« PreviousContinue »
complains, in more than one place, of the rival influence which the eloquence of the limbs had won, in the assembly of the people, for certain dancers. Nor, indeed — though he overlooked the fact, and historians less exact than ourselves have constantly passed it by was this ascendancy of the dance unmerited in a commonwealth, whose liberties were, by it, tuice saved — first, when, with swords concealed in garlands of myrtle, and dancing in the Panathenaic procession, Harmodius and Aristogiton contrived to approach so near the guarded person of the public usurper, as to be able to fall upon and slay him; and yet again, when, in the guise of dancing-girls, their faces concealed with chaplets of poplar leaves, Thrasybulus and his companions broke in upon the lewd revel of the Thirty Tyrants, and put them to death.
Of the Arcadian dances, and of the important part which they bore, in the institutions of that primitive people of the central Peloponesus, we cannot better give an account, than in the words of the younger Anacharsis : •The rigors of their mountain climate give (says he) strength to their bodies, and a kindred rudeness to their minds. To soften this native ferocity, sages of a superior genius perceived that, in order to enlighten them, they must be approached through new sensations. They took care, therefore, to lead them into a taste for poetry, song, the dance, and festivals. Never did all the radiance of knowledge or reason work, in the manners, a revolution so prompt and general. Its effects have perpeiuated themselves even down to our days; because the Arcadians have never ceased to cultivate the arts from which those effects arose.'
'Invited, every day, to sing, at their repasts, it would be held a shame, in any one, to be unacquainted with music; which, from their very childhood, they are all compelled to practice. The music of the Flute directs their steps and their evolutions, whether in the festival, or under arms. The magistrates, strongly persuaded that these humanizing arts can alone preserve the nation from the iniluence of the climate, cause annual assemblies of the young pupils to be held, and make them execute dances, in order that they may judge of their progress. The example of the Cynetheans justifies these precautions. This little tribe, placed in the northern part of Arcadia, in the midst of nounlains and under an inclement sky, constantly refused to be seduced into these usages ; and accordingly fell, at last, into so savage a ferocity, that their very name is never pronounced without dread.' – Barthelemi, Ch. 52.
Behold the true art of taming the savage, and leading him to civilization! Better than the lessons of an elevated faith, and of a morality far too refined for their condition : better than fire-arms; better than burning at the stake; better than blood-hounds; better even than the white-man's two great gifts of Gunpowder and Rum ; this was what Bible Societies never thought of, and what missionaries could never have devised - unless, indeed, they had been, what they should have been — that is to say, dancing-masters. Teach the arms and legs first; and the head will learn by and by.
How well, in this particular, might modern truth turn scholar to ancient fable! Consider, for instance, the vast, the persevering attempts, reiterated with such a lavish expenditure of gold and of enthusiasm, to soften and to christianize rude nations : compare their methods and their success with the arts by which, when banished from the skies, the son of Latona tamed the savage herdsmen, among whom he found himself cast. Did he, with an aspect of vinegar, a voice like saw-filing, and the gesture of a pump-handle, preach to
them the renunciation of the few coarse delights, that made the only pleasures of a merely physical existence ? No: he won them, first of all, to gentler enjoyments and more innocent occupations. Assembling them about him, with the music of his well-modulated pipe, he taught them to beguile, by new sensations, the intervals of their rude employments. He taught them to pipe, to sing, to form rustic dances in the shade, and presently rural festivals. By such amusements, he dispelled their native ferocity. Presently, he taught them agricul. ture; and so conducted them up to civilization, through all the gradations that lie between it and savage life. To effect all this, dancing was a far better instrument than the purest possible truth and religion. Return we, however, to our history.
Of the authority of dancing among the Thebans, we have sufficient evidence, in the fact that the illustrious Epaminondas the noblest and the most accomplished citizen that state ever produced — excelled both in music and the dance. Hence the lustre to which his commonwealth rose, under him. At Delos, at Delphos, in the Eleusynian celebrations, in the Isthmian and in the Olympic games, the religious observances of the Greeks were every where adorned and made cheerful with the dance. At Athens, it formed even a part of the funeral honors, originally bestowed upon their princes, but which came, afterward, to be imitated in the obsequies of private citizens.
If, froin Greece, we pass to Italy, we find the dance figuring there, too, in the foundation and the progress of institutions. Its simpler state marks the purity of their early manners; its period of excellence, their full refinement, about the time of Cicero and Augustus; and its corruption, under the emperors, the decay and ruin of the state. The martial dances of the Salian priests were instituted by the great Roman law-giver, Numa; who probably derived them, with many others of his political ideas, from the Etruscans. That great sage saw that, to form a well-ordered state, the dance was indispensable, and gave it, accordingly, an important place in his code.
