Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

rather associated than intrinsic; the result rather of accessory circumstances than of the thing itself. The happy remarks of Mr. Alison, going to show the nature of the beauty which is ordinarily felt at such times, will be read with interest.

“The bleating of a lamb is beautiful in a fine day in spring: in the depth of winter it is very far from being so. The lowing of a cow at a distance, amid the scenery of a pastoral landscape in summer, is extremely beautifui: in a farmyard it is absolutely disagreeable. The hum of the beetle is beautiful in a fine summer evening, as appearing to suit the stillness and repose of that pleasing season : in the noon of day it is perfectly indifferent. The twitter of the swallow is beautiful in the morning, and seems to be expressive of the cheerfulness of that time: at any other hour it is quite insignificant. Even the song of the nightingale, so wonderfully charming in the twilight or at night, is altogether disregarded during the day; in so much so, that it has given rise to the common mistake that this bird does not sing but at night.”

Ø 33. Illustrations of the original beauty of sounds. (II.) Other sounds, those which are properly termed musical, have a beauty which is original or intrinsic, and not merely accessory. It is true that different nations have different casts or styles of music, modified by the situation and habits of the people; but everything that can properly be called music, whatever occasional or accidental modification it may assume, is in its nature more or less beautiful. Musical sounds, independently of their combinations and expressions, are characterized in a way which distinguishes them from all others; viz., by the circumstance of their possessing certain mathematical proportions in their times of vibration. Such sounds please us originally; in other words, whenever, in all ordinary circumstances, they are heard, they please naturally and necessarily. We are aware that attempts have sometimes been made to explain the pleasure which is received from musical sounds, as well as from those of a different character, on the doctrine of association. But there are various difficulties in this explanation, some of which will now be referred to.

(1.) In the first place, we are led to expect, from the analogy of things which we witness in other cases, that we shall find in the human heart also an original sensibility to the beautiful in the matter under consideration. We refer now to what we frequently notice in the lower animals; and although we do not claim that very much weight should be attached to this view of the subject, it certainly furnishes some matter for reflection. Why should brute animals be originally pleased with musical sounds, and man, whom we may well suppose to have as much need of this pleasure, be naturally destitute of the capability of receiving it? In regard to brute animals (we do not say all, but many of them), there is no possible question as to the fact involved in this inquiry. Through all the numberless varieties which they exhibit, from the mouse,

of which Linnæus says with strict truth, “ DELECTATUR MUSICA,” to the elephant on the banks of the Niger, that responds with his unwieldly dance to the rude instrument of the untutored African, they yield their homage to the magic of sweet sounds. To attempt to explain the pleasure they receive on the ground of association would be difficult, perhaps ridiculous. The simple fact is, that they listen and are delighted. It is the sound, and nothing but the sound, which excites the joy they exhibit

. In this case, as in some others, the fact and the philosophy are one.

And if the doctrine which we oppose be true, then the sluggish hippopotamus, if we may credit the statements of Denham, the late distinguished traveller in the interior of Africa, has a power which man, elevated as he is, has not. “We had a full opportunity," he expressly remarks,“ of convincing ourselves that these uncouth and stupendous animals are very sensibly attracted by musical sounds, even though they should not be of the softest kind. As we passed along the waters of the lake Muggaby at sunrise, they followed the drums of the different chiefs the whole length of the water, sometimes approaching so close to the shore, that the water they spouted from their mouths reached the persons who were passing along the banks.")* So great is the acknowledged power of music over many brute ani

* Denham and Clapperton's Narrative, p. 121, 165.

mals, that the classical traditions which celebrate the achievements of the early poets and musicians scarcely transcend the bounds of truth.

“For Orpheus' lute was strung with poets' sinews,

Whose golden touch could soften steel and stones,
Make tigers tame, and huge leviathans

Forsake unsounded deeps to dance on sands." (2.) In the second place, children at an early period of life, before they have had an opportunity of connecting associations with them to any great extent, are highly pleased with musical sounds. This is a fact which we cannot suppose has escaped the notice of any one. Let a wandering musician suddenly make his appearance in a country village with his fife, bagpipe, or hand-organ (instruments which are not supposed to possess the highest claims to musical power), and it is surprising to see with what an outburst of joy the sound is welcomed to the heart of childhood. Delighted countenances cluster at the windows; and merry groups, that just before made the streets ring with their noise, suddenly leave their sports, and rush with a new and delighted impulse to the presence of the strolling minstrel. This is universally the fact; and when we consider the early age at which it takes place, it seems to be inconsistent with any other view than that which ascribes to sounds of a certain character an original or intrinsic attraction.

