Изображения страниц

exception to his fellows. I doubt if that time produced a good song; except the above, and our homely, familiar friend, by Carey, "Sally in our Alley," which Addison admired. At last, the song, despite the easy melody of Collins, reached its final degradation in Shenstone; whose only decent poem is the least Shenstonian thing he did. Shenstone's "songs" are mere easy rhymes of feeble sentiment and feeble epigram; songs about "Fulvia" and "Daphne." From the Revolution, on through the greater part of the century, our most popular writers were didactic writers; men who stand on the opposite pole to singers. Our music, too, was at a low ebb. Our taste in that matter was overridden by the Italian Opera; of whose great musical authorities it becomes me to speak respectfully; but they did not inspire national song.

When we come to the days of Scott, and Byron, and Shelley, not forgetting en passant, the "Toll for the Brave" of Cowper, too long for quotation here, we find no dearth of good songs. Scott's healthy chants; Byron's passionate or plaintive ones; the exquisite melody of such a song as Shelley's "Lines to an Indian Air;"-these, "with the genuine lark-notes of a Burns" (as Carlyle calls them), remind us, once more, that we are English.

Moore's great fame makes me not omit his charming "Irish Melodies." As musicians set words to music, he sets music to words. James Smith tells a friend, in a letter preserved in his Memoirs, that Moore declared that "his forte was music; that he was no poet apart from that sensation." Doubtless, the chief charm of his songs is their association with the music to which they were written. Separate them from that, they are merely fanciful, clever, pretty. Yet they are English songs, which are their own music, and which, do what you will, you cannot separate

from melody. Pound their body (as old Anaxarchus the philosopher told the tyrant), you cannot pound their soul.

Dibdin, the naval song writer, gave us a body of songs, entirely national. It is true that the clever, witty good Earl of Dorset (Dryden's friend and patron), who served in the Dutch war in Charles's days, as several young gentlemen then did-has left us his

"To all you ladies now on land
We men at sea indite,"

which the courtesy of England admits into all collections of sea-songs. But this playful ditty was intended for the "ladies now on land," and for all sorts of idle brave lounging fellows about Pall Mall. It is not a sea-song: not racy, salt, and hard, reeking of the ocean like a lump of sea-weed, as Dibdin's songs are. Dibdin gives you a song picturing the man-of-war life--a homely, manly strain: which sets all the trusting, sturdy courage, the jolly companionship, and love of grog of the old-school sailors to a rough music; as if you had set their grog cans and their rude lower-deck furniture a-jingling! His are such songs as those rough storm-beaten tars sung in the night-watches; lying huddled up in their jackets in "the waist," on clear moonlight nights, when the ship was jogging quietly along, and there was no sail in sight. They intensify the nautical life; they make all sorts of teaching subservient to it; for, says Dibdin :

"D'ye mind me, a sailor should be every inch
All as one as a piece of the ship,

And with her brave the world, not offering to flinch,
From the moment the anchor's a-trip.

This was the perpetual upshot of all Dibdin had to say. Jack had a complete creed and code of morals set to music. Dibdin's songs afford, as far as I know, the solitary case of a man creating a literature; they were to Jack a whole literature and about as much literature as Jack cared to have. Dibdin gave comedy, song, ethics and tragedy to him all in one. His "Helicon," like the ship's "coppers," held beef, vegetables, and pudding, in itself.

From the fo'castle to the drawing-room is a wide step; but we are compelled to take it. There was a time when sea-songs were the " rage" they were fashionable; but within later years, a kind of drawing-room sentimental school made its appearance, and being well backed by composers, who rather love mediocrity, beat away on "the drum of the world's ear" with great success. We " never mentioned her," for example, for many a long night, till pianos groaned, and the heart of man grew sick. To this class belongs many a song still sung occasionally, alternating between prettiness and drivel. And yet our age has produced as noble songs as ever the world heard. Witness the "Bugle Song" from Tennyson's "Princess :"—

"The splendor falls on castle walls

And snowy summits old in story;
The long light shakes across the lakes,
And the wild cataract leaps in glory.
Blow! bugle, blow! set the wild echoes flying—
Blow, bugle! answer, echoes! dying, dying, dying!

"Oh hark! oh hear! how thin and clear,
And thinner, clearer, farther going!
Oh sweet and far, from cliff and scar,

The horns of Elfland faintly blowing!

Blow! let us hear the purple glens replying—
Blow, bugle! answer, echoes! dying, dying, dying!

[ocr errors]

"Oh love, they die in your rich sky!
They faint on hill, on field, on river:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul,

And grow for ever, and for ever!
Blow, bugle, ow! set the wild echoes flying,
And answer, echoes, answer! dying, dying, dying!"

These echoes will "roll from soul to soul" long after we have ceased to hear them.

We have seen how the characters of songs have varied in different ages with us. Nobody can doubt that we have numbers of beautiful ones. But the complaint at present is, that composers and song-writers have no harmony in their work. The songs circulated among the people are inferior to the tone of the country's thought and the English mind, and attract chiefly by the jingle to which they are set.

The First Time, and the Last Way, of Asking.

THE readers of this publication may not be aware of

association that very

industriously circulates its prospectus. Its existence is a fact. I, the writer of this, don't choose to identify myself with myself; but the existence of the Association which I shall presently mention, is a FACT.

Put a case. My name is Damon. Now I, Damon, want to take you-put a case you are a spinster-to have and to hold. I'm a man of nineteen, lightly built, considering my years. Never mind that, at present. I shall hand you my description presently. If you are in the habit of carrying halfpence about in your pocket, and will pull them out and look among them, I dare say you will find stamped upon one of them the name of the weekly paper I take in. There I saw that all the letters in the alphabet, and all the names of females in the dictionary, were corresponding with the editor, and asking him to get them husbands, so I went in with all the other letters in the, alphabet and names of males, to join in begging of the editor to find us wives. I saw there were correspondences in every stage of love-sickness, and notes of gratitude to the editor from married couples, for having brought them together: those notes being doubt

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »