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The influence of American Indian song-literature has touched both the music and the literature of contemporary America. Those writers who use Indian themes are legion. Mary Austin has gone farthest, perhaps, among the writers of the day in relating her poetic work to the native rhythms of America.
These native rhythms pulsed through the songs of our Red Men for centuries before our Christian era. The very beautiful Aztec and the Inca poetry belong to the earlier and more highly developed civilizations. Since it is the purpose of this volume to treat of the more primitive forms of rhythm, it has seemed best to limit the illustrations to songs from tribes north of Mexico.
The late Mrs. Natalie Curtis Burlin's collection of songs in The Indians' Book makes that volume quite the most representative source book for the study of Indian lyrics. The original texts of unusual range in poetic patterns, the musical settings, the interlinear translations, and the accompanying narratives add a rich context to free translations of genuine literary merit.
Among other contributions to Indian song-literature, the studies of Miss Alice Cunningham Fletcher, Mr. Carlos Troyer, and Doctor Washington Matthews hold a particular charm for the investigator.
Mrs. Austin's notable work, The American Rhythm, an analysis of the primitive poetic impulse, with illustrations from her own translations, came from the press after the writer's study of Indian poetic rhythms had been under way for some years. The conclusions for this volume have been limited, therefore, to those about poetic forms.
The writer is greatly indebted to Mrs. Austin for her generous interest in earlier work and especially for her helpful criticism of this study.