Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/691

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ORIGIN OF LITERARY FORMS.

sharply than ever shall we look for a bit of pottery seven thousand years old, an arrowhead or grooved stone axe, and without unjust doubt ask the questions: Have we been deceived? Have the classic stones slipped down into the gravel through Nature's channels? Has a landslide tricked us with its mastodon's tooth and human skull? And then, where are the hammer stones, and the chips, and the signs of use on the "turtlebacks," and the thinned-down blades, which shall prove for what purpose glacial man might have made these leaf-shaped forms — whether like the modern Indian he treated them only as blocked-out types of more specialized tools, or whether, still a child in the stone-chipper's art, he halted at the second step in the process, and, unskilled to go further, used the now famous "turtleback" as a finished implement sufficient for his primitive needs?

It is well that we have this new light from the jasper quarries on the great art of arts that most concerned man's life and happiness in the untold ages of his childhood. One source of error and confusion has been cleared away from the subject, and we fully realize that what shall in future determine the age and nature of these stones is not their "type" or their form, or their resemblance to European specimens, but their geological position.


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ORIGIN OF LITERARY FORMS.

By M. CHARLES LETOURNEAU,

WHAT in current language we call literature, the literary aesthetics of civilized peoples, poetry intelligently composed and revised according to complicated metrical laws — written works, made to be read, not sung, and addressed to a cultivated public — only represent the last term of literary evolution. Primitive literature is very different, and is everywhere the same. Its origin is extremely distant, and it is probable that it even preceded, in our most ancient ancestors, the invention of articulate language — that great step which sealed the transformation of the anthropopithecus into man. That precious acquisition, however, was not miraculous nor instantaneous. The first speech was certainly very rudimentary; and before conquering it, the anthropoids from which man slowly issued possessed, like all other animals, a vocal language constituted solely of modulated cries resulting from simple reflex actions, automatic, and corresponding to the necessities, the desires, and the feelings of beings of little intelligence. In the brain of the anthropopithecus the passage from the cry to speech marked the beginning of a complete psychical revolution. It must have been effected with great slowness, and