Imagens das páginas

for a moment, perhaps the very next page brings you to "Highland Mary," " Ae fond kiss and then we sever," "A man's a man for a that," "Mary Morrison," or, that song without a name commencing

“ Here's a health to ane I lo'e dear,
Here's a health to ane I lo'e dear;
Thou art sweet as the smile when fond lovers meet,
And soft as their parting tear-Jessy !”

Burns has done for Scottish song what Scott has done for Scottish history-made it known and renowned in every portion of the globe; and had " auld Scotland” never produced any other names of note, these two are amply sufficient to honor and glorify her through all time.

What are generally known by the name of * Irish songs,”--the “Paddy Whackmeracks," and

Barny Brallagans” of the pot-house and the playhouse, bear ten times less resemblance to the genuine melodies of the "

green isle,” than even the majority of regular stage Irishmen do to the existing natives. Both are merely broad English caricatures. The soul of Irish music, beyond that of all other national music, is melancholy. It is, perhaps, too fine a distinction to draw, but of the serious melodies of the three nations, perhaps the English airs are most characterized by mournful sadness—those of Scotland by pathos and tender



ness—and those of Ireland by a wild, wailing melancholy, of an almost indescribable character. But words are poor expositors in such cases. Let any one play a few airs from each, and they will probably furnish him at once with the distinction here attempted to be drawn. I would humbly suggest “ Coolin," or "Silent, oh Moyle," as the strongest instances I can think of on the part of Ireland. The English, it is said, have no national melody ; and perhaps this is true of that portion of the country from Dover to the borders; but long prior to the presence of the Normans, who changed the manners and injured the pithiness of the language of the natives, the British had melodies marked by great simplicity and sweetness. Who does not remember the beautiful song, "Ayr hyd y nos," familiarly known as "Poor Mary Ann ?"----then there is that fine air, “Of a noble race was Shenkin," and many others, which may be found in Parry's Welsh Melodies. These are still to be met with in many a quiet. and sequestered glen amid the fastnesses of Wales, where the harp of the Druids took sanctuary, and where the poetry and melody of that mysterious sect are still preserved. It is no wonder that at the inpouring of the heterogeneous and mercenary Norman flood, the pure native melodies became corrupted, and were nearly swept away ;

yet, notwithstanding, the splendid church music of the English excites the deep admiration of Europe; and their glees and madrigals have never been excelled. Purcell, Locke, Jackson, and Arne, have written many charming melodies : but to come nearer to the present day, if I may venture an opinion, I would say that justice has scarcely been done to Shield, a sound, manly composer, who has left a number of things behind him which really and truly deserve to live and flourish amid the mass of musical compositions that, fungus-like, hourly spring into existence, and as rapidly decay. “ The Thorn," " Let Fame sound the Trumpet," “Old Towler," "Heaving the Lead," "Ere round the huge Oak," and a number of others, if they cannot justly lay claim to any great degree of imaginative beauty, have at least an infusion of genuine melody-a body, ay, and a soul, that will long preserve them from oblivion.

Shakspeare's songs, for the most part, have been fortunate in being married to good music; some of them almost better than they deserve. Whether in ridicule or not of the song-writers of his time, he certainly made too liberal a use of the “ heigh hos'' and "ninny nonnys.” Next to Ariel's pretty fancy, " Where the bee sucks, there lurk I," the one with the most freedom and lyrical beauty is, to my taste, 66 Under the Greenwood Tree." But it loses half its effect when transplanted from the forest of Arden, and sung in a modern room, amid long coats, cravats, decanters, and etiquette. Neither does it assimilate better with boisterous mirth and whiskey punch. Yet it is an ill-used song, even on the stage. It is too operatically given. Your Amiens is generally (like the majority of male music-mongers) a stiff-limbed piece of humanity, who understands singing, and little else ; he generally takes his station about four feet from the foot-lamps, and there, with elongated physiognomy, and one arm protruded towards the pit, goes through his work with most clock-like precision. To parody a beau. tiful simile, it is “music breathing from a wooden block;" all which is very unlike the free-hearted lord whom we imagine, throwing himself at the root of some antique oak, and, in a fine, mellow voice, trolling forth, until the old forest rang again, his most joyous invitation. But this may be amended when, amid the other astonishing improvements of the times, leading vocalists shall be endowed with joints and ideas. Next to this, I like the one now invariably put into the mouth of Rosalind, and christened the “ Cuckoo Song”

“When daisies pied, and violets, blue,"

But your stage Rosalind is generally the reverse of Amiensan arch, vivacious lass, who imparts due effect to the mixture of natural images and domestic ideas suggested by the saucy words of the song

The sea, “the battle and the breeze," and the rapid and manifold vicissitudes incident to the life of a sailor, furnish a bold and beautiful variety of subjects capable of being turned to good account in a song or ballad. Yet, somehow or other, Apollo does not much affect the quarter-deck. The ocean brine is too powerful for the waters of Castaly. Poesy in some sort suffers by a “sea-change;" and the quantity to be extracted from a volume of genuine naval ditties is wofully disproportionate to the bulk of rhyme. Some of the best sea songs have been written by landsmen, and one great cause of their being so, is their comparative freedom from perplexing technicalities; for though a characteristic phrase may occasionally impart life and spirit to a production, yet a technicality, whether in marine or agricultural poetry, is a sore stumblingblock to the uninitiated. Now every line (or plank) of three-fourths of your nautical melodies is calked with them, independently of containing a much larger infusion of tar than tenderness-of pitch

« AnteriorContinuar »