صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

"He look'd, and saw a spacious plain, whereon
Were tents of various hue; by some were herds
Of cattle grazing; others, whence the sound
Of instruments that made melodious chime
Was heard, of harp and organ; and who mov'd
Their chords and stops was seen; his volant touch
Instinct thro' all proportions low and high

Fled and pursu'd transverse the resonant fugue."
Par. Lost, B. XI. ver. 556. et seq.

The two last lines of this passage could have been written only by a skilful organ player. The style of performing on that sublime instrument was then very different from what it is at present. Organ players then endeavoured to excel in skilful combinations of harmony, in artful contexture of parts, and learned modulation. At present the style of playing in general approaches more to that of the piano forte, and there are comparatively but few performers who attempt what Milton here particularly adverts to. Any one who has been fortunate enough to hear good organ-playing of the old school, will immediately perceive how accurately and how scientifically Milton has described it.

The following beautiful sentence will sufficiently corroborate what has been just stated with regard to Milton's complete knowledge of the subject in question.

"The interval of convenient rest before meat, may, both with profit and delight, be taken up in recreating and composing the travailed spirits with the solemn and divine harmonies of music, heard or learnt: either while the skilful organist plies his grave and fancied descant in lofty fugues, or the whole symphony with artful and unimaginable touches does adorn and grace the wellstudied chords of some choice composer; sometimes the lute, or soft organ stop, waiting on elegant voices, either to religious, martial, or civil ditties, which have power over dispositions and manners, to smooth and make them gentle, from rustic harshness and distempered passions."-Tractate of Education, Prose Works, Amst. Edit. Vol. i. p. 849.

Surely this sentence abounds as much with true poetry as almost any passage that Milton ever wrote. It is matter both of surprise and regret that his prose works should be so little read. What a noble spirit of independence, what an ardent love for truth, what glowing zeal for liberty, animate all that he wrote, and appear conspicuous in each page of his works. Yet are these

excellent productions, most of which ought to be read by every Briton, only to be found among the libraries of the learned, and the collections of the curious.*

Milton, like a true musician, always speaks with greater rapture when describing the effects of harmony than those of me lody. Harmony was then much more studied than melody. The compositions for the church, to which style of writing the best musicians had principally confined themselves, abounded with learned and eccentric modulation, and sublime combinations of sound: the elegancies of melody were but little known or practised. Lawes, who I before mentioned as Milton's intimate friend, was one of the first who introduced the Italian school of music into England. In the following quotation Milton alludes to the abrupt modulation frequent among the best composers for the church.

"Thus far I have digressed from my former subject, but into such a path as, I doubt not, ye will agree with me to be much fairer than the road way I was in. And how to break off suddenly into those jarring notes which this confuter hath set me, I must be wary, unless I can provide against offending the ear, as good musicians are wont skilfully to fall out of one key into another, without breach of harmony."-Apology for Smectymnuus, Prose Works, Amst. Edit. Vol. i. p. 191.

As I have already extended this subject to a much greater length than I at first intended, I cannot close this letter without apologizing for having occupied so much of the Mirror. If, however, what I have written shall have been the means of introducing to any of your readers some passages of Milton before unnoticed by them, or of explaining the author's meaning where perhaps it was not apparent to every one, I trust that my apology will be admitted. In the mean time, I may beg your indulgence, at some future period, for another letter.

Norwich, Jan. 5, 1807.

E. D.


* Since writing the above, I am happy to find that a complete edition of Milton's prose works has been published by the booksellers of London, under the superintendance of the learned Dr. Symmonds, with a life that does Milton ample justice.

+ It is curious to remark how frequently persons, ignorant of music, confuse the terms harmony and melody. I heard a popular lecturer on morals, at the Royal Institution, last year, while speaking on the beautiful in music, give such a definition of harmony as any one of his young lady auditors might have been ashamed of.



TASSO.-A friend asked Boileau, a little while before his death, whether he had changed his opinion of Tasso.* "So very far from it," says the satirist," that I am sorry that I did not express myself more fully on this subject in my translation of Longinus. I would have begun with allowing that the Italian poet has a sublime genius, and very eminent talents for poetry; but, speaking of the use which he has made of them, I should have said and proved that good sense is not the predominant quality of his poem; and that, in his narrations, he prefers what is pleasing to what is necessary to be told; that his descriptions are disfigured by superfluous ornaments; that, in the delineation of the strongest passions, and amidst the saddest events which they occasion, Tasso destroys the pathos by untimely attempts at being brilliant; that his imagery is too flowery, and full of affectation; that his thoughts are frivolous, and more adapted to his Aminta than to his Jerusalem Delivered. Now, exclaimed Boileau, all these faults being granted, and the wisdom, gravity, and majesty of Virgil introduced in opposition to them, the contrast is as great between the Latin and Italian poet, as between gold and tinsel."

