The Medieval Popular Ballad

The Medieval Popular Ballad

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The Medieval Popular Ballad

The Medieval Popular Ballad

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Excerpt

Aside from the admirable books of Professor F. B. Gummere on the ballad, I know of no other work whose covers include such a comprehensive and fundamental exposition of the ballad, its origin, nature, subject matter, form, and age, as does the one which appears here in translation. Its peculiar claim to be placed before English students, that which distinguishes it from other works on the subject, is its purpose of making us see what the ballad of the Middle Ages was really like. In other words, using Grundtvig's mammoth collection of Danish ballads as illustrations, it sifts out, chips away, rubs off all impurities, in the shape of diction, metrical items, and ideas which had no legitimate claim to existence before the sixteenth century. In the residue thus purged and restored we have the genuine unalloyed ballad of the Middle Ages.

In another respect also this book merits consideration. While Professor Steenstrup's studies lay bare the make-up of the ballad as a universal form of literature, by the very fact that he uses largely the ballads of Denmark for illustrative material he enriches for English readers the study of the subject, in that they herein make the acquaintance of a ballad literature which, in importance and bulk, surpasses that of all other European nations. Then, too, the circumstance that the ballads constitute the only vernacular literature of early Denmark makes them of peculiar interest in a comparative study of literature.

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