« AnteriorContinuar »
ing to himself: "Now they have fin- strength of his music; the exquisite ished the first act, now comes such a melody and the harsh terrific passages song,” &c. ; and then would sigh to which so often interrupt it. Handel is think how soon he must leave all this. naturally strong; calmly, always so.
Who has not heard the mysterious Mozart is sometimes strong; but then history of his “ Requiem ?" He poured it is with violence, with convulsion, out the fevered current of his life in the more like striving after strength. Hanhurried yet anxiously prolonged com- del invigorates us to that pitch, that position of it, and realized his own pre- the great, broad, monotonous ocean, sentiment, that the Requiem which was the monotonous day-light, the wide ordered by the stranger, would prove unvaried plain, the mere masses and his own! He died Dec. 5th, 1791. spaces of life, and the great wide waste
So passed his short life, like a strain of monotonous reality which lies of his own music, alternating between around us in our dull moods, become the sweet sad ecstasy of love and the conversible and full of novelty to us. shudder of awe. Sensibility and mar- But in the spirit of Mozart we should vellousness were the whole of him. feel sea-sick on the ocean ; we should All things in this world were nothing feel strange all through the garish day, to him, save as the heart has property and long for moonlight bowers and the in them. His life was one intense magic coloring of sentiment and fancy. longing to be loved; his music the ex I began with speaking of the manpression of it, and in a great degree the I find myself speaking of his musicsatisfaction of it-Heaven's answer to they are so inseparable and will run his prayer. Such fond sensibility al- into each other. The anecdotes about ways stands on the very brink of the his delicate musical organization, when infinite, thrilled with strange raptures a child, about his asking every one “do or strange fears. Love is full of pre- you love me?" and about his strange sentiments ; and no mortal seems to presentiment of death, furnish all the have had so much of that as he. The texts and mottos for his life and for flesh-veil which separated him from the his music. In him, therefore, we have world of spirits was very thin and trans- the finest development of the dramatic parent. His senses fed his soul. The element in music. In him music aplife of the senses was with him a spirit- pears as the natural language of the ual life. His exquisite physical organ- affections and passions, and of the imaization was truly a harp of many strings, gination which is passion's slave. The that always thrilled with unearthly mu Pathetic and the Romantic made him sic; and in his music sense and spirit the genius of the Opera. Gluck, his met and mingled. Hence there is a predecessor, the great reformer of the certain voluptuousness in all his music, French opera, was perhaps more opewithout the least impurity. It is earn- ratic in this sense, that all his melodies est and sad withal as the voice of the depend on dramatic situation for their nightingale. He was born to give ex- effect. Rossini and others are more pression to all the passions, the loves, operatic in the modern sense of the hopes, fears, longings, sorrows and pre- word, which means brilliant, startling, sentiments of the private heart. He all for effect. But Mozart's melodies took no eagle flights up into the imper- and symphonies are the language of the sonal, the universal. That was for heart, and explain themselves as well such as Handel.
Strong, impartial, without action and scenery as with. calm regard for all that is,-that was Merely played over on the piano, withtoo bracing an element for one so deli- out any knowledge of the story, there cately strong. Love and preference, is infinite interest in one of his operas. romance and tragedy, the changing And as for effect, for richness, and inhues of passion, and the Aladdin's lamp exhaustible novelty of invention, the of the imagination, which stands nearer boldest of modern operas is still tame than we think to every one, and is in comparison. Thousands of operas quickly lit by feeling ; these, and the have only lived through a short day of superstitions of the heart, the dreadful fashion, satisfying the love of novelty, dreams (so natural) of seeing the oppo- nothing more. But Don Juan and the site of what we ardently wish, of being Magic Flute can never become hackthe opposite of what we strive to be ; nied. They swarm with ideas, which these compose the sweetness and the require no coloring or setting off to
make them pass; the charm is intrin- purely ideal thing out of a personal hissic. The novel effects of Rossini, and tory. It does away all the reserve and still more of Myerbeer and the modern disguise, all the common-place there is in French schools, strike with overwhelm- human intercourse ; and satisfies our ing power.
