« ForrigeFortsæt »
TO THE FIFTH VOLUME.
In spite of the satirist’s assertion, that
“next to singing, the most foolish tning Is gravely to harangue on what we sing,". I shall yet venture to prefix to this Volume a few introductory pages, not relating so much to the Songs which it contains, as to my own thoughts and recollections respecting song-writing in general.
The close alliance known to have existed between poetry and music, during the infancy of both these arts, has sometimes led to the conclusion that they are essentially kindred to each other, and that the true poet ought to be, if not practically, at least in taste and ear, a musician. That such was the case in the early times of ancient Greece, and that her poets then not only set their own verses to music, but sung them at public festivals, there is every reason, from all we know on the subject, to believe. A similar union between the two arts attended the dawn of modern literature, in the twelfth century, and was VOL. V.
in a certain degree, continued down as far as the time of Petrarch, when, as it appears from his own memorandums, that poet used to sing his verses, in composing them ; * and when it was the custom with all writers of sonnets and canzoni to prefix to their poems a sort of key-note, by which the intonation in reciting or chanting them was to be regulated.
As the practice of uniting in one individual, whether Bard, Scald, or Troubadour, - the character and functions both of musician and poet, is known to have been invariably the mark of a rude state of society, so the gradual separation of these two callings, in accordance with that great principle of Political Economy, the division of labour, has been found an equally sure index of improving civilization. So far, in England, indeed, has this partition of workmanship been carried, that, with the signal exception of Milton, there is not to be found, I believe, among all the eminent poets of England, a single musician. It is but fair, at the same time, to acknowledge, that out of the works of these very poets might be produced a select number of songs, surpassing, in fancy, grace, and tenderness, all that the language, perhaps, of any other country could furnish.
* The following is a specimen of these memorandums, as given ly Foscolo:—“I must make these two verses over again, singir:g them, and I must transpose them - 3 o'clock, A. M. 19th October.” Frequently to sonnets of that time such notices as the following were prefixed: - - Intonatum per "Scriptor dedit sonum.'
We witness, in our own times, - as far as the knowledge or practice of music is concerned, -a similar divorce between the two arts; and my
friend and neighbour, Mr. Bowles, is the only distinguished poet of our day whom I can call to mind as being also a musician.* Not to dwell further, however, on living writers, the strong feeling, even to tears, with which I have seen Byron listen to some favourite melody, has been elsewhere described by me; and the musical taste of Sir Walter Scott I ought to be the last person to call in question, after the very
cordial tribute he has left on record to my own untutored minstrelsy. But I must say, that, pleased as my illustrious friend appeared really to be, when I first sung for him at Abbotsford, it was not till an evening or two after, at his own hospitable suppertable, that I saw him in his true sphere of musical enjoyment. No sooner had the quaigh taken its round, after our repast, than his friend, Sir Adam, was called upon, with the general acclaim of the whole table, for the song of “ Hey tuttie tattie,” and gave it out to us with all the true national relish.
* The late Rev. William Crowe, author of the noble poem of “ Lewisden Hill," was likewise a musician, and has left a Treatise on English Versification, to which his knowledge of the sister art lends a peculiar interest.
So little does even the origin of the word “ lyrick," as applied o poetry, seem to be present to the minds of some writers, that ihe poet, Young, has left us an Essay on Lyric Poetry, in which there is not a single allusion to Music, from beginning to end.
† Life by Lockhart, vol. vi. p. 128.
But it was during the chorus that Scott's delight at this festive scene chiefly showed itself. At the end of every verse, the whole company rose from their seats, and stood round the table with arms crossed, so as to grasp the hand of the neighbour on each side. Thus interlinked, we continued to keep measure to the strain, by moving our arms up and down, all chanting forth vociferously, "Hey tuttie tattie, Hey tuttie tattie.” Sir Walter's enjoyment of this old Jacobite chorus, - a little increased, doubtless, by seeing how I entered into the spirit of it, - gave to the whole scene, I confess, a zest and charm in my eyes such as the finest musical performance could not have bestowed on it.
Having been thus led to allude to this visit, I am tempted to mention a few other circumstances connected with it. From Abbotsford I proceeded to Edinburgh, whither Sir Walter, in a few days after, followed; and during my short stay in that city an incident occurred, which, though already mentioned by Scott in his Diary,* and owing its chief interest to the connexion of his name with it, ought not to be omitted
these memoranda. As I had expressed a desire to visit the Edinburgh theatre, which opened but the evening before my departure, it was proposed to Sir Walter and myself, by our friend
"We went to the theatre together, and the house being luck Aly a good one, received T. M. with rapture. I could have hug ged them, for it paia back the debt of the kind reception net with in Ireland."