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Daughter of great Cybele.
Pluto. Oh! my love,
Proser. Away, away.
Pluto. By my burning throne !
Proser. Will you be true?
Pluto. I swear it. By myself ! Come then,
Pluto. Come, my bright queen!
Proser. Speak out, Cyane !
Pluto. But, above all, in my heart shall you reign
Proser. Away, away, away,
Pluto. No, by this kiss, and this :
[Forces off Proserpine.
They are gone-Afar, afar,
Cyane is gradually transformed.)
Is the fair Cyane gone?
To sing songs to her memory?
ON SONGS AND SONG WRITERS.
in their measure, but which are not Every one who has dabbled in verse, intended to be sung, and which canmust have found the difficulty of writ- not be sung without manifest injury ing a tolerably satisfactory song, -I to the effect of the composition. This mean, satisfactory even to the author phrase, however, will probably be bethimself. Most people also, whether ter understood, after considering the writers of verses or not, have some re- laws to the observance of which the membrance of being frequently dis- lyrical author is bound. appointed in songs which seemed good, The greatest difficulty, perhaps, in or pleased, against their judgment, with the composition of a song which is insongs
which seemed bad, before they tended to be sung to an expressive air, were sung. These apparent contra- arises from the necessity that every dictions, though a little puzzling at stanza, being sung to the same air, first sight, appear to me to be perfect- shall embody precisely the train of ly susceptible of explanation. Nor is sentiment or passion which the air that explanation difficult, if the as- musically expresses. sumption of certain premises be allow,
This necessity is evident, in as much ed. "Hypothesis, however, has gener- as if it does not do so, a discordance ally more or ļess to do with the illus- between the air and the words necestration of mysterious or contradictory sarily occurs; the conveying one phenomena; and in attempting to description or degree of feeling, and elucidate those I have described, I the words another, which is destrucshall be under the necessity of involv- tive of lyrical effect. For perfect efing some degree of reference to Re- fect, indeed, it is necessary that the marks on the Nature of Musical Ex- greatest strength of poetical exprespression, and on the Progress of Poe- sion in the song should be so introtical Style, which have had the good duced as to correspond with those bars fortune to appear in former numbers of the music in which the musical exof your Miscellany. It will first be pression is strongest. When this is necessary to enumerate the difficulties not done, although no actual discordand requisites of song writing. Hav- ance may be evident, the song loses ing done this, I shall indulge myself considerably in performance. The exin a few observations on well known pression of the air in some parts is nesongs, in their different classes, and cessarily too strong for the words, and on the obstacles to correct judgment in others too weak, and vice versa. on lyrical composition.
As all lyrical music, which is exA good song may be defined to be a pressive at all, expresses some passion short piece of average metrical and or powerful feeling, by supposition inpoetical merit, adapted to an expres, herent in and exciting the singer, lysive air. It ought to possess poetical rical music may properly be said to be merit equal to that which other ap- essentially dramatic. A song, when proved metrical compositions of the performed, is a passionate discourse” same length usually comprehend : it in most eloquent music.” Its lanought also to be truly lyrical, that is guage must be exclusively that of the to say, its fitness for being vocally per- feelings; and being so, must, if it is formed should be evident in the fact true that simplicity is necessary to the of the poetical effect of the song be- pathetic, be also comparatively free ing heightened, rather than other- from every appearance of the artificial. wise, by its being sung:
This is a severe restriction upon the ditions certainly comprehend, in their song writer, who is constantly driven performance, considerable difficulties. by it towards common-place. This is The song writer will be found to be an unfortunate dilemma. It seems to limited by laws much more severe be almost undeniable, that poetical than those which are imposed upon originality is becoming every day more the writer of other poetical effusions and more dependant upon far-sought of equal length, whether apparently and artificial combinations of thought. lyrical or confessedly not so. The ex. Now this directly tends to render more pression, “ apparently lyrical,” I use and more difficult the original exhias descriptive of poetical pieces, lyricalbition of the pure pathetic, in poetical
66 drink to
composition, passion being only to be Shakspeare's songs are very unequal; conveyed by strong and natural ex- his most fanciful are perhaps his best. pression, which poetry has always " Blow, blow, thou winter wind," found it impracticable to render süs- powerful as is its language, is yet a ceptible of adventitious ornament. În little too didactic to be perfectly lyrishort, to the lyric poet is allotted the cal ; “ but that's not much.”_" five almost impossible task of giving, with- fathom deep thy father lies,” is a beauout the aids which novelty of situation tiful disappointment. The conclusion or of preparation affords the dramatic does not answer the commencement. author, a natural and striking, as well The “ ding dong bell,” in particular, as original expression of feeling, whilst I must venture to protest against he is at the same time subjected to even the name of Shakspeare cannot lyrical difficulties and limitations from sanctify the absurd burthens, the which the other is free. Such are the “ heigh-hos !” and “ hey nonny nondifficulties of this species of poeti- nies,” which the fashion of his time cal composition ; and it is from a has probably led him to affix to many noncompliance with some
of his songs. The formal quaintness other of the requisites which have of Harrington is directly at variance been described, that those disappoint- with lyrical effect, nor can I help ments which so often attend the lyri- thinking, that the lyrical parts of cal efforts of the greatest poetical ta- Fletcher's Faithful shepherdess have lents arise. Sometimes the structure been over-praised. The well-known, of the thought embodied in each take, oh take those lips away,” is, afstanza is too artificial sometimes the ter all, to me, the finest song of the time. description of sentiment in one stanza A little later, Ben Jonson's, differs from that in another, to which me only with thine eyes,” is much the same air is consequently inappli- and deservedly celebrated. Those cable sometimes the train of thought witty and elegant verses which are is throughout unsuitable to the air. called the songs of Charles the Second's Hence springs that apparent incon- time, are nearly worthless as Lyrics. sistency which causes us to reject, Let every one, however, read them, but when sung, stanzas of undoubted poe- let them only be read; they are pretty tical merit, and to prefer lines of little songs as they stand, and singing only original desert, of which, however, spoils them. the sentiment is similar to, and con- At what period the description of tinuous with the air to which they are lyrics, called “ Hunting songs,” bejoined.
