Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

early day. The fable of the Syrens, stripped of its allegorical veil, becomes an historical monument, and proves the splendor and abuse of music in Italy, even before the fabled Orpheus sung, when the females of Ausonia were regarded as supernatural beings, in consequence of their adding to the bewitching charms of beauty the power of this enchanting art.

We have not time to trace its history—its banishment from Rome-its introduction into the Church-the improvements made in it by the spiritualized breathings of Ambrose and Gregory-its vicissitudes during the darkness and chaos of the middle ages, after Vandal and Goth had prostrated all that was fair, beautiful and fascinating in the civilized world—or the progress of instrumental music, and the introduction of organs into France. Neither in this hasty sketch can we do justice to the mighty sons of song, such as Vinci, Marcello, Gluck, Handel, Mozart, Viotti, Haydn, Duranti, Rossini and many more, whose union of the doctrine of harmony with the sweet charms of melody, has made “with sweeter notes each rising temple ring,” and the flashes of whose genius have thrown a brilliancy and splendor upon this fascinating and divine art.

What a vast field of observation does this noble art present! It is at the same time a sensual and an intellectual pleasure. It gratifies the ear and delights the mind. Such has been the universal homage paid to it, it needs no eulogium.

The warrior and the philosopher, the tyrant and the patriot, the free and the slave, the sober Christian and the enthusiast, have all felt its magic influence and owned its power. The spirit-stirring music of war increases the impatience of the battle steed, and hurries bim headlong into the red tide of conflict. The enchantment of the harp soothed to rest the blind bard of the North who sung the deeds of the mighty Fingal, and long before had changed the nature of a Saul as well as elevated the piety of a David, the minstrel king and sweet-singer of Israel, to whom the “ sounds of harmony" were so truly inspiring and divine. It has been remarked, that the touching sweetness of song has often won the female heart, and has been the sovereign of the willing soul, when love was crowned, but music won the cause.Certain it is, that this noble art has unlocked the gates of joy, and opened the sources of sympathetic tears; has caused infant eyes to sparkle with the delight of being lulled to sleep, and has recalled to memory the strains of those who are gone; when in solitude the sounds of music have crept into our ears, while there seemed to breathe around us the voices of departed spirits, and the rapt soul has sought communion with the dead:

“ The lost, the loved, the dead were near.” The potent influence of music has therefore been universally ac

knowledged by mankind; and even brute creatures are charmed and
melted by its strains.
The whole creation feels its power.

“ The poet did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and flowers,
Since naught so stockish, hard, or full of rage,
But music for the time doth change his nature.”'

s.

(For the Register.)

THE MUSES.

(BY A LADY OF TROY, N. 1.)
The Muses winged their way to earth,

Wrapped in a silvery cloud,
And, pausing at my household hearth,

Smiled on me as they bowed.
And never beamed there on the sight,

And ne'er did poet's pencil trace,
A visjon half so strangely bright,

Nor half so full of heavenly grace.
For they had fed on angel's food,

On high Parnassus' holy hill;
And they had bathed them in the flood

Of Helicon,-so pure and still.
I gazed with joy, with wondrous joy,

Upon this vision of delight;
Fearful each moment would destroy

The fleeting image from my sight-
When quickly on my listening ear,

There burst a harmony of sound,
Like those blest tones we only hear

While ireading upon holy ground.
I knelt me down ;-in whispered tone,

I prayed that they would deign to shower
One drop from hallow'd Helicon,

To be my blessed earthly dower.
And more I know not ;--for there stole
A dreamy stillness o'er my soul,
And when I oped my eyes to day,
The vision all had passed away;
The boon was still denied to me,
The boon I prayed for,--poesy.
The poet's fate is not my fate;

I do not hear the sounds he hears;
I've entered no Elysian gate;

But earthly thoughts and hopes and fears
Cling like a shroud unto my form;

No rainbow bright to me appears-
I only see the cloud and storm.

H. W. Y.

INHABITANTS OF THE UNITED STATES.

Those three great varieties of the human family which are most widely separated from each other, are all found in the United States; the white race, descendants of Europeans, or Europeans themselves; the black, or negro race, descendants of Africans, or Africans themselves; and the indigenous red men of America. Of these, the whites and blacks are still confined, principally, to the east side of the Mississippi ; while four-fifths of the red, or Indian race, occupy as hunters almost the whole great wilderness west of it. Their respective numbers in 1840 were-whites, 14,189,108; colored, free, 386,245, and slaves, 2,487,213, of whom one-fifth inay be of the mixed race of white and black; and Indians, estimated at 450,000, of whom 129,266 were within the limits of the states and territories.