Turn we now, once more, to the East, to that admirable Egyptian dance, in which manners were enforced, and the judgment of each citizen's entire life rendered, by the pantomimic performance which accompanied bis funeral. In this, a skilful ballet-master (the Archimime,) personating the deceased in looks, in dress, and in carriage, represented, with rigorous impartiality, the main incidents of his life, and whatever was characteristic in it; and so held up, to the universal view, an image of the departed man, that formed a mute but expressive encomium or satire.
The dances of the Hebrews, we did not attempt to trace lower than the time of Noah. After him, there is a seeming interregnum of Jewish saltation. Abraham and his immediate progeny to have danced. They were a family, not a nation ; and dancing, as we have already seen, belongs to the rise of social institutions, not to men yet unformed into a community. It is, accordingly, only at the separation of the Jews from the Egyptians that it makes its appearance.
It then burst out, however, with extraordinary brilliancy. Our readers cannot, of course, have forgotten how, when Israel had safely passed the Red Sea, leaving Busiris and bis Memphian chivalry' to flounder in the waves, Moses (as niay be seen in the fifteenth
do not appear
chapter of Exodus,) thundered out a triumphant song before the Lord, the whole people joining him, in chorus ; while Miriam, the Prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her, with timbrels and with dances. This, it will be observed, was not only the earliest ballet upon record, but, though danced by an entire people, a strict impromptu ; which shows how skilfully the Hebrews had learned, during their captivity, to take part in such performances. From this time till the setting up of the Golden Calf, Moses appears to have kept them, by dint of marching, somewhat too leg-weary for dancing. There, however, while he tarried in the mount, they took occasion to have a hop, in honor of the Golden Calf. This piece of idolatry, by-the-by, has always appeared to us far more innocent than it usually passes for having been. People who had been so long wandering, upon short commons, in a desert, were surely pardonable for reverting, with a too fond adoration, to the fat beef they had left behind them. But this is beside our present mark. Moses, however, had, of course, learnt all the dance of the Egyptians, in exploring (as he did) their sciences, of which it was the vehicle. His skill he transmitted to his successors, the Levites; who, upon all signal occasions of thanksgiving, invented and executed, in public, solemn dances. In one of these, we find King David, that friend of heaven, bearing distinguished part. For when the Ark of the Covenant was removed from the house of Obed-edom, to Teraits, • David danced before the Lord, with all his might,' (II Samuel 6, 14. Of this dance, a minute description may be found in some of the commentators. Dom Calmet makes it abundantly clear, that it was a perfect opera; the entertainment consisting of no less than seven different corps de ballet, who danced to the jews-barp, and all the other musical instruments known among the Hebrews. That the Psalms were originally composed for such occasions, and danced, as well as sung, all the more learned annotators agree. Nay, in the temples built by Onias, the high priest, at Jerusalem, Garisim and Alexandria, there was a part formed like a theatre ; and here music and dancing were performed, with great pomp. This arrangement long subsisted in the Christian churches, and gave its name to what we still call the Choir.
Thus far, we have traced the dance only in its higher and purer forms. The less grateful, though still curious task remains, of exploring its corruptions and decline, with its accidental aspects, in different times and nations.
E. W. J,
As the stream swiftly dashing through flower-chequered meadows,
North AMERICAN REVIEW. Number Ninety-five: April. Boston: Otis, BROADERS
AND COMPANY. New York: G. AND C. CARVILL AND COMPANY.
A BETTER number of the North American - one more various and attractive for the general reader — has not come under our observation for many a quarter. There are nine reviews, or articles proper, together with several brief but well digested and discriminating critical notices of recent minor publications. Of some of the former, it is our purpose to take a cursory notice. The first paper is upon Drake's · Biography and History of the Indians of North America, from its First Discovery to the Present Time: with an Account of their Antiquities, Manners and Customs, Religions and Laws.' As an able correspondent of this Magazine, fully conversant with the aboriginal history, if we may so term it, of this country, proposes soon to furnish a short series of brief articles upon this interesting subject, we shall dismiss the review under notice, with the reinark, that it is prepared with great clearness of detail, touching upon the origin of the American Indians, their chiefs, character, monuments, fortifications, remains, etc., embracing, beside, an account of the southern aborigines, and a history of the origin of the late war in that quarter.
* American Forest Trees,' a review of Browne's • Sylva Americana,' constitutes the second article. The three divisions of the work the structure and growth of trees generally, descriptions of the different species of the forest trees of this country, and observations on the rearing and management of trees - are separately treated, and in a way calculated to awaken and sustain attention, not more by the manner of the reviewer, than by the various knowledge which he evinces of the matter in hand. The information conveyed in relation to the white pine, white oak, sugar maple, and elm trees, of the American forests, is highly valuable as well as interesting. A graphic and spirited description of the processes of the lumbering business, in the immense pine regions of Maine, with some juclicious and appropriate remarks in relation to the planting of forest trees, and the effect of scenery in exciting a love of country, worthily close this paper.