ON POETRY.-A man of very good sense, but totally unacquainted with literature, said once, before Boileau, that he had rather be able to make a wig than to make a poem; adding, "What is the use of poetry, and what end does it answer?"— "This very circumstance," replied Boileau, " raises my admiration of poetry; that, having nothing useful in it, nevertheless it should be the delight of all men of talents and reputation."


Boileau used to relate, that when he read to Moliere his Satire, which began with these lines:


Mais il n'est point de fou qui par bonnes raisons
Ne loge son voisin aux petites-maisons.

There raves no madman, but, with grave rebukes,
Would send his brother maniac to St. Luke's.

Moliere observed, that he had once an intention of attempting

Sat. iş.

• Le élinquant du Tasse à tout l'or de Virgile.

[ocr errors]

this subject; but that he was deterred from it by the consideration
of the great delicacy necessary in such an undertaking.
comic poet," added he, "should confine himself to those aberra-
tions of the mind which society considers as venial; and for
which they do not shut up the delinquents, but treat them as fools
and simpletons."



Boileau was not superior to uneasinesses, occasioned by the abuse published against him; but was the first person to applaud any ingenious satire levelled at him. "I look on myself," says he, "like an enchanted hero, whom the blows of his enemies either do not reach, or wound very slightly. With all their malice (he would add) they have not found out the vulnerable part of Achilles."-"Where does it lie?" said a friend. "That I shall not tell you,” replied the satirist: "you must find out that." It is probable that he alluded to the sameness of his writings, particularly in his prefaces, the character of which is too mo



Boileau never dined with any of his most intimate friends, without being invited in particular, observing, on this caution, that a certain pride of mind was the characteristic of men of ho nour; but that a pride of air and manner was the mark of fools and blockheads.

TO THE SAME TUNE.-When Boileau launched any work into the world, he heard the attacks of the critics, however severe, with great attention and patience; observing, shrewdly, "Well, those are the worst works, of which nobody speaks at all."


Racine used to relate a very singular instance of this talent in the satirist. Boileau (says Racine) once undertook to imitate the steps of an extraordinary dancer, whom he had seen, in the exhibition of his skill. Boileau executed all the difficult steps and attitudes of the performer with great success, though he had never been taught to dance, and never practised the art at any time before.



The Life and Literary Works of Michel Angelo Buonarroti. By R. Duppa. 4to. Murray. 1806.

ALMOST all the sources of taste and genius afforded by modern, as well as ancient Italy, have been visited and illustrated by the learned and elegant labours of our countrymen. To that accomplished scholar Mr. Mathias, to whom Italian literature is so much indebted; to Mr. Roscoe, the able biographer of Lorenzo de' Medici; and many others who have, in this branch, deserved well of the republic of letters, we have now the satisfaction of adding Mr. Duppa, whose work, written, as he confesses," with peculiar pleasure" to himself, will be read with great advantage and delight by readers in general.

The names of several distinguished persons, with respect to the spelling, have lately undergone a sort of purification, which will probably, as it ought, in future be followed as the orthography. The first, in our memory, was that of the writer of the Decameron. The editor of a translation of that work, 1804, who has written a most interesting and excellent life of its author, observes, that in all the other versions, and in every mention of him except by Mr. Roscoe and Mr. Rogers, he "finds him called either Boccace, or Boccacio, but by far more commonly the former. This way of writing the Italian's name," he continues, " is clearly copied after the French, to follow which, in a work like the present, would be to the full as absurd, as were we, in translating Quintus Curtius or Titus Livius into English, to style the one Quinte Curce, and the other Tite Live. He has therefore (presuming that the Tuscan novelist was probably not unacquainted with the . right mode) ventured to spell it as he did himself, Boccaccio."Advert. to the Decam. p. 38. Mr. Cayley, in a life of Sir Walter, has recently, on the same authority, dropt the i till now used in his name, and spelt it Ralegh. Not for a similar reason, since he wrote it Michelagnolo Bonarroti, but for others, at p. x. Pref. which some may think satisfactory, Mr. Duppa prints it thus, Michel Angelo Buonarroti. In those times, as in Shakspeare's, and in ours, according to Dr. Pangloss, speaking of high life," the orthogra phy was very loose," but to us the jus et norma of spelling a man's


[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »