- War-paint and Feathers. A review of The Path on the Rainbow: An Anthology of Songs and Chants from the Indians of North America, ed. George W. Cronyn
- The Johns Hopkins University Press and Faber & Faber Ltd
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[ 137 War-paint and Feathers A review of The Path on the Rainbow: An Anthology of Songs and Chants from the Indians of North America ed. George W. Cronyn New York: Boni & Liveright, 1918. Pp. xxxii + 347.1 The Athenaeum, 4668 (17 Oct 1919) 1036 TheUstumsjijiareavanishingrace.ThelastrepositoriesoftheMonophysite heresy, persecuted and massacred for centuries (on religious grounds) by the Armenians, the remnants of a unique civilization have taken refuge in the remote gorges of the Akim-Baba Range. Here the explorer discovered them, and was privileged to hear their Shikkamim, or wandering bards, prophets, and medicine-men, recite or chant, to the music of the pippin or one-stringed gourd, the traditional poetry of love, warfare, and theology. The explorer has made a translation or interpretation, in vers libre, and the product is declared to be superior, in its subtle and mystical simplicity, to anything that can be bought second-hand on Charing Cross Road.2 But suddenly, egged on by New York and Chicago intelligentsia, the romantic Chippaway bursts into the drawing-room, and among murmurs of approval declaims his Maple Sugar Song Maple sugar is the only thing that satisfies me.  The approval becomes acclamation. The Chippaway has the last word in subtlety, simplicity, and poeticality.3 Furthermore, his Continent is backing him. For, says the editor, it becomes appropriate and important that this collection of American Indian verse should be brought to public notice at a time when the whole instinctive movement of the American people is for a deeper footing in their native soil.4 1919 138 ] The Red Man is here: what are we to do with him, except to feed him on maple sugar? And it is not only the Red Men, but the aborigines of every complexion and climate, who have arrived, each tribe pressing upon us its own claims to distinction in art and literature. Within the time of a brief generation it has become evident that some smattering of anthropology is as essential to culture as Rollin’s Universal History.5 Just as it is necessary to know something about Freud and something about Fabre, so it is necessary to know something about the medicine -man and his works.6 Not necessary, perhaps not even desirable, to know all the theories about him, to peruse all the works of Miss Harrison, Cooke,7 Rendel Harris, Lévy-Bruhl or Durkheim. But one ought, surely, to have read at least one book such as those of Spencer and Gillen on the Australians, or Codrington on the Melanesians.8 And as it is certain that some study of primitive man furthers our understanding of civilized man, so it is certain that primitive art and poetry help our understanding of civilized art and poetry. Primitive art and poetry can even, through the studies and experiments of the artist or poet, revivify the contemporary activities. The maxim, Return to the sources, is a good one. More intelligibly put, it is that the poet should know everything that has been accomplished in poetry (accomplished, not merely produced) since its beginnings – in order to know what he is doing himself. He should be aware of all the metamorphoses of poetry that illustrate the stratifications of history that cover savagery . For the artist is, in an impersonal sense, the most conscious of men; he is therefore the most and the least civilized and civilizable; he is the most competent to understand both civilized and primitive. Consequently, he is the most ready and the most able of men to learn from the savage; he is the first man to perceive that there are aspects in which the lays of the Dimbovitza or the Arapajos are a more profitable study and a more dignified performance than Aurora Leigh or Kehama.9 But, as he is the first person to see the merits of the savage, the barbarian and the rustic, he is also the first person to see how the savage, the barbarian and the rustic can be improved upon; he is the last person to see the savage in a romantic light, or to yield to the weak credulity of crediting the savage with any gifts of mystical insight or artistic feeling that he does not possess himself. He will welcome the publication of primitive poetry, because it has more significance, in relation to its own age or culture, than Kehama and Aurora Leigh have for theirs. But he wants it more carefully documented than the present book; when...