Imagens das páginas


Mark it, Cesario, it is old and plain ;
The spinsters and the knitters in the sun,
And the free maids that weave their thread with bones
Do use to chaunt it.-Shaks.

I LIKE an old song. It is the freshest piece of antiquity in existence; and is, moreover, liable to no selfish individual appropriation. It was born far back in the traditionary times, so that its parentage is somewhat equivocal; yet its reputation suffers not on that account, and it comes down to us associated with all kinds of fond and endearing reminiscences. It melted or gladdened the hearts of our forefathers, and has since floated around the green earth, finding a welcome in every place humanized by a ray of fancy or feeling, from “ throne to cottage hearth.” It has trembled on the lips of past and forgotten beauty; and has served, in countless wooings, as the appropriate medium for the first

fearful breathings of affection. The youthful maiden has broken the silence with it in many a lovely, lonely dell; and the shepherd has chaunted it on the still hill side. The rude sailor has filled up the pauses of his watch by whistling it to the shrill winds and sullen waters; and it has bowed the head, brought the tear to the eye, and recalled home, and home thoughts to the mind of many a wanderer on a distant shore. It has been heard in the solitudes of nature, and at the crowded, festive board. It has refreshed the worn-out heart of the worldling, and awakened "thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears," in the minds of the moody and contemplative. It has been a source of consolation and joy to those who have passed away ; it comes unexhausted to us; and it will glide gently down the stream of time, cheering and soothing as it goes, from generation unto generation, till utilitarianism becomes universal, and music and poetry fade into a dimly remembered dream. Yet a truebred, moth-eaten antiquary would sacrifice it, if he could, for a copper coin fifty years its senior !

If any musical man expect, from the title to this, a learned article, he will be egregiously disappointed. I have no pretensions to treat this subject scientifically, being, indeed, admirably qualified, in this age of confessions, as far as want of knowledge goes, to write the “confessions of an unmusical man." As regards flats and sharps, I am truly little better than a natural; and as for quavers, semiquavers, demi-semi-quavers, and other subtler divisions, if there be any, I am as ignorant of them as the ass that crops his thistle off the common, and brays in whatsoever note nature prompts him. But what of that! Music is not altogether a mechanical science; and there are profounder sympathies in the heart of man than the orchestra think of. There is no more nauseous animal in existence than your musical coxcomb, who has all the terms and technicalities of the art at his tongue's end, without the glimmering of an idea concerning the human passions, the deep feelings, and the keen and delicate perception of the beautiful, on which that art is founded. Proportionably to be admired is the man who, after spending years in study and research, and successfuly fathoming and mastering all difficulties, never dreams of considering his laboriously-acquired knowledge as more than merely an accessory, not a principal, in the delightful science he has made his study. The former are, as a naturalist would express it, “in theatres and at concerts—common;" the latter is of a species scarce all over the world.

There may be loftier flights--a higher species of

fame, than that attained or aimed at by the song. writer ; but there is no one to whom honor is more gladly rendered by the mass of mortals. His claims come into notice, for the most part, in a genial season—when friends are met, and the glass and sentiment and song go round; when gladness swells the heart, fancy tickles the brain, and mirth and good-humor sparkle from the eye;—when Bacchus has almost closed up criticism's renomous optics, and laid hyper-criticism quietly under the table ;when the fine-strung nerves are exquisitely alive to all pleasurable sensations ;-then it is that divine music, wedded to still diviner poesy, can, in an instant,

"bid the warm tear start, Or the smile light the cheek ;"


and then it is that the memories of the masters of song are pledged with a fervor that the ethical or epic poet may despise, but can never either expect or hope for from the partiality of his cooler adni

Next to Shakspeare there is no one whose memory is more fondly treasured than that of Burns. Independently of being intensely loved and revered wherever a Scottish accent is heard, social societies are formed in every country in which his language is known, to keep that memory fresh and green. And he well deserves it. Perhaps his songs are the best ever written. He has not the polish, the refinement, the exuberance of imagery, or the sparkling fancy of Moore, but he excels him in humor and pathos. They are, however, both glorious fellows; and it must be a narrow heart that cannot find room for admiration of more than one.

If the lyrics of Burns do not, as yet, strictly come under the designation of “old songs," they at least will do so, for they have the germ of immortality within them. It is almost impossible to dream of the time when "Auld Lang Syne" will not be sung. He had his faults (I am no Scotchman), and in turning over his pages, besides occasional coarseness and bad taste, you sometimes meet with a verse, that, "not to speak it profanely," bears a striking resemblance to utter nonsense ; for instance, (though what could be expected from words to such a tune—“Robin Adair !")

“ Down in a shady walk,

Doves cooing were,
I mark'd the cruel hawk

Caught in a snare :
So kind may fortune be,
Such make his destiny !
He who would injure thee,

Phillis the fair !”

But if your admiration of the poet begin to falter

« AnteriorContinuar »