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Descent of Man [ 1871]

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Author Topic: Descent of Man [ 1871]  (Read 6350 times)
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« Reply #195 on: February 10, 2009, 01:26:19 pm »

* Since this chapter was printed, I have seen a valuable article
by Mr. Chauncey Wright (North American Review, Oct., 1870, page
293), who, in discussing the above subject, remarks, "There are many
consequences of the ultimate laws or uniformities of nature, through
which the acquisition of one useful power will bring with it many
resulting advantages as well as limiting disadvantages, actual or
possible, which the principle of utility may not have comprehended
in its action." As I have attempted to shew in an early chapter of
this work, this principle has an important bearing on the
acquisition by man of some of his mental characteristics.

  Music arouses in us various emotions, but not the more terrible ones
of horror, fear, rage, &c. It awakens the gentler feelings of
tenderness and love, which readily pass into devotion. In the
Chinese annals it is said, "Music hath the power of making heaven
descend upon earth." It likewise stirs up in us the sense of triumph
and the glorious ardour for war. These powerful and mingled feelings
may well give rise to the sense of sublimity. We can concentrate, as
Dr. Seemann observes, greater intensity of feeling in a single musical
note than in pages of writing. It is probable that nearly the same
emotions, but much weaker and far less complex, are felt by birds when
the male pours forth his full volume of song, in rivalry with other
males, to captivate the female. Love is still the commonest theme of
our songs. As Herbert Spencer remarks, "music arouses dormant
sentiments of which we had not conceived the possibility, and do not
know the meaning; or, as Richter says, tells us of things we have
not seen and shall not see." Conversely, when vivid emotions are
felt and expressed by the orator, or even in common speech, musical
cadences and rhythm are instinctively used. The negro in Africa when
excited often bursts forth in song; "another will reply in song,
whilst the company, as if touched by a musical wave, murmur a chorus
in perfect unison."* Even monkeys express strong feelings in different
tones- anger and impatience by low,- fear and pain by high
notes.*(2) The sensations and ideas thus excited in us by music, or
expressed by the cadences of oratory, appear from their vagueness, yet
depth, like mental reversions to the emotions and thoughts of a
long-past age.

  * Winwood Reade, The Martyrdom of Man, 1872, p. 441, and African
Sketch Book, 1873, vol. ii., p. 313.
  *(2) Rengger, Saugethiere von Paraguay, s. 49.

  All these facts with respect to music and impassioned speech
become intelligible to a certain extent, if we may assume that musical
tones and rhythm were used by our half-human ancestors, during the
season of courtship, when animals of all kinds are excited not only by
love, but by the strong passions of jealousy, rivalry, and triumph.
From the deeply-laid principle of inherited associations, musical
tones in this case would be likely to call up vaguely and indefinitely
the strong emotions of a long-past age. As we have every reason to
suppose that articulate speech is one of the latest, as it certainly
is the highest, of the arts acquired by man, and as the instinctive
power of producing musical notes and rhythms is developed low down
in the animal series, it would be altogether opposed to the
principle of evolution, if we were to admit that man's musical
capacity has been developed from the tones used in impassioned speech.
We must suppose that the rhythms and cadences of oratory are derived
from previously developed musical powers.* We can thus understand
how it is that music, dancing, song, and poetry are such very
ancient arts. We may go even further than this, and, as remarked in
a former chapter, believe that musical sounds afforded one of the
bases for the development of language.*(2)

  * See the very interesting discussion on the "Origin and Function of
Music," by Mr. Herbert Spencer, in his collected Essays, 1858, p. 359.
Mr. Spencer comes to an exactly opposite conclusion to that at which I
have arrived. He concludes, as did Diderot formerly, that the cadences
used in emotional speech afford the foundation from which music has
been developed; whilst I conclude that musical notes and rhythm were
first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the
sake of charming the opposite sex. Thus musical tones became firmly
associated with some of the strongest passions an animal is capable of
feeling, and are consequently used instinctively, or through
association when strong emotions are expressed in speech. Mr.
Spencer does not offer any satisfactory explanation, nor can I, why
high or deep notes should be expressive, both with man and the lower
animals, of certain emotions. Mr. Spencer gives also an interesting
discussion on the relations between poetry, recitative and song.
  *(2) I find in Lord Monboddo's Origin of Language, vol. i., 1774, p.
469, that Dr. Blacklock likewise thought "that the first language
among men was music, and that before our ideas were expressed by
articulate sounds, they were communicated by tones varied according to
different degrees of gravity and acuteness."

