Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 43.djvu/696

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least capable of accompanying the song, and, as a final achievement, of taking the place of the voice in the execution of anygiven air. History witnessed the latter part of this musical evolution in Greece, where music finally separated itself from vocal song, of which it had for a long time been only an accessory.

As of necessity, poetry proper has strictly followed the transformations of this aesthetics. For a long time the subjects represented in the choral dances of the clan had an entirely impersonal character. These subjects were mythological, warlike, funereal, and nuptial scenes, in which the rhythmical words had necessarily to express ideas and feeling in harmony with the scene played. It is not necessary to say that these feelings and ideas were extremely simple; but in substance and form they were of a nature to interest the whole of the little social groups.

The duration of the primitive age of the communal clan must have been enormous, and it has marked its impression on the larger and more and more individualist societies that came out from it, but which did.not free themselves in a day from the hereditarily transmissible tastes and tendencies—the legacy of a long ancestral education.

Nevertheless, literary aesthetics has suffered modifications with the progress of social evolution; for it has had to express feelings and ideas more and more complex and varied. With the progress of differentiation, or of social inequality, arose numerous conflicts between the strong and the weak, the patrician and the plebeian, the rich and the poor.

These vexations, these violences, suffered by some and exercised by others, excited numerous new feelings, and often more personal, than the ancient choirs could express and re-echo to their hearers. The property thus became more and more individual, and there resulted from it a gradually increasing restriction of the social relations which the communal clan had only loosely regulated. The restricted promiscuousness of the early ages was replaced almost everywhere by a marriage, sometimes polygamic, sometimes monogamic, but legal, and making of women things possessed. The ancient liberty of love was abolished, but the genetic instinct is in its nature exacting and rebellious. When we attempt to chain it we excite passionate desires, intense feelings, that subjugate the whole mental life. The genetic fetters resulting from the new social organization will therefore arouse in the human brain new impressions and ideas of shades different according to the individuals. But all these psychical elements, at once new and intense, sought expression and reflection in a literature made in their image. Hence resulted the gradual blooming out of a new lyric poetry, which gradually tended to substitute itself for the choral lyric of the earlier ages.