Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

Proser. Speak out, Cyane!

Pluto. But, above all, in my heart shall you reign
Supreme, a Goddess and a Queen indeed,
Without a rival. Oh! and you shall share
My subterranean power, and sport upon
The fields Elysian, where 'midst softest sounds,
And odours springing from immortal flowers,
And mazy rivers, and eternal groves

Of bloom and beauty, the good spirits walk:
And you shall take your station in the skies
Nearest the Queen of Heaven, and with her hold
Celestial talk, and meet Jove's tender smile
So beautiful-

Proser. Away, away, away,

Nothing but force shall ever.-Oh, away.
I'll not believe. Fool that I am to smile.
Come 'round me virgins. Am I then betrayed?
Oh! fraudful king!

Pluto. No, by this kiss, and this:

I am your own, my love; and you are mine
For ever and for ever. Weep, Cyane.

CHORUS.

[Forces off Proserpine.

They are gone-Afar, afar,
Like the shooting of a star,
See their chariot fade away.
Farewell, lost Proserpina.

Cyane is gradually transformed.)
But, oh! what frightful change is here:
Cyane, raise your eyes, and hear-
We call thee.-Vainly-on the ground
She sinks, without a single sound,
And all her garments float around.
Again, again she rises-light,
Her head is like a fountain bright,
And her glossy ringlets fall,
With a murmur musical,
O'er her shoulders like a river,
That rushes and escapes for ever
Is the fair Cyane gone?
And is this fountain left alone,
For a sad remembrance, where
We may in after times repair,

With heavy heart and weeping eye,

To sing songs to her memory?

Oh! then, farewell! and now with hearts that mourn
Deeply, to Dian's temple will we go:

But ever on this day we will return,
Constant, to mark Cyane's fountain flow;
And, haply, for among us who can know
The secrets written on the scrolls of Fate,
A day may come when we may cease our woe,
And she, redeemed at last from Pluto's hate,
Rise, in her beauty old, pure and regenerate.

C.

ON SONGS AND SONG WRITERS.

MR EDITOR, EVERY one who has dabbled in verse, must have found the difficulty of writing a tolerably satisfactory song,-I mean, satisfactory even to the author himself. Most people also, whether writers of verses or not, have some remembrance of being frequently disappointed in songs which seemed good, or pleased, against their judgment, with songs which seemed bad, before they were sung. These apparent contradictions, though a little puzzling at first sight, appear to me to be perfectly susceptible of explanation. Nor is that explanation difficult, if the assumption of certain premises be allowed. Hypothesis, however, has generally more or less to do with the illustration of mysterious or contradictory phenomena; and in attempting to elucidate those I have described, I shall be under the necessity of involving some degree of reference to Remarks on the Nature of Musical Expression, and on the Progress of Poetical Style, which have had the good fortune to appear in former numbers of your Miscellany. It will first be necessary to enumerate the difficulties and requisites of song writing. Having done this, I shall indulge myself in a few observations on well known songs, in their different classes, and on the obstacles to correct judgment on lyrical composition.

A good song may be defined to be a short piece of average metrical and poetical merit, adapted to an expressive air. It ought to possess poetical merit equal to that which other approved metrical compositions of the same length usually comprehend: it ought also to be truly lyrical, that is to say, its fitness for being vocally performed should be evident in the fact of the poetical effect of the song being heightened, rather than otherwise, by its being sung. These conditions certainly comprehend, in their performance, considerable difficulties. The song writer will be found to be limited by laws much more severe than those which are imposed upon the writer of other poetical effusions of equal length, whether apparently lyrical or confessedly not so. The expression, apparently lyrical," I use as descriptive of poetical pieces, lyrical

66

in their measure, but which are not intended to be sung, and which cannot be sung without manifest injury to the effect of the composition. This phrase, however, will probably be better understood, after considering the laws to the observance of which the lyrical author is bound.

The greatest difficulty, perhaps, in the composition of a song which is intended to be sung to an expressive air, arises from the necessity that every stanza, being sung to the same air, shall embody precisely the train of sentiment or passion which the air musically expresses.

