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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; † 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. s 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
of its practical use, we must agree with Mersennc (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 E flat, though, from the imperfection of the instrument, they are the same notes upon the piano-forte. The cffect 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,
that even 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, Tiepi Κοσμου-Μουσικη δε οξεις αμα και βαρεις κ. τ. λ.
which, as in the music of Scotland, the interval of the fourth was wanting *) must have furnished but wild and refractory subjects to the harmonist. It was only when the invention of Guido began to be known, and the powers of the harp t were en
* Another lawless peculiarity of our Music, is the frequency of what composers call consecutive fifths; but this is an irregularity which can hardly be avoided by persons not very conversant with the rules of composition; indeed, if I may venture to cite my own wild attempts in this way, it is a fault which I find myself continually committing, and which has sometimes appeared so pleasing to my ear, that I have surrendered it to the critic with considerable reluctance. May there not be a little pedàntry in adhering too rigidly to this rule?I have been told that there are instances in Haydn of an undisguised succession of fifths; and Mr. Shield, in his Introduction to Harmony, seems to intimate that Handel has been sometimes guilty of the same irregularity.
+ A singular oversight occurs in an Essay upon the Irish Harp, by Mr. Beauford, which is inserted in the Appendix to Walker's Historical Memoirs.--"The Irish (says he), according to Bromton, in the reign of Henry II. had two kinds of Harps, • Hibernici tamen in duobus musici generis instrumentis, quamvis præcipitem et velocem, suavem tamen et jucundam, the one greatly bold and quick, the other soft and pleasing."How a man of Mr. Beauford's learning could so místake the meaning, and mutilate the grammatical construction of this extract, is unaccountable. The following is the
I find it entire in Bromton, and it requires but little Latin to perceive the injustice which has been done to the words of the old Chronicler :~"Et cum Scotia, hujus terræ filia, utatur lyrå, tympano et choro, ac Wallia cithara, tubis et choro Hibernici tamen in duobus musici generis instrument
larged by additional strings, that our melodies took the sweet character which interests us at present; and, while the Scotch persevered in the old mutilation of the scale,* our music became gradually more amenable to the laws of harmony and counter-point.
In profiting, however, by the improvements of the moderns, our style still kept its originality sacred from their refinements; and, though Carolan had frequent opportunities of hearing the works of Geminiani, and other masters, we but rarely find him sacrificing his native simplicity to the ambition of their ornaments, or affectation of their science. In that curious composition, indeed, called his Concerto, it is evident that he laboured to imitate Corelli ; and this union of manners, so very dissimilar, produces the same kind of uneasy sensation which is felt at a mixture of different styles of architecture. In general, however, the artless flow of our music has preserved itself free from all tinge of foreign innovation, and the chief corruptions, of which we have to complain, arise from the unskilful performance of our own itinerant musicians, from whom, too frequently, the airs are noted down, encumbered by their tasteless decorations, and responsible for all their ignorant anomalies. Though it be sometimes impossible to trace the original strain, yet, in most of them, "auri per ramos aura refulget," † the pure gold of
quanuis præcipitem et velocem, suavem tanien et jucundam, crispatis modulis et intricatis notulis,efficiunt harmoniam.”Hist. Anglic. Script. pag. 1075. I should not have thought this error worth remarking, but that the compiler of the Dissertation on the Harp, prefixed to Mr. Bunting's last Work, has adopted it implicitly.
* The Scotch lay claim to some of our best airs, but there are strong traits of difference between their melodies and ours. They had formerly the same passion for robbing us of our Saints, and the learned Dempster was, for this offence, called “The Saint Stealer.” I suppose it was an Irishman, who, by way of reprisal, stole Dempster's beautiful wife from him at Pisa.–See this anecdote in the Pinacotheca of Erythræus, part 1, page 25.
Among other false refinements of the art, our music (with the exception perhaps of the air called “Mamma, Mamma," and one or two more of the same ludicrous description) has avoided that puerile mimickry of natural noises, motions, etc. which disgraces so often the works of even the great Handel himself. D'Alembert ought to have had better taste than to become the patron of this imitative affectation.-Discours Préliminaire de l'Encyclopédie. The reader may
find good remarks on the subject in Avison upon Musical Expression ; a work, which, though under the name of Avison, was written, it is said, by Dr. Brown.
+ Virgil, Æneid, lib. 6, v. 204.