English, Department of


Date of this Version



PMLA , 1917, Vol. 32, No. 2 (1917), pp. 201-232


The songs of primitive peoples have received much attention in recent years, especially the songs of the American Indians. An immense amount of material has been collected and made available; and this has been done in a scientific way, with the help of countless phonographic and -other records. Instead of having to rely on the stray testimonies of travellers, explorers, historians, and essayists, the student of primitive poetry has now at his disposal an amount of data unavailable to his predecessors. He need not linger among the fascinating mysteries of roman- tic hypotheses, but can supply himself with the carefully observed facts of scientific record.

If, as we are told, prehistoric song-modes are reflected in the folk-dances and festal throngs of medieeval peasants and villagers, or in the singing of nineteenth-century Corsican field laborers, Styrian threshers, Gascon vintage choruses, Italian country-folk, Silesian peasants, Faroe Island fishermen, and harvest-field songs everywhere, they ought to be reflected yet more in the song-modes of the American Indians.