The Play of Man

Chapter 7: Social Plays

Karl Groos

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Much discrimination is required in the attempt to single out a special group of social plays proper to our subject. I am, however, well aware that it is an essential feature in any system of play, and that Baldwin is quite right when he says in his valuable preface to The Play of Animals, " Finally, I should like to suggest that a possible category of 'Social Plays' might be added to Groos's classification." The great difficulty is that it is well-nigh impossible to make separate observations on them as a distinct class, for as a rule the social impulse furnishes the incentive to the special games which we have considered. To take a familiar example: Society chat is a social play par excellence, and yet the indulgence in this element of it appeals to consciousness as but a vague and undefined satisfaction compared with the influence of the impulses to combat and to courtship. For this reason the present section must be of a somewhat different. character from the foregoing ones. It must be theoretic, and thus form a connecting link with the second part of the book.

In the sphere of social play we still find ourselves in close touch with imitation. Though Tarde's formula, " La société c'est l'imitation," has the one-sidedness characteristic of an epigram, it is an unquestionable fact that this impulse is of fundamental significance in the origination and preservation of social conditions. Uniformity of conduct and sentiment, without which social co-operation would be impossible, is preserved mainly by imitation, and, what is more, by its involuntary form, as illustrated in the infectiousness of such simple acts as coughing and gaping. But, before going into this, I must emphasize some phases of the social impulse which are not identical with imitation, and whose value to play is easily demonstrated.

It may be recalled that in our inquiry into the origin of the imitative impulse the question was raised whether its resemblance to instinct might not be explained by its relation to the genuine instincts of race affinity and the production of calls and warning cries. The physical and mental association common to men and gregarious ani

(335) -mals seems to me to depend largely on these two relatively simple instincts, those of physical association and communication. Both are extremely important for the establishment of the family, and the view that the social factor has nothing to do with the family is, in my opinion, far too extreme. Ants and bees may serve them for illustrations, but in the life of herds and tribes the primal relation between mother and child seems to me the starting point from which the need of association, and communication has extended.[1]

Our inquiry then will proceed from need of bodily association or the herding instinct as a starting point. However this impulse may have developed phylogenetically, ontogenetically the child's associative needs are at first satisfied by the family, and almost entirely by the mother; he is, as a rule, relatively late in turning his attention to a social sphere. "Before the third or fourth year," says Madame Necker de Saussure, with some exaggeration, "the child is happy only with his elders. His needs, his pleasures, and the certainty with which he counts on our protection are all in our keeping. Other children interest him for a time, but soon tire him, and their little tempers excite his own. In his inability to cope with such situations he turns again to the grown people." [2] Although this is put too strongly,[3] its essential truth is well known; indeed, Curtmann and Flashar for that very reason deprecate the extension of the child's social circle at too early an age, and Franz Kübel says, in Süddeutschen Schulboten (1875) : "Because the life of an eremite, be he scholar, aesthetic, or what not, is a mistake, why should all of life necessarily be social? Why should the bud be forced to open too early? Why should the sphere of individual life be so soon widened to take in love for all? It seems

(336) to me indisputable that the early education of a child should be carried on in the family circle, and also that there is a dangerous tendency to arouse social impulses too early."[4] Indeed, we must admit that experimentation can not have its due effect if the child is introduced too early to a wider circle, and that the strong stimulus of social life tends to overshadow and interfere with the development of family life when allowed to exert its full force on the very young. Just as with children who are kept too much at home, overweening family feeling interferes with their progress in society and hampers them through life, so, on the other hand, too much society weakens the parental relation. There should be a certain equilibrium of influence, as in all other departments of culture, to supply the most favourable conditions in the struggle for existence.

Returning from this digression, we remark first that there can be no doubt of the value of social games in preparing incipient men and women for later life. "Le società infantile," says Colozza, "sono società di guoco."[5] The demand for identification with some social group finds its satisfaction in this way, and this satisfaction rests, as we have seen, on the broad foundation underlying other instincts, especially those relating to combativeness. I merely mention the direct effect of the impulse for association, the agreeable consciousness of being "in the swim." Among animals this feeling is manifested rather as a reaction from the annoyance of separation from the herd, yet the gregarious animal pasturing with its kind or carrying food to them may be filled with a cheering sense of security such as we experience when established in a cosy corner at the club. Be that as it may, the child at any rate, as soon as it is old enough to make the acquaintance of other children, is filled with eager desire to be wherever his comrades are assembled for whatever purpose. I need only hint at his rage and despair when he sees through a window that the " other fellows" are collecting, while he for some reason can not go out.


These early manifestations of the social instinct are too simple to require much illustration. We all recognise them, and they are frequently displayed by adults as well. Holidays spent in simple playful indulgence of the gregarious instinct are of the greatest value for the collective social life of mankind. Here as elsewhere the practice theory is applicable to adults, as two extremely diverse instances will illustrate most satisfactorily. One is the difficulty of keeping up religious community life when the festival character is allowed to lapse; even when there remains enough association of the votaries themselves to constitute a gratification of the associative impulse, yet the abandonment of holiday festivities undoubtedly has a marked effect. The tamer a religious observance becomes the larger the proportions of lukewarm adherents. Many sects have a clear perception of this, and it accounts for the fact that some of them employ methods not far removed from the practices of savages. This brings us to the second instance—namely, the importance of festive gatherings to savage peoples. If our owners, our own peasantry, scattered in families through the rural districts, are in danger of losing their social feelings when deprived of religious or secular festivals, the necessity is yet much greater with primitive men. Apart from warfare, this is about their only means of association as tribes or clans. It is valuable, too, in connection with and preparatory to their fights. Among the Weddas of Ceylon, who "have not yet acquired the art of war," and are very undeveloped socially, we find only feeble suggestions of the festival. From our noble cathedrals, our concert halls and theatres, and other places of amusement, converging lines lead directly back to the festal huts of savages. From these, however, women are as a rule strictly excluded.

