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might be surmounted by an effort of attention and a little practice; and in that case we should in time be as well pleased with English as with Latin hexameters.
Sir Philip Sidney is said to have miscarried in his essays; but his miscarriage was no more than that of failing in an attempt to introduce a new fashion. The failure was not owing to any defect or imperfection in the scheme, but to the want of taste, to the irresolution and ignorance of the public. Without all doubt the ancient measure, so different from that of modern poetry, must have appeared remarkably uncouth to people in general, who were ignorant of the classics; and nothing but the countenance and perseverance of the learned could reconcile them to the alteration. We have seen several late specimens of English hexameters and sapphics, so happily composed, that by attaching them to the idea of ancient measure, we found them in all respects as melodious and agreeable to the ear, as the works of Virgil and Anacreon, or Horace.
Though the number of syllables distinguishes the nature of the English verse from that of the Greek and Latin, it constitutes neither harmony, grace, nor expression. These must depend on the choice of words, the seat of the accent, the pause, and the cadence. The accent, or tone, is understood to be an elevation or sinking of the voice in reciting: the pause is a rest, that divides the verse into two parts, each of them called an hemistich. The pause and accent in English poetry vary occasionally, according to the meaning of the words; so that the hemistich does not always consist of an equal number of syllables: and this variety is agreeable, as it prevents a dull repetition of regular stops, like those in the French versification, every line of which is divided by a pause exactly in the middle. The cadence comprehends that poetical style which animates every line,
that propriety which gives strength and expression, that numerosity which renders the verse smooth, flowing, and harmonious, that significancy which marks the passions, and in many cases makes the sound an echo to the sense. The Greek and Latin languages, in being copious and ductile, are susceptible of a vast variety of cadences, which the living languages will not admit; and of these a reader of any ear will judge for himself.
A SCHOOL in the polite arts properly signifies that succession of artists, which has learned the principles of the art from some eminent master, either by hearing his lessons, 'or studying his works, and consequently who imitate his manner either through design or from habit. Musicians seem agreed in making only three principal schools in music; namely, the school of Pergolese in Italy, of Lully in France, and of Handel in England; though some are for making Rameau the founder of a new school, different from those of the former, as he is the inventor of beauties peculiarly his own.
Without all doubt, Pergolese's music deserves the first rank; though excelling neither in variety of movements, number of parts, nor unexpected flights, yet he is universally allowed to be the musical Raphael of Italy. This great master's principal art consisted in knowing how to excite our passions by sounds, which seem frequently opposite to the passion they would express: by slow solemn sounds he is sometimes known to throw us into all the rage
of battle; and even by faster movements he excites melancholy in every heart that sounds are capable of affecting. This is a talent which seems born with the artist. We are unable to tell why such sounds affect us: they seem no way imitative of the passion they would express, but operate upon us by an inexpressible sympathy; the original of which is as inscrutable as the secret springs of life itself. To this excellence he adds another, in which he is superiour to every other artist of the profession, the happy transition from one passion to another. No dramatic poet better knows to prepare his incidents than he: the audience are pleased in those intervals of passion with the delicate, the simple harmony, if I may so express it, in which the parts are all thrown into fugues, or often are barely unison. His melodies also, where no passion is expressed, give equal pleasure from this delicate simplicity: and I need only instance that song in the Serva Padrona, which begins Lo conosco a quegl' occelli, as one of the finest instances of excellence in the duo.
The Italian artists in general have followed his manner, yet seem fond of embellishing the delicate simplicity of the original. Their style in music seems somewhat to resemble that of Seneca in writing, where there are some beautiful starts of thought; but the whole is filled with studied elegance and unaffecting affectation.
Lully in France first attempted the improvement of their music, which in general resembled that of our old solemn chants in churches. It is worthy of remark, in general, that the music of every country is solemn in proportion as the inhabitants are merry; or, in other words, the merriest sprightliest nations are remarked for having the slowest music; and those whose character it is to be melancholy, are pleased with the most brisk and airy
movements. Thus in France, Poland, Ireland, and Switzerland, the national music is slow, melancholy, and solemn; in Italy, England, Spain, and Germany, it is faster, proportionably as the people are grave. Lully only changed a bad manner, which he found, for a bad one of his own. His drowsy pieces are played still to the most sprightly audience that can be conceived; and even though Rameau, who is at once a musician and a philosopher, has shown, both by precept and example, what improvements French music may still admit of, yet his countrymen seem little convinced by his reasonings; and the Pont-Neuf taste, as it is called, still prevails in their best performances.
The English school was first planned by Purcel: he attempted to unite the Italian manner, that prevailed in his time, with the ancient Celtic carol and the Scotch ballad, which probably had also its origin in Italy; for some of the best Scotch ballads, « The Broom of Cowdenknows,» for instance, are still ascribed to David Rizzio. But be that as it will, his manner was something peculiar to the English; and he might have continued as head of the English school, had not his merits been entirely eclipsed by Handel. Handel, though originally a German, yet adopted the English manner : he had long laboured to please by Italian composition, but without success; and though his English oratorios are accounted inimitable, yet his Italian operas are fallen into oblivion. Pergolese excelled in passionate simplicity: Lully was remarkable for creating a new species of music, where all is elegant, but nothing passionate or sublime: Handel's true characteristic is sublimity; he has employed all the variety of sounds and parts in all his pieces: the performances of the rest may be pleasing,' though executed by few performers; his require the full band. The attention is awakened, the soul is roused up at his
pieces; but distinct passion is seldom expressed. In this particular he has seldom found success; he has been obliged, in order to express passion, to imitate words by sounds, which, though it gives the pleasure which imitation always produces, yet it fails of exciting those lasting affections which it is in the power of sounds to produce. In a word, no man ever understood harmony so well as he; but in melody he has been exceeded by several.
[The following OBJECTIONS to the preceding ESSAY having been addressed to Dr SMOLLETT (as EDITOR of the BRITISH MAGAZINE, in which it first appeared), that gentleman, with equal candour and politeness, communicated the MS to Dr GOLDSMITH, who returned his answers to the objector in the notes annexed.-EDIT.]
PERMIT me to object against some things advanced in the paper on the subject of THE DIFFERENT Schools of Music. The author of this article seems too hasty in degrading the harmonious Purcel' from the head of the English school, to
'Had the objector said melodious Purcel, it had testified at least a greater acquaintance with music, and Purcel's peculiar excellence. Purcel in melody is frequently great: his song made in his last sickness, called Rosy Bowers, is a fine instance of this; but in harmony he is far short of the meanest of our modern composers, his fullest harmonies being exceedingly simple. His Opera of Prince Arthur, the words of which were Dryden's, is reckoned his finest piece. But what is that in point of harmony, to what we every day hear from modern masters? In short, with respect to genius, Purcel had a fine one; he greatly improved an art but little known in England before his time: for this he deserves our applause; but the present prevailing taste in music is very different from what he left it, and who was the improver since his time we shall see by and by.