« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
DIALOGUE BETWEEN JOHN DRYDEN & HENRY PURCELL,
IN THE YEAR 1691,
ON THE SUBJECT OF THEIR FORTHCOMING
'DRAMATICK OPERA OF KING ARTHUR,'
DRYDEN. Well, Harry, so the
fates have decreed that we should be once more associated on the stage. Betterton, our master, has issued his mandate, and we must again obey it.
Purcell. His commands are not always welcome; but when they compel my companionship with you, they cannot fail to be so: an association with Mr. Dryden would be an honour to any musician.
D. And I understand that you have attained a degree of musical eminence which now renders you my fit and worthy associate. I have no knowledge of your art, but the universal report, even of your brethren, places you at their head.
P. My worthy master Blow, and my well-instructed friends Wise, Humphries, and Clark, have restricted themselves to the service of the Church. It has been my fortune, from very early life, to apply my knowledge of music to the theatres as well as the Church. You know that I was only a boy when I wrote my opera Dido and Eneas.
D. Which, no doubt, recommended you to Betterton, and occasioned the alliance between us which is now to be farther cemented by a new partnership.
P. I scarcely imagined you would condescend to ally yourself with an English musician after what you said of Grabu, in his opera, Albion and Albanius.
D. Well, perhaps I said more than I ought, but, after all, I rather echoed King Charles's opinion than gave one of my own. You know, Harry, I am no musician; and therefore my opinion would be estimated only at its real worth by those that
P. True and we Abbey-boys have had many a hearty laugh at it. But pray never again quote the late king as an authority in musical taste -he who silenced the organ at the Chapel Royal, and supplied its place with a band of French fiddlers.
D. No great proof of good taste, certainly; but I had many reasons for wishing to compliment him, and we poets are allowed licences-besides, that we succeed better in fiction than truth. But come, to business. What is the immediate purpose of this visit?
P. To settle, if we can, the terms on which we are to enter upon this joint-labour, and to come to some understanding as to the best way in which it can be accomplished.
D. Why that is clear enough. 'Tis my part to invent, and the musician's to follow the invention.'
P. What, at all hazards? might be sometimes inexpedient, and sometimes impossible. You know that when I set the music in your alteration of Shakspeare's Tempest, you adopted several of my suggestions. Mr. Dryden, you are a great poet, and no man, at times, writes more finely for a musicianbut you are not always right. You are not aware that some lines and thoughts music can express finely, some imperfectly, some not at all.
D. Well, well, I am willing to be counselled, and will always follow a friend's advice when I find it reasonable, but I will never part with the power of the militia.'
P. Suppose, in order that we may clearly understand each other's views, you give me your definition of an opera.
D. Readily. An opera is a poetical tale or fiction, represented by vocal and instrumental music. The supposed persons of this musical drama are generally supernatural, as gods, goddesses, and heroes. The recitative part of the opera requires a masculine character of expression and sound, the other, which (for want of a proper English word) I must call the songish part, must abound in softness and variety of numbers; its principal intention being to please the hearing rather than to gratify the understanding.'
P. It ought to aim at both; but
we will discuss this point afterwards. You have been describing the plan and rules of an Italian opera.
D. No doubt; for whoever undertakes the writing of an opera, is obliged to imitate the design of the Italians, who have not only invented, but brought to perfection this sort of dramatic musical entertainment.'
P. If you mean, that having chosen thelyric drama of Italy as our avowed model, undoubtedly we are bound to follow it. But I deny that we are obliged to do so- -and I also deny that it is brought to perfection. Perfection in music, Mr. Dryden, we shall not hear on this side heaven. · Our art is but in its nonage.' I know enough of it to be assured of that. I see that its powers are capable of infinite extension and combination, and that these will be unfolded and called into existence in a way and to an extent of which we have no idea.