This necessity is evident, in as much as if it does not do so, a discordance between the air and the words necessarily occurs; the air conveying one description or degree of feeling, and the words another, which is destructive of lyrical effect. For perfect effect, indeed, it is necessary that the greatest strength of poetical expression in the song should be so introduced as to correspond with those bars of the music in which the musical expression is strongest. When this is not done, although no actual discordance may be evident, the song loses considerably in performance. The expression of the air in some parts is necessarily too strong for the words, and in others too weak, and vice versa.

As all lyrical music, which is expressive at all, expresses some passion or powerful feeling, by supposition inherent in and exciting the singer, lyrical music may properly be said to be essentially dramatic. A song, when performed, is a passionate "discourse" in "most eloquent music." Its language must be exclusively that of the feelings; and being so, must, if it is true that simplicity is necessary to the pathetic, be also comparatively free from every appearance of the artificial. This is a severe restriction upon the song writer, who is constantly driven by it towards common-place. This is an unfortunate dilemma. It seems to be almost undeniable, that poetical originality is becoming every day more and more dependant upon far-sought and artificial combinations of thought. Now this directly tends to render more and more difficult the original exhibition of the pure pathetic, in poetical

composition, passion being only to be conveyed by strong and natural expression, which poetry has always found it impracticable to render susceptible of adventitious ornament. In short, to the lyric poet is allotted the almost impossible task of giving, with out the aids which novelty of situation or of preparation affords the dramatic author, a natural and striking, as well as original expression of feeling, whilst he is at the same time subjected to lyrical difficulties and limitations from which the other is free. Such are the difficulties of this species of poetical composition; and it is from a noncompliance with some one or other of the requisites which have been described, that those disappointments which so often attend the lyrical efforts of the greatest poetical talents arise. Sometimes the structure of the thought embodied in each stanza is too artificial-sometimes the description of sentiment in one stanza differs from that in another, to which the same air is consequently inapplicable-sometimes the train of thought is throughout unsuitable to the air. Hence springs that apparent inconsistency which causes us to reject, when sung, stanzas of undoubted poetical merit, and to prefer lines of little original desert, of which, however, the sentiment is similar to, and continuous with the air to which they are joined.

The songs of the earlier poets, Shakspeare, Fletcher, and others, were probably written with little reference to the music which was to be appended to them. The crude and half barbarous science, which at once formalized and complicated the music of the age, would afford little encouragement to lyrics.

Milton indeed appears to have admired the rather more modern " Ayres" of "Master Henry Lawes," but if the crabbed passages and awkward modulation of Queen Elizabeth's lessons for the virginals are to be taken as samples of the taste of her times, musical inspiration, in any shape, must, I think, have been of rare occurrence. Whether or not any of the popular airs of that period have come down to us, I do not know. It seems, however, sufficiently evident, that England has never perfected a national style of music, and to this may be in part attributed the scarcity of good lyrics in English poetry.

Shakspeare's songs are very unequal; his most fanciful are perhaps his best. "Blow, blow, thou winter wind," powerful as is its language, is yet a little too didactic to be perfectly lyrical; "but that's not much."" Five fathom deep thy father lies," is a beautiful disappointment. The conclusion does not answer the commencement. The "ding dong bell," in particular, I must venture to protest against; even the name of Shakspeare cannot sanctify the absurd burthens, the "heigh-hos!" and "hey nonny nonnies," which the fashion of his time has probably led him to affix to many of his songs. The formal quaintness of Harrington is directly at variance with lyrical effect, nor can I help thinking, that the lyrical parts of Fletcher's Faithful shepherdess have been over-praised. The well-known, "take, oh take those lips away," is, after all, to me, the finest song of the time. A little later, Ben Jonson's, "drink to me only with thine eyes," is much and deservedly celebrated. Those witty and elegant verses which are called the songs of Charles the Second's time, are nearly worthless as Lyrics. Let every one, however, read them, but let them only be read; they are pretty songs as they stand, and singing only spoils them.

At what period the description of lyrics, called "Hunting songs," became general, I cannot certainly say. They are less satisfactory to me than even drinking songs, of which last we have, considering all things, marvellously few good specimens. Yet the joyous and social spirit which is the spring of conviviality, would seem to be well adapted for lyrical and musical expression.

