« PreviousContinue »
that time commenced the decline of his favor as an original composer. A similar adaptation of “Figaro” was found to be equally attractive. Then came the brilliant Rossini with his “ Barber of Seville," and Weber with his “ Freyschütz;" and the public would no longer rest satisfied with what Bishop, or any other English composer, could do for them. Since then, the stage has depended for its support on adaptations of foreign operas; the works of Mozart, Rossini, Weber, Paer, Winter, Auber, and Boieldieu, having been successively laid under contribution for that purpose.
This expedient of supplying the stage with foreign music adapted to English words, is a clumsy one, and has many bad effects. There is an intimate relation between the language of a country, and the style of melody which belongs to it. The peculiarities, for instance, of the Italian melody, are derived from the syllabic feet, accents, and inflexions of the language; and a style of melody, essentially different from the Italian, arises out of these features of our own language. Compare a fine melody of Cimarosa with a fine melody of Purcell ; observe the relation of the notes to the words, and the difference will be apparent. To transfer, therefore, the music of the one country to the language of the other, is to make a forced marriage which can never be happy. The Italian musical phrases lose their continuity and smoothness by the English consonants and short syllables ; while the English words lose their force and expression by being drawn out, as much as possible, to suit the Italian musical prosody. All this is most injurious to the art, as it breaks that union between sense and sound which is essential to good vocal music. The adaptation of English words to German music is more practicable ; but still liable to a similar objection : and there is another objection equally strong in both cases :—literary men of talent will not descend to the drudgery of cobbling up these adapted pieces; which, accordingly, (with an exception or two) are full of ignorance, awkwardness, and bad taste.
We are far from regretting, however, the production of some of these foreign master-pieces on the English stage. Even under the great disadvantage which we have just noticed, they are admirable models of dramatic composition, and would have been of great benefit to our native school had it not been for the baleful influence of fashion. When it became the fashion to admire these foreign works, it became (more Anglico) the fashion to despise our native productions; and, in place of our artists having been stimulated and encouraged to exert their best powers, they have been chilled, disheartened, and absolutely driven from the field. How much better they have ordered this matter in France! The French school of music, till lately, was wretched. The national taste was bad ; and they had not a single native composer who was truly great. Till within the memory of the present generation, every advancement in French music was effected by foreigners. Even those whose music became most eminently national-Lulli and Grétry-were foreigners ; the one an Italian, and the other a Liegeois with an Italian education. The French have had a succession of Italian and German composers constantly resident in Paris, and engaged in writing for their national opera. In this manner the talents of Gluck, Piccini, Cherubini, and_lastly Rossini, have been employed; and the effect has been, that the French school is now as excellent as it was formerly execrable. The French have had too strong a spirit of nationality to allow fashion to prejudice them against their own countrymen; and even when these great foreigners were producing their finest works, the productions of the French artists, when they deserved it, were hailed with pleasure and pride. Méhul was not despised because Gluck was the great object of admiration; and, more recently, Auber and Boieldieu have not been crushed by the weight of Cherubini and Rossini. The consequence is, that France is now repaying her debt to Germany and Italy ; and the operas of her composers are delighting the inhabitants of Naples and Vienna.
Is there less musical talent in England than in France ? Our whole musical history proves the reverse. England can furnish her contingent of illustrious names, from the very infancy of the art; and, at this moment, London possesses many artists of high talent in every department of music, who are evidently deterred from exerting their faculties by the chilling indifference with which every thing English is received. It is unlucky, too, that the most recent attempts have been made by composers of an inferior class, who, by their clumsy mimicry of the German masters, have given too much reason for their failure ; while our composers of the highest rank have retired from the field, seemingly in disappointment and disgust. But we trust they will not be totally discouraged ; indications of a better spirit are of late observable. It is beginning to be the fashion to pay some attention to native talent; and a really good English opera would probably now meet with justice from the public.
If these few tablets of devoted rhymes,
Writ by a tremulous pen and fading eye,
Has proved their writer did but live to die
Nay—even think the flint that I have worn
Was not the temper there most kindred born!
“ In the young dawn of feeling and romance,
“ Had urged his virtues'-checká his faults' advance !" Thus say--for reckless as I then may be, E'en in the tomb I hope to dream of thee!
