« AnkstesnisTęsti »
and luminous suggestion. It is remarkable for its literary grace no less than for its scientific accuracy, and those who had the privilege of enjoy ing Prof. Newcomb's friendship will recognize throughout "Popular Astronomy" indications of that quaint humor which was so characteristic of the author. He wrote many other books; he was recognized as an authority on economics and life assurance, and he éven wrote a novel, though I do not know whether this particular venture was sufficiently successful to encourage a repetition of the experiment. All the honors which his own country or other countries could bestow on a man of science were liberally showered on him with universal approval.
It need hardly be said that for a self-taught man to become one of the most consummate mathematicians of his day, and one of the great leaders of science, not only great abilities, but indomitable industry were necessary. Newcomb was an indefatigable worker. From morning until night he
was at his desk, and yet such was the kindliness of the man that when a demand on his time and friendship was made by a brother astronomer or mathematician, his books were laid aside, and he would devote himself assiduously to a day of gracious offices for his visitor. Newcomb had a serious illness about fifteen years ago, but he made a remarkable recovery, and until the last few months he was I still hard at work. He died after a long illness on July 11, 1909.
Thus passes from the world the most conspicuous figure among the brilliant band of contemporary American astronomers. His inspiring example will long be treasured by those who were acquainted with his work. His habitual loftiness of thought, nobility of character, dignified courtesy, and everready helpfulness endeared him to his many friends on both sides of the Atlantic. His private acts of quiet kindness and goodness of heart will be affectionately cherished by those fortunate persons to whom they are known. Robert S. Ball.
The return of the British Fleet to its ancient quarters in the Thames has given the greatest city multitude the world has ever known the kind of pageant which it most enjoys. Keen as was the pleasure, the intellectual directors of our nation have contributed little enough to the more refined and reflective aspects of it. We, who almost bar out English history from our schools and universities, and when we teach its literature present the tongue that Shakespeare spoke as a puzzle in Anglo-Saxon philology, cannot complain if the mass of the people who went to see the fleet took their main view of its story and development from the street hawkers. Not a
great number, we suspect, could recall the name of Blake; not many schoolboys of the upper and middle classes, fully instructed on the tactics of Themistocles at Salamis, could describe those of Nelson at Aboukir. For a people so self-centred, so full of the pride of achievement as our own, we are singularly lacking in the historic sense. This is the reason why, when the Englishman's past is recalled to him through some striking symbol of his present power, he misses the thrill that comes from the knowledge of who sowed the seed and how the flower was raised. To-day that thrill is especially hard to capture. Nothing, or very little, of our famous sea his
tory belongs to the period of the modern navy. None of these great shooting platforms, practically devoid of masts or sails, divided into self-contained steel castles, and worked, not by sailors so much as by engineers and skilled mechanics, almost blindly obeying the call of the "fire-control" from above, have ever figured in a great naval fight. They are the children of modern science, of engineering and mathematics, of carefully thought out theories of warfare which leave little initiative to the fighting chieftains. Every British war-ship within two thousand miles of London, says Mr. Arnold White, is hung by invisible threads on to its strategic master in Whitehall, and in time of war would come and go, fight or fly, in obedience to the war-director's commands, much as if they were pieces on a chessboard. But all these conditions are untried, and their working can only be dimly guessed. The wooden hulks, whose still beautiful shapes adorn the mouths and lower reaches of our English rivers recall all the substantial glories of the British Navy-glories sustained, not merely in years, but in centuries of warfare. Yet a single modern second-class cruiser could sink every ship that fought at Trafalgar.
And what will happen twenty or thirty years hence to the fleet that occupies forty miles of Thames water? Will it ever see a naval war? Will there ever be a naval war as we imagine it? The development is already rapid beyond all previous experience. There is less difference between the ships that hung on the skirts of the Armada and those which fought at Navarino than between the ironclads which bombarded Alexandria and the new Temeraire. Already the critics of the fleet talk of the "Dreadnought" as a "back number." What will be its successor? Mr. Wells's airships? Or some shapeless mass of floating iron
pouring out, not 850 lb. shells, but explosives powerful enough to destroy a "Dreadnought" or a dozen "Dreadnoughts" with one impact? Already one type of ship succeeds another so rapidly that the "tail" of a big fleet of war-vessels like our own is always being cut off because the head has outgrown it and destroyed or greatly qualified its usefulness. From "Majestics" to "King Edwards," from "King Edwards" to "Dreadnoughts," from "Dreadnoughts" to "SuperDreadnoughts"—each new step has been taken more quickly than its predecessor, until the eye of the naval sensationalist is now fixed not so much on something fresh in ships as on the possibilities of an engine of death and destruction, able to make all ships obsolete, and to involve attackers and defenders, experts, admirals, and mere common lives in universal ruin. Thus, in the very hour of seeming stability and overpowering mechanical force, the increasing volatility and subtlety. of the mind of man create an atmos phere of complete uncertainty. Who can talk confidently of the balance of power when it may be possible for a clever chemist to alter it decisively in the interest of this Power or that, even to destroy or largely to modify the distinction between Powers that can defend themselves and those that rely more or less on the good graces or the written covenants of their neighbors? What may be the result of the next daring "bore" into the innermost depths of Nature's secrets? So, like an unsubstantial pageant faded, the solid marvels of the Thames may pass away within the vision of a single generation, as the eye of faith presumes even greater wonders to pass before the unchanging gaze of the Eternal.