Finally. I remark that a playful motive is often discernible in the formation of the multifarious clubs for the advancement of some worthy object in this age of abounding culture. We all know persons for whom an absorbing interest in the ostensible object of the club would be out of the question but for the good company. The mere fact of being one of a group is satisfaction

(338) enough to the gregarious instinct, and the playfulness of this condition can scarcely be questioned.

Turning now to the wider social impulses to which these simple manifestations are related, we must first notice the voluntary subordination of the individual which is so essential a feature. In the relation of parent and child there could hardly be any training, and certainly no such thing as education, without this element. After dwelling on the child's spirit of opposition, Sully gives in his Studies in Childhood the contrary picture in a series of incidents designed to show that there is yet in the childish soul something " on the side of law," and goes on to remark that " it is worth while asking whether, if the child were naturally disposed to look on authority as something wholly hostile, he would get morally trained at all."[6] While this is true, still the contrary, rebellious spirit is developed by the parental relation, and we may see voluntary subordination much better illustrated by going on the street with the child and noticing his behaviour with his playmates. The blind obedience accorded the leader of a little band is calculated to fill parents and teachers with envy. Here the social impulse is supreme in the demand for association and classification which governs and directs society. The same relation exists among animals between the herd and its leader, and no orderly association of men could exist without it. As simple compulsion is not enough with children, so with adults discipline is insufficient. The leader's command must be met by an inward disposition to obey in the interests of the whole. The heads of political parties who thunder invectives against the " slaves " and " dumb cattle " in other parties are yet considerably disconcerted when their own followers display too little of the disposition for subordination.

The common fighting plays of children markedly exhibit this voluntary submission to a leader, less known, I think, in regulation games than in the many contests which a crowd of children will naturally fall into when a few belligerent spirits are present; when there is a trick

(339) to be played on schoolmates or janitor, an orchard to plunder, some unpopular person to annoy by breaking his windows or otherwise damaging his property—in these escapades the leader's word has absolute authority, and the most docile children will commit deeds in blind obedience which fill their parents with amazement and horror. The influence of example is a factor not to be overlooked, but it is not by any means all; more influential still is the esprit de corps after the plot is once hatched. Formerly, when children were given more freedom in this direction, schoolboy leagues were of great importance, but even now their associations for contest play a weighty part in youthful life; there they learn to see how common peril strengthens the bond of union and enjoins submission to the leader. It is an illustration in miniature of the influence of war on the evolution of society.

This leads to the observation that play is instrumental in teaching children submission to law as well as to a leader. Thus H. Schiller says very truly of gymnastic exercises: "They promote not only presence of mind, dexterity, skill, and readiness, but furnish as well valuable training for society. Law and limitation are here self-imposed by the players, and he finds them again in the bounds which he strives to transcend."[7] Since gymnastic and belligerent games afford exercise chiefly to males, we trace here an interesting distinction between the sexes. It seems that those manifestations of the social impulse relating to subordination are not pursued by women so energetically nor in the same way as with men. Woman is the guardian of good form, but as a rule she will not subordinate herself to rigorous law. I think any customs agent will bear me out in this statement from his observation of the behaviour of travellers. This probably results from a difference in the instinctive equipment of the sexes: fighting impulses, which are strongly developed in the males, further the social ones by reason of their imperative requirement of association. This is apparent in the exercises referred to by Schiller, and is materially advanced by the practice which play affords.

(340) The success of American women in their movement for emancipation is largely furthered by their participation with men in various sports and the consequent better development of their social capacities.

I conclude these remarks on voluntary subordination with some reference to the origin of punishment. It is commonly referred to the principle of vengeance, but, though feelings of personal grievance and revenge may be closely involved in its origin and development, they can not entirely account for the institution of punishment. Even the play of children clearly distinguishes between personal revenge and social chastisement. The infraction of the unwritten laws of our familiar games arouses a spontaneous and general sentiment against the offender which does indeed resemble the demand for vengeance, but stresses more the idea of social injury. What urges to the chastisement of the liar, the coward, and the betrayer is a righteous indignation which results from outraged social feelings, and the desire to expel the offender from the group. This was apparent in the early tribes from which all civilized peoples have developed. Justice is as old as social humanity, and if it can be derived at all from personal revenge this could have been possible only as far as offences between man and man were regarded as offences against the community as a whole.

Social sympathy next demands our attention as connected with the demand for association, and for the sake of brevity I include in the term not merely the inward sentiment, but also the émotion tendre and the readiness to lend a helping hand to other members of the same group. It is perhaps best defined by the expression "good fellowship," which is everywhere current. Play has a significant part in it as well with children as with adults. I introduced a passage in The Play of Animals on the actions of some young foxes who amused themselves playing together until some occasion arose for strife. Then, one of them being bitten so that blood flowed, the others fell upon and devoured him; and I then remarked that "the good comradeship of young animals is first of all a play comradeship. It exists in play when aside from the conditions of the play there is little sympathetic

(341) feeling." This is to a great degree applicable to humanity as well. Apart from relations of actual friendship which are deeper than simple comradeship, we find among individuals very little genuine interest and kindliness. It is only when people are members of the same social group that they learn to regard one another with the friendly feeling which is necessary for effective association. Social sympathy is apt to be but a wider egoism, and the identification of the individual I with the social whole a slightly more circuitous route to self-advancement. When party lines are obliterated the interest subsides, as many have discovered who counted on personal friendship as a result of social sympathy. Further consideration of the value of this comradeship, however, shows it to be indispensable to the formation and maintenance of society, and that the school in which it is developed is furnished by play. Children scarcely manifest it in any other connection; as they grow older they may form friendships independently of their common play, but as a rule their comradeship is that of play. With adults the case is not very different, for even when they associate for a serious purpose banquets and other playful features are considered indispensable for strengthening the bond. These festivities, it is true, have their root in the common need for amusement, but their practical value consists in the impetus they give to social sympathy, and their indirect furtherance of effective association.