But these haunt us and craving for expression, by showing us become part of us. You find a parallel men and women moving together in so in them for all that is most tender in strong a light that they become transBellini, most sparkling in Rossini, and parent. Passions, feelings, desires most dark and bodeful in Von Weber. live and move and interact before us
Not forgetting, therefore, that he without any screen of dullness or imwas great in all forms of composition, perfect utterance. The whole rude that he stands between Haydn and materials are fused together in music, Beethoven in the symphony, as one of which is a perfect medium of commuthe rulers of the mighty deep of instru- nication. The dramatis persona mental music, and that his masses and opera, therefore, are so many personihis“ requiem" yield the palm of church- fied passions or emotions. They are music to none but Handel, Bach, and the inward history, the present inward Beethoven, it is as the representative lives of so many men and women, passa of the opera that we would chiefly con- ing before us instead of their outward sider him. In that he confessedly is forms, which are more or less convengreatest. In whatever he did he leaned tional, certainly fixtures of old habit, to the dramatic style; his masses and and therefore impervious to the light. anthems breathe à too scholastic and What romance, what tragedy there impassioned spirit for the more sublime, would be in every little scene of daily impersonal religion of this Protestant life, could we only remove this veil of era of the intellect; but are more suit- custom and appearance. This music ed to the religion of the Catholic, which does. It lifts the veil, it banishes the takes the form of personal love to the obstructions, it abridges the time, conVirgin. His instrumental works are centrates the interest, throws away the distinguished by what is called the can extraneous and accidental, compresses tabile or singing style ; or else by some the life of days and years into as many what harsh and violent attempts to break moments, giving life the speed it would away from it ;-how else can we ac- have in a less resisting element, and count for what we are told that his shows how spirits would live in time symphonies, the symphonies of the de- and space, but not at all limited thereby. licate and sentimental Mozart, are It does away the fiction, and shows the among the noisiest works of that class? effect in the cause. In an opera, there
The Opera was the first leap of the fore, there are very few words, and a genius of music, from its cradle in the very slight skeleton of a story. When Church, where it had been held down we see the spirits, what they are, we till well nigh bed-ridden and paralyzed do not want to know what they will do. forever, out into the free secular air. They sing themselves to us; the story It was the idealizing of the hopes and is no more than the stage on which they fears, the loves and sorrows, and the stand. Could we know the feelings of whole tragedy of private life. Music men, we should learn at once, what sought its own in this natural, spon- their actions could only gradually and taneous religion of the human heart. by a roundabout way reveal to us. It became a voice to the good tendency Music is the spontaneous language of which there is at the bottom of all our feeling. We seldom act or speak nat-, love of excitement and pleasure. It urally. But when we do, the mere saved the senses from wandering away tone, without words, indicates enough. out of all hearing of the soul. It re- We know men by their voice more infined sensuality into a love of beauty; fallibly than by almost any sign. The and developed in passion the divine opera composer, therefore, must be he restlessness, the prophetic aspiration of who knows most of this natural lanthe soul, which is at the bottom of it; guage of the feelings; and of course and thus effected in a measure a recon he must be a person of sensibility. ciliation between the higher and the But the Opera meets another want of lower tendencies in man, between the It supplies the craving of the spirit and the flesh, between the sacred senses for excitement, quenching the and the secular. The opera makes a thirst of pleasure with a healthy
of the opera.
draught. It feeds the appetite with a nostates, comes in the silence of the nectar that is good also for the soul. night, by the light of the moon, to steal Our tendency to excess, which it is a kiss from the lips of the sleeping dangerous to deny, dangerous to in- Princess.” dulge unworthily, overflows with grace But why does sadness wait so pecuful self-recovery in the world of art liarly on those who have the keenest and beauty. Transport is a necessity sense of enjoyment, those who have of every
noble nature. And there is the fairest dreams, the most refined exno music like Mozart's, to transport one citements ? those who know most of the into a voluptuousness, that does not heaven of this life? It is to show that smack of earth or aught impure. He Aspiration lies nearer to the principle in music, and Raphael in colors, have of life than Ecstasy itself; that the Pretaught us the spiritual ministry of the sent can never satisfy ; that behind the senses. Through music Handel rises Finite is the Infinite, and just when we above the life of the senses. Through are happiest, we pause upon the brink music Mozart bears a charmed life in of it. An awe, a sense of mystery, a the sphere of the senses. The conse- vague foreboding necessarily darkens cration of the senses, the idealizing of the harmonies of so much luxury of common life seems to be the meaning sense and feeling. How full of pre
sentiment, of what the Germans call But this it can never effect entirely. " Ahnung," was Mozart's life! how With the very zest of pleasure, with full of it his music ! dark, sudden mothe very transport of love, comes a ca- dulations; low murmuring tremulos pacity for melancholy. Almost of its stealing in in the accompaniments ; and own accord, as if by a law of nature, all those passages which we associate the key modulates into the minor mode. on the stage with luminous smoke-clouds There is a vein of sadness in all pa- of unearthly-colored light, rising up thetic music ; witness Bellini ; witness out of the ground, and vague forms of equally, in spite of greater wealth and spirits and demons moving within. We strength and elasticity, Mozart. He shudder while we admire. Love tremcomposed some comic operas; but there bles at the stirri of a leaf; its hour is no comedy in them; except the is so precious, it cannot be careful comedy which consists in the contrast enough of danger. of a pathetic melody with a ludicrous We have thus all the elements which theme, as in the famous song of Lepo- enter into the composition of his greatrello, in which he gives the catalogue est opera, “ Don Juan.” It seems at of Don Juan's mistresses, and his re- first a waste of so much fine music, to cipes for the successful wooing of couple it with a mere story of a desevery kind of subject. Sad as the perate rake, finally brought to judgment nightingale is all his music, when di- in a most marvellous way; namely, by vested of the words. Don Juan's own inviting in jest the statue of an old man melodies seem mournfully to rebuke the whom he had murdered, the father of desperado.