An outlook like this clearly confuses merely material calculations, and brings us back almost by necessity to
the rule of spiritual and intellectual forces. In a world of rapidly shifting physical values, the only safe national ground is the average individual's reliance on character as his last and surest refuge against the assaults of fortune and circumstance. Whatever happens to British ships, British men and women will remain. If science should be so fortunate as to light upon the means to ensure an enormous release of human effort for human ends, they will not only be relieved of an immense strain on their physical resources, but will be enriched by a hitherto undreamt of capacity to advance civilization, instead of keeping it merely in being, with a constant tendency to relapse. Probably what attracts most men to admire war-ships and sailors is the thought and the actual vision, which thousands of us have realized of late, of the high degree of skill, training, physical wellbeing, and cheerful acceptance of great dangers, which a well-conducted naval service involves. The soldier is also popular; but he does not embody the idea of adaptability, of nimble, allround capacity and practical sense, which we identify with the "handy man." It is consoling to think of this power of creating fine character even out of unpromising material. But the process gets more costly and less remunerative every year. Methods and machinery are changed every few weeks, till the national scrap-heap mounts heaven-high.
Equally wasteful is the dealing with
the human element. Some of it is demoralized or thrown away in peace, and much of the rest the nation is bound to devote to death and oblivion in war. In civil life, on the other hand, the net gain is far greater, the waste much less serious. The aims, moral in themselves, stimulate all the good qualities excited by war, where the aims are immoral. Civil life on dry land makes almost as much demand on physical courage as life on a war-ship, and the merchant service and the fishing industry exact a greater toll of their workers than the Navy, whose normal functions are mainly peaceful. Horse-keepers, enginedrivers and guards, miners, chauffeurs, all pursue more or less dangerous lives, and usually meet accidents and sudden perils with calm. Men will die in stopping a runaway horse, or in rescuing a brother-worker from fire-damp, or in sucking poison from a diphtheritic throat, from a truer voluntary impulse than drives them to die on a battleground or be roasted in a gun-turret on a "Dreadnought." In support of the first kind of action society has the immense advantage that all the force of its accepted religions and pieties freely rallies to it and applauds it, and is joined by the instinctive voice within. Whereas, in support of the latter only man's sophisticated conscience can yield full approval, while a state of strife is set up between his ideals and his passions, which depraves the one and gives a furious and uncontrolled power to the other.
There is a prevalent opinion that English country people are not dancers. It is assumed, because we hear nothing in country places of national figure- and step-dancing that love for
this national pastime has left the people. There is a disposition to class together folk-dancing and folk-singing,— that is to say, the folk products of other countries are cultivated with
enthusiasm, while the existence of native art at home is ignored or denied outright; indeed, it might be supposed that the English peasant was more devoid of the smallest artistic sense than are his fellows in any other country of the world, except savages.
In reality the true English countryman is a cheerful person, however difficult it may be for the unsympathetic or the severely critical to find out in which direction he likes to take his diversion. A great many highly educated people have not yet learned that it is possible to be very well amused while you are sitting still and doing nothing obvious. It is not their way of enjoyment, and they refuse to beHeve that any one else can be happy in the circumstances, which is rather unintelligent of them, because it is a positive fact that some of our fellowBritons are not happy unless they have a grievance; and yet there are those who deplore this quality in their neighbors, being apparently incapable of understanding that to go about looking miserable may be somebody else's peculiar way of enjoying himself.
