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Such was wise Orpheus' moral song, ,
The lonely cliffs and caves among:
From hollow oak, or mountain-den,
He drew the naked, gazing men;
They shiver'd in cold, wjntry .showers,
Or sunk in heapy snow*,;:,. ... . .
Then sudden, while his melting music stole
"With powerful magic o'er each softening soul,
Father of peace and arts! he first the city built;
No more the neighbour's blood was by his neighbour spilt;
He taught to till, and separate the lands;
I am not permitted to transcribe any more and therefore return to Pope again.
The beginning of the last stanza of the ode here examined, seems to be a repetition of the subject of the second, the power of music over the passions, which may, perhaps, be reckoned a blameable tautology; especially as these lines,
Music the fiercest grief can charm,
are inferior, I am afraid, to the former on the same subjects, which contain beautiful and poetical personifications;
Melancholy lifts her head,
Morpheus rouses from his bed, '■
Sloth unfolds her arms and wakes,
List'ning Envy drops her snakes;
It is observable, that this Ode of Pope, and the Alexander's Feast of Dryden, conclude with an epigram of four lines; a species of wit as flagrantly unsuitable to the dignity, and as foreign to the nature, of the lyric, as it is of the epic muse.
It is to be regretted, that Mr. Handel has not set to. music the former, as well as the latter, of these celebrated odes, in which he has displayed the corhbimed powers of verse and voice, to a wonderful degree. No poem, indeed, affords so much various matter for a composer to work upon, as Dryden has here- introduced and expressed all the greater passions, and as the transitions from one to the other are sudden and impetuous; of which we feel the effects in the pathetic description of the fall of Darius, that immediately succeeds the joyous praises of Bacchus. The symphony, and air particularly, that accompanies the four words, "fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen," is strangely moving,* and consists of a few simple and touching notes, without any of . i-: i ..i those
• • .. v ri .' . I nt», •i' .».»., . * The mention of this pathetic air, reminds me of a story of the celebrated Lully, who having been one day accused of never setting any thing to music, but the languid verses of Quinault, was immediately animated with the reproach, and, as it were, seized with a kind of enthusiasm; he ran instantly to his harpsichord, and striking a few cords, sung in recitative these four lines in the Iphigenia of Racine, which are full of the strongest imagery, and are therefore much more difficult to express in music, than verses of mere sentiment,
Un those intricate variations, and affected divisions, into which, in compliance with a vicious and vulgar taste, this great master hath sometimes descended. Even this piece of Handel, so excellent on the whole, is not free from one or two blemishes of this sort, particularly in the air, "With ravished ears," &c.
.ii. • • \
^^The moderns have, perhaps, practised no species of poetry Avith so little success, and with such indisputable inferiority to the ancients, as the Ode; which seems owing to the harshness
Un prêtre environné d' une foule cruelle
One of the company has often declared, that they all thought rthemselves present at this dreadful spectacle, and that the notes with which Lully accompanied these words, erected the hair of their heads with horror.
The opinion of Boileau concerning music is remarkable; he asserts, Qu'on ne peut jamais faire un bon opera; parceque la musique ne sauroit narrer; que les passions n'y peuvent être peinte dans toute l'étendue qu'elles demandent; que d'ailleurs elle ne sauroit souvent mettre en chant les expressions vraiment sublimes et courageuses.
and untuneableness of modem languages, abounding in monosyllables, and crowded with consonants^. This particularly is the case of the English, whose original is Teutonic, and which, therefore, is not so musical as the Italian, the Spanish, or even the French, as not having so great a quantity of words derived from the Latin. But the Latin language itself, as well as all others, must yield to the unparalleled sweetness and copiousness of fhe Greek. Tantd est sermo gfaecus latino jucundior, (says Quintilian,) ut nostri poetae, quoties dulce carmen esse voluerunt, illorum id nominibus exornent."* What line, even in the Italian poets, is so soft and mellifluous, aSf ,,. t -j.. . ;.;
; . ..,.> I
* He gives some instances that are curious, and" worth attention. "Quid quod pleraque nos ilia quasi mugierite litera cludimus M, qui nullum Greece verbum cadit? At illi 'If jucundam et in fine proecipue quasi tinnientem, illius loco ponunt, quae est apud nos rarissime in clausulis. Quid quod syllabae nostra? in B literam et D innituntur? ade6 aspere, ut plerique non antiquissimorum quidem, sed tamen veterum mollire tentaveriht, non solum aversa pro adversis dicendo, sed et in prsepositione B literaa absonam et ipsam S subjiciendo." Apply these observations with proper alterations to the English tongue. Quintil. 1. xii. c. 10.
f Odys. iv. 565.