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temperament, to shake off, or forget, the wrongs which lie upon it:äsuch 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 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 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 Hindû 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, civilized description (and by this I mean to exclude all the savage Ceanans, cries,f 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.
+ Of which some genuine specimens may be found at the end of Mr. Walker's work upon the Irish Bards. Mr. Bunting has disfigured his last splendid volume by too many of these barbarous rhapsodics,
our country very zealously, and to feel deeply interested in her honour and happiness, without believing that Irish was the language spoken in Paradise ;* that our ancestors were kind enough to take the trouble of polishing the Greeks ; t or that Abaris, the Hyperborean, was a native of the North of Ireland. S
By some of these archæologists, it has been imagined that the Irish were early acquainted with counter-point;** and they endeavour to support this conjecture by a well-known passage in Giraldus, where he dilates, with such elaborate praise,
* Sce Advertisement to the Transactions of the Gælic Society of Dublin.
+ O'Halloran, vol. 1, part 1, chap. 6. § Id. ib. chap: 7.
** It is also supposed, but with as little proof, that they understood the diésis, or enharmonic interval. --The Greeks seem to have formed their ears to this delicale gradation of sound; and, whatever difficulties or objections may lie in the way its practical use, we must agree with Mersenne (Préludes de l’Harmonic, quest. 7), that the theory of music would be imperfect without it; and, even in practice (as Tosi, among others, very justly remarks, Observations on Florid Song, chap. 1, sec. 16), there is no good performer on the violin who does not make a sensible difference between D sharp and É flat, though, from the imperfection of the instrument, they are the same notes upon the piano-forte. The effect of modulation by enharmonic transitions is also very striking and beautiful.
upon the beauties of our national minstrelsey. But the terms of this eulogy are too vague, too deficient in technical accuracy, to prove Giraldus himself knew any thing of the artifice of counter-point. There are many expressions in the Greek and Latin writers which might be cited, with much more plausibility, to prove that they understood the arrangement of music in parts ; * yet I believe it is conceded in general by the learned, that, however grand and pathetic the melody of the ancients may have been, it was reserved for the ingenuity of modern Science to transmit the “ light of Song” through the variegating prism of Harmony.
Indeed the irregular scale of the early Irish (in
* The words ποικιλια and ετεροφωνια, in a passage of Plato, and some expressions of Cicero, in Fragment. lib. 2, de Republ., induced the Abbé Fraguier to maintain that the ancients had a knowledge of counter-point. M. Burette, however, has answered him, I think, satisfactorily.-(Examen d'un passage de Platon, in the 3d vol. of Histoire de l'Acad.) M. Huet is of opinion (Pensées Diverses) that what Cicero says of the music of the spheres, in his dream of Scipio, is sufficient to prove an acquaintance with harmony; but one of the strongest passages which I recollect, in favour of the supposition, occurs in the Treatise, attributed to Aristotle, lepo Κοσμου-Μουσικη δε οξεις αμα και βαρεις κ.