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ON THE MUSIC AND GENIUS OF THE IRISH.
AMERICA is not more distinguished was at least equal to that of England, from Europe by the grandeur and Scotland, and Wales; and the premagnitude of her geographical fea- served beauties of ancient Irish 'metures, than is Ireland from this coun- lody-a melody stamped with a mellitry by the vivid wildness of her fluousness of character purely its scenery, and the quick, generous, own-bear in every bar proofs of creand inartificial feelings of her inha- ative talent, and a delicacy and force bitants. The personification of the of conception that no less bespeak Emerald Isle might be given by the the tenderness than the animation of face and figure of a beautiful woman, the natives of Ireland. Distinguishwhose attitudes and gesticulations ed by strong originality of style, yet are less remarkable for their expres- not wholly untinged with that of the sion of artificial accomplishments, Scotch, its passages breathe the senthan as indices of that sweetness and timents of nature, and affect us as simplicity which are almost exclu- much by their eloquence as their sively found in the pure and unso- euphony. Though the bagpipe is as phisticated state of nature and the decidedly the national instrument of passions. This sweetness and sim- North Britain as the harp is of Ireplicity are nowhere more promi- land, the latter was employed in both nent than in the character of the countries; but the old Hibernian Irish people. Their minds, like their bards did by no means so invariably soil, are naturally rich and fertile, avoid the fourth and seventh of the and only require the advantage of key note as did the ancient scaldi that cultivation and encouragement of Scotland. This circumstance would enjoyed by the population of this alone be sufficient to indicate that their sister country to beam forth the harp of Ireland was more perfect with all the splendour of mental in its scale than that of the Higheminence. The parliamentary and lands or Lowlands of Scotland. But forensic orators of Ireland, her poets we have surer evidence of this fact. and her dramatic writers, have con- Fortunately a degree of information tributed to the intellectual lustre of has been gleaned on this subject by the British empire. Her Grattans various modern authors, which throws and her Floods, her Currans and her upon the ancient constructions and Phillips's, her Congreves and her powers of the Scotch and Irish harps Sheridans, her Parnels and her considerable light. Moores, have wreathed for her crowns That, from the remotest ages, the of fadeless flowers; and the music, harp has been the favourite instruno less than the verse, of her ancient ment with most of the northern nabards, is qualified to manifest the na- tions, is pretty generally known, betive beauty of her imagination. The cause of that truth innumerable strains of the Harp. of Erin are too proofs have, from time to time, been original, sweet, and impressive not adduced ; and our readers will not to delight the dullest ear; not at once require to be told that this instruto evince the liveliness of Hibernian ment, always of a triangular form, sensibility, and a power of fancy to and in that respect so varied from the lend it the charm of melody's lan- Grecian lyre as very properly to bear guage.
a different appellation, gave birth to Diversified as are the claims of the idea of a harpsichord, which is Irish genius to the acknowledgment little else than a horizontal harp, and admiration of this country, it is furnished with keys, or levers, by on the evidence of its musical ema- the aid of which the fingers are ennations that we here chiefly mean to abled to give vibration to, without dwell. In the bardic ages, when the coming in contact with, the wires. simple unscientific harp, a stranger By various authors the invention of to artful transition and harmonic re- the harp has been attributed to varifinement, flung forth its sounds wild ous nations. Bruce, Denon, and as the wood-note, and spoke to the Brown, have attempted to establish heart with the naiveté of its own se- its affinity with the Theban harp. cret sensations, the music of Ireland Martianus Capella found the harp
in use among the Celts in the fifth tion, that both that Saint and Columb century; and Eucherius, Bishop of made singing one of their monastic Lyons in that age, informs us that exercises, we need no argument to the nablum was like the barbarian show that the Irish have long been cithara, and shaped like the Greek attached to the elegant gratification Delta. Venantius Fortunatus, in the derivable from the concord of sweet sixth century, makes the harp a bar- sounds.' This musical taste, no dubarian instrument, distinguishing it bitable mark of innate genius, ' grew from the British or Scotch crwth; with the growth of the country, and which seems to imply that the crwth became so conspicuous, that the Irish was of Scotch origin ; an idea sanc- or Gaelish bards, in the early periods tioned by the fact that that instru- even of Scotch history, are spoken of ment had but six strings ; the key- as having been universally held in note, its second, third, fifth, sixth, and high estimation, and admitted to exeighth; which intervals not only ac- hibit their talents in