Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/764

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742

THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Cretan chorus, moving in measured pace, sang hymns to Apollo; and in Rome, where the Salian priests sang and danced, beating their shields, along the streets at the yearly festival of Mars. Modern civilization, in which sacred music flourishes more than ever, has mostly cut off the sacred dance. To see this near its old state, the traveler may visit the temples of India, or among the lamas of Thibet watch the mummers in animal masks dancing the demons out, or the new year in, to wild music of drums and shell trumpets. Remnants of such ceremonies, come down from the religion of England before Christian times, are still sometimes to be seen in the dances of boys and girls round the midsummer bonfire, or of the mummers at Yuletide; but even these are dying out."

The writers on the origin of the drama derive the tragedy of Greece, and indeed the dramatic art of the world, from simple mimetic dances, such as Tylor has described, which are found among all savage races. As Ellen Russell Emerson has said, in her curious book, Masks, Heads, and Faces: "Panoplied with the mask, representative of deity, the actor in religious rite with careful step moved in the order of the ceremonial. In the Innuit robe of evergreen boughs, or in the garment of tufted grass of the Dorian mummer, his countenance disguised with lees of wine or painted with ochre, he danced in enthusiastic mimicry of his divinity. Innuit or Greek, the same aspirations attuned the cithara or drum, the same ambition dictated the wild or solemn movement. Wheeling in weird rotation, the Selenii and satyr encircled the blazing altar on the plains of Greece. The citharist struck the measures which the mimic gestures of the chorus emphasized. Springtime, autumn, or winter, these wild ceremonies were performed in praise or appeal to the gods, in the lands of the East and of the West; with both peoples the principal object was to anthropomorphize the divinity dwelling in air or earth. Holding forth innumerable arms of appeal, barbaric Indian and barbaric Greek called on the coming of the gods."

If now we pause for a moment to consider the conditions of primitive society, we shall see that they were not such as to favor the cultivation of the independent arts, like sculpture and painting, or even architecture. The playtime of primitive man was not long enough for this. But the recurrent festival, celebrating some exploit in the chase or in war, or commemorating some departed chief, would furnish an occasion toward which men would look, for which they would prepare, and in which they would experience that pleasure which the excitement of a crowd affords, especially to the dependent mind, without resources of its own. Accordingly, it is in the festival that we must seek for those conditions in which early art was developed, and we shall find that