D. But if you reject Italian authority, to what will you refer and appeal?
P. Simply to nature; experience and judgment in the selection of a dramatic subject, and in the employment of music, as connected with it. You say the Italians invented the Italian opera, as no doubt they did, but I need not remind so eminent a dramatic writer as you are, that music has been connected with the stage in this country before the Italian opera, according to your de finition of it, was born. You speak of recitative: why, recitative is a thing of yesterday, first understood by Carissimi and poor Stradella, our cotemporaries-men whom I hold in the highest honour.
D. Well, Harry, you have looked into the history of your art more than I have had either time or inclination to do. You know I have confessed that I had no knowledge 'either of the time when the Italian opera began, or its first author.' My surmise as to its Spanish origin was perhaps erroneous. But what connexion with music and our drama do you refer to?
P. In the first place, to many of our masques, which were dramatic entertainments, into which music largely entered, and which were written before the Italian opera had been moulded into its present form; and
in the second, to the Tempest, which as Shakspeare wrote it, and independent of the large musical additions you made to it, never could have been acted without music. You know (nobody better) that music is a prime and potent agent in this play, and that the business of the scene often could not be carried on without it.
D. Well, then, if I understand you aright, you mean to contend that we are free to construct an opera of our own.
P. To be sure I do-who is to hinder us? In fact, we have already exhibited our own views with regard to the connexion of music with the drama. Why are we to be bound by foreign rules which may justly apply to the language, customs, and habits of other countries, but are wholly unsuited to our own? Pardon me, sir, for saying that you have shown a slavish, and in you, an unbecoming deference to French models in the construction and language of your plays.
D. Why, Harry, you know the court sets the fashion, and as I write to live, I must fall in with its taste. Courtiers account Shakspeare a barbarian, and will not listen to him till he has been Frenchified. But I have given you my definition of an opera; it is time that I hear yours.
P. You shall have it. You know, perhaps, that my first opera was exactly conformed to your definition. The persons were classical heroesthe dialogue throughout in recitative; therefore I may be allowed to say it is not the want of ability, but experience and conviction, that led me to recommend to English hearers a different form of the lyric drama.
D. What, then, would you give up the employment of recitative, which the Italians regard as essential to the very existence of an opera?
P. By no means. There are times when recitative can accomplish what the best delivered speech would fail to effect. I don't like to quote my own humble labours, but in the opening of the Conjurer's Song' in the play which you and Sir Robert Howard wrote, even Betterton him-. self could not impart the force and expression that I have enabled the
singer to give. You remember, perhaps, Leveridge in the part. D. You mean, You twice ten hundred deities.' I wrote that song, and I own that I never felt the true power and force of recitative until then. But how comes it that you who have succeeded so well in it, should wish to discard it?
P. I have no such wish. I only wish to employ it when and where I think, in our language, it ought to be employed. I would use it whenever any strong feeling or passion is to be expressed, but not to carry on the current dialogue of a play. Music is not merely an art and a science, (for it is both) but a language-to be used fitly, judiciously, appropriately. I have endeavoured to express my opinion of the position of the two arts in the dedication to my Dioclesian, and if I remember aright, it runs thus:
Music and poetry have ever been acknowledged sisters, which walking hand in hand, support each other. As poetry is the harmony of words, so music is that of notes-and as poetry is a rise above prose and oratory, so is music the exaltation of poetry. Both of them may excel apart, but sure they are most excellent when they are joined, because nothing is then wanting to either of their perfections.'
D. Prettily expressed, Harry, but I hope that my verses need not your help to give them acceptance and credit with the town.
P. No, sir; they need no help of mine to win for them the position they have secured, and will retain long after you and I are no more seen. My remark, too, must be taken with certain qualifications. It had reference only to that class of poetry which would engender musical ideas. I should find some difficulty, for example, in setting your Hind and Panther' to music.
D. No doubt. But let us come to the point-our new play, for I will not call it an opera.
P. Call it what you please; the label is of little consequence if the quality and flavour of the wine be good.
D. I have given you my definition of an opera; now give me yours.
P. You have given me the definition of an Italian opera. My de
finition of an English opera (to ad the name) would be a play, of whi music formed a frequent, necessary, and integral part, but of which t dialogue was spoken.' If you meta your play to be sung througho you and Betterton must look out iz another composer: and remembe that you will lose all your best actes -you know that neither he, nơ Kynaston, Montford, Mohun, 17 Leigh can sing. But what is you subject?