'Tis true I'm sad—but pity not my grief,
There is a pleasure in my kind of woe ;
Exchange or part my melancholy-no!
Of day-light, joy in gairish noon-tide hours ;
And the dim loneliness of twilight bow'rs!
A thousand ecstacies that might have been
Had they been planted in its vernal green :-
MEMOIRS OF THE MACAW OF A LADY OF QUALITY.
DICTATED BY HIMSELF, AND EDITED BY LADY MORGAN.
One of the most striking ridicules of that“biped without feathers" -man-is the self-sufficiency with which he appropriates to himself the highest qualities of creation. He alone, in his own estimation, has intellectual powers; he alone is a thinking, talking, laughing, crying animal, and reasons, abstracts, and is possessed of a soul for the sublime and beautiful! After thirty years' intercourse with this conceited jackdaw of humanity, in both his extremes of civilisation, I have not been able to discover the slightest evidence of this boasted superiority, I will not say over the parrot, but over the lowest animal in the ranks of ornithology. The other day, at one of my lady's blue parties, I heard a profound physiologist confess that the whole is a mere question of structure, and that the only difference between man and macaw lies in the bumps and depressions, and the poco meno and poco piu of the nervous system. “ They have both,” he said, “passions, perceptions, appetites, impulses; and the vices and crimes of both are pretty much on a par.” This was all very.
well; but, notwithstanding such resemblances, we natives of the tropics are still the master-works of nature; and it would take some trouble to convince me that there is not more than a formal difference between a parrot and the most giddy, inconsistent, and (by fits and starts) the most lunatic animal in the whole organised creation.
• The parrot tribe, of which we macaws are the natural aristocracy, have, it must be acknowledged, some qualities not of the most amiable kind, in which we approach towards human nature.
Like man, social and gregarious, we are noisy, pert, and clamorous in society ; and every individual of the community wishes to be heard above all his fellows. We love and hate from selfishness or caprice; and we are as jealous of the favors of our mistress, as an intriguing mamma is of the ball-room preferences of a titled dandy. Rapid in our perceptions, we are like man) almost always false in our conclusions. We go on, mimicking in gesture, and reiterating in sound, all that we see and hear; and we repeat the nonsense that has passed for truth on the foolish world for ages, with such an oracular air, that we might be mistaken for Solons and Bossuets in half the private circles, and public assemblies, which occupy the attention of human society. I remember, one evening, being in an excellent humor in my lady's conservatory, (behind the pink boudoir so well known in the world of fashion,) and talking away in the most fluent and enphatic manner to an auditory of birds and butterflies, real and artificial, when some person in the adjoining room exclaimed, “Is that Sir C. W. practising for the house ?” “ No, no,” said another; “it is the popular preacher rehearsing his next Sunday's discourse on the beauties of church establishments.” The fact is, that I had picked up in my lady's salon so much of the jargon of bon ton sentiment, moral, religious, and political, that the mistake was not unnatural ; for my ordinary discourse is very much made up of the most select and admired passages, (which are repeated from mouth to mouth,) from the maiden speeches, splendid replies, and able statements of
both houses of legislature, intermingled with scraps of pulpit oratory, table talk, and “ leading articles” of the day, which form the current circulation of all fashionable assemblies. – But our resemblance to man does not stop here. Mischievous from vengeance, or from idleness, we commit every species of devastation ; yet, like the favorites of human society, we redeem all our vices by the amusement we afford, and the ennui we dissipate. Hating our own species for their success, and ambitious to climb or creep into favor with those who assume a mastery over us, we have all the pride and baseness of humanity in its highest social perfection. In one particular, however, our superiority to man is decided. We are no hypocrites, and we never stoop to lie. In our locomotive faculties also our preeminence is incontestable ; and to what purpose should a greater facility of motion be conferred on us, if our perceptors were not keener, our desires more varied, and our volitions more sublime and intense, than those of the living clod of the valley, who presumes to dispute with us in intelligence and thought? But though we talk as well as the human species, we are held to talk only at random! All our best hits must needs be nothing better than lucky accidents ! Who told them this ? Who could give them the slightest information of our moral organisation ? Was it Doctor Kennedy, or Mr. Brook, who dissected my old friend the far-famed parrot of Colonel O'Kelly? Those learned anatomists tell us, that they found the muscles of his larynx (like those of Signor Strillaforte, who was cut up about the same time by Sir A. Carlisle) to be enormously developed by practice. But where are their phrenological observations? It does not follow that there was a whit the less meaning in the gorgheggiamenti of the Signor, or in the chatter of poor Poll, than in any given oration of a minister of finance ; or that if certain human heads that I know were cultivated to the artificial exuberance of a cauliflower, or a cabbage, they would attain to a tithe of the meaning of the Colonel's intelligent protegé. Look into either house of parliament, and turn into Cross's Menagerie ; listen to the noise and chatter about nothing of men and birds, and then decide whether language was given exclusively to man to conceal his thoughts, or whether parrots are the only animals who especially employ the gift of speech to show up their incapacity. The other morning, as I was pattering about, pecking the housemaid's heels, and preventing the porter from reading his Morning Post in peace and quiet, that grave and reverend personage very unceremoniously drove me into the back hall, and shut the door upon me; so I hopped up stairs to my lady's dressing-room, and hammered with my bill till I gained admittance. Since
my dear mistress has found her eyes less useful, and less dangerous than when they softened the iron visage of a certain great lexicographer, she generally employs her page to read to her, in the early part of the day; and when I had, on this occasion, taken my place on the back of the chair, and commenced one of my noisy accompaniments to the boy's prelections, she bid me be quiet; for “Poll,” said she, “we are reading about you.” The page continued to read aloud from the works of a naturalist, who has described us tropicals in a style as brilliant as our own plumage. His notions, however, of our moral qualities and native customs are perfectly absurd.
He denied us all talent, and attributed our pertinent answers, as usual, to chance. I could not help uttering one of my sharp loud laughs ; which was at once placed to the account of coincidence, though it was as sincere and sardonic, as ever a follower of M‘Culloch bestowed upon the economical declamations of Mr. Sadler. Poll,” said her ladyship, “ that laugh is as much as to say, you don't believe a word of it.'" “ Dont believe a word of it," I repeated; and the tittering page was sent to the housekeeper's room for a plate of maringues to reward the apropos. At that moment the door opened, and the groom of the chambers announced Lady who enjoyed the privilege of an early admittance to my lady's dressing-room.
* This lady and myself had made our debut in high life together many years back at the same assembly, and nearly with the same success; which placed us at first in the ranks of rivalry. But time, which softens all antipathies, and the similitude of our fates (for we had both somewhat survived our fashion) had finally reconciled us; and we were now on terms of great familiarity and friendship. In my classifications of human varieties, I had long assigned her a place with the Parus Cæruleus, or blue titmouse. She resembled, in many points, that diminutive but lively bird. The titmouse is remarkable for a superabundance of vitality, and a reckless courage disproportionate to its size and powers, which impels it to assault birds of far superior bulk and strength. It has also the faculty of picking holes in dense sculls, and of sucking out the brains, where there are any. It wages a sportive, but mischievous, war with owls and buzzards ;and has a decided antipathy to caterpillars, which it hunts out of buds, blossoms, and the ears of corn; gaining only for its useful services the persecution of that human vulture-man, who can not distinguish between the destruction of the reptile, and a real injury to the fruit. I am always glad to see my little Lady Titmouse drop in, in B- street, for her vivacity excites me; and we chat and flutter about so like each other, that it is quite wonderful.
“Bon jour grande princesse," she said on entering: “I am glad to see your ladyship in such spirits,” for my mistress was still laughing at my last impromptu ; which she forthwith repeated to explain her hilarity. “ So then, Poll, you are in favor once more,” reply. “Ob! she is most amusing,” continued my mistress, “and says and does things so like humanity, it is quite shocking.”. “What a libel on the poor bird !” said Lady Titmouse.
“ You would have thought by her attention to Buffon, and the meaning of her laugh, that the animal understood every thing it heard."
“To be sure it did," said Lady Titmouse, hastily; “why should it not? It has ears, eyes, memory, association, every thing that goes to make up mind—” “ Hush,” said the Countess, putting her hand on the speaker's mouth; “ dont be profane, child, it is quite mauvais ton." • My Lady-hear me out. I am sure if the macaw were to write her own story, she would—” “ Do you write it for her, then," interrupted the Peeress. “With all my heart,” replied Titmouse; " and if the bird will relate all it has seen and beard for the last twenty years, the memoir would be worth all the auto