Page:Australia an appeal.djvu/74

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writing grammatically; and this can be accomplished only by persons at leisure to devote themselves exclusively to the object—persons who are more or less imbued with a missionary feeling, who have a predilection for a literary mode of life, and who, at the same time, will not be afraid to take their lives in their hands and plunge into the forests of the interior. When or where such men, or the means of supporting them, are to be found, time only can tell.

The whole of each tribe seem to be bards; and their evenings are generally spent around their fires, singing, or rather chanting, their poetical compositions, in which all join from the oldest to the youngest.

The circumstance frequently excited my curiosity to ascertain the origin of a custom so unusual with Europeans, excepting in places of worship. Among the Greeks the word νομος signified either a law, a song, or a piece of music. "To sing the Orthian song, διεξελθειν νομον τον ορθιον," is an expression of Herodotus; and Xenophon employs the same word when he speaks of "singing a particular tune, νομῳ τινι αδοντες." Hence Aristotle asked: "Why is νομοι used for laws and songs? Is it because men, before they discovered the art of writing, sang their laws, that they might not forget them?" Had he stood at the foot of Sinai, he would have seen abundant cause for so doing.

This leads to the conclusion that music and song had their origin in the practice of reciting laws, to impress them on the mind and preserve them from oblivion; and hence the custom of rehearsal by old and young. Whatever repugnance the Muse may feel at the bare idea of associating her name with the dry, unmetrical, harsh, rugged, verbose, incomprehensible, and blundering enactments which occupy the statute books of modern legislators, she had none to the laws of the ancients—which were expressed in a simple, elegant, intelligible style—for she lent the harmonious accents of her voice to their recitation before she sang either in comedy or tragedy. Such seems to have been her employment, till, on the commencement of war, conquest, and empire, the events with which human life began to teem, courted her services, engrossed her powers, and finally made her a slave to the passions.

Grecian fiction claims the honor of her birth; but she gave forth her melodious sounds to charm the ear and purify the heart—the legitimate object of her appearance on earth—long before Hellas or Latium had a name or an existence. We find her in the wilderness, chanting the mandates of revelation as they were uttered by the Most High; who commanded Moses to teach the children of Israel a song, to deter them from