Page images
PDF
EPUB

were the first to teach its melody to the Cambrian bards*, and this assumption, from a well judged policy, the government of England have firmly corroborated, by stamping the harp on their coin, and making it current for ever.

The antiquity of the harp, however, is suficiently manifest in the name; H. E. A. R. P. formed the sound to express it by our Saxon progenitors, and at this day, all the northern nations of Europe know it by no other appellation. . “Ossian's Harp still yields a dying sound among the wilds

of Morven.” Respecting the influence of its chords, while managed by the hands of the scientific, nothing can be more soothing to the bosom of sorrow; the strings of the harp have been known to give regenerated spirits to the weary, and the mind made gloomy by domestic applications, has yielded at its cheerful measures to

“Laughter holding both his sides." The modulations of this instrument have also given rise to much poetic fable ; and there are so many instances to be collected of its power to fascinate, that to record them, would be to intrude on the limits of space and patience.

I was led to these considerations by the high respect I entertain for thie ancient manner of minstrelsey, but more particularly so from a late occurrence, during a short stay made in the principality of Wales, where melody, blended with all the patbos of sensibility, made me a willing captive to the power of the lyre; this sort of enchantment, however, is not often to be met with, not even in our higbest circles. The works of many of our modern composers, are by no means calculated to produce the pleasing effect, because they are no more in unison with the soul of the poet, than the song of the nightingale, with the tempest that awakes the unfathomed ocean, leaving such a wide space between sense and sound, that their sound may apply to one metrical composition as to another ; but let me forbear the. critic, and proceed.

Shortly after the market bours were over, I entered the Lamb Inn at Swansey Town, for refreshment, and had

* Griffith ap Conan, King of Wales, is said to have brought the harp from Ireland about the beginning of the twelfth Century.

barely taken my meal, when the waiters entered, and disa turbed me by fixing a large oaken table in the middle of the room, and a double arm-chair in its centre, drawing round all the forms and stools to be collected: the farmers from the mountains had disposed of their cattle, and their wives and daughters of their various commodities, and were now entering to make merry before they returned to their habitations. I was surprised at the singularity of the scene, 'till a tall white-headed old man made his appearance, led in by a very handsome youth bearing a large pedal harp; they all hailed him by the name of Parry, and instantly hoisted the venerable minstrel into the seat prepared for him, when taking their station's, all became silent as is the interior of a more sacred place. The harp was placed by the young guide before Parry, when the blind bard of Cambria began sweetly to finger the chords of enchantment.

His song, divided into three parts, was the story of Llewellyn, Prince of North Wales; in the more affecting parts, when he came to the fall of that unfortunate chief, ibe minstrel made a most tender impression on the feelings of his auditory, and although a stranger to the language, I could not heip, from the concord of sweet sounds, feeling an indescribable sensation, and, at length was so softened with the rest, that I could not help starting the tear of sen. sibility. After this, the bard gave so many fits of jocularity, good humour presently called up smiles, and awakened pleasant thoughts over the friendly cup; and now the minstrel departed with his conductor, seemingly well satisfied with his portion of remuneration. Pleased with the amusements and the imagination unclouded, I drew out my tablets, and set down the few scattered thoughts that follow.

Minstrelsey, connected with poesy, was in use with us of Britain, long before the Saxon invaders had: obtained a firm footing in this Island, as will appear from the eyidence of the sculptor, as from the records of the historian. Its professors, it is true were but relicts of the Druids, but then they brought along with them that disposition to improve, that soon made them respected, and, bending their art with the poetic spirit, they became the delight of such as had yielded to the babits of civilization..

Learning, which under Augustine the Monk, began to expand itself, was now become the minstrel's province, for this, the bard was admitted into the mansions of distinction, and honoured as the sage of tuition, and as well as the poet and musician, became the historian of the family wherein he was cherished and retained. The valourous deeds of his protectors employed his leisure, and by his romantic genius, sometimes inflated to hyperbolical magnitude, Fancy at length adorned bis songs, and gave animation, while the melody of his voice in unison with the chords of his harp, riveted those attachments wbich lead to profit, and often to high consideration : the profession was soon looked up to as the primal source of festive pleasures, and it was even admitted that they were the peculiar favourites of heaven; that when the Creator had finished bis labours, he informed the bard to sing his praises, and of the beauties of his creation ; princes did not disdain to become their companions and imitators; they were sometimes employed as heralds, and often as negociators, and their persons beld sacred by the enemies of their nation. It was in this disguise our Alfred penetrated the Donish camp, and discovered the vulnerable parts of the invaders, whom he afterwards overthrew. Nor were the princes of the Norman race less attached to the charms of minstrelsey : Richard, Coeur de Lyon, delighted in the compositions of Blondell,' his favour. ite bard'; they would often play together, and as that king was found to be transcendant in arms, so was he acknow. ledged in the magical measures of minstrelsey. While in Palestine, it was Richard's secondary amusement, and the king encouraged its cultivation among his brave compani. ons in arms, until most of them, as well as the sword of Mars could handle the lyre of the bright Apollo. At length, by the defection of his colleague, and the restless spirit of his brother John, Richard made a peace with Saladine, and left the Holy Land ; but on his way to England was shipwrecked on the coast of Italy, and his person seized on, by Leopold, Duke of Austria, who in a most unjustifiable manner thrust him into secret confinement. Blondell, the king's beloved minstrel, bad no sooner heard of the fate of his master, than he determined to search about the world for his recovery; to that end the minstrel took his harp, and wandered over Germany as an itinerant musician, and at length found out the cell that cloistered his most honored sovereign.