(3.) We witness, furthermore, the same result in Savage tribes when they first become acquainted with the instruments of music, however simple or imperfect they may be, which have been fabricated by European skill. It is said of the native inhabitants of this country, that they frequently purchased of the Spaniards, when they first came to America, small bells; and when they hung them on their persons, and heard their clear musical sounds responding to the movement of their dances, they were filled with the highest possible delight. At a later period in the history of the country, it is related by one of the Jesuit missionaries, " that once coming into the company of certain ignorant and fierce Indians, he met with a rude and menacing reception, which foreboded no very favourable termination. As it was not his design, however, to enter into any contention if it possibly could be avoided, he immediately commenced playing on a stringed instrument; their feelings were softened at once; and the evil spirit of jealousy and anger, which they exhibited on his first approach to them, fled from their minds."* -We cannot suppose it necessary to multiply instances to the same effect.

Ø 34. Further instances of the original beauty of sounds. (4.) In the fourth place, deaf persons, who have been suddenly restored to the sense of hearing, and also persons who, in consequence of their peculiar situation, have never heard musical sounds till a certain period of their life, and have therefore been unable, in either case, to form associations with such sounds either pleasant or unpleasant, have been found, on hearing them for the first time, to experience a high degree of pleasure.—So far as we have been able to learn, we believe this to be the fact. At the same time, as instances of this kind seldom occur, and are still less frequently recorded, we do not profess to rely upon the statement as universally true, with an entire degree of confidence. The circumstances which are related of Caspar Hauser, on hearing musical sounds for the first time, are one of the few instances in point. The statement is as follows: “ Not only his mind, but many of his senses, appeared at first to be in a state of stupor, and only gradually to open to the perception of external objects. It was not before the lapse of several days that he began to notice the striking of the steeple clock and the ringing of the bells. This threw him into the greatest astonishment, which at first was expressed only by his listening looks and by certain spasmodic motions of his countenance; but it was soon succeeded by a stare of benumbed meditation. Some weeks afterward, the nuptial procession of a peasant passed by the tower with a band of music close under his window. He suddenly stood listening, motionless as a statue ; his countenance appeared to be transfigured, and his eyes, as it were, to radiate his ecstasy; his ears and eyes seemed continu

* See Irving's Life and Voyages of Columbus, chap. ix., London Quarterly Review, vol. xxvi., p. 287.

ally to follow the movements of the sounds as they receded more and more; and they had long ceased to be audible, while he still continued immoveably fixed in a listening posture, as if unwilling to lose the last vibrations of these, to him, celestial notes, or as if his soul had followed them, and left his body behind it in torpid insensibility.”*. Ø 35. The permanency of musical power dependant on its being intrinsic.

On the subject of the original or intrinsic beauty of certain sounds, one other remark remains to be made here. -It will be recollected that the doctrine which we are opposing is, that all the power which musical sounds have, considered as a source of beauty, is wholly resolvable into association. If this be true, then it seems to be the proper business of professed composers of music to study the nature and tendency of associations rather than of sounds. The common supposition in this matter undoubtedly is, that the musical composer exercises his invention and taste, in addition to the general conception or outline of his work, in forming perfect chords, varied modulation, and accurate rhythm. This is a principal, not the only one, but a principal field of his labours; the theatre on which his genius is especially displayed; and without these results of chord, modulation, and rhythm, it is certain that his efforts will fail to please. But if the doctrine which we are opposing be true, would it not be the fact that he could bring together the most harsh and discordant sounds, and compose, by means of them, the great works of his art, provided he took the means to cover their deformity by throwing over them some fascinating dress of association? But we presume it will not be pretended that mere association possesses this power as a general thing, even in the hands of genius.-Furthermore, we do not hesitate to say that, from the nature of the case, the musical genius which composes its works for immortality must deal chiefly with the elements and essentialities of things, and not with the mere incidents and accessories. Permanency in the works of art of course implies a corresponding permanency in their foundation. Associations are correctly understood to be, from their very nature, un

* Life of Caspar Hauser, chap. iii.

« ElőzőTovább »