As the associative impulse which we have made our starting point primarily promotes external connections, but is attended with various far-reaching consequences, and finally results in the demand for communication, so this last, from serving first the narrow unit of the family. brings about the inner spiritual union of the social group. The chief means which serves this impulse of humanity is language.[8] Although thin communication does serve a practical purpose from its very inception, there are still many playful manifestations of it. Compayré offers an

(342) observation which may be regarded as a prelingual illustration of this. It records a sort of dialogue between a child, still unable to speak, and his elder brother. " Pendant quelques minutes c'est une alternance in-inter rompue, là de mots et de phrases nettement articulés, ici de petits cris confus."[9] Older children, too, often show the same thing in their play with dolls and other toys as well as toward persons and animals. We sometimes sigh for a limit to the unmeaning gabble which the child apparently enjoys for its own sake.

Similar observations have been made on adults, though here as with children it is difficult to draw the line between play and earnest. So far as the object is to instruct others or make a good impression and thus improve one's own social standing, the act is serious, but it. oftener wears the aspect of merely playful self-exhibition. And, finally, when an unimportant piece of news is passed about and talked over "just for something to say," we have an instance of pure playfulness, since a satisfaction of the social impulse is sought without serious aim and purely for its own sake. The teas and Kaffeeklätzchen so affected by women are of a similar character. Without attempting to analyze too closely the style of conversation prevailing on such occasions, we venture to say that a universal desire for expression is conspicuous. This is certainly the fact in the social gatherings of men and of society in general. Ordinary society chat is a social play.

There are other phases of conversational intercourse, however, which are more germane to our present purpose, such, for example, as the invention of special forms of speech which are selections from tentative efforts by the process of exclusion. The great social importance of a common language thus finds expression in play. Reference has already been made to the fact that children coin words—that is, they make use of sounds independently discovered by experimentation. Sometimes several children will construct a sort of secret language in this way. The remarkable case referred to by H. Hale of a pair of devoted twins who did not learn first the language spoken

(343) around them, but one all their own, in which they conversed with ease and fluency, is not, however, an instance in point, since there was evidently no play about it. Yet children do form such a secret system sometimes in play. Colonel Higginson mentions two girls about thirteen years old who made a language for their own amusement. They wrote about two hundred words of it in a book. Thus " Bojiwassis " denoted the half-anxious, half-resolute feeling that precedes taking a leap, and " Spygri " the pride in having accomplished it. " Pippadolify " expressed the stiff manner of walking of the young officers in Washington .[10] This well illustrates childish versatility in word coinage. Von Martins, Peschel, and others attribute the rapid transformations in the language of savages to the influence of children, whose faulty reproduction of words learned from their parents is adopted by the latter. [11] Also original creations arise in the intercourse of parent and child. We have already spoken of the imitative sounds that come into a language in this way, and childish experimentation may be equally influential. " Papa " and " mamma " are evidences that this is sometimes true, and many other words may have had a similar origin.

But, turning again to our subject proper, we find that the tendency of a social group to distinguish itself by its manner of speaking is widespread among adults. [12] It can not always be called playful, however, as some serious aim is often had in view, as in the code of criminals and the passwords of secret societies, but the technicalities of special callings and professions are often clearly playful, and are especially affected by the newcomer who is impressed with the advantages of belonging to the set. With what zeal does the newly initiated sportsman set himself to learn the vocabulary of the chase! With what unction does the freshman repent the latest student's slang! Conan Doyle, in his Rodney Stone, hag given us an admirable picture of the affected speech of the English dandy at the beginning of the nineteenth century,

(344) and the euphuism of Shakespeare's time is another instance. Pleasure and pride in belonging to a certain class or set are often manifested in such peculiarities.

But impulse for communication may assume other forms, as in the cases when we found it of so great value in courtship under the form of self-exhibition. And it has also, as Baldwin [13] points out, a more general social significance. While our personal peculiarities are first brought out in our intercourse with others, we at once become conscious, on the other hand, of an impulse to display them in order to gain influence. Satisfaction with one's own achievements is attained only when these have gained social recognition. Self-exhibition plays an important part, too, in the pleasure we derive from collective games. The rivalry which we have studied from the standpoint of the fighting instinct takes a more pacific form, as the pleasure of finding one's importance testified to by imitation on the part of others. This is not mere exultation in victory over others, but takes higher ground, since the sense of superiority which it engenders is dependent on their support.

When the display of one's excellences thus transcends verbal expression it results from the highest forms of social intercourse, from that devotion of time and energy to society which constitutes the vocation of the social leader. It is the very opposite to that voluntary subordination to a leader of which we have spoken, and yet true social leadership also is founded on just such subordination. The aspirant for its honours must so merge himself in the society that its aggrandizement shall mean his own—a signal proof of the force of the social impulse. Whether the task is great or small, the ruling of an empire or the leadership of a club, the principle is the same, and consequently the social plays of children are enlightening. Even here, forceful, active, inventive natures quickly attain the mastery and the difference is apparent between the merely violent, who think only of their own advancement, and the born leader who makes the interests of society his own, who is ready to answer for the crowd,

(345) and is found in the front line in times of danger and will suffer no injustice to any of his following. Such leadership is possible only where there is the capacity for identifying his own twill and conviction with those of the rest, thus effectuating the groups' subordination. The "magnetism" of those who succeed as leaders depends on the presence and force of this faculty; they must have not mere strength of will, but the kind of will adapted for fusion with the common will for the attainment of its social ends.

