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Peter's Notions on Music.
rities in the structure of their minds, for which no other adequate cause can be assigned-unless it be in their avocations. Why then, should music, which is as distinctly the language of the soul as poetry, be excluded from a share in this presiding infiu
If the one be admitted, the other must follow as a consequence, for the alliance betwixt it, and the other operations of wind, is too intimate to be dissolved. We find accordingly that the Gaelic airs are wild and pathetic. The spirit of that singular people seems to breathe through every note, and we may recognize the various emotions which agitated the bosom of the bard, in the ever-varying cadence of a Highland air. The intense, but manly grief for fallen valour, in the low and hollow tone which marks the commencement, as much as to say, “honestum est viros meminisse :” the animating pleasure which is felt, when the heroic deeds of the departed are chaunted in a strain of invigorating lightness; and the stern purpose which must have had its seat in the bosom of these vindictive mountaineers, in the loud and clamorous conclusion in which ven. geance was probably invoked. The same holds of the Welch, the Tyrolese, and Swiss, both of which last are very different in general feeling and effect, from the French, the Spanish, or the German, when we turn our attention to the lowlands of Scotland, every thing is different. The music has a smooth, uniform tenor, mixed with infinite pathos, which points to a very distinct origin. It is the music of pastoral life, interspersed with historical and national notices, and seldom rises above the exquisite, yet equal harmony, which is its grand characteristic. Much of it is plaintive, and appears to have been devoted to subjects of general interest, and much of it is famatory, which too, I think, may be said to constitute the grand divisions of the low country music. The remote poetry of Scotland was not employed, in general, in the celebration of such warlike subjects as occupied the chief attention of the Celtic Bards. I speak of the songs of other times, without reference to the moral declamations, or satirical allegories of such men as David Lindsay, &c.; and so far as my individual knowledge goes, I see no reason to doubt the truth of this. During the times of civil and religious disturbances in Scotland, many tunes derived existence, and though succeeding generations have acquiesced in the testimony of their general excellence, they are mightily different from what a people of more turbulent and restless dispositions would have produced. Had
Peter's Notions on Music.
the mountains of the north been the scene of such exploits, the music would undoubtedly have exhibited a complexion as different as can well be imagined. But the lowland airs of that time display a spirit which seems to be oppressed, a weary load of grief, which either finds relief in gentle aspirations to the deity, or in pathetic and melancholy lamentation for irreparable loss. The difference of the Gaelic and low country style of music, cannot be more happily illustrated than in the familiar airs of the “ Flowers of the Forest,” or “ Gilderoy”—the spirit of which are essentially the same, and the “ Highland Watch," or “ Callam Brougach.” Burke would have said that the melody of the one was the effect of the beautiful, but that the other was allied to some more tumultuous passion. He has eloquently said, that, “quick transitions from one measure or tone to another, are contrary to the genius of the beautiful in music:” that they “ often excite mirth, but not that sinking, that melting, that languor, which is the characteristic effect of the beautiful, as it regards cvery sense.
It appears to me that there is no other possible way counting for the superiority which the old airs maintain over such as are modern, but by referring it to the material difference which must have existed between the taste and musical feeling of our ancestors, and that of their descendants: and that this depends very essentially on the change of habits, is, I think, a very reasonable inference. Our masters of acknowledged celebrity can produce nothing which may be compared with the music of some unknown shepherd, who may have lived some hundred years ago. Nor is this a refinement. Novelty has unquestionably charms ---yet these are perishable, and I am sure that I merely appeal to the feelings of others more conversant in such matters, when I say, that we revert with unfaded delight to the charming simplicity of an old Scotch tune, after having listened for a few weeks to the production of a modern. The one has stood the test of ages, and still preserves its blossom; the other like a newblown rose, is beautiful while the sun shines on it, but tumbles into neglect when the genial influence of public regard is withheld from it. This cannot be attributed to want of talent, but is probably chargeable upon a defect of equal magnitude, viz.
* Burke on the Sublime and Beautiful
Peter's Notions on Music.
a less simple, and a less natural taste. It has been remarked of Tannahill, that when he attempted descriptions of rural life and manners, he was infinitely inferior to Burns, and the cause is obvious. The one was a peasant, acquainted from his infancy with the peculiarities of country life: the other was the inhabitant of a manufacturing town, and an artisan, and could hardly be supposed to be familiar with those scenes which he essayed to de. scribe. This is exactly the case with our modern music masters. They ape a style which they have not feeling sufficient to realize in their own minds; indeed they would require a peculiar kind of inspiration to equal, by mere imitation, what their forefathers produced as the spontaneous overflow of surcharged minds. Feeling is like electricity. It
be accumulated at a particular point, and by the application of certain mental conductors, may be discharged on one particular subject, which, to people of unvitiated taste, when not over excited, will be relished with infinite gratification.
It is commonly alleged that the English have no national taste in music, and can only boast of a heterogeneous mixture of Saxon, Danish, and Norman peculiarities, and there seems to be a strange mixture of truth and prejudice in this account of matters. I presume we are to understand by this, that their music has none of that peculiar feeling which characterizes our Northern airs, and is deficient in some of those essential qualities which are necessary to stamp on it the impress of nationality. We do not talk of English music as we do of the Scotch, or German, or Spanish, or French; and this fact is sufficiently striking, though it may not be easy to account for the anomaly.
