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the melody shines through the ungraceful foliage which surrounds it; and the most delicate and difficult duty of a compiler is to endeavour, as much as possible, by retrenching these inelegant superfluities, and collating the various methods of playing or singing each air, to restore the regularity of its form, and the chaste simplicity of its character.
I must again observe, that, in doubting the antiquity of our music, my scepticism extends but to those polished specimens of the art, which it is difficult to conceive anterior to the dawn of modern improvement; and that I would by no means invalidate the claims of Ireland to as early a rank ini the annals of minstrelsey as the most zealous antiquary may be inclined to allow her. In addition, indeed, to the power which music must always have possessed over the minds of a people so ardent and susceptible, the stimulus of persecution was not wanting to quicken our taste into enthusiasm; the charms of song were ennobled with the glories of martyrdom, and the acts against minstrels, in the reigns of Henry VIII. and Elizabeth, were as successful, I doubt not, in making my countrymen
musicians, as the penal laws have been in keeping them Catholics,
With respect to the verses which I have written for these Melodies, as they are intended rather to be sung than read, I can answer for their sound with somewhat more confidence than their sense ; yet, it would be affectation to deny that I have given much attention to the task, and that it is not through want of zeal or industry, if I unfortunately disgrace the sweet airs of my country, by poetry altogether unworthy of their taste, their energy, and their tenderness.
Though the humble nature of my contributions to this work may exempt them from the rigours of literary criticisins, it was not to be expected that those touches of political feeling, those tones of national complaint, in which the poetry sometimes sympathizes with the music, would be suffered to pass without censure or alarm. It has been accordingly said, that the tendency of this publication is mischievous,* and that I have chosen these airs but as a vehicle of dangerous politics
* See Letters, under the signatures of Timæus, etc. in the Morning Post, Pilot, and other papers.
as fair and precious vessels (to borrow an image of St. Augustin *) from which the wine of error might be administered. To those who identify nationality with treason, and who see, in every effort for Ireland, a system of hostility towards England, -to those too, who, nursed in the gloom of prejudice, are alarmed by the faintest gleam of liberality that threatens to disturb their darkness (like that Demophon of old, who, when the sun shone upon him, shivered!t)-to such men I shall not deign to apologize for the warmth of any political sentiment which may occur in the course of these
pages. But, as there are many, among the more wise and tolerant, who, with feeling, enough to mourn over the wrong of their country, and sense enough to perceive all the damage of wit te dressing them, mas yet think that alintis in the least degree bold a inamuutuny dels bar
* « Non accuso verba, quasi a sporga esa yun.cnn vinum erroris, quad case stia pomyssy"-fi 1, Confess.chap. 16.
+ This emblem of scos va 18 19 So tolos) to Alexander tre 64-611 kw. Push Hypoth. lib. 1.
avoided in a publication of this popular descriptions beg of these respected persons to believe, that there is no one who deprecates more sincerely than I do any appeal to the passions of an ignorant and angry multitude; but, that it is not through that gross and inflammable region of society a work of this nature could ever have been intended to circulate. It looks much higher for its audience and readers--it is found upon the piano-fortes of the rich and the educated--of those who can afford to have their national zeal a little stimulated, without exciting much dread of the excesses into which it may hurry them; and of many, whose nerves may be, now and then, alarmed with advantage, as much more is to be gained by their fears, than could ever be expected from their justice.
Having thus adverted to the principal objection which has been hitherto made to the poetical part of this work, allow me to add a few words in defence of my ingenious coadjutor, Sir John Stevenson, who has been accused of having spoiled the simplicity of the airs, by the chromatic richness of his symphonies, and the elaborate variety of his harmonies. We might cite the example of the admirable Haydn, who has sported through all the mazes of musical science, in his arrangement of the simplest Scottish melodies; but it appears to me, that Sir John Stevenson has brought a national feeling to this task, which it would be in vain to expect from a foreigner, however tasteful or judicious. Through many of his own compositions we trace a vein of Irish sentiment, which points him out as peculiarly suited to catch the spirit of his country's music; and, far from agreeing with those critics who think that his symphonies have nothing kindred with the airs which they introduce, I would say that, in general, they resemble those illuminated initials of old manuscripts, which are of the same character with the writing which follows, though more highly coloured * and more curiously ornamented.