« PreviousContinue »
Some grievously suspect thee, Clare!
They bid thee of the devil beware,
With smile sedate and patient eye
Thou see'st a father up on high,
I would not have a mind like thine
And after noisy pleasures pine
And, John! though you may mildly scoff,
While yet you can;
It is not time yet, John! to doff
Drugs? Can the balm of Gilead yield
My recipe is soon revealed;
Sun, sea, and air.
What glue has fasten'd thus thy brains
To kennel odours and brick lanes?
Or is it intellect detains?
For 'faith I'll own
The provinces must take some pains
Does Agnus fling his crotchets wild,
Or hast thou nodded blithe and smiled
Does Nalla, that mild giant, bow
That tells the heart is in a glow,
Or does the Opium-eater quell
Thy wondering sprite with placid spell? Still does
But, Clare! the birds will soon be flown; Our Cambridge wit resumes his gown;
Our English Petrarch trundles down
To Devon's valley;
Why, when the Mag is out of town,
The table-talk of London still
But not if spade thy chamber drill
Come then; thou never sawest an oak
Then come and aim a higher stroke,
The wheel and oar by gurgling steam
And thou shalt conjure up a theme
And Rip Van Winkel shall awake
Nor now his brains for subjects rake;
His touch will hue by hue combine
The sense and shrewdness which are thine,
And thou shalt have a jocund cup
To wind thy spirits gently up,
A stoop of hock, or claret sup,
Once in a way;
And we'll take hints from Mistress Gupp†
That same glad day.
+ The lady's name is Guppy; but the rhyme was inexorable, and said Gupp. She is immortalized by the invention of a machine to keep muffins hot over the lid of the
ELEMENTS OF VOCAL SCIENCE.*
THERE is an increasing predilection for music in this country, but our actual improvement in the science does not seem proportionate. With us, every style has been tried, and after all we have not been able to fix upon one, and adopt it for our own. Each has, in its turn, been abandoned the instant its novelty had worn off, and its characters were be ginning to be understood. We have paid rakish court to an infinite number, and are jilted at last. We are not harmoniously married, but remain musical bachelors, and we de
serve it for our inconstancy. In the music of the present day, there is no one style that can in justice be called English. Most of our composers seem to set about their work with as much apathy as a puppet-maker would evince in the manufacturing of a doll. They make, as it were, musical figures: taking Mozart for the body-Cimarosa and Paisiello for the arms-Guglielmo for the headand clapping on Weber and Boieldieu, awkwardly enough to be sure, for they are not at all in proportion, either in size or muscular strength,
* Elements of Vocal Science; being a Philosophical Inquiry into some of the Prineiples of Singing. By Richard Mackenzie Bacon. London: Baldwin, 1824.
to form the legs; whilst Rossini is the piece of wire underneath, which has only to be pulled by Mr. Bishop or Mr. Any-body-else, and the automaton moves his limbs, shakes his head knowingly, walks up stairs into the drawing rooms of the great, and takes his seat beside the harp or piano-forte. The music of the present day is essentially a mixture of foreign spirits. It is not among the "British Compounds." We have, however, occasionally heard passages from the music of different composers so well fitted into each other, that we have really been puzzled to know where Guglielmo ends and Rossini begins, and vice versa. We should not quarrel with our composers for gathering exotic musical productions, and stringing them together like cherries, if they would only charge gardener's price; but we think that five shillings for a bunch of stolen fruit is rather exorbitant. By the bye, we are glad to find that, in one case at least, we get the upper hand of the law, or else we ourselves might have been indicted as receivers at divers times of sundry pieces of music, knowing them to be stolen. But to come to the point. The science of music has had many assailants, and many able defenders; but we doubt whether any preceding writer has put its "best leg foreward" so ingeniously and, we will say, so justly, as the author of the work before us. He sits down to convince his reader by fair argument and sound reasoning, that his favourite science is deserving of more attention than has generally been conceded to it. He is determined to divest it of its street-playing associations, and to tear the vagabond coat from its back. He has made up his mind to strip it of its "last dying speech" attributes, and he has fully succeeded. We consider, judging by the present production, that Mr. Bacon is eminently qualified to write on the theme which he has chosen. To superior musical and literary knowledge he joins a love of his subject, which tends almost as much as his argument to convince us that he is right. He throws down his gauntlet to the vituperators, and woe be to them who shall take it up. He does not need our assistance, or we would follow him to the field, and attle on his side. Assured
that we, now feeble, should be strong, When mated with this advocate of song.
It has often struck us, that a work like the Elements of Vocal Science was much wanted (we will not press the favourite and long-established desideratum into the service), and right glad are we to find that it has been supplied from so good a source. There are, doubtless, many who, on perusing Mr. Bacon's book, will exclaim: "Is the man dreaming? Would he compare vocal or instrumental science to painting? Would he really make it a relative, however distant, of poetry? We answer fearlessly-"Yes!" He would do more-nay, he has done more. He is not satisfied with distant relationship:-he has no idea of a "countrycousin" in music. thing!" is his motto, and we agree with him. Let every man, who has a heart that feels, and a mind that values music, recall the delight it has afforded him-and we doubt not but that more than half the world will become proselytes to Mr. Bacon's opinion.
