Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

O how sweet ’tis, in the spring,
To hear the welcome cuckoo sing.*

This noted bird is a foreign musician, and, like many others, remarkable for his cunning, as well as his song. They lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, which are no sooner hatched and fed, than the young cuckoo, with lawless strength, bundles out his brother nestlings, and takes complete possession. Thus obtaining bed and board at others' cost, he stays and sings; and having passed the summer with us, bids John Bull adieu, and goes abroad.

Parrots, like cuckvos, form their notes deep in the throat, and show great aptitude in imitating the human voice. A most reinarkable instance I met with at Mr. Braham's villa in Brompton. A lady, who had great admiration for his talents, presented

• The song of the cuckoo I have invariably found in Leicestershire to be in the key of D. If the cuckoos in other countries should be found to accord with this curious fact, as nature is pretty much the same, we may take these notes as a standard of pitch. White of Selborne observes, I have tried all the owls in this neighborhood with a 'pitch-pipe, and found them to hoot in B flat, and the cuckoos to sing

in the key of D. Although we have a standard of weights and measures, we are yet without a standard of pitch, in consequence of which we seldom find two instruments alike. The pitch has long been known to be rising through the two last centuries, which is alluded to in the Chapter upon Bells. It is obviously higher in England than most other countries. The organs abroad are nearly a note below our Opera pitch, and some of the modern wind instruments half a note above concert pitch. When determined, the standard of the notes C and A might properly be lodged in the Royal Academy of Music, from which all key-forks should only be allowed to proceed.

him with a parrot, on which she had bestowed great pains in teaching it to talk. After dinner, during a pause in the conversation, I was startled by a voice from one corner of the room calling out, in a strong hearty manner, ‘Come, Braham, give us a song !' Nothing could exceed the surprise and admiration of the company. The request being repeated, and not answered, the parrot struck up the first verse of 'God save the King,' in a clear, warbling tone, aiming at the style of the singer, and sang it through. The ease with which this bird was taught, was equally surprising with the performance. The same lady prepared him to accost Catalani, when dining with Mr. Braham, which so alarmed Madame, that she nearly fell from her chair. Upon his commencing Rule Britannia, in a loud and intrepid tone, the chantress fell on her knees before the bird, exclaiming, in terms of delight, her admiration of its talents.

This parrot has only been exceeded by Lord Kelley's, who, upon being asked to sing, replied—'I never sing on a Sunday.' 'Never mind that, Poll, 'come give us a song.' 'No, excuse me, I've got a 'cold-don't you hear how hoarse I am?' This extraordinary creature performed the three verses entire of 'God save the King,' words and music, without hesitation, from the beginning to the end.

The call of the owl is simply the reiteration of one note; Dr. Arne has copied it in Shakspeare's song in the Tempest :

Where the bee sucks, there lurk I:
In a cowslip's bell I lie,
'There I crouch, when owls do cry

ru, ru, ru, ru, ru, ru, ru, ru, ru, ru. The parental regard which birds show for their young is worthy of remark. Their natural timidity, upon the appearance of danger, is converted into a degree of courage and boldness, truly surprising.

A turkey, when she eyes a kite hovering in air, ‘uses the note of alarm, in the exclamation, “Ko-e-ut,

Ko-e-ut,” and the young ones instantly conceal 'themselves in the grass.'*

Who has not roused the plover from her sedgy bank, and heard her mournful note

Pe - wit, pe - wit, pe - wit. Tumbling in air, in awkward flight, she wheedles you from the haunt of her young by her piteous cry; and the sagacious swallow, by a shrill alarm, bids his fellows beware that the hawk is near.

In the summer morn what a chorus of birds ! carolling and straining their throats to hail the coming day! Hid in the tangled hedge-row, the loquacious magpie is chattering to the jay. High

* Darwin.

in the orchestra of the woods, the rooks, in the gaiety of their hearts, attempt to sing, but with no success; and the woodpecker, that critic of the grove, sets up his loud and hearty laugh. As the shades of eve draw on, the cooing doves, in mournful mood, begin their song

a tender tale of despairing lovers. After which, 'the merry fern-owl, with the clattering of his 'castanets, calls his evening party to the dance.' From these natural exclamations, the musician draws the vivifying strokes of his art, and from these fragments of rhythm and melody, he forms the motivos of the most pleasing and diverting compositions; and though the song of birds is coeval with man, yet music is the science which arrives last at perfection.

CHAPTER XIII.
PIANO-FORTE.

The invention of the piano-forte has formed a most important era in the musical art. No instrument

• Haydn has copied them in the Creation, when he describes the Cooing dove that seeks his tender mate.'

nean

has contributed so much to the improvement of science, or so much displayed the beauties of taste and expression.

The period of its introduction may be traced to the works of the harpsichord writers. In the time of Bach it was scarcely known; as, from the features of his compositions, it is evident they were the product of the harpsichord, an instrument of very limited powers, the boldest effects of which were exhibited in trills, and by sprinkling the chords in arpeggio. The early sonatas of Haydn also bear marks of the influence of this instrument, and possess nothing of the expression of his latter works. On the introduction of the piano-forte, this unmeaning style was abandoned, for one more bold and flowing. This instrument has been the means of developing the sublimest ideas of the composer, and the delicacy of its touch has enabled him to give the lightest shades, as well as the boldest strokes, of musical expression. It is the only instrument that will represent the effects of a full orchestra; and, since the mechanism has been improved, Beethoven has displayed its powers in a way not even contemplated by Haydn himself.* For specimens of practical skill we must refer to Cramer, Kalkbrenner, and Moscheles, who rank as the first pianists of the day, and who have written learned works on the study of this instrument. As an instance to what extent these instructions are car

• Vide Three Sonatas dedicated to Haydn.

« AnteriorContinuar »