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ON SONGS AND SONG WRITERS.
in their measure, but which are not Every one who has dabbled in verse, intended to be sung, and which canmust have found the difficulty of writ. not be sung without manifest injury ing a tolerably satisfactory song, -I to the effect of the composition. This mean, satisfactory even to the author phrase, however, will probably be bethimself. Most people also, whether ter understood, after considering the writers of verses or not, have some re- laws to the observance of which the membrance of being frequently dis- lyrical author is bound. appointed in songs which seemed good, The greatest difficulty, perhaps, in or pleased, against their judgment, with the composition of a song which is insongs which seemed bad, before they tended to be sung to an expressive air, were sung. These apparent contra- arises from the necessity that every dictions, though a little puzzling at stanza, being sung to the same air, first sight, appear to me to be perfect shall embody precisely the train of ly susceptible of explanation. Nor is sentiment or passion which the air that explanation difficult, if the as- musically expresses. sumption of certain premises be allow, This necessity is evident, in as much ed. "Hypothesis, however, has gener- as if it does not do so, a discordance ally more or ļess to do with the illus- between the air and the words necestration of mysterious or contradictory sarily occurs; the air conveying one phenomena; and in attempting to description or degree of feeling, and elucidate those I have described, I the words another, which is destrucshall be under the necessity of involve tive of lyrical effect. For perfect efing some degree of reference to Re- fect, indeed, it is necessary that the marks on the Nature of Musical Ex- greatest strength of poetical exprespression, and on the Progress of Poe- sion in the song should be so introtical Style, which have had the good duced as to correspond with those bars fortune to appear in former numbers of the music in which the musical exof your Miscellany. It will first be pression is strongest. When this is necessary to enumerate the difficulties not done, although no actual discordand requisites of song writing. Hav- ance may be evident, the song loses ing done this, I shall indulge myself considerably in performance. The exin a few observations on well known pression of the air in some parts is nesongs, in their different classes, and cessarily too strong for the words, and on the obstacles to correct judgment in others too weak, and vice versa. on lyrical composition.
As all lyrical music, which is exA good song may be defined to be a pressive at all, expresses some passion short piece of average metrical and or powerful feeling, by supposition inpoetical merit, adapted to an expres, herent in and exciting the singer, lysive air. It ought to possess poetical rical music may properly be said to be merit equal to that which other ap- essentially dramatic. A song, when proved metrical compositions of the performed, is a passionate "discourse" same length usually comprehend : it in “ most eloquent music.” Its lanought also to be truly lyrical, that is guage must be exclusively that of the to say, its fitness for being vocally per- feelings, and being so, must, if it is formed should be evident in the fact true that simplicity is necessary to the of the poetical effect of the song be- pathetic, be also comparatively free ing heightened, rather than other- from every appearance of the artificial. wise, by its being sung. These con- This is a severe restriction upon the ditions certainly comprehend, in their song writer, who is constantly driven performance, considerable difficulties. by it towards common-place. This is The song writer will be found to be an unfortunate dilemma. It seems to limited by laws much more severe be almost undeniable, that poetical than those which are imposed upon originality is becoming every day more the writer of other poetical effusions and more dependant upon far-sought of equal length, whether apparently and artificial combinations of thought. lyrical or confessedly not so. The ex. Now this directly tends to render more pression, apparently lyrical," I use and more difficult the original exhias descriptive of poetical pieces, lyrical bition of the pure pathetic, in poetical
