THE BRITISH ISLES
THE term "folk-song" connotes the melodies sung by the peasant class in any country. These melodies are a spontaneous expression of the musical feeling of the people. The tunes are anonymous and traditional, and in any region there will be found groups of songs conforming to a pattern as well as variants of individual melodies, since the songs have been preserved by oral tradition, not fixed by publication. Yet such is the strength of oral tradition among an illiterate people and a naturally conservative class that Cecil Sharp found songs and dances in the Appalachian Mountains of America differing hardly at all from those persisting in England, despite the lapse of several centuries since the ancestors of the present inhabitants left England. Indeed, according to Sharp, the traditions have been preserved more strictly in those remote places than in their native land, where contacts with modern developments are more easy. Although it is still possible to find in England villages where some of the inhabitants have never been in a train nor gone farther afield than their own feet or a horse could take them, the motor-omnibus is rapidly abolishing such isolation, and the ubiquitous radio and gramophone are bringing symphony and fox-trot without discrimination into every cottage. Folk-music, spontaneously created, is, at any rate in England, a thing of the past, superseded by the popular music of the cinema and the dance-hall, written according to stereotyped patterns, just as smock and kerchief have been superseded by town-made shirt and trousers. Even its spontaneous performance is rare. It belongs now to the antiquities--a thing to be revived, to be preserved by societies, to be discussed at meetings of connoisseurs.
Some of the songs that have survived are of great antiquity, as is