North America Indian Story & Song - online book

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In Indian story and song we come upon a time where poetry is not yet differentiated from story and story not yet set free from song. We note that the song clasps the story as a part of its being, and the story itself is not fully told without the cadence of the song. Yet in even the most primitive ex­amples a line of demarcation can be discerned; and when this line has deepened, and differentiation has begun, we are able to trace the formative influence exerted by story upon song and by song upon story, and can observe what appear to be the beginnings of musical and poetical structure.
The brevity of Indian songs at once arrests atten­tion. They begin without introduction, almost abruptly, breaking out upon us as though sur­charged. This peculiarity arises from the relation of the song to the story. The story is always founded upon a dramatic circumstance, in which at some point the emotion is forced to find a means of expression beyond the limitation of words alone; and the song is the result. This dramatic circum­stance may be a danger confronted or averted, a valorous deed achieved or a difficulty surmounted, a religious experience or an ardent craving for super­natural aid. The Omaha tribal prayer will serve as
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