  As the males of several quadrumanous animals have their vocal organs
much more developed than in the females, and as a gibbon, one of the
anthropomorphous apes, pours forth a whole octave of musical notes and
may be said to sing, it appears probable that the progenitors of
man, either the males or females or both sexes, before acquiring the
power of expressing their mutual love in articulate language,
endeavoured to charm each other with musical notes and rhythm. So
little is known about the use of the voice by the Quadrumana during
the season of love, that we have no means of judging whether the habit
of singing was first acquired by our male or female ancestors. Women
are generally thought to possess sweeter voices than men, and as far
as this serves as any guide, we may infer that they first acquired
musical powers in order to attract the other sex.* But if so, this
must have occurred long ago, before our ancestors had become
sufficiently human to treat and value their women merely as useful
slaves. The impassioned orator, bard, or musician, when with his
varied tones and cadences he excites the strongest emotions in his
hearers, little suspects that he uses the same means by which his
half-human ancestors long ago aroused each other's ardent passions,
during their courtship and rivalry.

  * See an interesting discussion on this subject by Haeckel,
Generelle Morphologie, B. ii., 1866, s. 246.

  The Influence of Beauty in determining the Marriages of Mankind.- In
civilised life man is largely, but by no means exclusively, influenced
in the choice of his wife by external appearance; but we are chiefly
concerned with primeval times, and our only means of forming a
judgment on this subject is to study the habits of existing
semi-civilised and savage nations. If it can be shewn that the men
of different races prefer women having various characteristics, or
conversely with the women, we have then to enquire whether such
choice, continued during many generations, would produce any
sensible effect on the race, either on one sex or both according to
the form of inheritance which has prevailed.
  It will be well first to shew in some detail that savages pay the
greatest attention to their personal appearance.* That they have a
passion for ornament is notorious; and an English philosopher goes
so far as to maintain that clothes were first made for ornament and
not for warmth. As Professor Waitz remarks, "however poor and
miserable man is, he finds a pleasure in adorning himself." The
extravagance of the naked Indians of South America in decorating
themselves is shewn "by a man of large stature gaining with difficulty
enough by the labour of a fortnight to procure in exchange the chica
necessary to paint himself red."*(2) The ancient barbarians of
Europe during the Reindeer period brought to their caves any brilliant
or singular objects which they happened to find. Savages at the
present day everywhere deck themselves with plumes, necklaces,
armlets, ear-rings, &c. They paint themselves in the most
diversified manner. "If painted nations," as Humboldt observes, "had
been examined with the same attention as clothed nations, it would
have been perceived that the most fertile imagination and the most
mutable caprice have created the fashions of painting, as well as
those of garments."

  * A full and excellent account of the manner in which savages in all
parts of the world ornament themselves, is given by the Italian
traveller, Professor Mantegazza, Rio de la Plata, Viaggi e Studi,
1867, pp. 525-545; all the following statements, when other references
are not given, are taken from this work. See, also, Waitz,
Introduction to Anthropology, Eng. translat., vol. i., 1863, p. 275,
et passim. Lawrence also gives very full details in his Lectures on
Physiology, 1822. Since this chapter was written Sir J. Lubbock has
published his Origin of Civilisation, 1870, in which there is an
interesting chapter on the present subject, and from which (pp. 42,
48) I have taken some facts about savages dyeing their teeth and hair,
and piercing their teeth.
  *(2) Humboldt, Personal Narrative, Eng. translat., vol. iv., p. 515;
on the imagination shewn in painting the body, p. 522; on modifying
the form of the calf of the leg, p. 466.
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