The Professor goes on:
’Now and then, too, an individual begins a song, and is answered by the rest in chorus.... They never sing without dancing, never dance without singing, and have but one word to express both song and dance.’
As the unprejudiced reader sees [Dr Gummere proceeds] this clear and admirable account confirms the doctrine of early days revived with fresh ethnological evidence in the writings of Dr Brown and of Adam Smith, that dance, poetry and song were once a single and inseparable function, and is in itself fatal to the idea of rhythmic prose, of solitary recitation, as foundations of poetry.... All poetry is communal, holding fast to the rhythm of consent as to the one sure fact.
Now I should tell you, Gentlemen, that I hold such utterances as this last—whatever you may think of the utterances of the Botocudos—to be exorbitant: that I distrust all attempts to build up (say) “Paradise Lost” historically from the yells and capers of recondite savages. ‘Life is real, life is earnest’ may be no better aesthetically (I myself think it a little better) than ‘Now we have something to eat’ ‘Brandy is good’ may rival Pindar’s [Greek: Arioton men udor], and indeed puts what it contains of truth with more of finality, less of provocation (though Pindar at once follows up [Greek: Arioton men udor] with exquisite poetry): but you cannot—truly you cannot—exhibit the steps which lead up from ‘Brandy is good’ to such lines as
Thus with the year
Seasons return; but not to me returns
Day, or the sweet approach of even or morn,
Or sight of vernal bloom, or summer’s rose,
Or flocks, or herds, or human face divine.
I bend over the learned page pensively, and I seem to see a Botocudo Professor—though not high ‘in the social scale,’ they may have such things—visiting Cambridge on the last night of the Lent races and reporting of its inhabitants as follows:
They pay scant heed to their chiefs: they live only for their immediate bodily needs, and take small thought for the morrow. On festal occasions the whole horde meets by night round the camp fire for a dance. Each dancer lays his arms about the necks of his two neighbours, stamping strongly with one foot and dragging the other after it. Now with drooping heads they press closer and closer together; now they widen the circle. Often one can hear nothing but a continually repeated kalani aha, or again one hears short improvised songs in which we are told the doings of the day, the reasons for rejoicing, what not, as ‘Good hunting,’ ’Good old—’[naming a tribal God], or in former times ’Now we shall be but a short while,’ or ‘Woemma!’ Now and then, too, an individual begins a song and is answered by the rest in chorus—such as
For he is an estimable
Beyond possibility of gainsaying.