Moreover, given what I know about the intellectual context in which CHild was writing, and the views about race to which the early folklorists mostly subscribed, it seems to me that much of this stuff about the stages of development of the societies which in Child's view produced ballads is on some level intended to differentiate the productions of early Europeans from those of other peoples who were not in the view of many Americans as developed (eg African Americans). Because such racialised thinking is clear and explicit in the early folklore journals that I have quoted before.

As far as I can judge on the basis of your own interesting points on these threads, there are a number of points where you do not agree with Child. Your own post reads to me like a 'shoot the messenger' approach. but I think your argument is really with Child.

Sorry if this post is a bit garbled; have to go out soon.