the heroine whom he sought to ruin, to Of fancy and romantic invention I sup with him; and being surprised in will not speak as a separate requisite in the midst of his feast by the statue in the opera. Whoever has fine senses, good earnest, with the whole posse and a soul for love, necessarily is comitatus of the lower world, rising to something of a poet. Imagination is claim him. But it does not seem so the Ariel which waits on all strong when we come to enter into the spirit feeling. Every musical composer is of it. His love of the marvellous and fond of romantic subjects. Feeling of fairy tales, naturally led him to this was the “ Magic Flute," which brought old tradition, which was part of the fairy-land around him. A writer, popular lore, and that for the good reaspeaking of this opera, so called, says: son, that it is a purely ideal story, con“The story, which is like the wander- taining a truth for the mind only, so ing of a delirious imagination, harmon- free from all the conditions of probabiizes divinely with the genius of the lity as to become ideal and consistent musician. I am convinced, that if with itself, from that very fact. MoreMozart had been a writer, his pen over, what is Don Juan ? Not a vulgar would have been employed in depicting sensualist ; but noble in mind and perscenes like that where the negro, Mo- son, endowed with the finest gifts and
the loftiest aspirations, eager to em- inclined to excess, we dread the madbrace all, filled with an intense longing ness of it. Thirsting for love, we infor sympathy which amounts to tor- stinctively suspect a lurking wickedment, blindly seeking relief in the ex ness in the desire to be loved for our citement of the passion, still restless own sakes, which if carried out may and disappointed, till love turns to hate, lead us far from the virtues which and aspiration to defiance, and he we should seek to make loved in us. drinks the cup of pleasure to the dregs, Who more than the pleasure-loving, not from sensuality, but from proud de- sympathy-seeking, sad, imaginative, nial of the law, and, like a serpent Mozart, would be apt to shudder in charming a bird, seduces innocent wo- dreams before the colossal shadow of man to her ruin, in assertion of the what possibly he might become through devilish sense of power. No man ever unholy excess of the very qualities came quite to this—but many have which made him diviner than common come to dread it. Beings, as we are, men ?
LOOSE LEAVES OF A LITERARY LOUNGER.
A CHAPTER ON COSTLY AND CURIOUS BOOKS.
