« PreviousContinue »
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 !
Proser. Speak thou again, my friend.
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.
Cyane is gradually transformed.)
on the ground
Is the fair Cyane gone?
To sing songs to her memory?
ON SONGR 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 less to do with the
illus- between the air and the words necestration of mysterious or contradictory sarily occurs ; the air 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 involve 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, ly. sive air. It ought to possess poetical rical music may properly be said to be merit equal to that which other ap- essentially dramatic. À 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 pere 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. These con- 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, lyrical bition of the pure pathetic, in poetical
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 sus powerful as is its language, is yet a ceptible of adventitious ornament. In 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 one or 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-soinetimes the ter all, to me, the finest song of the time. description of sentiment in one stanza A little later, Ben Jonson's, “ drink to 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 appende 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 ads 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 23 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 carrence. 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 deviated. In his songs is displayed nor melodies ; but his Lordship can that continuity of passion or of pa- well afford to suffer for the misnomer. thetic sentiment, or of joyous or of Of the dramatic songs of the present humorous feeling, expressed in sim- day I hardly know how to speak, for ple, yet bold and original language, I have nothing good to say of them, which constitutes the beau ideal of As far as they include scientific diflyrical composition. I would particu- ficulties, they may be interesting to a Jarly instance, “ Here's a health to few, but they are “ caviar to the gen ane I lo'e dear;" " From thee, Eliza, neral.” The words are, for the most I must go ;" " Will ye gae to the In- part, wisely drowned in the accomdies ;" * Ae fond kiss, an' than we paniments, and “ let them there lie sever;" and, “O Tibbie, I hae seen mudded." I shall not attempt to disthe day;" as examples of perfect songs. turb their repose. Of the said accom. The ballad, “When wild war's deadly paniment, I would say, the fuller the blast ;" “ When Januar' winds;" better. The ear which would soon though poetical chef d'ouvres, are sicken upon the thin diet, “ the wa, lyrical failures. A few parts only ac- ter-brose or muslin-kail" of unmeancord with the expression of the airs, ing lines to an unmeaning air, is ex. and the narrative stanzas which com- cited and kept in good humour by the mence and conclude the poems, pro- stimulus of the harmony. When a duce, when sung, a dreary discord. song is sung with a full accompani
The songs of Moore are in a differ- ment, the difficulty of judgment is ent style. They will probably long much increased, the general excitebe the models of future cultivators of ment of the accompanying chords supEnglish lyre poetry, of which general- plying the want of pleasurable expres, ly speaking, they are the most perfect sion in the air. This power of genespecimens. By his felicitous ease of ral harmonic excitement is best proved expression, Moore has freed his ori- by the fact of its being known to proginality from that apparent artifice or duce an effect, even in direct opposilabour which is fatal to the effect of a tion to the excitement of the air and song. His tact, also, in adapting the words which it is intended to assist. train of sentiment to the air is equal to Of this the autobiography of the cele that of Burns. They are the twin brated Alfieri affords a singular and stars, the Castor and Pollux of the striking instance. Having before deBritish lyre. It is almost needless to scribed the tendency to depression of point out individual songs of this poet, spirits to which he was early subject, as especially displaying that exquisite he says, "By this subterfuge I had union of poetical and of musical ex- the pleasure of hearing the Opera Bufpression, with which they all, more fa of Mercato di Malmantile. It was or less, abound. I cannot, however, composed by a celebrated master, and resist mentioning, “Oh! breathe not performed by the first singers of Italy, his name;" “ When he that adores Carratoli Baglioni, and her daughters. thee;" and last and best, “ Go where This varied and enchanting music glory waits thee;" nor do I envy those sunk deep into my soul, and made the who possess stoicism so great, or sym- most astonishing impression on my pathies so small, as to hear these me- imagination; it agitated the inmost lodies sung, without experiencing recesses of my heart to such a degree, some of the strongest emotions that that for several weeks I experienced genius has ever united to language. the most profound melancholy, which in the song, “Let them rail at this was not however wholly unattended life,” Mr Moore has suffered his sati- with pleasure."-Chap. V. 2d Epoch. rical vein to entice him into a breach Again, after he had advanced to manof the continuity of sentiment. The hood, and his constitutional tendency air is one of unmixed, though affec- to melancholy and nervous depression tionate and feeling, cheerfulness, and had more decidedly developed itself, ill bears the sarcastic turn which de- he says, “My greatest pleasure conforms the concluding stanza. Amongst sisted in attending the Opera Buffa, the English lyrists, however, this au- though the gay and lively music left thor is unrivalled. He is worthy of a deep and melancholy impression on the melodies of Ireland, and they of my mind."-Chap. II. 3d Epoch. The him. After these, Byron's Hebrew rationale of this seemingly anomalous Melodies must not be named. To say result I take to be shortly this--that the truth, they are neither Hebrew the melancholic tendency which the