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LETTER

TO

THE MARCHIONESS DOWAGER OF DONEGAL.

While the Publisher of these Melodies very properly inscribes them to the Nobility and Gentry of Ireland in general, I have much pleasure in selecting one from that number to whom my share of the Work is particularly dedicated. Though your Ladyship has been so long absent from Ireland, I know that you remember it well and warmly—that you have not allowed the charm of English society, like the taste of the lotus, to produce oblivion of your country, but that even the humble tribute which I offer derives its chief claim upon your interest from the appeal which it makes to your patriotism. Indeed, absence, however fatal to some affections of the heart, rather strengthens our love for the land where we were born ; and

Ireland is the country, of all others, which an exile must remember with enthusiasm. Those few darker and less amiable traits, with which bigotry and misrule have stained her character, and which are too apt to disgust us upon a nearer intercourse, become softened at a distance, or altogether invisible ; and nothing is remembered but her virtues and her misfortunes—the zeal with which she has always loved liberty, and the barbarous policy which has always withheld it from her--the ease with which her generous spirit might be conciliated, and the cruel ingenuity which has been exerted to "wring her into undutifulness."*

It has often been remarked, and oftener felt, that our music is the truest of all comments upon our history. The tone of defiance, succeeded by the languor of despondency--a burst of turbulence dying away into softness--the sorrows of one inoment lost in the levity of the next--and all that romantic mixture of mirth and sadness, which is naturally produced by the efforts of a lively

* A phrase which occurs in a letter from the Earl of Desmond to the Earl of Ormond, in Elizabeth's time.-Scrinia Sacra, as quoted hy Curry.

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temperament, to shake off, or forget, the wrongs which lie upon it:-*such are the features of our history and character, which we find strongly and faithfully reflected in our music; and there are many airs which, I think, it is difficult to listen to, without recalling some period or event to which their expression seems peculiarly applicable. Sometimes, when the strain is open and spirited, yet shaded here and there by a mournful recollection, we can fancy that we behold the brave allies of Montrose,marching to the aid of the royal cause, notwithstanding all the perfidy of Charles and his ministers, and remembering just enough of past sufferings to enhance the generosity of their present sacrifice. The plaintive melodies of Carolan take us back to the times in which he lived, when our poor countrymen were driven to worship their God in caves, or to quit for ever the

* There are some gratifying accounts of the gallantry of these Irish auxiliaries in “ The Complete History of the Wars in Scotland, under Montrose” (1660). See particularly, for the conduct of an Irishman at the battle of Aberdeen, chap. 6, p. 49; and, for a tribute to the bravery of Colonel O’Kyan, chap. 7, p.55. Clarendon owns that the Marquis of Montrose was indebted for much of his miraculous success to this small band of Irish heroes under Macdonnell.

land of their birth (like the bird that abandons

( the nest which human touch has violated); and in many a song do we hear the last farewell of the exile,* mingling regret for the ties he leaves at. home, with sanguine expectations of the honours that await him abroad—such honours as were won on the field of Fontenoy, where the valour of Irish Catholics turned the fortune of the day in favour of the French, and extorted from George the Second that memorable exclamation, “Cursed be the laws which deprive me of such subjects!”

Though much has been said of the antiquity of our music, it is certain that our finest and most popular airs are modern ; and perhaps we may

* The associations of the Hindu Music, though more obvious and defined, were far less touching and characteristic. They divided their songs according to the seasons of the year, by which (says Sir William Jones) “ they were able to recal the memory of autumnal merriment, at the close of the harvest, or of separation and melancholy during the cold months," etc.Asiatic Transactions, vol. 3, on the Musical Modes of the Hindûs. What the Abbé du Bos says of the symphonies of Lully, may be asserted, with much more probability, of our bold and impassioned airs:—“Elles auroient produit de ces effets, qui nous paroissent fabuleux dans le récit des anciens, si on les avoit fait entendre à des hommes d'un naturel aussi vif que les Athéniens."Réflex. sur la Peinture, etc. tom. 1, sect. 45.

look no further than the last disgraceful century for the origin of most of those wild and melancholy strains, which were at once the offspring and solace of grief, and which were applied to the mind, as music was formerly to the body, 66 decantare loca dolentia.” Mr. Pinkerton is of opinion* that none of the Scotch popular airs are as old as the middle of the sixteenth century; and, though musical antiquaries refer us, for some of our melodies, to so early a period as the fifth century, I am persuaded that there are few, of a civilized description (and by this I mean to exclude all the savage Ceanans, cries, t etc.), which can claim quite so ancient a date as Mr. Pinkerton allows to the Scotch. But music is not the only subject upon which our taste for antiquity is rather unreasonably indulged; and, however heretical it may be to dissent from these romantic speculations, I cannot help thinking that it is possible to love

* Dissertation, prefixed to the second volume of his Scottish Ballads.

t Of which some genuine specimens may be found at the end of iMr. Walker's work upon the Irish Bards. Mr. Bunting has disfigured his last splendid volume by too many of these barbarous rhapsodies.

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