Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/240

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
228
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

that accompanied the dance (Italian ballata, French ballade, English ballad). The passion of ball-play begins not with this friendly, graceful delivery of the ball into the next hand, but when two hostile players or parties are striving each to take or send it away from the other. Thus, on the one hand, there comes into existence the group of games represented by the Greek harpaston, or seizing-game, where the two sides struggled to carry off the ball. In Brittany this has been played till modern times with the hay-stuffed soule or sun-ball, as big as a football, fought for by two communes, each striving to carry it home over their own border. Émile Souvestre, in his "Derniers Bretons," has told the last story of this fierce game in the Ponthivy district—how the man who had had his father killed and his own eye knocked out by François, surnamed le Souleur, lay in wait for that redoubted champion, and got him down, soule and all, half-way across the boundary stream. The murderous soule-play had to be put down by authority, as it had been years before in Scotland, where it had given rise to the suggestive proverb, "All is fair at the ball of Scone." The other class of hostile ball-games differs from this in the ball having not to be brought to one's own home, but sent to the goal of the other side. In the Greek epikoinos, or common-ball, the ball was put on the middle line, and each party tried to seize it and throw it over the adversary's goal-line. This game also lasted on into modern Europe, and our proper English name for it is hurling, while football also is a variety of it, the great Roman blown leather ball (follis) being used instead of the small hand-ball, and kicked instead of thrown. Now, as hurling was an ordinary classical game, the ancients need only have taken a stick to drive the ball instead of using hands or feet, and would thus have arrived at hockey. But Corydon never seems to have thought of borrowing Phillis's crook for the purpose it would have so exactly suited. No mention of games like hockey appears in the ancient world, and the course of invention which brought them into the modern world is at once unexpected and instructive.

The game known to us as polo has been traced by Sir W. Ouseley, in Persia, far back in the Sassanian dynasty, and was at any rate in vogue there before the eighth century. It was played with the long-handled mallet called chugán, which Persian word came to signify also the game played with it. This is the instrument referred to in the "Thousand and One Nights," and among various earlier passages where it occurs is the legend told by the Persian historian of Darius insulting Alexander by sending him a ball and mallet (guï ve chugán) as a hint that he was a boy more fit to play polo than to go to war. When this tale finds its way to Scotland, in the romance of King Alisaunde, these unknown instruments are replaced by a whipping-top, and Shakespeare has the story in the English guise of a newer period in the scene in "Henry V.": "What treasure, uncle?"—"Tennis-balls, my