If we except a few excellent songs, which are certainly to be found scattered throughout the pages of English poetry, and the admirable specimens which are preserved amongst the early Scottish ballads, Robert Burns may be styled the first good song writer that has appeared. Not that Allan Ramsay is to be forgotten, many of whose songs, as for instance, "Woes my heart that we should sunder," and others in "the Gentle Shepherd," are of considerable poetical, as well as lyrical merit.-But Burns, besides his genius as a poet, seems to have hit, almost by a sort of instinct, upon the true principles of this department of writing. From these he has rarely

36

Were death to part us, I could rest
My sinking head upon thy breast,
And when the agony was past,
My gaze would fade from thine at last.
But, oh! what other pow'r shall break
My lips' last hold upon thy cheek,
Or loose my stiffen'd arms that strain
Thy waist in grief's convulsive pain-
Or from my shoulder's resting place
Turn that pale tear-besullied face,
Or part our trembling hands that clasp
Their latest and long-ling'ring grasp.
If fate will tear thee from my heart,
Without a warning sign depart,
For I can give no answering sign,
Nor faulter a farewell to thine.
Thou wast like angel here below,
And from me, angel-like, must go,
That, losing, I may know, not how,
But that thou art no longer now.

Elegies.

Nor let it dwell with thee-nor pine
That thou hast no adieu of mine;
Ev'n from thyself thy going hide,
Think thou art here, and I have died.
Count me no longer to be one
Whom earthly airs will breathe upon;
But keep, when thou hast ceas'd to grieve,
The legacy of love I leave.
Yes-so preserve my every sigh,
Stored deeply in thy memory,
So hold my love, since we must part,
As if thou had'st embalm'd my heart.
May he to whom kind Heav'n shall give
Once more to bid thy wishes live,
And wake that eye's soft ray, serene,
Be to thee-what I would have been.
Give thou to him, with thine, the heart
Thou takest from me, now we part;
Give it, and, of that heart possess't,
He shall be true as well as blest.

D. T.

The following touching Verses are taken from a Newcastle Newspaper, the "Tyne

Mercury."

A WINTER MORNING.

It was upon a wint'ry morn,-
When snow flakes on the wind were borne,
The keen black frost had scarcely failed,
And sleet and rain by turns assailed
I marked, as where in warmth I stood,
And the sight did almost freeze my blood,
A little infant, on a stone,
Chilled and shivering, sat alone.
The snow fell thick and fast, yet he
Did never speak, but piteously
Upon each passer, with a sigh,
Bent his little, tearful eye-
Yet of him notice none was taken,
He seemed to be by all forsaken,
As cold and shivering on the stone,
The little sufferer sat alone.

He asked not aid-he looked for one
Who came not-who, alas! was gone
For ever from him-ne'er was he
Again that guilty one to see,
Nor e'er again was that sweet boy
To warm his mother's heart with joy
For she, that morn, upon that stone,
Had left him there to sit alone.

At length his fears his silence broke,
And thus the little lost oné spoke :
Alas! methinks she lingers long-
I cannot see her in the throng,
I strain my eyes to look in vain,
Alas! she will not come again-
And yet she promised, when alone
She left me sitting on this stone.
"Oh, mother! come to me, for I
Am cold-and sick-and verily
Methinks the night begins to fall,
For darkness shuts me out from all
I saw before I feel not now
The damp snow falling on my brow,
And sure the cold has left this stone,
Where I have sat so long alone.

"Come, mother, come! nor tarry longer,
For oh! this weakness grows still stronger;
Come, mother! take me to my home→→→
How faint I am-come-mother-come."
He said no more-his little breast
Heaved but once, then sunk to rest.
Now calm, and colder than the stone
Where first he sat, he lies alone.

But soon that wretched mother came,
With her eyes in tears and her heart in flame;
And-God!-how she stood in mute surprise
When first the vision met her eyes,
When first his little face she knew-
So chang'd from the last and lovely hue
It wore that morn, when she left him alone,
In tempest and storm, on a damp cold stone.
But who shall tell the pangs she felt,
As madly in the snow she knelt
And clasp'd him round, in her deep distress,
In all his chilling iciness?—
The tear at once forsook her eye,
And she rais'd a harsh and horrid cry,
That seem'd on its rushing wing to bear
The last of her knowledge of grief and care.
Oh! ne'er will she taste sweet rest again--
For madness reigns in her troubled brain,
For her boy she calls through day and night;
In coldness-in darkness-in pale moon-
light-

"My boy!-my boy!-have you seen my
boy ?"