came general, I cannot certainly say. The songs of the earlier poets, They are less satisfactory to me than Shakspeare, Fletcher, and others, were even drinking songs, of which last we probably written with little reference have, considering all things, marvelto the music which was to be append- lously few good specimens. Yet the ed to them. The crude and half bar- joyous and social spirit which is the barous science, which at once forma- spring of conviviality, would seem to lized and complicated the music of the be well adapted for lyrical and musical age, would afford little encouragement expression. to lyrics.
If we except a few excellent songs, Milton indeed appears to have ad- which are certainly to be found scatmired the rather more modern " Ayres” tered throughout the pages of English of “ Master Henry Lawes,” but if poetry, and the admirable specimens the crabbed passages and awkward which are preserved amongst the early modulation of Queen Elizabeth's les- Scottish ballads, Robert Burns may be sons for the virginals are to be taken styled the first good song writer that as samples of the taste of her times, has appeared. Not that Allan Rammusical inspiration, in any shape, say is to be forgotten, many of whose must, I think, have been of rare oc- songs, as for instance, “ 'Woes my currence. Whether or not any of the heart that we should sunder,” and popular airs of that period have come others in “ the Gentle Shepherd,” are down to us, I do not know. It seems, of considerable poetical, as well as however, sufficiently evident, that En- lyrical merit.—But Burns, besides his gland has never perfected a national genius as a poet, seems to have hit, style of music, and to this may be in almost by a sort of instinct, upon the part attributed the scarcity of good true principles of this department of lyrics in English poetry.
writing. From these he has rarely
zealous partizans appear ready to act, unreflecting part of the nation of although they do not venture openly that nation which will not consent to to profess them? But, if the false become the mere blind tools and simimputation of matters of opinion be ple adherents of even the best admijustly reprehensible, how much more nistration—upon the hollow and danunpardonable is that of interested mo- gerous protection offered them by a tives, and corrupt designs and inten- set of unprincipled adventurers against tions? How, after the experience of both the conflicting parties, making no the last twenty or thirty years, it can scruple to bespatter them equally with still be asserted, by any person having the dirt which each, in its blindness, the smallest pretension to truth or imagined to be safely employed as the common honesty, (what, nevertheless instrument of attack upon the other? we find unblushingly repeated in every A general election is the fittest of page of every government journal, and all seasons to call forth in every breast often broadly insinuated, if not dis- which retains the smallest regard to tinctly promulgated as the true politi- truth and moderation of sentiment, cal creed, from every quarter of the observations of the nature of these Treasury Bench), that the sole object which I have now addressed to you. of the party in opposition, is to dis- On the more zealous and determined possess their rivals, and bring them- adherents of either party, I can have selves into place and power, and how little hope that they are calculated to an assertion, so self-evidently false, and produce any effect; but if they should almost ridiculous, can actually obtain tend to preserve one candid and liberal credit, and pass current, with three- mind from being merged in that vor, fourths of the nation, is, I think, tex of faction, which threatens to swalamong the most inexplicable pheno- low up all that remains of true honesmena of modern politics. Yet the ty and sobriety in the nation, I shall mischief of such a persuasion is as
be satisfied to bear all the rest of my extensive as its absurdity should seem life, the reproach which Mr Hob to be palpable. Great as the prepon- house-(not with much apparent jusderance of the government scale now tice or felicity,) the other day bestowis, and long has been in the opinions ed upon his less popular rival at Coof the country at large, yet the time vent-Garden, and be classed, together is not quite arrived and I hope to with him, among those God it never will arrive) for repos- “ Vile neutrals, who in caution's middle ing a blind and unlimited confidence steering, in any ministry, however popular and Are neither tish, nor flesh, nor good red however virtuous. With all the pre
herring." vailing bias in favour of the present The “ Golden Mean,” which we ministers, the people still require were taught to venerate in our nur(and long may they continue to de- series-the “ Aurea Mediocritas," of mand-) the constitutional check and which we read at school, and which security of a regular opposition. But, was inculcated by Horace as the best if that necessary and honourable part standard to regulate the lives and acof our state establishment, whose legi- tions of more than school-boys, has, timate office it is to watch the conduct since the new light of modern philoof ministers, to weigh and investigate, sophy has visited us, (deservedly, I and (for the purpose of their being the suppose,) been exploded and rejected. more scrupulously weighed and inves. Yet, “ in the golden days of good tigated) even frequently to oppose and Queen Bess,” it was still regarded as impede, their minutest proceedings, – the golden rule of practice; and the if the regular and constitutional oppo- most moral poet of that glorious age sition be vilified and calumniated, has, in his most moral and divine their principles misrepresented, and poem, devoted one entire canto to the their intentions falsified, what is the celebration of it. I am, Sir, yours, self-evident and immediate con &c. METRODORUS. quence? What ?-but to throw the