Page:The Melanesians Studies in their Anthropology and Folklore.djvu/356

This page has been validated.
Dances. Music. Games.

drum or drums in a bue, 'the earth shakes under their feet, and the land resounds about them;' and indeed it is no wonder that such dances give excitement and delight. The favourite time for dancing is a moonlight night, if the dance is the chief thing in view; the dancing and drumming of the common feast goes on in daytime.

(2) Songs. Words fitted to music are the songs and poetry of the people; the character of the tunes differing more in the various groups and islands than the general character of the words. There is no conception of poetry without a tune, though tunes without words are not unknown. In songs certain words or forms of expression, which are not used in common speech, are everywhere thought poetical and appropriate, and words are lengthened or shortened to fit what must be called the metre. In the Banks' Islands the use of a distinct song-dialect is very remarkable, in which not only are words used which are never used in speech, some probably archaic and some borrowed from a neighbouring island, and not only are words contracted or prolonged to suit the tune, but in each island the song-language is so different from that of ordinary speech that the two have the appearance of two dialects, as completely as in the Dialogue and Chorus of a Greek play. The difference is least conspicuous in Gaua, Santa Maria, most conspicuous probably in Mota. On one side of Mota songs are composed in something like the language of Gaua, on the other in something like that of Motlav; yet the language of no Mota song is the spoken language of Gaua or Motlav, nor is a Mota song quite in the song-dialect of Gaua or Motlav. Every one of the Banks' Islands has at least one form of speech for songs and another for common use, while some, like Mota, are not content with two. In Santa Maria, however, while the spoken language of Lakona is very different from that of Gaua, the songs are almost if not quite the same. A poet or poetess more or less distinguished is probably found in every considerable village throughout the islands; when some remarkable event occurs, the launching of a canoe, a visit of strangers, or a feast, song-