the palaces of cord with those exclusively adopted princes: and in 'Strutt's Dresses of in Scotch melody, but impart to it the People of England we all its national peculiarity. But the figure of a king, playing, in the thirharp, in its more perfect state, not teenth century, on a portable, or only sounded all the notes of the chamber, harp, of the form of the octave, but possessed at least thirty present Irish barp; which form, says strings; and, by consequence, pro- Mr. Beauford, in his Essay on the duced exercise, and a greater lati- Capability of the Irish Harp,' the tude for the expatiation of the per- Hibernian bards found to be the true former's skill and fancy. By Vin- musical figure of the harp. centio Galilei the honour of the in- old bards, says he, ' by making the vention of this more perfect instru- plane of their harps an oblique-angled ment is given to Ireland. This writer, triangle, fell into the true proportion though father of the great Galileo, of their strings; that is, as the diaadmits that, most probably, we owe meter of a circle to its circumferthe harp to the Druidical bards; to ence.' whom, as probably, its construction According to Brompton, in the was first suggested by the lyre of the reign of Henry the Second the Irish ancients, notwithstanding its very had two kinds of harps: the one considerable departure from it, both bold and rapid; the other soft and in form and tone, * However correct soothing. The latter of these-the may be this latter conjecture, certain smaller” of the two-was used by is it that the early passion of the ladies and ecclesiastics as an accomIrish for music, and particularly for paniment to their songs and hymns; that of the harp, is satisfactorily re- the former was sounded only in the corded by Cambrensis, and further public assemblies of the people. But manifested by the traditional fame of nothing more than this general deSt. Patrick's Harp as early as the scription of these instruments is now fifth century: and, after the informa- extant; no vestige of the instruments
* This author, in his · Dissertation on Ancient and Modern Music,' has the following observations :— Among the stringed instruments now in use in Italy, the first is the harp; which is only an ancient cithara, so far altered in form, by the artificers of those days, as to adapt it to the additional number and tension of the strings, containing, from the highest to the lowest note, more than three octaves. This most ancient instrument was brought to Italy from Ireland (s) Dante says), where harps are excellently made, and in great numbers, the inhabitants of that island having practised on them for many, many ages : nay, they even place the harp in :he arms of the kingdom, paint it on their public buildings, and stamp it on their coin. The harps which this people use, Galilei proceeds to say, 'are considerably larger than ours, and have generally the strings of brass, and a few of steel for the higher notes, as in the elavichord: and the musicians who perform on them keep the nails of their fingers long, forming them with care in the shape of the quills which strike the strings of the spinnet. This latter remark of Galilei is sanctioned by the present practice of the few remaining harpers of Ireland, who trim their finger-nails exactly in the manner he describes.
Vol. 1.-No. 3.
themselves is to be found.* The Muses, was in rapid progression, most ancient harp, probably, now she gave birth to a Conollan and a remaining, is that which is said to Carolan, to increase her tüelodious have belonged to Brian Boiromhe, store, and refine her style: These King of Ireland, who was slain in have been succeeded by others, to battle with the Danes, at Clontarf, whose strains the Irish still listen near Dublin, A. D. 1014. His son, with rapture; and numerous are the Donogh, having murdered his bro- existing proofs of the genius of their ther, Teige, in the year 1023, and country for musical composition. A being deposed by his nephew, retired meeting of the harpers in Ireland, to Rome, and carried with him the living at the latter part of the last crown, harp, and other regalia, of his century, was fortunately convened at father, which he presented to the Belfast, for the purpose of hearing, Pope, as the price of his solicited ab- taking down by note, and rescuing solution and blessing. These regalia from oblivion, all' the old melodies were deposited in the Vatican till the which they were in the habit of perPope sent the harp to the first Earl forming, or could at all remember. of Clanrickard, in whose family it In repeating the tunes of their youth remained till the beginning of last they often wept; for the tender, the century; when it came, by a lady of lively, recollection the passages prothe De Burgh family, into that of duced
upon their sensibility-the M‘Mahon, of Clenagh, in the county images of past relatives and of of Clare ; after whose death it passed friends which they revived in their into the possession of Commissioner imaginations—touched them deeply; M‘Namara, of Limerick. In 1782 and equally proved the delicacy of it was presented to the Right Hon. their sensations, and the power of William Conyngham, who deposited their art over themselves. it in Trinity College, Dublin, where Among these precious and affectit still remains.
