« 前へ次へ »
merits, has secured imperishable pre-eminence to a few early and great names, more particular allusion will be made in another place.
Poetry is not only the earliest and rarest, but also the most excellent of the fine arts. It transcends all other literary composition in harmony, beauty, and splendour of style, thought, and imagery, as well as in the vivacity and permanency of its impressions ; on the mind; for its language and sentiments are so intimately connected, that they are remembered together; they are soul and body, which cannot be separated without death, - a death, in which the dissolution of the one causes the disappearance of the other; if the spell of the words be broken, the charm of the idea is lost. Thus nothing can be less adorned than the opening of “ Paradise Lost;' the cadence of the verse alone redeems the whole from being plain prose in the first six lines; but thenceforward it rises through every clause in energy and grandeur, till the reader feels himself carried away by the impetuosity of that
« adventurous song,
and experiences full proof of the poet's power to accomplish his purpose, so magnificently set forth in the crowning lines of the clause :
“ That to the height of this great argument,
I may assert eternal providence,
Now, let any man attempt to tell to another the subject of Milton's exordium. This he might do very correctly, and in very apt words; yet his prose interpretation would be no more to Milton's stately numbers, than the argument at the head of the first book is to the discussion of that argument in the
Poetry and Music.
Poetry transcends music in the passion, pathos, and meaning of its movements; for its harmonies are ever united with distinct feelings and emotions of the rational soul; their associations are always clear and easily comprehensible: whereas music, when it is not allied to language, or does not appeal to memory, is simply a sensual and vague, though an innocent and highly exhilarating delight, conveying no direct improvement to the heart, and leaving little permanent impression upon the mind. When, indeed, music awakens national, military, local, or tender recollections of the distant or the dead, the loved or the lost, it then performs the highest office of poetry, - it is poetry, as Echo in the golden mythology of Greece remained a nymph, even after she had passed away into a sound. But the first music must have been vocal, and the first words sung to notes must have been metrical. “ Blest pair of Syrens, Voice and Verse !” exclaims the greatest of our poets, (himself a musician, and never more a poet than when he chants the praises of the sister art, as he does in a hundred passages,)
“ Blest pair of Syrens, Voice and Verse !
your divine sounds,” &c. So sang Milton. Instrumental accompaniments were afterwards invented to aid the influence of both; and when all three are combined in solemn league and covenant, nothing earthly so effectually presents to our “high-raised phantasy,” “ That undisturbed song
of pure consent,
Touch their celestial harps of golden wires." But there is a limit beyond which poetry and music cannot go together; and it is remarkable, that from the point where they separate, poetry assumes a higher and more commanding, as well as versatile, character; while music becomes more complex, curious, and altogether artificial, incapable (except as an accompaniment to dancing) of being understood or appreciated by any except professors and amateurs. In this department, though very imperfectly intellectual or imaginative, to compose it requires great power of intellect, and great splendour, fertility, and promptitude of imagination. Handel, Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, as inventors of imperishable strains, both vocal and instrumental, may be not unworthily ranked with the first order of poets. To be an accomplished performer, however, though it requires talent and tact of a peculiar kind, no more implies the genius to compose music, than to be a consummate actor implies the ability to write tragedies. The mental exercise in each case is essentially as different as invention and imitation are. A skilful violinist may lead the oratorio of the Messiah as Handel himself could not have led it: Kemble could not have written the part of Hamlet, nor could Shakspeare have performed it as Kemble did.
It may be observed here, that the musical and the poetical ear are entirely distinct. Many musicians have disagreeably bad voices in conversation, and chatter in jig-time, or talk in staccato tones, unendurable to one who has a fine sense of the melody of speech. On the other hand, poets and declaimers have frequently had no ear at all for music. Pope had none; Garrick had none; yet in harmonious rhythmical composition, the poet to this hour is unexcelled: nor was the actor less perfect in managing the cadences and intonations of a voice “as' musical as is Apollo's lute,” in the delivery of the most familiar, impassioned, or heroic speeches which the whole range of the British drama imposed, from King Lear to Abel Drugger.
It is a common complaint with ordinary composers, that poets do not write verses suitable for music. Though there is some truth in the statement, as refers to poets of the same class as such composers themselves are, yet it is the express business of those who set poetry at all, to adapt their notes to the pitch of it, whereby their own melodies will be proportionately exalted; not to require that the poet's lay should be brought down to their standard of adapt
ation, and the nobler art be degraded by condescending to the inferior. That the most exquisite strains of English verse may be fitted to strains of music worthy of them, we have examples abundant in the present day, from the songs of Robert Burns to the melodies of Thomas Moore. Yet something must be conceded occasionally on the part of the poets, though no more than may, at the same time, improve their lines as verse, while it renders them more obedient subjects for music. Dryden, in the preface to one of his operas, gives vent to his impatience at being necessitated to make his noble but reluctant numbers submit to be drilled and disciplined to the tactics of a French composer. After enumerating some of his miserable shifts, he says, — “ It is true, I have not often been put to this drudgery; but where I have, the words will sufficiently show, that I was then a slave to the composition, which I will never be again. It is my part to invent, and the musician's to humour that invention. I may be counselled, and will always follow my friend's advice where I find it reasonable, but I will never part with the power of the militia." - Introduction to Albion and Albanus.
Poetry and Painting. Poetry is superior to painting ; for poetry is progressive, painting stationary, in its capabilities of description. Poetry elevates the soul through every gradation of thought and feeling, producing its greatest effects at the last. Painting begins precisely where poetry breaks off, — with the climax of the