In concluding these observations on the associative principle, I must notice the social side of artistic activity. It may be said in general that artistic production fulfils an important function in giving universal pleasure. H. Rutgers Marshall tries to establish the existence of " the blind instinct to produce art works."[14] The attempt, however, to analyze the social tendencies operative in the creative artist will disclose the two last-mentioned forms of the communication impulse. The artist longs to set forth with all his power that which fills his soul, and to make objective representation of it for his own benefit and that of others, and at the same time win, by this unfolding of his nature, influence over the souls of othersgiving that he may gain. This motive is not equally strong in all art, yet to a certain degree Richepin's passionate words apply to any such work: " C'est tout moi qui ruissela dans ce livre . . . . Voici mon sang et ma chair, bois et mange! " and every great artist strives for mastery over the emotions of others. The genius may, it is true, create only for himself or a choice few, or when his work is finished he may conceive a distaste for it or not concern himself at all about it, yet on the whole it can not be denied that the controlling motive (half conscious, it may be) is the desire to gain mastery by means of his art. Gildemeister rightly says: "Publicity is the breath of art. Dilettantism may be confined to the studio or the salon, art must speak to the people."[15] Since it is directly through these social aims, however, that aesthetic production diverges from play, we need not linger on the subject.


We now take up the last of the social influences which we had to consider, the powerful agency of imitation, and more especially such involuntary imitation as is manifested in the infectiousness of coughing, gaping, etc. Its influence is universal. Espinas, Souriau, Tarde, Sighele, Le Bon, and others have treated the problem of such mass suggestion, and Baldwin contributes a valuable chapter full of critical acumen on the Theory of Mob Action, in his Social and Ethical Interpretations. To introduce the subject I give two examples, one from animal psychology, the other from anthropology, illustrating the extreme phenomena of mass suggestion. Hudson gives us the folowing: "This was on the southern pampas at a place called Gualicho, where I had ridden for an hour before sunset over a marshy plain where there was still much standing water in rushy pools, though it was at the height of the dry season. This whole plain was covered with an endless flock of chakars, not in close order, but scattered about in pairs and small groups. In this desolate spot I found a small rancho, inhabited by a gaucho and his family, and I spent the night with them. About nine o'clock we were eating our supper in the rancho when suddenly the entire multitude of birds covering the marsh for miles around burst forth into a tremendous evening song. It is impossible to describe the effect of this mighty rush of sound . . . . One peculiarity was that in this mighty noise, which sounded louder than the sea thundering on a rocky coast, I seemed to be able to distinguish hundreds, even thousands, of individual voices. Forgetting my supper, I sat motionless and overcome with astonishment while the air and even the frail rancho seemed to be trembling in that tempest of sound. When it ceased, my host remarked with a smile: ` We are accustomed to this, senor; every evening we have this concert.'[16] It is well worth the rise of a hundred toile; to hear this demonstration." Mediaeval dancing may furnish an example from human life. At Freiburg in Switzerland, in 1346, before the castle of Graf Greyerz, a dance was practised which began with simple move-

(347) -ments. They gathered strength, however, like an avalanche, and spread through the entire country. Uhland has made this dance the subject of a poem, which may be paraphrased as follows

" The youngest maiden, slender as a stalk of maize,
Seized the count's hand and drew him in the ring.
They danced through the village, where file succeeded file,
They danced across the meadows, they danced through the wood,
To where, far across the mountains, the silvery sounds rang out"
< Marrentanz.

These, as I have said, are extreme manifestations of mass suggestion, and should not be given too much weight in explaining social development. " The loss of identity and social continence," says Baldwin, " on the part of the individual, when he is carried away by a popular movement, is well struck off by the common saying that he has `lost his head: This is true; but then he regains his head and is ashamed that he lost it. His normal place in society is determined by the events of that part of his life in which he keeps his head. And the same is true of the events in the life of the social group as a whole."[17] Yet these forms of suggestion which border on the pathological are but exaggerations of social qualities indispensable to the race. Had we not the inborn impulse to imitate movements which sweep through a mob, great occasions would never find us ready with great actions. The magic power of mass suggestion is the indispensable complement of the social leader's talents, and consequently is closely related to our familiar voluntary subordination. Tarde even regards obedience as a special case of imitation, and to strengthen his position reminds us that command begins with example. With monkeys, horses, dogs, etc., the leader sets the example by performing the particular act, and the others imitate him.[18] Yet I am quite confident that voluntary subordination is not identical with imitation. Even with animals the leader is the strongest, most skilful, and generally the most intelligent of the herd, and obedience ap-

(348) -pears as imitation perhaps, but not of the ordinary kind; rather of one who by means of the force of his individuality compels subjection through feat', respect, and love, or the compounding of these. The need of the weak to lean on the strong does indeed lead to imitation, but is not identical with it.

Moreover, it seems to me that an explanation of mass suggestion can not be arrived at by means of the imitative impulse without the assumption that voluntary subordination works with it; that blending of fear, respect, and attraction is not necessarily confined to a single leader, but may be directed to the whole group, and, indeed, without such a sentiment the leader's influence would be much crippled. Those whose minds are made up not to go with the herd (the partisans of another faction, for instance) will display little imitative inclination so long, at least, as this determination is clearly defined. But when the personality of the leader and the imposing and alluring aspects of the mass combine their effects, the imitative impulse assumes its full force. The result is quite similar to that obtained in hypnosis, with which it is often compared, and in the manifestations of which, in spite of the important rôle played by imitation, voluntary subordination is indispensable for the operation of suggestion.

