Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/307

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
293
EVOLUTION OF CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.

'My lady, I place myself at your feet;' to which she will reply, 'I kiss your hand, sir.'"

From what has gone before, such origins and such characters of forms of address might, indeed, be anticipated. Along with other ways of propitiating the victor, the master, and the ruler, will naturally come speeches which, beginning with confessions of defeat by verbal assumption of its attitude, will develop into varied phrases acknowledging the state of servitude. The implication, therefore, is that forms of address in general, descending as they do from these originals, will express, clearly or vaguely, ownership by, or subjection to, the person addressed.

 

Of propitiatory speeches, there are some which, instead of describing the prostration entailed by defeat, describe the resulting state of being at the mercy of the person addressed. One of the strangest of these occurs among the cannibal Tupis. While on the one hand a warrior shouts to his enemy, "May every misfortune come upon thee, my meat!" on the other hand the speech required from the captive Hans Stade on approaching a dwelling was, "I, your food, have come." A verbal surrender of life takes other forms in other places. It is asserted that, during ancient times in Russia, petitions to the czar commenced with the words, "Do not order our heads to be cut off, O mighty lord, for presuming to address you, but hear us!" And, though I do not get direct verification for this statement, it receives indirect support from the still-current saying, "Whoso goes to the czar risks his head," as also from the lines—

"My soul is God's,

My land is mine,
My head's the Czar's,
My back is thine!"

Then, again, instead of professing to live only by permission of the superior, actual or pretended, who is spoken to, we find the speaker professing to be personally a chattel of his, or to be holding property at his disposal, or both. Africa, Polynesia, and Europe, furnish examples. "When a stranger enters the house of a Serracolet (inland negro), he goes out and says, 'White man, my house, my wife, my children, belong to thee.'" In the Sandwich Islands a chief, asked respecting the ownership of a house or canoe possessed by him, replies, "It is yours and mine." In France, in the fifteenth century, a complimentary speech made by an abbe on his knees to the queen when visiting a monastery was, "We resign and offer up the abbey with all that is in it, our bodies, as our goods." And at the present time in Spain, where politeness requires that anything admired by a visitor shall be offered to him, "the correct place of dating [a letter] from should be. . . . from this your house, wherever it is; you must not say from this