Not another thought does her mind employ-
Not a gleam of hope from the past can she
borrow,
As she wanders along in the grasp of her

sorrow!

Newcastle, Dec. 2.

!

THE SNOW STORM.

“ "Tis only from the belief of the goodness and wisdom of a Supreme Being, that our calamities can be borne in that manner which becomes a man."-HENRY MACKENZIE. that modify or constitute the existence of the poor.

IN Summer there is beauty in the wildest moors of Scotland, and the wayfaring man who sits down for an hour's rest beside some little spring that flows unheard through the brightened moss and water-cresses, feels his weary heart revived by the silent, serene, and solitary prospect. On every side sweet sunny spots of verdure smile towards him from among the melancholy heather-unexpectedly in the solitude a stray sheep, it may be with its lambs, starts halfalarmed at his motionless figure-insects large, bright, and beautiful come careering by him through the desert air-nor does the Wild want its own songsters, the grey linnet, fond of the blooming furze, and now and then the lark mounting up to heaven above the summits of the green pastoral hills. During such a sunshiny hour, the lonely cottage on the waste seems to stand in a paradise; and as he rises to pursue his journey, the traveller looks back and blesses it with a mingled emotion of delight and envy. There, thinks he, abide the children of Innocence and Contentment, the two most benign spirits that watch over human life.

But other thoughts arise in the mind of him who may chance to journey through the same scene in the desolation of Winter. The cold bleak sky girdles the moor as with a belt of ice-life is frozen in air and on earth. The silence is not of repose but extinction and should a solitary human dwelling catch his eye half-buried in the snow, he is sad for the sake of them whose destiny it is to abide far from the cheerful haunts of men, shrouded up in melancholy, by poverty held in thrall, or pining away in unvisited and untended disease.

But, in good truth, the heart of human life is but imperfectly discovered from its countenance; and before we can know what the summer, or what the winter yields for enjoyment or trial to our country's peasantry, we must have conversed with them in their fields and by their firesides; and made ourselves acquainted with the powerful ministry of the Seasons, not over those objects alone that feed the eye and the imagination, but over all the incidents, occupations, and events

I have a short and simple story to tell of the winter-life of the moorland cottager-a story but of one evening

with few events and no signal catastrophe-but which may haply please those hearts whose delight it is to think on the humble under-plots that are carrying on in the great Drama of Life.

Two cottagers, husband and wife, were sitting by their cheerful peatfire one winter evening, in a small lonely hut on the edge of a wide moor, at some miles distance from any other habitation. There had been, at one time, several huts of the same kind erected close together, and inhabited by families of the poorest class of daylabourers who found work among the distant farms, and at night returned to dwellings which were rent-free, with their little gardens won from the waste. But one family after another had dwindled away, and the turf-built huts had all fallen into ruins, except one that had always stood in the centre of this little solitary village, with its summer-walls covered with the richest honeysuckles, and in the midst of the brightest of all the gardens. It alone now sent up its smoke into the clear winter sky-and its little endwindow, now lighted up, was the only ground star that shone towards the belated traveller, if any such ventured to cross, on a winter night, a scene so dreary and desolate. The affairs of the small household were all arranged for the night. The little rough poney that had drawn in a sledge, from the heart of the Black-Moss, the fuel by whose blaze the cotters were now sitting cheerily, and the little Highland cow, whose milk enabled them to live, were standing amicably together, under cover of a rude shed, of which one side was formed by the peat-stack, and which was at once byre, and stable, and hen-roost. Within, the clock ticked cheerfully as the fire-light reached its old oak-wood case across the yellow-sanded floor-and a small round table stood between, covered with a snow-white cloth, on which were milk and oat-cakes, the morning, mid-day, and evening incal of these frugal and contented cotters.

The

« ElőzőTovább »