The whites, though descended from principally the English and Irish, may find ancestors in almost every nation of Europe. In some cases, the descendants of particular nations are diffused throughout the whole population, but in others, they are confined to certain states, or parts of states. Thus, the Germans have settled principally in the western parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina, and more indiscriminately in the western states. The French, or their descendants, are more numerous in Louisiana, Missouri, and the western margin of the Mississippi than elsewhere. Many of the French Hugonots found an asylum in South Carolina, and a few in the other states, early in the last century; and about the end of it, emigrants from France, and the French West Indies, settled in most of the cities and towns. The descendants of the Dutch, the original proprietors of New York, are found principally in that state and New Jersey. There are few of Spanish stock in Louisiana and Florida. Though the descendants of the English, Scotch and Irish constitute the basis of the population everywhere, yet the Irish are probably more numerous than the other two in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and the western parts of Virginia and the Carolinas. The English are more unmixed in New England generally, and in Eastern Virginia, than in any of the other states. But the aggregate population, derived from such different and unequal sources, has, by commingling through several generations, formed one entire mass, though here and there, the peculiar tinge of the several elements, both small and great, may be distinctly traced.

The character of the people of the United States, both physical and moral, is, no doubt, very similar to that of the European nations from which they are descended. We find in them the same activity of body and mind; the same restless longing for something more and better than they have; the same constancy of purpose; the same invention and acuteness in their pursuits, whether of science or gain, of power or pleasure. They exhibit the same sensibility to the beautiful and grand; the same high power of combination and deduction; the same propensity to frame laws and regulations, and the same impatience under their restraints; the same endless diversity of temperament and of character;-all those intellectual and moral qualities which have placed Europe before the other parts of the world in letters, arts and arms. But the similarity, great as it is, has been modified by circumstances. In general, the Americans are tall, partly from the climate and from their pursuits, which, whether of pleasure or business, are mostly carried on in the open air; they are strong, from a plentiful and nourishing diet, and they have sallow complexions, from the heat and dryness of the climate. Indeed, the only striking visible changes which the European race has undergone in America are, a greater elongation of person, with less breadth, and a sallower skin. The teeth have been supposed to be more liable to decay in America than in Europe—though upon no sufficient evidence.

There are also many local modifications of the national character. Thus, the New Englanders are distinguished for hardy enterprisefor mechanical ingenuity—for commercial astuteness. In the slaveholding states, whether middle, southern or western, the natives are often indolent, improvident and proud; but are also hospitable, sanguine, frank and unsuspecting. They are courteous, jealous of their personal dignity, and brave from their self-respect, their easy circumstances, and redundant leisure. They are also votaries of pleasure -are addicted to gaming—to field-sports, and sometimes to drinking, from the same causes. The women are generally modest, religious, attached to their husbands, and good house-wives.

If the habit of being waited on for all purposes, and of meeting with implicit obedience in slaves, often favors irritability or caprice of temper, and sometimes a tyrannical or unfeeling disposition ; the habit of forbearance which domestic slavery may also superinduce, occasionally produces remarkable mildness and moderation in the master. Nor can there anywhere be found more striking examples of the amiable virtues, or of those qualtities which imply self-command, than in the slaveholding states.

The inhabitants of the Western States can hardly be said to have any characteristics to distinguish them from the people of the Atlantic States, from which they were respectively settled, except, perhaps, a greater freedom of speech and manners. Though the first often exhibits itself in an engaging frankness, it occasionally degenerates into effrontery. Their habitual contempt for the modes of society that are merely conventional, sometimes amuses by its novelty and simplicity.

The physical character of the negro race is nearly the same in America as in Africa, except that in America the negroes are generally not of so deep a black, and they are often more corpulent. Though fear is their governing impulse, they often feel the liveliest attachment to their masters, and to the families in which they have been brought up, and are even proud of their dependence. Strongly addicted to sensual pleasures of every sort, and careless of the future, they are cheerful and happy whenever they are relieved from the immediate pressure of labor. They are distinguished both from the white and Indian race, not more by their complexion than by their woolly hair, and the forms of their features, legs, and feet. These obvious physical differences between themselves and their masters in the south, contribute to impress upon them, with few exceptions, a sense of the natural superiority of the whites, and thus to reconcile them to their condition. They are generally thought by the whites to be inferior to themselves in intellect; but the fact can scarcely be considered as proved. We must make large allowance for the absence of every powerful stimulus to the cultivation of their faculties, for who ever attained intellectual eminence unless he was urged by the love of praise, or wealth, or power, none of which motives can operate on this degraded race under the circumstances in which the most fortunate of them are placed? The utmost ambition, even of those who are free, is to obtain a decent mediocrity. In the employinents and occupations which they are permitted to practice, as those of musicians, blacksmiths, carpenters, &c., and in which they can reach the full rewards of excellence, they are often successful competitors with the whites.

The mulattoes, and all others of the mixed breed of blacks and whites, are manifestly superior to the pure African race, both in body and mind; and it affords inatter of inquiry and speculation whether the acknowledged mental superiority of the mixed race may be referred to the stimulus of pride arising from their consciousness of a higher descent, and their supposed physical advantages, or to be regarded as imaginary, or resolved into a mere matter of taste; or whether there is really a natural superiority on the part of the whites, a portion of which is transmitted to the mixed race; or lastly, whether, as some have suggested, the mixture of the two races is not an improvement on both. Whatever may be the solution of this question, yet, in personal beauty, in strength, agility,

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »