Page images

wicked spirit which was not one way or other honoured of men as God, till such time as light appeared in the world, and dissolved the works of the devil. Thus much, therefore, may suffice for angels, the next unto whom in degree are men.


The complaint which they make about psalms and hymns, might as well be overpast without any answer, as it is without any cause brought forth. But our desire is to content them, if it may be, and to yield them a just reason even of the least things, wherein undeservedly they have but as much as dreamed or suspected that we do amiss. They seem sometimes so to speak, as if it greatly offended them that such hymns and psalms as are Scripture should in Common Prayer be otherwise used than the rest of the Scripture is wont; sometimes displeased they are at the artificial music which we add uinto psalms of this kind, or of any other nature else; sometimes the plainest and the most intelligible rehearsal of them yet they savour not, because it is done by interlocution, and with a mutual return of sentences from side to side. They are not ignorant what difference there is between other parts of Scripture and psalms. The choice and flower of all things profitable in other books, the psalms do both more briefly contain, and more movingly also express, by reason of that poetical form wherewith they are written. The ancients, when they speak of the Book of Psalms, use to fall into large discourses, showing how this part above the rest doth of purpose set forth and celebrate all the considerations and operations which belong to God; it magnifieth the holy meditations and actions of divine men ; it is of things heavenly an universal declaration, working in them whose hearts God inspireth with the due consideration thereuf, an habit or disposition of mind whereby they are made fit vessels, both for receipt and for delivery of whatsoever spiritual perfection. What is there necessary for man to know, which the psalms are not able to teach ? They are to beginners an easy and familiar introduction; amighty augmentation of all virtue and knowledge in such as are

[ocr errors]

entered before; a strong confirmation to the most perfect amongst others. Heroical magnanimity, exquisite justice, grave moderation, exact wisdom, repentance unfeigned, unwearied patience, the mysteries of God, the sufferings of Christ, the terrors of wrath, the comforts of grace, the works of Providence over this world, and the promised joys of that world which is to come ; all good necessarily to be either known, or done, or had, this one celestial fountain yieldeth. Let there be any grief or disease incident unto the soul of man, any wound or sickness named, for which there is not in this treasurehouse a present comfortable remedy at all times ready to be found. Hereof it is that we covet to make the psalms especially familiar unto all. This is the very cause why we iterate the psalms oftener than any other part of Scripture besides; the cause wherefore we inure the people together with their minister, and not the minister alone, to read them as other parts of Scripture he doth.

Touching musical harmony, whether by instrument or by voice, it being but of high and low in sounds a due proportionable disposition, such notwithstanding is the force thereof, and so pleasing effects it hath in that very part of man which is most divine, that some have been thereby induced to think that the soul itself by nature is, or hath in it harmony; a thing which delighteth all ages, and beseemeth all states; a thing as seasonable in grief as in joy; as decent being added unto actions of greatest weight and solemnity, as being used when men most sequester themselves from action. The reason hereof is, an admirable facility which music hath to express and represent to the mind, more inwardly than any other 3 sensible mean, the very standing, rising, and falling, the very steps and inflections every way, the turns and varieties of all passions, whereunto the mind is subject; yea, so to imitate them, that, whether it resemble unto us the same state wherein our minds already are, or a clean contrary, we are not more contentedly by the one confirmed, than changed and led away by the other. In harmony, the very image and character even of virtue and vice is perceived, the mind delighted with their resemblances, and brought, by having them often iterated, into a love of the things themselves. For which cause


[ocr errors]


there is nothing more contagious and pestilent than some kinds of harmony; than sume, nothing more strong and potent unto good. And that there is such a difference of one kind from another we need no proof but our own experience, inasmuch as we are at the hearing of some more inclined unto sorrow and heaviness, of some more mollified and softened in mind ; one kind apter to stay and settle us, another to move and stir our affections; there is that draweth to a marvellous grave and sober mediocrity; there is also that carrieth, as it were, into ecstasies, filling the mind with an heavenly joy, and for the time in a manner severing it from the body: so that, although we lay altogether aside the consideration of ditty or matter, the very harmony of sounds being framed in due sort, and carried from the ear to the spiritual faculties of our souls, is by a native puissance and efficacy greatly available to bring to a perfect temper whatsoever is there troubled; apt as well to quicken the spirits as tó allay that which is too eager; sovereign against melancholy and despair ; forcible to draw forth tears of devotion, if the mind be such as can yield them; able both to move and to moderate all affections. The prophet David having, therefore, singular knowledge, not in poetry alone, but in music also, judged them both to be things most necessary for the house of God; left behind him to that purpose a number of divinely indited poems; and was further the author of adding unto poetry melody in public prayer, melody both vocal and instrumental, for the raising up of men's hearts, and the sweetening of their affections towards God. In which considerations the Church of Christ doth likewise at this present day retain it, as an ornament to God's service, and an help to our own devotion. They which, under 5 pretence of the law ceremonial abrogated, require the abrogation of instrumental music, approving nevertheless the use of vocal melody to remain, must show some reason wherefore the one should be thought a legal ceremony and not the other. In church music, curiosity and ostentation of art, wanton, or light, or unsuitable ha mony, such as only pleaseth the ear, and doth not naturally serve to the very kind and degree of those impressions which the matter that goeth with it leaveth, or is bapt to leave in men's minds, doth rather

