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That strain again—it had a dying fall:
The last word of the fifth line of the above has set the commentators by the ears, for many prefer to read it as "south" (i. e. the south wind), which is the more poetical metaphor, but seems to find no good warrant in the original edition. We owe the altered reading "the sweet south" - to Pope. Rowe would have us read "the sweet wind;" Steevens gives his adhesion to "south," and thinks that the passage might have been inspired by a similar tribute to the southwest wind in Sydney's "Arcadia;" Knight and White agree in choosing "sound," and it is worth noticing that Shakespeare nowhere gives any laudation of the south wind, but connects it with fog, rain, and bad weather. The subject is not within our province, yet we may cite the above opinions as an instance of one of the many battles that have been fought over Shakespearian
Fortunately, the rest of the citation is easy of definition, for "dying fall" means only a cadence played diminuendo. Bacon, in his "Sylva Sylvarum," speaks of a "fall from a discord to a concord."
To return to our musical tributes; we need not as
yet leave "Twelfth Night." In Act ii. Sc. 4, our ducal music-lover again bursts forth in praise of the art.
Now, good morrow,
"Duke. Give me some music.
Now, good Cesario, but that piece of song,
Curio. He is not here, so please your lordship, that should sing it.
Duke. Who was it?
Curio. Feste, the jester, my lord; a fool, that the lady Olivia's father took much delight in; he is about the house. Duke. Seek him out, and play the tune the while.
[Exit Curio. - Music.
Come hither, boy: If ever thou shalt love,
Viola. It gives a very echo to the seat
Where love is throned."
When Feste, the most important and musical of Shakespeare's clowns, enters, there is further musical comment :
"Re-enter CURIO and Clown.
Duke. 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 the free maids, that weave their thread with bones,
Do use to chant it; it is silly sooth,
And dallies with the innocence of love,
Like the old age.
Clown. Are you ready, sir?
'Come away, come away, death, And in sad cypress let me be laid; Fly away, fly away, breath;
I am slain by a fair, cruel maid.
My shroud of white, stuck all with yew,
My part of death no one so true
Not a flower, not a flower sweet,
On my black coffin let there be strewn :
Not a friend, not a friend greet
My poor corpse, where my bones shall be thrown:
A thousand thousand sighs to save,
Lay me, O, where
Sad true lover ne'er find my grave,
There's for thy pains.
Clown. No pains, sir; I take pleasure in singing, sir.
Truly, sir, and pleasure will be paid, one time or
'The original setting of this important song is unfortunately
Again, however, we find a stumbling-block. "Recollected terms" makes a very dubious meaning. If, as Knight suggests, the word "tunes" be substituted, the passage is easy of comprehension. White believes that the phrase means carefully studied expressions, which is rather far-fetched. It is possible (although we broach the new reading with diffidence) that the word is "re-collected," which would imply second-hand, used over terms.
The cry for "the old age," i. e. "the good old times," is quaint enough, coming so long ago. Yet one can find the same thought expressed much before Shakespeare's time, for Aristophanes, a halfdozen centuries before our era, also cried out for "the good old times;" in fact, Adam and Eve seem to be the only parties who did not compare the past with the present, to the disadvantage of the latter.
Cleopatra (Act ii. Sc. 5) speaks of music as the
Of us that trade in love,"
and, by the way, directly after, invites Charmian to a game of billiards, a little more than a thousand years before anything like billiards was invented! But Cleopatra defies chronology, and desires her stays cut at a time when they did not exist!
It may be regarded as one of the aesthetic points
of Shakespeare, that he describes the musician's melancholy. The passage is found in "As You Like It" (Act iv. Sc. 1), and is spoken by the cynical Jaques :
"I have neither the scholar's melancholy, which is emulation; nor the musician's, which is fantastical; nor the courtier's, which is proud; nor the soldier's, which is ambitious; nor the lawyer's, which is politic; nor the lady's, which is nice; nor the lover's, which is all these."
Naturally so poetic a nature as that of Shakespeare would speak of evening as music's most fitting frame. In "The Merchant of Venice" (Act v. Sc. 1), Portia speaks to Nerissa of this fitness :
Nerissa. It is your music, madam, of the house. Portia. Nothing is good, I see, without respect; Methinks, it sounds much sweeter than by day.
Nerissa. Silence bestows that virtue on it, madam. Portia. The crow doth sing as sweetly as the lark, When neither is attended; and, I think,
The nightingale, if she should sing by day,
When every goose is cackling, would be thought
How many things by season season'd are
To their right praise, and true perfection!
And in "Much Ado About Nothing" (Act ii. Sc. 3), Claudio voices very nearly the same sentiment.