The Folklore Historian
American Folklore Society
Terre Haute, Indiana
Way back in the beginning of things, almost a hundred years ago, Francis Barton Gummere not only wrote as good a description of the ballad as we've got, he also asked a crucial if rather enigmatic question, and that question-probably partly because it was enigmatic to the point of being gnomic-caught my attention when I first read it almost half a century after it had been written: "How got the apples in?" It turns out he was quoting a humorous poem by John Wolcott (aka "Peter Pindar") in which King James, looking at an old woman's dumplings, wondered "How the devil got the apple in?" and Gummere used the allusion to raise the paired problems of the origins of the ballad genre in particular and the larger issue of the origins and development of poetic expression in general. What he did then was construct a curve of poetic evolution that began with ritual choral dance, moved on through epic, and ultimately soared to the heights of Lord Tennyson-that is, to what we now recognize as poetry proper. Along this curve, poetic concerns moved from the communal to the personal and authorship from the inspired group to the poet in his study—in general, then, following Herder, from the poetry of nature to the poetry of art.
Ives, Edward D., ""How Got The Apples In?" Individual Creativity and Ballad Tradition" (1997). Dr. Edward D. Ives Papers. 13.
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