Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/763

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art. In the dark caverns which formed his first habitations, because they alone could protect him against the attacks of beasts of prey, amid the piles of bones in which have been found the débris of species vanished from the earth perhaps a thousand centuries ago, we have discovered, among flint-formed arrows and knives, objects which could evidently only have been ornaments—necklets, bracelets, rings of stone and of bone—more or less roughly worked and fitted indeed, but enough to show that art is not, as has been asserted, the efflorescence of superior civilizations only. . . . Yes, those savages who lived dispersed in the holes and corners of the world . . . already felt the sentiment of art. They strove after beauty; they adorned with their best their appalling females; they decorated their weapons of stone; they devised musical instruments; by means of gravers of flint they cut upon flat bones the leading features of many animals, with enough accuracy to enable us to this day to recognize their species."

It may create some surprise that we regard the dance as the earliest form of art, or even that we allow it any place among the fine arts. To many it will seem a kind of sacrilege to combine in the same category, however broad, such extremes as a dancing savage and a painting of the last judgment; and, if the connection must be made, some would choose to make it along other lines than those of art. But, in truth, the dance supplies us with the key, so to speak, of the development of the fine arts. For light upon the problems of human culture, we naturally appeal to the anthropologist. "Dancing," says Tylor, "may seem to us moderns a frivolous amusement; but in the infancy of civilization it was full of passionate and solemn meaning. Savages and barbarians dance their joy and sorrow, their love and rage, even their magic and religion. The forest Indians of Brazil, whose sluggish temper few other excitements can stir, rouse themselves at their moonlight gatherings, when, rattle in hand, they stamp in one-two-three time round the great earthen pot of intoxicating kawi liquor; or men and women dance a rude courting dance, advancing in lines with a kind of primitive polka step; or the ferocious war dance is performed by armed warriors in paint, marching in ranks hither and thither with a growling chant terrific to hear." Tylor proceeds to describe the dance of the Australians, and the buffalo dance of the Mandan Indians, who, wearing masks to mark their impersonations, with rude songs and pantomimic gestures, act out the incidents of an imaginary hunt. And then he adds: "All this explains how, in ancient religion, dancing came to be one of the chief acts of worship. Religious processions went with song and dance to the Egyptian temples, and Plato said that all dancing ought to be thus an act of religion. In fact, it was so to a great extent in Greece, as where the