composition, passion being only to be Shakspeare's songs are very unequal; conveyed by strong and natural ex- his most fanciful are perhaps his best. pression, which poetry has always " Blow, blow, thou winter wind," found it impracticable to render sus- powerful as is its language, is yet a ceptible of adventitious ornament. In little too didactic to be perfectly lyrishort, to the lyric poet is allotted the cal; “ but that's not much."_" Five almost impossible task of giving, with fathom deep thy father lies," is a beauout the aids which novelty of situation tiful disappointment. The conclusion or of preparation affords the dramatic does not answer the commencement. author, a natural and striking, as well The “ ding dong bell,” in particular, as original expression of feeling, whilst I must venture to protest against ; he is at the same time subjected to even the name of Shakspeare cannot lyrical difficulties and limitations from sanctify the absurd burthens, the which the other is free. Such are the “ heigh-hos !” and “ hey nonny nondifficulties of this species of poetic nies,” which the fashion of his time cal composition; and it is from a has probably led him to affix to many noncompliance with some or of his songs. The formal quaintness other of the requisites which have of Harrington is directly at variance been described, that those disappoint with lyrical effect, nor can I help ments which so often attend the lyri- thinking, that the lyrical parts of cal efforts of the greatest poetical ta- Fletcher's Faithful shepherdess have lents arise. Sometimes the structure been over-praised. The well-known, of the thought embodied in each “ take, oh take those lips away,” is, af stanza is too artificial-sometimes the ter all, to me, the finest song of the time. description of sentiment in one stanza A little later, Ben Jonson's,
" drink to differs from that in another, to which me only with thine eyes, is much the same air is consequently inappli- and deservedly celebrated. Those cable-sometimes the train of thought witty and elegant verses which are is throughout unsuitable to the air. called the songs of Charles the Second's Hence springs that apparent incon- time, are nearly worthless as Lyrics. sistency which causes us to reject, Let every one, however, read them, but when sung, stanzas of undoubted poe- let them only be read; they are pretty tical merit, and to prefer lines of little songs as they stand, and singing only original desert, of which, however, spoils them. the sentiment is similar to, and con- At what period the description of tinuous with the air to which they are lyrics, called “ Hunting songs,” bejoined.
came general, I cannot certainly say. The songs of the earlier poets, They are less satisfactory to me than Shakspeare, Fletcher, and others, were even drinking songs, of which last we probably written with little reference have, considering all things, marvelto the music which was to be append- lously few good specimens. Yet the ed to them. The crude and half bar- joyous and social spirit which is the barous science, which at once forma- spring of conviviality, would seem to lized and complicated the music of the be well adapted for lyrical and musical age, would afford little encouragement expression. to lyrics.
If we except a few excellent songs, Milton indeed appears to have ad- which are certainly to be found scatmired the rather more modern“ Ayres” tered throughout the pages of English of “ Master Henry Lawes,” but if poetry, and the admirable specimens the crabbed passages and awkward which are preserved amongst the early modulation of Queen Elizabeth's les- Scottish ballads, Robert Burns may be sons for the virginals are to be taken styled the first good song writer that as samples of the taste of her times, has appeared. Not that Allan Rammusical inspiration, in any shape, say is to be forgotten, many of whose must, I think, have been of rare oc- songs, as for instance, “ Woes my currence. Whether or not any of the heart that we should sunder,” and popular airs of that period have come others in “ the Gentle Shepherd,” are down to us, I do not know. It seems, of considerable poetical, as well as however, sufficiently evident, that En- lyrical merit.—But Burns, besides his gland has never perfected a national genius as a poet, seems to have hit, style of music, and to this may be in almost by a sort of instinct, upon the part attributed the scarcity of good true principles of this department of lyrics in English poetry.