With what rapt enthusiasm will the is not lessened by being anticipated :confirmed bibliomaniac pounce upon, I shake hands with, and look our old, and pour over the scarce legible pa- tried and valued friend in the face, ges of some antique mouldering manu- compare notes, and chat the hours script; or clutch, with miser grasp, the away.” When it is remembered that musty cover of his favorite black-letter books present us with the quintessence tome of the olden time. This feeling, of the most cultivated minds, freed though peculiar in its intensity to the from their alloy of human passion and class referred to, is yet possessed in weakness, and that they are the media degree by most who prefer any claims of our acquiring the closest proximity to a literary taste. An attachment or and communion with the spirits of the veneration for books -- for books as great and good of all ages, it cannot books — if not a conclusive test of all surprise us that books should become mental refinement, is at least its rarely such universal favorites. With the absent concomitant. In the compan- historian, for instance, we lose sight of ionship of books how many immunities our own commonplace monotonous exdo we enjoy, which are denied us in istence as we become fired with the our intercourse with men ;-with unob- enthusiasm of the apparently more notrusive modesty, they trespass not upon ble and illustrious achievements of the us unbidden guests, nor do they ever mighty dead; or traverse with the poet, outstay their welcome. Yet it must be the glowing fields of his own ideal admitted with a writer of the past cen- world, peopled with the bright creatury, that books, like friends, should be tions of fancy; while in our more sofew and well chosen, and then like true ber mood we gather from the grave friends we shall return to them again teacher of ethics the collective wisdom and again, well knowing they will ne- of all time, whence we may learn the ver fail us, never cease to instruct, true nobleness of our destiny. never cloy. Hazlett has indorsed this of the necromancer of old,” says an sentiment; he says, “ I hate to read eloquent writer, “with his wand, his new books : there are twenty or thirty charms, and his incantations; what is volumes that I have read over and over he to an author ? His charm is, that again, and these are the only ones I have we lift the cover of his book ; his inany desire ever to read at all. When cantation is its preface-his wand the I take up a book I have read before, I pen; but what can equal their power ? know what to expect: the satisfaction The spell is upon us ; the actual world
around us is gone.” Honor then to because, said they, an unbeliever is those gifted ones who can thus delight compared to a dog! In this manner and instruct us : no praise or reward they expressed an itching for those sad can be overpaid to them while they are dogs, Virgil and Horace! Notwithamongst us, nor any homage too great standing the odium with which the when they are passed away. The monks regarded the writings of these works of an author are his embalmed benighted heathens, there were yet mind; and grateful to the student's others of a later date to be found willeye are the well understood hieroglyph- ing to become their possessors at enorics on this mental mummy-case that mous cost, and even the transfer of an tell of the worthy preserved within. entire estate was sometimes not withWhat was the extolled art of the held to secure the boon; while the disEgyptians to this? Mind and body— posal of a manuscript was considered the poet and the monarch-Homer and of sufficient importance to require to king Cheops!
be solemnly registered in public acts.
Even Louis XI., in 1471, was obliged There they reign to pledge a hundred golden crowns in (In loftier pomp than working life had order to obtain the loan of the MS. of known,)
an Arabian scribe named Rasis, for The kings of thought ! not crowned copying merely. Numerous other inuntil the grave,
stances might be cited of a similar When Agamemnon sinks into the tomb,
class, during the middle ages : par erThe beggar Homer mounts the monarch's
ample,-Stowe informs us that, in 1274, throne ! Who of us can tell
a Bible in nine volumes, finely written, What he had been, had Cadmus never
“sold for fifty markes," something like taught
£34 of that time, when wheat averTo man the magic that embalms the aged 3s 4d per quartern, and ordinary thought
laboring wages were id per diem. This Had Plato never spoken from his cell, Bible was afterwards bought by the Or his high harp blind Homer never Earl of Salisbury, after having been strung?
taken from the King of France at the Kinder all earth hath grown since genial battle of Poictiers. The Countess of Shakspeare sung!
Anjou is also said to have paid for a
copy of the Homilies of Bishop HuiHume says, “it is with books as with man, two hundred sheep, and other arwomen, where a certain plainness of ticles of barter. dress and style is more engaging than Parnarme, writing to the King of that glare of paint and apparel which Naples, says, “ you lately wrote me so dazzle the eye, but reach not the from Florence that the works of Titus affections ;" yet it cannot be denied Livius are there to be sold, in very that one is invariably delighted with handsome books, and that the price of an elegant book. The casket should each is one hundred and twenty crowns be worthy of the gem.
Therefore I entreat your In his curious chapter on the Earlier Majesty that you cause the same to be Manuscripts, D'Israeli gives the fol- bought; and one thing I want to know lowing ludicrous anecdote illustrative of your prudence, whether I, or Pogof the mauvaise odeur which, in monk- gius have done best,-he, that he might ish times, attached to the classics. To buy a country house near Florence, read a profane author was deemed by sold Livy, which he had writ in a very the communities not only as a very idle fine hand, or I, that I might purchase recreation, but even held by some in the books have exposed a piece of land great horror.
To distinguish them, for sale ?" therefore, they invented a disgraceful In Spain, books were so exceedingly sign; when a monk enquired for any scarce about this time, that one and the pagan author, after making the general same Bible often served for the use of sign they used in their manual and several Monasteries. And even the silent language when they wanted a Royal Library at Paris down to the book, he added a particular one, which fourteenth century possessed only four consisted in scratching under his ear, of the classic authors,—Cicero, Lucan, as a dog which feels an itching, scratch- Ovid and Boethius. The bestowment es himself in that place with his paw- of a book to a convent, was further