Dr. Gregory, if I remember right (for I quote from memory) conceives it probable that their national music may have been lost during the tines of civil disturbances : yet this is somewhat unintelligible, and has no countenance from the history of our own country; besides which, every nation has had seasons of war, and civil discord. France has had her league ; Spain her period of tumult and military government : and Switzerlard, and the Tyrol have, unfortunately for humanity, been assailed by all the horrors of tyranny, and military invasion.
Yet they have preserved unbroken their peculiar spirit in music, and though their political institutions may suffer extinction, their musical feeling, it is probable, will always live, if it should merely be, as in Scotland, the re
rd of times which are gone, and men whó cease to live.
Peter's Notions on Music.
and a poet.
The most distinguished patron of our national music, which our country can boast of, was King James the first, a monarch He composed airs for his own verses, and is
sup• posed to have introduced that plaintive melody which is so captivating in Scotch tunes. During his time organs were introduced into the Cathedrals and Abbeys, and it is told that choir service in Scotland was brought to such a degree of perfection, as to fall little short of that established in any country in Europe.” It is remarkable that from the reign of James first, to James the fifth, the most illustrious poets of the olden time flourished. Gavin Douglas, Bishop of Dunkeld: Ballenden, Archdeacon of Murray; Dunbar, Henryson, Scott, Montgomerie, and Sir David Lyndsay. The elegant and refined spirit of the monarch seems to have been infused into the genius of his subjects, and though a turbulent and haughty nobility were insensible of the advantages which they might derive from the regulations of a prince, whose qualifications so far surpassed that of his con mporaries; may we not please ourselves with the belief that like the prophet Elijah, his mantle may have fallen on his countrymen, and inspired them with a feeling of reverence for its owner, and a high partiality for those pursuits in which he led the way:
Music has been divided by systematic writers, into melody and harmony, and much discussion has arisen as to the
in which the mind is affected by these. Rousseau has divided it into Physical and Imitative, a distinction which I believe to be more artificial than natural. Indeed this extraordinary man seems to have renounced allegiance to his favourite mistress on this occasion, and to have subscribed to the existence of a set of imagi. nary feelings. Will any man believe that a beautiful air produces a mere mechanical impression on the auditory nerve, and that all those delightful sensations which we experience under such circumstances, are the mere result of corporeal pleasure, altogether unconnected with the mind, and distinct from those powerful feelings, in which the soul is interested ? It is incredible. The experience of mankind is against the conclusion, nor would it be at all desirable to establish a theory so barren in gratification. Franklin was nearer the truth when he said, “ that melody and harmony are separately agreeable; and that the reason why the Scotch'tunes have lived so long, and will probably live for ever (if they escape being stifled in modern affectation)
Peter's Notions on Music.
is merely this--that they are really compositions of melody and harmony united, or rather that their melody is harmony." Independent, however, of the agreeable sensations which are excited by a Scotch air, and which are evidently dependent on its natural simplicity, and unaffected sweetness, may be mentioned the peculiar interest with which a Scotchman listens to the mu• sic of his country.
Association enables him to connect the sounds which he hears, with the remembrance of days which are gone, and presenting to the eye of his mind interesting groupes of national aud historical objects, gilds the present with a melancholy charm which nothing can equal. A glowing, and buoyant delight, an unmixed enjoyment flowing from an uncontaminated source, and a plaintive extacy, which every other description of music fails to exuite."
• Deil's in the fallow,' said Foresthaugh, down whose furrowed cheek a large round tear was trickling — Deil's in the fallow, he surely kent my Geordie, or he ne'er could hae written oucht like that. Do ye mind himn Mr. oh no, he was afore your time, but there was na a youth in a' the kintra side could play the fiddle half sae weel. I think I hear him at this moment playin' Low down in the broom, or Gilderoy, or Auld Robin Grey, or something melancholy and sweet, for his taste was classic in music as in every thing else. I hae aften blamit mysel' sair that I did na keep him frae the army, but his bauld spirit coud na bide the very thocht o’ inaction, an' I coud na weel help it after a.' • What's the matter now,' quoth my aunt, who to prevent the contagion of her husband's sorrow from being apparent, had during this soliloquy primed her nose so largely with snuff that she sneezed several times, 'what's the matter now gudeman ? Ye're like a bairn wi' your grief. Was it na the will o' the almichty, an how could ye help
it ? Its vera true that
ye didna tak my advice, an its as certain that the wilfu’lad was ower mickle guidit by ye, but he's gane now, an’ what's dune canna be mendit?' Here the good old woman, notwithstanding the asperity of her remarks, could no longer contend with the strong tide of natural feeling which was likely to gain the mastery over her, and bursting into a fiood of tears, left the room for the night. Distressed at so untoward an accident, and much concerned for the discomfort which Peter's unfortunate discussion had excited, I turned to the Laird and with his permission read the following