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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/444

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

race. Before the dawn of history there seems to have been in vogue the war-song, the dance-tune, the epic recitative, the religious chant, all accompanied by appropriate gesture and frequently by such instruments as the age could produce. The Orphic legends bear witness to the real or imagined power of the musical art. When in its infancy, it was usually accompanied by gesture and pantomime. We all can bear witness to the tendency of emotional individuals to fall instinctively into gesticulaton in order to emphasize their words. Popular audiences are so much more influenced by their feelings than by their judgment that they are often "carried away" by the commonplaces of a skillful elocutionist, but remain unmoved by the most profound wisdom of the statuesque orator. How contagious emotionalism is likely to be is strikingly shown by the anecdote Franklin tells about the effect of Whitefield's oratory upon his purse.

How jejune must be the psychic life of those peoples that are without any of these arts becomes evident after a moment's reflection. Even if their languages were far better adapted to the expression of thought than most of them are, their soul life would nevertheless be lacking in some of the most effective modes of utterance. It was doubtless this thought that Tennyson had in mind when he wrote:

Better fifty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay.

We need to remember, however, that the word better is used in this connection in the European sense. Yet John Stuart Mill is probably right when he says: "Few human creatures would consent to be changed into any of the lower animals, for a promise of the fullest allowance of beastly pleasures; no intelligent human being would consent to be a fool, no instructed person would be an ignoramus, no person of feeling and conscience would be selfish and base, even though they should be persuaded that the fool, the dunce or the rascal is better satisfied with his lot than they with theirs." He puts the case still more effectively in the words: "It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool or the pig is of a different opinion, it is because they only know their own side of the question. The other party to the comparison knows both." It is evident, then, that speech, when most carefully and conscientiously used, is but a feeble reflection of man's inner self. When, on the other hand, we consider man's liability to error, his passive indifference to truth and his proneness to deliberate falsehood, we must admit that language and fact do not often correspond with each other. While it is not true, according to the well-known saying of Talleyrand, that speech was given to man to enable him to conceal his thoughts, that is so employed in numberless instances who shall gainsay?