If now we inquire as to how these processes take effect in play, we find the practice theory applicable to adults in a greater degree even than to children; for we are at once confronted by the importance of festivals as mentioned above and again impressing itself upon us here. For the further division of our subject I distinguish between general acts and general inner imitation, in the former of which motor and in the latter emotional suggestion is conspicuous.

The desire to act in conjunction with the social group finds manifold expression in the play of children. " Any one who watches the games of a set of boys in the school yard or in the streets," says Baldwin, "will see that it is only a small part of the moves of the game which are provided for with any consistent or well-planned plot or scheme. The game is begun, and then becomes, in great

(349) measure, the carrying out of a series of coups et contrecoups on the part of the leaders among the players; the remainder following the dictation and example of the few. When the leader whoops, the crowd also whoop; when he fights, they fight. All this social practice is most valuable as discipline in serious social business."[19] Such effects of general imitation are prominent in most social fighting plays, but we shall confine ourselves to some children's games in which acting in common seems to be itself the principal aim. Here we are met by the fact that in its last analysis such play is referable to adult imitation—that is to say, they are handed down to the children. A simple kind of play, which clearly reveals a social character, is that in which the children imitate all sorts of movements made by the leader. For example, take the familiar one in which the children dance around, hand in hand, singing

" Adam had seven sons, seven sons had Adam,
They ate not, they drank not, they looked. in his face
And did just so"; [20]

whereupon they all stop, the leader stepping to the centre of the circle and making all sorts of motions—clapping hands, bowing, bending, lifting his arms, sawing, scrubbing, fiddling, sneezing, coughing, laughing, crying, etc.— all of which are repeated by the other children. This same song was probably sung by adults in the Easter processions which were derived from the mediaeval pest dances, but even so their origin is not yet reached. The following description by Svoboda strongly recalls the play of children: " Dancing is the greatest pleasure of the Nikobars; it is very solemn and slow. A place is cleared for it among the huts; the leader steps out, and first of all marks a great circle, while each man lays his hand on his neighbour's shoulder. The leader raises the tune, making a step, now left, now right, swinging his free leg. All keep their eyes fixed on him and mimic what he does, sinking on their knees, sitting on their heels, and then making a grotesque leap, or stepping backward and for-

(350) -ward. All this is repeated stify, mechanically, and without any spirit, but constantly accompanied by a nasal song, until late in the night."[21]

Further we may notice dancing games of children accompanied by song. In looking through a collection of them like that of Böhme, one is astonished at their variety as well as the remarkable and often apparently meaningless songs that accompany them. Many are of the opinion that they date from the middle ages, while others trace them back to the old German religious dances along with a cycle of songs in celebration of the goddess Freija. As a rule, proofs are wanting in both directions, and there is a choice of opinions between them. If, for example, the common stooping at the end of a stanza appears to be a survival of some religious ceremony, it may just as probably be the duck, duck, duck of animal dances of prehistoric times. Rochholz has actually derived a Swiss form of the song from such mimicry of animals. The obscurity of many verses is caused by the frequent introduction of new subjects. In one case the ceremony of taking the veil is dramatically gone through with, and J. Bolle states that this originated in a thoroughly frivolous dance of adults. Indeed, the intermeddling of adults is constantly to be reckoned with, as in the case of a shepherd's song, where " Adam " is substituted for " Amor " with evident ironical intent.

In regard to such games of children the following question is a pertinent one: How does it happen that the social plays whose models are formed in the dancing of men or of both sexes are practised chiefly by girls? If we think back to our own childhood we shall find that while little fellows do take part in such games, older boys regard them as unmanly and unworthy of them. I suspect that in earlier times, when the men indulged in them, the boys gladly followed suit, as is quite generally the case among savages now.

A final word on children's festivals, in which the social significance of play is most clearly displayed. Take the most familiar example, the school picnic: if only a

(351) handful of children go for an outing with a teacher they are not particularly delighted, but when the whole school goes their pleasure is increased more than proportionately to their numbers. They are excited and joyous, and every expression of pleasure seems multiplied by a many-voiced echo, and, until they grow tired, all show a readiness to obey the spirit of good comradeship. Such an occasion bears all the essential marks of a genuine festa, with its feeling of belonging to the social group, subordination to the good of the whole and to the leader who represents it, sympathetic participation, and satisfaction of the associative impulse in its various forms, the attraction which belongs to actions and enjoyments in common with others, and finally the festal board which makes a play of eating and drinking. Some of the festivals of children, too, have been handed down from the sports of adults. A Swabian dance that was formerly performed by the salt refiners now belongs to the children, who dress for it in the costume of the craft. But most such holidays have a much earlier origin in pagan feasts, as in the case of Easter, Mayday, Whitsuntide, midsummer, etc. I take as my solitary example the Heidelberg Sommertagsfest, in which a portable pyramid of straw represents conquered winter, and one bedecked with fresh green is triumphant summer. The attendant children carry wands trimmed with eggs pretzels, and gay streamers, and sing as they go

" Strieh, Strah, Stroh,
Der Sommerdag is do.
Der Sommer un der Winder,
Des sinn Geschwisterkinder.

Summerdag Stab aus,
Blost dem Winter die Auge aus.
Strich, Strah, Stroh,
Der Sommerdag is do."