blemish and disgrace that we do, than add either beauty or furtherance unto it. On the other side, the faults prevented, the force and efficacy of the thing itself, when it drowneth not utterly, but fitly suiteth with matter altogether sounding to the praise of God, is in truth most admirable, and doth much edify, if not the understanding, because it teacheth not, yet surely the affection, because therein it worketh much. They must have hearts very dry and tough, from whom the melody of the psalms doth not sometime draw that wherein a mind religiously affected delighteth. Be it as 8 Rabanus Maurus observeth, that at the first the Church in this exercise was more simple and plain than we are; that their singing was little more than only a melodious kind of pronunciation ; that the custom which we now use was not instituted so much for their cause which are spiritual, as to the end that into grosser and heavier minds, whom bare words do not easily move, the sweetness of melody might make some entrance for good things. St. Basil himself, acknowledging as much, did not think that from such inventions the least jot of estimation and credit thereby should be derogated : “For," saith he, “whereas the Holy Spirit saw that mankind is unto virtue hardly drawn, and that righteousness is the least accounted of, by reason of the proneness of our affections to that which delighteth; it pleased the wisdom of the same Spirit to borrow from melody that pleasure which, mingled with heavenly mysteries, causeth the smoothness and softness of that which toucheth the ear, to convey, as it were by stealth, the treasure of good things into man's mind. To this purpose were those harmonious tunes of psalms devised for us, that they which are either in years but young, or touching perfection of virtue as yet not grown to ripeness, might, when they think they sing, learn. O the wise conceit of that heavenly Teacher, which hath by his skill found out a way, that doing those things wherein we delight, we may also learn that whereby we profit!”



SIR PHILIP SIDNEY, born at Penshurst in Kent, A.D. 1554, was the eldest son of Sir Henry Sidney, Lord Deputy of Ireland, and the nephew of Queen Elizabeth's unworthy favourite, the Earl of Leicester. Educated at Shrewsbury School, and at Christ Church, Oxford, Sidney, on leaving the university, according to the fashion of the age, set forth on his travels, and in the course of them visited France, Germany, Hungary, Austria, and Italy. It was his fortune to be in Paris at the time of the St. Bartholomew Massacre, and, along with other English residents, found refuge in the house of Sir Francis Walsingham, whose daughter he subsequently married.

When only twenty-two years of age he was sent as ambassador to the Imperial Court, and acquitted himself with much credit, and greatly to the satisfaction of those interested in the object of his embassy. To the reputation which he thus acquired as a diplomatist he added that of an accomplished courtier and a gifted scholar. He was "the glass of fashion and the mould of form” amongst the young nobles of the time; and probably there was no more gallant, high-souled, and chivalrous spirit to be found in all that bright galaxy of knights and gentlemen who surrounded the stately throne and glorified the romantic age of Elizabeth. He freely mixed in the festivities of the Court, was foremost in the tournay and the dance, but would ever and anon retire to the shades of Penshurst, and there, beneath the old ancestral oaks, would weave his strains of high-souled though somewhat stilted and artificial verse, or would hold converse with the sages and poets of Italy and Greece.

In such an interval of retirement he composed his romance of Arcadia, written for and dedicated to his sister the Countess of Pembroke, so nobly immortalized in Ben Jonson's matchless epitaph.

But, like Tasso, winning renown equally “with sword and pen,” he joined the forces sent over to the Low Countries under the command of his uncle the Earl of Leicester, to aid the Dutch in their heroic efforts to deliver themselves (147)


« PreviousContinue »