"Sister or no
In the first letter "On the Formation of an English School of Singing," (where the Messiah of Handel, and the Creation of Haydn, are prettily considered as the "Paradise Lost," and the "Seasons" of music) he remarks:
For a long period English music, properly so called, has almost disappeared. At this time it would be difficult to describe the compositions of our countrymen. For although the simple grandeur, the pure and nervous cast of sentiment which appear to me to constitute the original characteristics of English writing and of English execution, are not absolutely obliterated, they are lapsing fast into the fascinating langour and delightful facility of Italian art. I cannot help thinking we are arrived at a pitch of acquirement that enables us to compare and class the materials we have been so long amassing. We ought at least to begin the work of arrangement, to support by our natural strength the delicacy of our exotic elegance, and to diversify and adorn with the collected graces of foreign study, the severer virtues of native growth. We have no other defence against the arts of Italy, who is now alluring our musicians into an alliance which can hardly fail to terminate in the extinction of the name of English music, and in our annexation to the musical conquests of that country, which enslaves, as her Capua did the
army of the Carthaginian, by voluptuous insinuation.-(P. 23, 24.)
He then says:
My distinct and definite object is the preservation of the strength and majesty
of our national musical character. As the basis of a school of our own, novelty is not more necessary merely as novelty and as food for the delicate and changeful appetite of the public, than for the introduction of new passages and new modes of expression, which mark the progress of
invention and of taste. It is come to a plain and simple alternative. We must either adopt the style and the manner of Italy and Germany, both in composition and in execution, or we must be governed by laws of our own.-(P. 40, 41.)
These observations may be true enough, but we question whether it is not rather too late in the day to think of being "governed by our own laws" in music. The wanton Muse of Italy dances over the grave of English song, and few appear indignant at the one, or seem to sympathize with the other. For our own parts, we consider that Rossini has given the final blow to our national taste, and many of our composers (and among them, Bishop, who is worthy of better employment) have for some time past been giving us nothing but feeble imitations of a feeble original-Rossini. Their compositions are like the last worn-out impressions from an originally imperfect plate. Rossini is the bleak of music, he skims along the surface, but goes not to the depths of harmony. He has grace-but little energy-a flow of ideas with but confined variety of expression:-occasional feeling but no sublimity.
He is not to be mentioned with Mozart. Rossini seems to flirt with Polyhymnia. Mozart, on the contrary, is overhead and ears in love with her. Rossini kisses her handMozart presses her to his bosom. Rossini is content with her words Mozart drinks in her sighs.
From letter the 2d, "On Style and Manner," we extract with pleasure the following salutary and excellent advice:
Experience shews us that scarce any one singer, of whatever eminence, has risen to the top of his art in more than one style. Indeed there are causes which render the possession of a diversity of talents almost impossible. Like judgment and wit, the powers which constitute the one destroy the other. The mind must be directed and
confined to one pursuit. I would therefore here only recommend the student to fix his first attention on the great style, to study principles, and to form as correct should have denied him those powers which and pure a taste as possible, for if nature he will descend to any subordinate station, are necessary to maintain the highest rank, those with whom he is to contend; while with advantages not commonly enjoyed by on the contrary, if he be too much employed in the practice of the mechanical parts of the art, he will become attached by habit to inferior excellences, and can never elevate his mind to the contemplation of the accomplishments that are the most truly desirable of attainment.-(P. 51, 52.)
We pass over the three letters that follow on the Vocal Music of the Church, the Concert, and the Theatre (which are very ably written) and proceed to give a specimen from letter the 6th, on the Vocal Music of the Chamber. It gives us a fascinating, but assuredly not overdrawn picture of one of the best delights of "Home, sweet Home." After speaking of the public exercise of singing, the author thus proceeds:
It is, however, in the absolute or in the vocal art is capable, if not of the most comparative privacy of the Chamber, that grand, forceful, and sublime effects, yet of the most pleasing, most pervading, and most homefelt gratifications. Its power of penetration is commensurate with the fine temper and delicacy of the instrument employed. It is here, and here only, that music receives its utmost polish, and is heightened by the praise and participation of those whom respect, friendship, esteem, In public we and love incite us to please. ficent combinations of various art, and at the admire and we are astonished at the magnifacility to which a life of labour, devoted to the attainment of execution, at length ascends; but in private, if we contract and concentrate our notions of the powers of the art, we combine them with the affections. There can be no stronger proof of this fact, than that those to whom it would be almost annihilation to witness the performance of a daughter, a sister, or a mistress in public, admitting that they possess limited exhibition of the same faculties in the finest powers, do yet derive from the the chamber, the highest possible intellectual enjoyment. The truth is, that our associations are in this respect boundless in their empire over us, and not the least of them is the conviction which we experience, that the expression of particular passions and sentiments is connected with personal habits and recollections. These we appro priate. But we cannot bear that these should become the objects of indiscrimi