This ancient mythological festival, which survives with wonderful vitality among children in the Palatinate and some other localities, threatened to become extinct in Heidelberg until some one seriously undertook its restoration. It is an inspiriting sight when the fine old streets are the scenes of the processions of numerous summer and winter pyramids, and thousands of children in holiday attire, carrying the gay wands and merrily singing the old song. It can not be questioned that feelings of fellowship and attachment to home are heightened and deepened by the practice of such customs.


Turning now to adults, whose festivals furnish the models for these childish ones, I can not better illustrate the importance of imitation on such occasions than by repeating the striking passage quoted from James in the Play of Animals. In concluding a passage . on play he says: " There is another sort of human play, into which higher aesthetic feelings enter. I refer to the love of festivities, ceremonies, and ordeals, etc., which seems to be universal in our species. The lowest savages have their dances, more or less formally conducted. The various religions have their solemn rites and exercises, and civic and military powers symbolize their grandeur by processions and celebrations of divers sorts. We have our operas and parties and masquerades. An element common to all these ceremonial games, as they are called, is the excitement of concerted action, as one of an organized crowd. The same acts, performed with a crowd, seem to mean vastly more than when performed alone. A walk with the people on a holiday afternoon, an excursion to drink beer or coffee at a popular `resort,' or an ordinary ballroom, are examples of this. Not only are we amused at seeing so many strangers, but there is a distinct stimulation at feeling our share in their collective life. The perception of them is the stimulus, and our reaction upon it is our tendency to join them and do what they are doing, and our unwillingness to be the first to leave off or go home alone."[22]

As we can not possibly review the whole field of society, a few general remarks must suffice to supplement what has already been said. While there was at one time a tendency to relegate this, like so many other sociological problems, to a religious origin, such a proceeding is now regarded with some degree of skepticism. The Australians celebrate all important events by dances—the harvest, the opening of the fishing season, the coming of age of youths, a meeting with friendly tribes, setting out to battle or the chase, and success in these. " Among the pacific Bakaïri on the Rio Novo," says von den Steinen, " the principal festival is in April. I, with my civilized

(353) ideas, clung to the supposition of a thanksgiving celebration, and wondered what friendly power was the recipient of all this praise and gratitude. I tried to get something definite out of Antonio, but he was unresponsive to my suggestion. 'We have the feast at harvest time,' he said, 'because we have something to feast on then; in the dry season we have to scrimp, and in the wet season everything is afloat: Materialistic, if you will, but eminently practical." [23]

It seems then that the origin at least of the festival is referable to general social needs whose important stimuli arouse a general excitation, and thus attain their most effective expression. The essentials to primitive festivals were the feast and the dance, both being conducted with the intemperance characteristic of mass suggestion. Here we find again that playful satisfaction of the sense of taste which claimed our attention in the beginning of this discussion, and this is its clearest manifestation, since here the play is a social one. As the child may be led to perform incredible feats in the consumption of cakes, candy, and other dainties at a party, so the adult, when not hampered by anxiety about his digestion or compunctions as to such impositions on hospitality (and these considerations are usually as far from the mind of a savage as that of a child), can accomplish quite as much on festive occasions. This effect is furthered by the free use of alcohol, which, in spite of its many bad qualities, is not to be despised as a promoter of sociability. We hear so much of the fights and brawls to which the unlicensed indulgence in spirituous drinks gives rise that we forget that mild intoxication puts the majority of men in a cheerful and friendly humour, and is calculated to promote the good fellowship of the company. Without the least intention of denying the danger incurred in the use of alcohol as a beverage, I still think it only fair to show the other side of the picture—namely, the damper it puts on anxiety and care, and its promotion of social sympathy, of the associative impulses and the capacity for enthusiasm in all directions.

(354) Dancing, which next to feasting is the most primitive form of festivity, is kept up to an incredible duration, the expenditure of strength being constantly renewed. In the sagas of the Bakaïri, it is said of Keri, the founder of the tribe: " Keri called all his followers together, and in the evening they danced on the village green. Keri stopped to drink while the dance costumes floated in the air about him. He called to Kame [the ancestor of another tribe]. Many of the people came, and Keri was lord of the dance. They danced the whole day, and only rested toward evening; after dark they began again and danced the whole night. Early in the morning they went to the river and bathed; then they came back to the house and began again and danced all that day and night. Then the holiday was over."[24] The intoxication of motion, which, as we have before seen, is probably the chief stimulus in dancing, is universally enjoyed on such occasions, and enhances the social impulses. It is a sort of ecstatic state apart from the narrow individual sphere, and favourable to social affiliation. Indeed, among primitive people it is often the indispensable condition of an alliance, as there is a widespread custom for several neighbouring tribes to collect for some high feast. No one has given a better description of the importance of the dance for the promotion of sociability than has Grosse. " The warmth of the dance," he says, " fuses the distinct individualities to a unified essence moved and governed by a single emotion. During its progress the participants find themselves in a condition of social completeness, the different groups feeling and acting like members of a unified organism. This is the most important effect of primitive dancing. It takes a number of men who, in their detached, unsettled condition of varying individual needs and demands. are living unregulated lives, and teaches them to act with one impulse, one meaning, and to one end: It makes for order and cohesion in the hunting tribes whose way of life tends to separate them. After war it is perhaps the one factor which makes the interdependence of individuals of savage tribes apparent to themselves, and

(355) incidentally it is one of the best means of preparing for war, for gymnastic exercises prefigure military tactics in more ways than one." [25]

In studying the festal and social customs of highly civilized peoples, while we find much that is new, many things are reminiscent of savage life. Eating is still the principal feature, but the common impulse to activity is no longer expressed in forms so specialized as the savage dance, for the modern social dance is of comparatively little importance in this connection. Entertainment by means of vocal and instrumental music and rhythmic elocution, displays of physical prowess and singing contests almost complete the list of plays applicable here, being concerned as they all are with collective life. I may mention one other phenomenon, however, which illustrates the analogy with primitive customs—namely, the societies formed for social enjoyment. They prove the need felt by civilized men to form within the limits of their more extended social sphere smaller circles which by their exclusiveness enhance the feeling of sympathy. Formerly, when special well-organized groups arose in the burgher guilds, they were partly of a social character, as J. Schaller points out,[26] and we yet have labour unions, merchants' clubs, and artists' leagues, though in many of them the trade or calling is no longer stressed; on the contrary, versatility is the chief desideratum in the membership, and no strict exclusiveness prevails. Such details are commonly determined by the general degree of cultivation prevalent. Moreover, there is apt to be a certain ritual belonging to such organizations, with written statutes and unwritten traditions, all more or less playful, and quickly developed among savages into a sort of cultus. I am not aware whether a monograph exists treating this subject in detail, though one would certainly be of interest.

Secret societies recall the usages of savages, especially in one particular—namely, in excluding females. The implication in the use of the word savage, usually unjust, is quite fair here, since the men are pledged to inflict

(356) instant death on the woman whose curiosity should penetrate to the secrets of their club. And while among civilized men the protest is less vigorously applied, still the exclusion is enforced. Von den Steinen thinks that among the Bakaïri the regulation is due to their objection to having their women seen by strangers, and representatives of several tribes usually take part in the dance. Their other festivities are special hunting feasts, which are regarded as altogether unsuitable for the participation of women.[27] Quite as influential, if not more so, seems to me the natural feeling that the presence of women destroys the company's sense of unity. Savages especially, who regard women with open contempt, would feel ill at ease if their festivities were invaded by the other sex. When we see how little boys, as soon as they are out of their infancy, spontaneously refuse to take little girls for their playmates,[28] we must ascribe some serious meaning to this essential distinction between the sexes. It is this, I think, which forms the chief ground for the exclusion of women from the sports of civilized men, and perhaps the same desire to be left to themselves is a considerable factor in masculine opposition to the woman's movement.

In any remarks on general inner imitation we must be particularly careful to keep well within its proper definition, or we are sure to find ourselves launching out into the vast domain of aesthetics. How inner sympathy is conditioned on the effects of past experience; how it is raised to the level of aesthetic emotion only through the fact that the beholder or hearer enjoys the fusion process for its own sake; and how, finally, this inner imitation consists, at least with motor individuals, and perhaps with all who are capable of aesthetic perception, in actual movement on their own part in conjunction with this fusion—all this has been set forth in a former section.

Here we are considering merely the social aspects of such play, and we find its manifestations well marked. As a

(357) rule, the child, like the adult, when in the presence of any soul-stirring spectacle, longs for a companion to feel it with him, and when a whole social group unite in a common imitation, the emotional effect is vastly augmented. The social effect of such collective enjoyment is usually marked by an increased sense of fellowship, but beyond this there is an appreciable difference of quality which under favourable conditions directly furthers the social feeling. Let us begin by observing the dancing of savages again, where we find besides the pleasure of participation the equally strong effect of seeing and hearing the other dancers—a fact that is reiterated again and again in the descriptions of such occasions. The facile transition from real imitation to inner sympathy is one indication of their close kinship. The spectator is impelled to accompany the rhythmic movement of the dance music by all sorts of motions on his own part. Millendorf gives us the following description: "Soon the dance became heated, the movements turned to hops and leaps, the whole body being involved and the face inflamed; the cries grew constantly more ecstatic, the clapping wilder, and the few garments were finally thrown off. All present seemed seized with a frenzy; a few attempted to withstand it for a while, but soon began to move the head involuntarily, now left, now right, keeping time, and then suddenly, as if bursting some invisible bonds, they leaped among the dancers, widening the circle."[29] As soon as external imitation begins, aesthetic enjoyment accompanies it, but there is no doubt that to bring this about there must be intense inner imitation before the overt act becomes irresistibly attractive.

As has already been pointed out, the general social importance of inner imitation depends on its enhancing effect on the feeling of fellowship, as is illustrated even in the dancing of savages. As to the part played by self-exhibition in this effect, we may mention that, gymnastics and war dances, which are performed before spectators, afford opportunities for the display of physical advan-

(358) -tages and martial prowess. Among the lowest tribes known to us, however, the accompanying song seems to have hardly any other than a musical significance, consisting as it does in the mere repetition of meaningless sounds, and can not, therefore, be considered as influential in the sense that the dramatic poetry of higher standing peoples is so. But the war dance which pictures forth the enemy's defeat may be said to have something of the effect of our patriotic drama. Some tribes, indeed, give the dramatic representation without rhythmic dance music, more after the manner of civilized acting. Lange describes an Australian play in the last scene of which a fight between white men and natives is introduced. " The third scene opened with the sound of horses tramping through the woods-horses are indispensable to the representation of whites. The men's faces were stained a brownish white, their bodies blue or red to represent the bright-coloured uniforms. In lieu of gaiters their calves were bound with rice straw. These white men galloped straight for the blacks, firing among them and driving them back. The latter quickly rallied, however, and now began a mock battle in which the natives overcame their foes and drove them away. The whites bit off their cartridges, set the trigger, and, in short, correctly went through all the motions of loading and firing. As often as a black man fell the spectators groaned, but when a white man bit the dust they cheered loudly. When, finally, all the whites took to ignominious flight, the delight of the audience was unbounded; they were so wrought up that a feather's weight would have turned the sham fight into a real one."

