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by such attempts to win their affections, which the house-dog in the country, and the policeman in the city would be rather apt to frustrate. But the ladies have in our times at this point turned the tables on the gentlemen; for their music is one of the nets in which masculine hearts are entangled; and many a bachelor has secretly formed the resolution of Shakspeare's Benedick that, if he ever marry, the queen of his home shall be a good musician.
In passing, let me say that on the two functions of music just explained—its power to express feeling and its power to excite feeling-are based respectively the Protestant and the Catholic theories of the use of this art in worship. Protestantism allows music mainly to express feeling. It expects the worshipper to come to the house of God with feeling already moving at the centre; and it lends him music only to help it out, to accelerate and regulate its motion, to give it wings, so to speak, that it may reach its object. The Roman Catholic Church, on the contrary, begins at the outside, with the display of art and the subduing power of music, in the hope of awakening the spirit to go out and unite itself with the fervour and rush of what is going on. The danger in the case of Protestantism is that the soul may be cold, having no impulse in itself and too little to provoke it from without; the danger in the other case is that the display outside should be accepted in lieu of the genuine impulse within, and ästhetic delight be substituted for spiritual emotion.
Thus far I have spoken of the mystery of music, and perhaps I have ventured deeper into the mystery than it
was wise to attempt in a popular lecture. The other branch of the subject is
THE POWER OF MUSIC. Here we are on less difficult ground, for which we have in what has gone before cleared the way.
The power of music is a favourite theme with all the poets, and Shakspeare revels in it. In ancient art the symbol of the influence of music was Orpheus, the great musician of the mythological ages. I have quoted already one description from Shakspeare of the power of Orpheus' music; and here is another, in the form of a song :
Orpheus with his lute, made trees
Bow themselves, when he did sing;
There had made a lasting spring.
Everything that heard him play,
Hung their heads, and then lay by ;
Fall asleep or, hearing, die. In the more prosaic modern world the stocks and stones are not seen to be so susceptible. Whether flowers show any susceptibility to music I am not aware; they are certainly far more sensitive to other external impressions than was believed even a few years ago.
Some of them even catch their own food, as a spider catches a fly. But at
all events the susceptibility to music begins a good way below man in the scale of intelligence. Dogs, elephants and even seals, I believe, will dance to music. Everyone who has lived in the country and happened, as a boy, to accompany a band of music along roads intersecting the fields, in which horses and cattle were feeding, knows the sensation which a stirring strain produces among the dumb but not deaf brutes. Shakspeare has described it with matchless felicity. No doubt he had seen it; and this, like many more of his finest pieces, is a reminiscence of his boyhood in the fields on the pleasant banks of Avon. The passage occurs in The Merchant of Venice, a drama peculiarly rich in references to music :
For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
air of music touch their ears,
Among men, I suppose, this influence embraces all, from the most savage to the most refined: none can withstand it. There are differences, however: it is not the same music which appeals to every class. In A Midsummer
Night's Dream, that daintiest mélange of fun and beauty, when Bottom the Weaver is resting his ass's head in the lap of Titania, the queen of the fairies, whom a perverse spell has caused to fall in love with him, she asks him,
“ Wilt thou hear some music, my sweet love?”
and he answers,
“I have a reasonable good ear in music.
Let us have the tongs and the bones.” The tongs and the bones were the highest of poor Bottom's musical aspirations. And there is a class which prefers the tongs and the bones to all other music still. I remember a worthy magistrate, who had exerted himself to provide some innocent entertainment to keep the loungers of the streets out of the public-house on Saturday nights, complaining to me that he could not get that class to come to hear any music unless the performers were dressed up with woolly wigs and corked faces. The tongs and the bones are the symbol of the crude, laughable and vulgar; and poor Bottom's ideal reigns in the music-hall; it invades the concert-hall and the drawing-room; and sometimes it does not spare even the Church itself. The tongs and the bones --and all they stand for-are the terror of the true musician.
There is, however, an opposite extreme, which is quite as objectionable, or at all events quite as fatal to musical progress. If Bottom loves the tongs and the bones, the professional musician is too apt to affect a music which is a mere display of skill, and a refined society falls into the pretence of delighting in what can never command the
characters, express his musical preferences in the following
O fellow, come, the song we had last night! Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain : The spinsters and the knitters in the sun And dallies with the innocence of love 276 HOW TO READ SHAKSPEARE popular ear or move the common heart. This is the rock on which many an attempt to foster the public taste suffers shipwreck. Hundreds of the pieces played and sung in the drawing-room and the superior concert-hall are simply exhibitions of dexterity, in nine cases out of ten wretchedly rendered, because they are far above the powers of those who attempt them, and barren as the sand to nine out of ten of the hearers. Melody is the soul of music; and nothing in which there is not a sweet, full vein of melody will ever be food for the taste of the mass even of cultivated
In reading a treatise on ästhetics by the philosopher Hegel, I was glad to observe that he adopted this doctrine enthusiastically, again and again avowing his partiality for the music of Italy on account of its possession of this quality. Shakspeare adopted it too. An eminent critic has said that, thoroughly as the great dramatist sinks himself in his characters, you can here and there feel that the man himself is uttering his own sentiments through the mouth of the character speaking.
I have no doubt that he does so when he makes the Duke in Twelfth Night, who, as I have said, is the musical expert among his more heroic
And the free maids that weave their thread with bones
Like the old age.