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Come, shall we hear this music?
Claudio. Yea, my good lord: - How still the evening is, As hush'd on purpose to grace harmony!"
The music of the sea does not escape the genius of our great poet. He does not, to be sure, go as far as Walt Whitman, with his stirring lines:
"To-day a rude and brief recitative
Of ships sailing the seas,
Each with its special flag or ship signal,
Of unnamed heroes in the ships,
Of waves spreading and spreading, far as the eye can reach,
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing;
Nevertheless, "The Tempest " has many allusions to marine music, of better character and more refined style than the broad bacchanalian touches which are found in that great work; Oberon, too, in "Midsummer Night's Dream" (Act ii. Sc. 1), speaks of the music of the sea :
My gentle Puck, come hither: Thou remember'st
And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back,
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
And in the "Comedy of Errors" (Act iii. Sc. 2), we find the lines:
"O, train me not, sweet mermaid, with thy note,
Spread o'er the silver waves thy golden hairs."
Naturally, too, the music of the spheres is mentioned more than once by Shakespeare, who lived in an epoch which held to the derivation of the symmetry of music from natural causes. In "Twelfth Night" (Act iii. Sc. 1), Olivia says to the supposed Cesario (Viola) that she would rather hear his suit "than music from the spheres;" in " Antony and Cleopatra," the heroine speaks of the Antony she had dreamed of:
"His voice was propertied
As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends;
In "Pericles" (Act v. Sc. 1), the following allusion to the music of the spheres is found:
Pelicanus. My lord, I hear none.
But what music?
The music of the spheres: list, my Marina.
Lysimachus. It is not good to cross him; give him way. Pericles. Rarest sounds!
Do ye not hear?
Lysimachus. Music? my lord, I hear-
It nips me unto list'ning, and thick slumber
In "As You Like It" (Act ii. Sc. 5), Duke, senior, says of Jaques :
"If he, compact of jars, grows musical,
We shall have shortly discord in the spheres."
The theory of the music made by the motions of the planets had its origin in ancient Egypt, where music was closely connected with astronomy. Pythagoras, pupil of the Egyptian priests, stole their theories and promulgated them in Greece as his own, whence the music of the spheres was generally known as a Pythagorean theory. The earliest notes used in ancient Greece, about six centuries before Christ, were the planetary signs, the sun being the central and controlling note. In the sixteenth century more than one system was built upon this poetic idea. The author possesses an old edition of the works of Zarlino (1562), wherein not only diagrams of the proportions of the spheres are applied to music, but even the tempo is sought for in nature, the Italian writer suggesting that the speed of music be counted by the pulse of a healthy man!
Among the various tributes to the power of music which we have culled, we find one, however, which intimates that this power can be employed either for good or evil. It will be noted that this description of the art occurs in connection with a song. The
scene occurs in "Measure for Measure," at the beginning of the fourth act.
"MARIANA discovered sitting; a boy singing.
'Take, oh take those lips away,
That so sweetly were forsworn;
bring again, Seals of love, but seal'd in vain, seal'd in vain.'
Mariana. Break off thy song, and haste thee quick away; Here comes a man of comfort, whose advice Hath often still'd my brawling discontent.
I cry you mercy, sir; and well could wish,
You had not found me here so musical:
My mirth it much displeased, but pleased my woe.
Duke. 'Tis good: though music oft hath such a charm, To make bad good, and good provoke to harm.”
The apology for being musical, the statement that music can pervert good into evil, is very different from the Shakespeare of the foregoing musical eulogies. Music can become evil only by association with improper words or vicious surroundings. The cancan from Offenbach's "Belle Helene," might
bring up evil associations in the mind of any one familiar with that opera, but it would suggest only innocent hilarity, gradually growing into frenzy, to a person who knew it simply as instrumental music. There is no instrumental music that can be considered harmful per se. That the reader may judge of the song which moved the duke to so peculiar an arraignment of music, we reprint the early setting of the poem by Dr. John Wilson.' There is strong reason to suppose that this music was used upon the stage in "Measure for Measure" during the lifetime of Shakespeare.
sweet-lye were fors worne; And those eyes, the breake of day,
ad Possibly this is the "Jack Wilson" spoken of in "Twelfth Night." (See Variorum Edition, Furness.)