D. The subject on which I b tended and hoped to have writte an epic poem-King Arthur; be all thought of that is at an end, and I have now determined to bring out the play to which, as you know, my Albion and Albanius was merely intended as a sort of prelude. Bu times and dynasties have changed and not to offend the governmen which has hitherto protected me, I have been obliged so much to alte the first design, that it is now more what it was formerly than the present ship of the Royal Sovereig after so often taking down and alter ing, is the vessel it was at the first building.'
P. Your dramatis persona, then, are Britons and Saxons.
D. They are. King Arthur, Mer lin, the Duke of Cornwall, and his blind daughter, being the principal British characters; to whom I have added Philidel, whose origin you will easily trace to Ariel.
P. Good; and for whom I will write another Come unto these yellow sands.'
D. The Saxons are Oswald and his followers, with Grimbald, an earthy spirit.
P. Well, well; here are materials, if we can but work them up. I will adopt your own words, and give you
a friend's advice,' which you will 'follow only when you find it reasonable.' How does your play open?
D. Conon and other friends of King Arthur, describe the state of England and the impending contest between the Britons and Saxons. Emmeline, and Arthur, her lover, will afterwards appear. The trumpet is heard, and Arthur prepares for the approaching battle, which—
P. Stop, stop, sir; I will be ready for your battle when the time comes; but we must not have recourse to
nusic's most animating strains at first. Rather something of a graver kind, while the attention of the Thearers is fresh. Your Saxons are heathens-what are the names of their reputed gods?
D. Woden and Thor.
P. Then interpose a sacrifice to them, with priests and their attendants, in order to invoke their deities' faid in the approaching conflict. Music will be here appropriately used, for without her aid you could not carry such a scene through. Always remember, Mr. Dryden, - that there can be no combination of ir voices on the stage without you call in music. Destitute of her assistance, you can get no farther than a huzza. Give me words for solo and chorus, r and I will answer for the effect. fenix: terto m
n. the di as kae
I it was
are (m h Gra
peading 18 and
D. I will proceed with my outline. A battle is supposed to take place behind the scenes, and the Britons enter victorious.'
P. To do what-march off again? No, no. Here give me a bold, marsong, that can be chorused by the whole army-something that breathes defiance.
D. As much as to say, 'Come, if you dare.'
P. The very words I should like -I have the music for them in my head already.
D. Then I have had a thought (taken from Tasso) of conducting my hero and his army through an enchanted forest, where he shall be assailed by good and evil spirits, under the command of Philidel and Grimbald.
P. For which you must and shall have the assistance of my art; and without it you may strike out your scene. Troops of spirits, no more than congregations of priests, or battalions of soldiers, can open their throats together on the stage except by the aid of music.
D. Arthur, like Rinaldo, is then to pass through a variety of temptations, and I have provided songs by syrens, nymphs, and sylvans.
P. For all of which I will furnish appropriate music.
D. Then, according to custom, I mean to introduce a masque, in which Pan, Eolus, Venus, Comus, and other heathen deities will sing in praise of England; winding up with a chapter of the order of the
Garter, a song to St. George, the patron of our Isle,' and a compliment to our reigning sovereign.
P. And is it your real design to have this all sung-dialogue and all? If so, I need not again remind you that you must discard all your best actors, since we have no singers equal to the performance of an opera written according to the Italian model. Adopt my idea of an English opera, discard all slavish adherence to rules, customs, and habits, which, if suited to a foreign nation and language, are not necessarily binding upon or suited to ours. Surely, Mr. Dryden, you are the person to give and not to receive the law. Do this, and I am with you heart and soul.
