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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/242

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

what he saw here an hour ago, or what is to be found there beyond the range of the eye. Because in early times speech thus placed the experience of one man at the service of other men, the possessors of this matchless power could, if they chose, exert deadly rivalry against their mute next of kin, and either annihilate them, or banish them to sterile wilds, or degrade them to servitude. What is probable here is probable in other fields of struggle, and we have a hint as to why connecting links in the plexus of organic life are either very rare or wholly lacking. The introduction of a radically new weapon, or tool, would so redouble the strength of the creature able to grasp and wield it that its war on competitors would end so soon as to leave scarcely a relic on the field.

Speech led to another great achievement when it called to its aid the carved or painted symbol, the word-picture, and at last the alphabet. Then the recorder, the priest, the teacher, was no longer a mere speaker who had to be present when he told his story. Ages after his death, his annals, prophecies, parables, remained to be read, to echo his voice—and this perhaps on shores many leagues remote from the penman's home or grave. Knowledge could now be accumulated as never before, for every man could begin where the experience of his predecessors had left off. The culmination of this mighty art issues to-day in two wonderful instruments—the phonograph, which bids the spoken word record and repeat itself with all its characteristic tones; the camera, which instantly limns all the eye can see and more, which prints much that the tongue and the pen must leave unsaid. In a masterly discussion of the origin of languages and the antiquity of speaking man, Mr. Horatio Hale concludes that the acquirement of speech dates back but eight to ten thousand years. He credits speech and writing with the sudden and wonderful flowering of human genius which developed in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Phœnicia, Northern India, and China a high and varied civilization, whose memorials, in their works of art and literature, astonish us at this day, and in some respects defy imitation.[1]

To paint and to write implies a free and supple hand; gesture, upon which philologists are substantially agreed that primitive speech largely depended, requires the like freedom of hand and arm. Hence, before man could paint, or write, or even gesticulate, it was necessary that he should be erect. Man's assumption of the upright attitude marks one of the supreme stages of his progress. What have since become arms and hands, relieved from tasks of locomotion, were able to come into contact with


  1. Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Buffalo, 1886, p. 315.