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The earliest compositions in all languages were metrical. Long before the art of writing was invented, rude songs of war and love and hymns to the gods were composed in some rude form of measure or jingle that was catching to the ear, and handed down by tradition. We find bards or poets amongst all nations when emerging from a state of barbarism, whose duty it was to sing those traditional odes on great national, religious and athletic festivals, and to celebrate the achieve­ments of their own heroes and the stirring events of the day in original compositions. In course of time these rude lyrical pieces were collected and committed to writing, with narrative verses inter spersed, in order to give a unity to the collection ; hence, in broad outline, the origin of the Epic poem. On national annual holidays the celebra­tion of the deeds of past heroes in song, as well as the chanting of hymns to the gods, formed the chief feature of public gatherings. A rude stage was erected, and performers, fantastically dressed, and made up in some cases to heroic pro­portions, chanted these national odes in chorus. Gradually, in order to vary the entertainments,

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III