The two succeeding articles are, ‘Modern French Poetry,' and 'Laborde's Journey in Arabia Petræa.' The first is evidently from the hand of one who has drank at the well-springs of the best modern poetical literature of France; and his translations from Lamartine and Béranger, declare not only the correctness of his taste, but his intimate acquaintance with the beauties, as well as the difficult idioins and involutions of the language. The paper on Arabia Petræa, being based upon a work kindred in character to one noticed elsewhere in this department, we pass, with a general acknow. ledgment of its interest and ability.
The most important of the different rail-roads, completed, in progress of completion, or contemplated, in the several states of the Union, are considered in article vi, a review of Poussin on American Rail-roads. The whole is a compendium of valuable facts, useful not less as a current record, than for future reference. VOL. IX.
Cleverly off with his task has the writer come, be he who may, who penned the review of “The great Metropolis.' The satire, though pointed and keen, is polished ; while the language is easy and flowing, with a smack of · Elia' felicity running through it. We subjoin a paragraph or two, in illustration of our ecomiums
“We have an affection for a great city. We feel safe in the neighborhood of man, and enjoy • the sweet security of streets.' The excitement of the crowd is pleasant to us. We find sermons in the stones of side-walks. In the continuous sound of voices, and wheels, and footsteps, we hear the sad music of humanity.' We feel that life is not a dream, but an earnest reality ; that the beings around us are not the insects of a day, but the pilerims of an eternity; they are our fellow-creatures, each with his history of thousandfold occurrences, insignificant it may be to us, but all-im. portant to himself; each with a human heart, whose fibres are woven into the great web of human sympathies; and none so small, that, when he dies, some of the mysterious meshes are not broken. The green earth, and the air, and the sea, all living and all lifeless things, preach unto us the gospel of a great and good providence; but most of all does man, in his crowded cities, and in his man fold powers, and wants, and passions, and deeds, preach this same gospel. He is the great evangelist. And though oftentimes, unconscious of his mission, or reluctant to fulfil it, he leads others astray, even then to the thoughtful mind he preaches. We are in love with Nature, and most of all with human nature. The face of man is a benediction to us. The greatest works of his handicraft delight us hardly less than the greatest works of Nat'ire. They are the masterpieces of her own masterpiece. Architecture, and painting, and sculpture, and music, and epic poems, and all the forms of art, wherein the hand of genins is visible, please us evermore, for they conduct us into the fellowship of great minds. And thus our sympathies are with men, and streets, and citygates, and towers from which the great bells sound solemnly and slow,and cathedraldoors, where venerable statues, holding books in their hands, look down like sentinels upon the church-going multitude, and the birds of the air come and build their nests in the arms of saints and apostles. And more than all this, in great cities we learn to look the world in the face. We shake hands with stern realities. We see ourselves in others. We become acquainted with the motley, many-sided life of man; and finally learn, if we are wise, to look upon a metropolis as a collection of villages; a village as some blind alley in a metropolis; fame as the talk of neighbors at the street door; a library as a learned conversation : joy as a second ; sorrow as a minute; life as a day; and three things as all in all, God, Creation, Virtue.'
“Forty-five miles westward from the North Sea, in the lap of a broad and pleasant valley watered by the Thames, stands the Great Metropolis, as all the world knows. It comprises the City of London and its Liberties, with the City Liberties of Westminster, the Borough of Southwark, and upwards of thirty of the contiguous villages of Middlesex and Surry. East and west, its greatest length is about eight miles; north and south, its greatest breadth about five: its circumference from twenty to thirty. Its population is estimated at two millions. The vast living tide goes thundering through its ten thousand streets in one unbroken roar. The noise of the great thoroughfares is deafening. But you step aside into a by-lane, and anon you emerge into little green squares half filled with sunshine, half with shade, where no sound of living thing is heard, save the voice of a bird or a child, and amid solitude and silence you gaze in wonder at the great trees 'growing in the heart of a brick-and-mortar wilderness.' Then there are the three parks, Hyde, Regent's, and St. James's, where you may lose yourself in green alleys, and dream you are in the country; Westminister Abbey, with its tombs and solemn cloisters, where with the quaint George Herbert you may think, that when the bells do chime, 't is angels' music;' and high žbove all
, half hidden in smoke and vapor, rises the dome of St. Paul's. “ These are a few of the more striking features of London. More striking still is the Thames. Above the town, by Richmond Hill and Twickenham, it winds through groves and meadows green, a rural silver stream. The traveller who sees it here for the first time, can hardly believe, that this is the mighty river which bathes the feet of London. He asks perhaps the coachman, what stream that is; and the coachman answers with a stare of wonder and pity, “The Tems sir.' Pleasure boats are gliding back and forth, and stately swans float, like water-lilies, on its bosom. On its banks are villages, and church-towers, beneath which, among the patriarchs of the hamlet, lie many gifted sons of song,
• Insepulchres unhearsed and green.'