The drama, of course, at once suggests itself as the civilized man's substitute for such scenes as this, since its social significance is incontestable, yet with limitations such as we found operative in the dance. As among savages the inspiriting war dance and those whose effects are comic or sexual occupy a large place, so in our theatre the effort to transform the drama into an exclusively social and moral agent is impracticable. The complaint that our stage, instead of being the exponent of lofty ethical standards, caters too much to frivolous tastes, and

(359) tickles too much the popular palate for comic effects, is just as applicable to the savage and his dance, if it were intelligible to him. The dual purpose of dramatic artsetting before the eyes a complete ethical and social standard, and at the same time not scorning to supply amusement pure and simple—will be better understood as time goes by, and is not likely to alter, despite all cavils. Yet there is truth in the warning, and the ideal side of the drama does need to be fostered and emphasized at present, since in much of the material now offered it can not be said to assert itself (omnia praeclara tam difcilia, quam rara sunt). But civilized people have besides the drama a number of other displays, whose social effect is by no means to be despised. I need only suggest the universal testimony of historians to the enormous influence exerted by the Greek games on their national sentiment, to the effect on the populace of public processions culminating in the Roman triumphs, and the patriotic significance of our own gymnastic and song festivals and competitive contests.

The study of epic poetry reveals a somewhat different picture. While with us, for adults at least, enjoyment of an epic is conditioned on its perusal, inferior peoples have access to it only through the medium of a recounter, whose words and gestures are followed by the crowd with the greatest interest. Renowned deeds of hunters and warriors, tales and sagas celebrating the strength and skill of ancestors, relating animal adventures, and dwelling on the triumph of strategy over brute force, form for a large percentage of the human race the essence of the recounter's art. And without pedagogic aids a clear ideal of the social excellence proper to his tribe is brought before the hearer's imagination, and exerts an incalculable influence on his thoughts and volitions. This powerful effect of epic poetry grows with culture anal with the consolidation of the treasury of tribal tradition into such forms, as witness the Homeric poems in their influence on the Hellenes. Among moderns, however, the recital of poetry has ceased almost entirely to be a form of social play since the introduction of printing, yet its social effect is decidedly augmented, for under present condi-

(360) -tions a hundred thousand readers at once experience the same feelings and respond to the same ideals. Yet the enjoyment is not simultaneous and en masse, so to speak, and therefore transcends our subject.

Finally, we must touch cursorily on the contribution of the other arts to the social order, so far as they make use of inner imitation. Music was mentioned in connection with dancing, and earlier still with the intoxicating effect of rhythmic succession of tones. It is not a matter of surprise, then, to find that a festive gathering of social groups is almost unthinkable without the inspiration of music in some form, or that even on serious occasions, yes, even on the battlefield itself, the inspiriting exuberant charm of this art is appropriated for every sort of social purpose. Of the other arts, architecture is most applicable to our subject. It is true that from a social point of view the influence of sculpture and painting is well worthy of consideration, but both these arts are most effective when subservient to architecture. The massive arch is so familiar as an impressive symbol of social unity that a mere mention of it is sufficient—the more as in it the playful character of aesthetic observation is to a great degree subordinate.


  1. For the hearing of this on the doctrine of promiscuity, see the works of Starcke, Westermarck, and Grosse; also P. and Fr. Sarasin, Ergebnisse naturwissenschaftlicher Forschungen auf Ceylon, vol. iii, Wiesbaden, 1892-93, pp. 363- 458.
  2. See G. F. Pfisterer, Padagogische Psychologie, second edition, Gutersloh, 1889 p. 146.
  3. A. Kohler (Der Kindergarten in seinem Wesen dargestellt) says, however, that the child's longing to associate with others of its own age is so strong as to require daily satisfaction (Pfisterer, op. cit., p. 145).
  4. Pfisterer, op. cit., p. 147.
  5. Op. cit., p. 65.
  6. Studies in Childhood, p. 268.
  7. Handbuch der praktischen Pädagogik, p. 699.
  8. A. Marty finds, as does Whitney, the impulse for communication an essential for the origin of the so much more varied language of men than of animals. Ueber Sprachreflex, Nativismus and absichtliche Sprachbildung. Vierteljahreschr. f. wissenech. Pbilos., vol. xiv (1890), p. 66.
  9. Op. cit., p. 228.
  10. Chamberlain, op. cit.. pp. 260, 253
  11. Ibid.
  12. See F. S. Krauss, Geheime Sprachweisen. Am. Urquell, vol. ii-vi; P. Sartori, Sondersprachen, ibid., vol. v.
  13. Social and Ethical Interpretations, p. 148.
  14. Esthetic Principles, New York, 1893, p. 63.
  15. Essays, vol. ii, p. 41
  16. The Naturalist in La Plata, p. 227.
  17. Social and Ethical Interpretations. p. 238.
  18. La Logique sociale. Preface, p. vii. Les Lois de L'imitation, second edition, p. 215.
  19. Social and Ethical Interpretations, p. 243.
  20. Gutsmuths, p. 251.
  21. Svoboda, Die Bewohner des Nikobaren Archipels, p. 29.
  22. W. James, The Principles of Psychology, vol. ii, p. 428.
  23. Unter den Naturvölkern, etc., p. 267.
  24. J. von d. Steinen, Unter den Naturvölkern, p. 267.
  25. Op. cit., p. 219.
  26. Das Spiel and die Spiele, p. 328.
  27. Op. cit., p. 268.
  28. In an inquiry as to children's preferences in the matter of playmates, Will S. Monroe found 333 boys who wanted male against 20 who asked for female comrades; 328 girls referred their own sex and only 28 the other. (Development of the Social Consciousness of Children. The Northwestern Monthly, September, 1898.)
  29. O. Stop, Suggestion and Hypnotismus in der Völkerpsycholgie, Leipsic, 1894, p. 24.

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