ing relics were, Eilighe Gheall Having said thus much of the na- Chiun’ (The Charming Fair, Gily); tional instrument of Ireland, it is now · Plangstigh Erwin' (Planxty Irwin); time to pay the honours due to the • A Phlur na Maighdion' (Thou genius displayed in her musical com- Flower of Virgins); * Anna na Gepositions. Though, in higher matters, raoibil’ (Nancy of the Brariching she inay claim the respect of all en- Tresses); • A Ghaoithe on Ndeas; lightened nations, as the replenisher (0, Southern Breeze !) and many of the lainp of morality and science others of equal pathos and sweetwhen it scarcely glimmered, ainid the ness. It is worthy of remark, that, profound gloom of Gothic darkness- as the airs transmitted are more anwhen the northern swarms were cient, they are found to be less irreblighting the germs of knowledge, gular in their construction, and more and the Land of Saints' formed one susceptible of legitimate basses ; a of the few foundations of forlorn fact which seems to prove that the hope among the territories of Chris- old Irish bards were sounder musi. tian Europe—though her unshaken cians than the harpers of later times. piety was engaged in fanning the It would seem that their profession, Hame of religion, and her industrious like every other, was incapable of ingenuity was employed in the revival continuing to flourish under inadeof letters, her taste created leisure to quate encouragement; and that as it cultivate the elegant arts; and while failed of patronage it sunk in excelthe improvement of that among lence. It is true that, independently them, which seems dearest to the of the remains of the melody of their
* About thirty-five years ago, a curious harp, perhaps a sample of the lesser of these, was found in the county of Limerick, on the estate of Sir Richard Harte, by whom it was given to Dr. O'Halloran. At the doctor's death it was thrown into a Jumber-room, and thence removed by a cook, whose ignorance consigned it to the flames : its exact figure we have not been able to obtain. Several gentlemen who saw it declare that, in construction, it was totally different from the harp now known in Ireland ; that it was smaller in size, and still retained three metal strings, with pins for several others.
ancient poet-musicians (for, like the the car of Fame; and, by conseGrecian rhapsodists, their itinerant quence, require little of the aid of performers sung and played their our eulogy. In numerous instances own verses and tunes), the Irish may have their intellects and industry anboast of a variety of beautiful and ticipated the wishes of their English impressive melodies, such as “Gra- friends and advocates ; but the dismachree Molly,' and 'Shepherds, I advantages under which the policy of have lost my love ;' but these are the England's government has compelled offspring of modern genius under them to struggle could not but damp the guidance of modern science, and their ardour, and, in a degree at constitute a new series of Hibernian least, lower the tone of that spirit for compositionsma series unconnected which they are so justly admired, and with that of ancient bardism. These which contributes to render their specimens, however, of melodial country worthy of being politically imagination, exercised under what united with the greatest nation in the may be called the new order of world. Here we are speaking of the things in Irish music, are so many Irish as men and fellow-citizens, not additional evidences that talent, in as religionists or politicians; as breits higher sphere, is indigenous to the thren, not as Christians differing sister island; and that, under the from us in the minutiæ of spiritual same generous and cheering beams faith, and deeming themselves hardly that have fostered British ability, it dealt with by the adversaries of their would prove equally prolific, and not creed; or we should have much more less exalted in its quality.
to say ere we closed this article. So well known, indeed, and so can- But it was the genius and musical didly acknowledged, are the mental character of that people, that it was energies of Ireland, by those who our purpose here exclusively to dishave associated with her men of ge- cuss; and, therefore, waving some nius, that even if, instead of argu- other points, we shall at present for. ment, we had employed assertion, or, bear indulging ourselves in any rein lieu of facts, liad resorted to argu- flections not necessarily connected ment, our language would not have with the intellectual pretensions of a been listened to with indifference, nor country, whose orators, poets, and proved devoid of persuasion. As if musicians, have asserted the brilliancy well versed in Æsop, as if profit- of her genius, reflected honour on ing to the utmost of the moral of the empire of which she constitutes his fable of Jupiter and the Wag- a glorious portion, and filled the goner,' Erin's men of mind have put world with her high and lasting retheir own shoulders to the wheel of nown.
GLEAN-DALÁCH ;* OR, THE CULDEES' CAIRN.
Glean-dalach, or the Glen of the Two Lakes, is that romantic spot in the county of Wicklow, better known by the name of the Seven Churches.'
The last booming sound of the deep-ton'd bert
yon ruin'd chapel, where waves the tall fern,
The death-wailing shrieks of the dying Culdees. * There is an old tradition of 2000 students being murdered, at Glen-dalach, by the Danes.
+ The name given by the Irish to the round towers.