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“ Blest pair of Syrens, Voice and Verse !
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,"
6. That undisturbed song of pure consent,
Aye sung around the sapphire-colour'd throne,
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
subject,--and lets down the mind from the catastrophe through the details of the story, imperceptibly soothing it from sublime astonishment into tranquil approbation. Painting is limited to a movement of time and an eye-glance of space; but it must be confessed that it can make that moment last for ages, and render that eye-glance illustrious as the sun. Poetry is restrained neither to time nor place; resembling the sun himself, it may shine successively all round the globe, and endure till “ the earth and the works therein shall be burnt up."
Painting exhibits its whole purpose at one view, but with a generality of character, which requires previous acquaintance with that purpose before the spectator can judge whether it has been effected; we must know all that was intended to be done, before we can comprehend what has actually been done. Then, indeed, if the aim has been successfully accomplished, the glory of the artist is consummated at once; and while the enthusiasm of admiration settles down into calm delight, or spreads itself in patient and interested examination of particulars, the mind goes back through all the difficulties which have been overcome in the management and conduct of the performance as a work of art, and all the circumstances which must have concurred to bring the story, if the subject be narrative, the scenery if it be landscape, or the person if it be portrait, to that special crisis, light, or aspect, which has enabled the inventor to exhibit the sum of his ideas so felicitously, as to imply the various antecedent, accompanying, and conventional incidents,
which are necessary to be understood before the beholder can perfectly gather from the forms and colours before his eye, the fine fancies, deep feelings, and glorious combinations of external objects, which preexisted in the artist's mind; and out of a thousand of which he has produced one, partaking of all and concentrating their excellencies, like the Venus of Apelles, to which the beauties of Greece lent their loveliness, and were abundantly repaid by having that part in her which she borrowed from them. Perhaps in portrait alone can painting claim the advantage of poetry; because there the pencil perpetuates the very features, air, and personal appearance of the individual represented; and when that indi. vidual is one of eminence, - a hero, a patriot, a poet, an orator,- it is the vehicle of the highest pleasure which the art can communicate ; and in this respect portrait painting (however disparaged) is the highest point of the art itself, — being at once the most real, intellectual, and imaginative.
A poem is a campaign, in which all the marches, sufferings, toils, and conflicts of the hero are successively developed, to final victory. A painting is the triumph after victory, when the conqueror, the captives, the spoils, and the trophies, are displayed in one pageant of magnificence, - implying, undoubtedly, all the means, the labour, and diversities of fortune by which the achievement was attended; but without manifesting them to the uninformed by-standers. Without previous knowledge, therefore, of the subject, the figures in the most perfect historical group are nameless; the business in which