That, at any rate, is not the WestCountryman's way, and it is in the West and the North that the most truly national type of English peasant is to be found. There are certain national arts, notably folk-poetry and folk-music, which survive in greater strength and bulk in these parts than in all the rest of England put together. Folkpoetry and folk-music may be extinguished by the nearness of large towns. Near London we should expect native arts to be overpowered by the artificial products of the great city, so that a love of dancing among the people in or near London might be the result of London influence. Streetarabs dance, and often dance well, though untaught, to barrel-organs. They have seen dancing in pantomime and music-hall, and imitate it nat
urally; and that in itself goes far to prove that the dancing instinct is natural in "the masses," and comes out at the first chance. But in Somersetshire, which is one of the remotest parts of England, the country people are very often excellent dancers, and that in villages which have little traffic with great towns. Nor is it the case that they see much dancing in the homes of the country gentry, for in many villages there is only the manor house and the parsonage, and very often no dancing at all in either. The fact is that the love of dancing is deep rooted in the English countryman, and it comes out willy-nilly when he gets a chance. But he dances modern dances because the tradition of others is lacking. Step-dancing of an intricate kind was kept up in Somerset until the rise of the present generation, and still lasts here and there; but since it went on mostly in bars and taprooms, where the female element was lacking, it was not carried into family life as were the old songs. Also it was difficult to learn; but the Somerset people learn carefully all the newest dances, although they do not often know "Sir Roger de Coverley." Their dancing is generally very correct, and slow to a degree bewildering to those not accustomed to their measure. But country manners are very decorous, and romping is not allowed in dancing; and though the barn-dance in Somerset assumes the air of a minuet in reduced circumstances, the awful spectacle of the Lancers, as danced in some ballrooms, is never seen here.
In a very few parts of England, and by a very few persons, the old English traditional dances have been preserved in full life and vigor. And the point to remark is that in those places where the Morris-dance is revived the country people, most particularly the children, fall in at once with the spirit of the dance, the swing and stamp of
it. These English country dances are a variant of the dances known to almost all European nationalities. The steps in the Morris are the same as in the Irish, Scottish, and Norwegian country dances: feet crossed and lifted in intricate and graceful steps, high jumping, quick and slow stepping. measure and figure performed by the "side" all together. The rhythm of the dance is impossible to miss, accentuated as it is by the bells on stamping feet and clapping hands. That makes the outline of the dance, and the jigging tune that is inseparable from the movements seems to restrain its course, while the dancing in sides keeps the feeling of community throughout.
Dancing, like other art, is the outcome of strong feeling, and all primitive dancing is mimetic, a game of war or a game of some other powerful interest. These games are seen best today in the dances of savage races,-the splendid war-dances of the Zulus (inseparable from music, as are all high forms of dancing), and the lower dances of baser races. Religion had a great deal to do with the origin of dancing. It inspired much of the beautiful choral dances of the Greeks, as it inspires yet the ecstasy of the whirling Dervish. It matters little whether these English dances are really a survival of the old mimic warfare between pretended Moor and Christian, a game of war with all the malice knocked out of it. What does matter is the survival of the game-feeling in them, which makes their performance a true delight to the everlasting child that stays inside most of us, however old we grow. Children take so naturally to these dances that they hardly need teaching; they fall in at once with the swing of step and figure, because the dominating feeling of the Morris-dance is the natural healthy man's delight in life. Nature
has given us powerful feelings, and art cannot exist without them. And within the delightful restraint of rhythm and measure the primitive art of the Morris-dances represents in mimicry bean-setting in spring (which is nothing less than the immemorially ancient pagan invocation of the earthspirit), hunting and the excitement of the chase, fisticuffs, single-stick, quarterstaff, or even the stamping of carthorses "with Jockey to the Fair."
Morris-dancing is invaluable as physical training for children. It is impossible for them not to learn the exact value of time-beats, because to keep the dance going the time must be perfect. And the quick jumping steps are a splendid training for balancing the body. Children learn easily and readily because the spirit of the dance inspires them without mental effort. How necessary such inspiration is in the training of children any one can judge who has ever watched the heavy, timeless jump of a small, slow country school drilling. Feet and brains do not work together, and the class jumps all at once, but reaches the ground again at a dozen different times. A child's brain must be overworked unless its small reasoningpower is helped by external inspiration such as this of the dance-swing.
Untaught children take more quickly to the Morris-step than those who have learned the modern fashion of glide and slide. And whether Morris-dancing is actually graceful depends much on the dancer. That it may be so any one can imagine who knows Highland dancing. "Bacco-Pipes" is a humble relation of the sword-dance, and that its origin certainly was a triumph over conquered foes is a conviction that grows upon the performer, measuring his steps across the pipe-stems to the quaint jigging tune. The modern dance has gained in grace and intricacy and refinement of many kinds, but it is