D. But you know that I have committed myself to the opinion I have quoted.
P. True; and so you did to the French rule, that tragedies should be written in rhyme; but had you the sense and courage to confess yourself in the wrong, and pay your allegiance to nature and Shakspeare. I have not forgotten part of your prologue to Aurengzebe, the last of your rhyming plays. The lines run thus:
Our author has now another taste of wit, And to confess a truth, though out of
Grows weary of his long-loved mistress -rhyme.
Passions too fierce to be in fetters bound, And nature flies him, like enchanted ground.
In spite of all his pride, a secret shame Invades his breast at Shakspeare's honoured name.
D. I remember the lines, and the conviction that produced them. But a man always feels some repugnance at avowing a change of opinion. 'Tis a confession either that he had imperfectly studied the subject on which he wrote, or that he was influenced by some selfish or unworthy motive.
P. Pardon me, sir; neither of these reasons apply to you. Rather let me say it was a distrust of your own judgment and your own proper position. Permit me to add, that my admiration of the Italian masters of music is upon record; and if it were not in words, my anthem, 'O God, thou hast cast us out,' and my motet, Jehova, quam multi sunt
hostes mei,' would show that I had studied both Palestrina and Carissimi; but how far Italian rules for the writing an opera are applicable to our language and to our stage is quite another question.
D. Well, Harry, I believe you are right. I respect a man who loves his art cordially and disinter
estedly, as all the world knows yo do. I will take your advice, from time to time we will cou together again on the subject of ec -what shall we call it ?
P. What you please, sir. Gos morning, it is time for me to bes the Abbey.
HISTORY OF THE HUNGARIAN WAR.
WE earnestly hope that before long some authentic history of the political course the Hungarian insurrection will be published by those best acquainted with its tre character. The Times, October 17, 1851.
ALFRED, Prince Windischgrätz, has been the object of much undeserved praise and blame. His siege and conquest of the open town of Vienna have been compared to some of the most brilliant achievements of ancient and modern times. He has been accused of having, by unnecessary delays, permitted the Hungarians to recover from the shock of the battle of Schwechat. It has been said of him, that with too high an opinion of his own station and talents, he entertained a proportionate contempt for the Hungarian leaders. These charges are founded upon the circumstantial evidence of the Prince's character and career. The descendant of an ancient house, bred to the stately courtesies of the Imperial palace, invested with a command in early life, before he had learnt to obey, and grown grey amidst courtly festivals, the chase, and the dissipations of the mess-table, his vision limited, and his ideas ground down to triviality, by the exclusive intercourse with one class of society only and that class, perhaps, the least instructed, and certainly the most ignorant of the necessities and duties of practical every-day life-the Prince Windischgrätz was most incapable of understanding the causes and appreciating the energies of a popular movement. Stern, haughty, and reserved from his earliest days, as he grew in age and power, he sought to ape the most prominent, but least essential qualities of the
Dukes of Wallenstein and Aka Governor of Prague when, in the sun mer of 1848, that city became a pres to the horrors of an ultra-nationa insurrection, the Habsburgs bat to thank his sullen firmness for the preservation of the second capital ✅ their empire, and with it, of the portant kingdom of Bohemia. T successful bombardment of Prag and the conquest of Vienna were not calculated to give him a high opinion of insurrectionary tactics: but experience at least taught him the advantage of quick and energetic proceedings. The pla for an invasion of Hungary had been many weeks before fully drawn up by the late Count Latour. Is leading features corresponded with the inclinations of Prince Windischgrätz, and with his views of the strength and powers of resistance of the Magyar leaders. According to this plan, the object to be kept in view was, not to reconquer Hungary, and expel Mr. Kossuth and his party, but to surround them on all sides, to invade the country from all quarters of the globe, to catch the leaders as in a net, and leave them no choice but death or unconditional surrender. The framers of this scheme anticipated immediate success, and prepared for the most deliberate revenge. the north-east of Hungary, along the frontiers of Austria, Gallicia, Moravia, and Styria, regiment after regiment was posted, until the whole line became a vast camp. An army of 65,000 men assembled at Vienna and on the Marchfeld,