To be continued.

3

LETTER from Dr. WATSON to LORD

COCHRANE.
Concluded from page 132.

Into their possession. It would occupy too much of your Lordship's time to make quotations from the work I had the honour to present to you, nearly each page of which explains the objects and opinions of Spencean Philanthro pists, particularly the following, in pages 25 and 26 :-

“ The means to accomplish this is by transferring all the Lands, waters, mines, houses, and all feudal permanent property to the people, to be held in parocbial (or other small) partnerships, which in our view of the subject, might be administered as follows:- Each parish to be the proprietor of this property, as part of the general national estate. That a Board or Committee be appointed for letting this property on leases only. Leaseholders to let to tenants at will, but not to release, and present occupiers not to be disturbed, but have a preference where they choose to continue. This PARISH, BOARD, or COMMITTEE for letting parish lands, mines, fisheries, houses, &c. to receive the rents, deducting therefrom their share of the Governmental expenses, (for the support of the State) and all parish charges, and to make a dividend of any balance remaining to all the people having settlement in the parish, as the profit arising from their natural estate.

Then follows an arithmetical statement, providing liberally for the Crown and GOVERNMENT, NOBILITY, CLERGY, the House of Commons, the Universities, and learning, the Law, County-rates, and Parish-rates, &c. &c. Now, my Lord, with this quotation, and believing that you have read it, surely the reporter of your speech must have committed a mistake, or your memory must have failed you in a very extraordinary degree.

Having explained the Spenceán plan so far, allow me, my Lord, to remark upon another part of the report of your Lordship's speech upon presenting the Spa-fields petition, wherein the editor makes you say,

o that the riot which occurred that day proceeded from a set of wild theorists, cala led Spenceans, whose object was to place the whole landed property of the country under the superintendance of Go. yernment." Unfortunately, my Lord, I became conspicuous in the two Spa-fields Meetings, and knowing more about the proceedings than it can be supposed your Lordship does, who was totally unacquainted with them, I appeal to

your known candour, and trust you will allow me to state what I know about them, and thougb it might bazard my life, and though an humble and private individual, my bonour, as an Englishman, paramountly demands that I should exculpate the Spencean Society from any knowledge of, much less co-operation in, the proceedings of that day; and although I am a member of a society which has for its object the promulgation of the most philanthropic and benevolent principles of justice, I did not act, on those occa. sions, in unison or with the knowledge of the said society. The public prints, my Lord, have dwelt on my misfortunes and privations, caused by the expenses of a large family, the distress of the times, the failure of persons in my debt, and law expenses. I was thrown out of practice, I became a forlorn man, and was accidentally thrown into the company of the patriotic and philanthropic Preston. He soli. cited me to attend a nieeting of 'mechanics desirous to put down or to limit the use of machinery. I complied, and did attend two or three of their meetings; but not approving of their objects, and considering all the inventions of man which lessen his toil to be a certain approach towards the perfectability of human society, and considering that a revolution had taken place in the commercial interests of these realms, and being a great advocate for the employment of the human race upon the earth as their natural element, and as best calculated to produce the greatest quantity of real and substantial happiness, after stating my opinion I withdrew myself; but the active and benevolent spirit of the worthy Preston having led him to Spa-fields, and there hearing and beholding scenes of misery which would move the coldest heart with compassion, he requested me to accompany him there, to see whether our feeble efforts could by any possible means afford our suffering fellow-creatures any relief. It was suggested it might be attended with advantage to call a meeting to petition the Prince Regent in their behalf; but knowing that distress pervaded the whole metropolis, it was resolved to embrace the whole in the invitation to a meeting in Spa-fields. Apetition was accord- . ingly drawn up, (which I understand is in the hands of Government), describing the calamitous condition of the poor, and tracing the cause of those calamities which so frequently affected them to the system introduced at the Norman Conquest which created an oligarchy destructive of the interests of the Crown and the people, and also de

« PreviousContinue »