writing. From these he has rarely
deviated. In his songs is displayed nor melodies ; but his Lordship can that continuity of passion or of pa- well afford to suffer for the misnomer. thetic sentiment, or of joyous or of Of the dramatic songs of the present humorous feeling, expressed in sim- day I hardly know how to speak, for ple, yet bold and original language, I have nothing good to say of them. which constitutes the beau ideal of As far as they include scientific diflyrical composition. I would particu- ficulties, they may be interesting to a Jarly instance," Here's a health to few, but they are
66 caviar to the geane I lo'e dear ;" “ From thee, Eliza, neral.” The words are, for the most I must go ;" " Will ye gae to the In- part, wisely drowned in the accomdies ;" “ Ae fond kiss, an' than we paniments, and “ let them there lie sever;" and,“ O Tibbie, I hae seen mudded.” I shall not attempt to disthe day;" as examples of perfect songs. turb their repose. Of the said accomThe ballad, “When wild war's deadly paniment, I would say, the fuller the blast;" “ When Januar' winds;" better. The ear which would soon though poetical chef d'auvres, are sicken upon the thin diet, “ the walyrical failures. A few parts only ac
ter-brose or muslin-kail” of unmeancord with the expression of the airs, ing lines to an unmeaning air, is exand the narrative stanzas which com- cited and kept in good humour by the mence and conclude the poems, pro- stimulus of the harmony. When a duce, when sung, a dreary discord. song is sung with a full accompania
The songs of Moore are in a differe ment, the difficulty of judgment is ent style. They will probably long much increased, the general excitebe the models of future cultivators of ment of the accompanying chords supEnglish lyre poetry, of which general- plying the want of pleasurable expresly speaking, they are the most perfect sion in the air. This power of genespecimens. By his felicitous ease of ral harmonic excitement is best proved expression, Moore has freed his ori- by the fact of its being known to proginality from that apparent artifice or duce an effect, even in direct opposilabour which is fatal to the effect of a tion to the excitement of the air and song. His tact, also, in adapting the words which it is intended to assist. train of sentiment to the air is equal to Of this the autobiography of the celethat of Burns. They are the twin brated Alfieri affords a singular and stars, the Castor and Pollux of the striking instance. Having before deBritish lyre. It is almost needless to scribed the tendency to depression of point out individual songs of this poet, spirits to which he was early subject, as especially displaying that exquisite he says, “ By this subterfuge I had union of poetical and of musical ex- the pleasure of hearing the Opera Bufpression, with which they all, more fa of Mercato di Malmantile. It was or less, abound. I cannot, however, composed by a celebrated master, and resist mentioning, Oh! breathe not performed by the first singers of Italy, his name;" " When he that adores Carratoli Baglioni, and her daughters. thee;" and last and best, “Go where This varied and enchanting music glory waits thee;" nor do I envy those sunk deep into my soul, and made the who
possess stoicism so great, or sym- most astonishing impression on my pathies so small, as to hear these me- imagination; it agitated the inmost Iodies sung, without experiencing recesses of my heart to such a degree, some of the strongest emotions that that for several weeks I experienced genius has ever united to language. the most profound melancholy, which În the song, “ Let them rail at this was not however wholly unattended life,” Mr Moore has suffered his sati- with pleasure."--Chap. V. 2d Epoch. rical vein to entice him into a breach Again, after he had advanced to manof the continuity of sentiment. The hood, and his constitutional tendency air is one of unmixed, though affec- to melancholy and nervous depression tionate and feeling, cheerfulness, and had more decidedly developed itself, ill bears the sarcastic turn which de- he says, My greatest pleasure conforms the concluding stanza. Amongst sisted in attending the Opera Buffa, the English lyrists, however, this au- though the gay and lively music left thor is unrivalled. He is worthy of a deep and melancholy impression on the melodies of Ireland, and they of my mind.”—Chap. II. 3d Epoch. The him. After these, Byron's Hebrew rationale of this seemingly anomalous Melodies must not be named. To say result I take to be shortly this—that the truth, they are neither llebrew the melancholic tenıleney which the
lively songs failed to overcome, was attempts to clothe grave thoughts in exacerbated by the harmony of the seaman's phraseology, good taste will accompaniments; inasmuch as gene- always revolt. In one of his songs, ral stimulants increase the predomie the resurrection is actually thus alludnant description of feeling of the mind ed to.to which they are applied ; as for in
" When he hears the last whistle, stance, drinking spirituous liquors is He'll come upon deck.” well known to heighten instead of al- One might as well think of extracting leviating the horrors of a shipwreck. the sublime from a shopboard.
The songs of the Beggar's Opera are “ Oh! penny pipers, and most painful probably the most happy of dramatic
penners lyrics. They are indeed the only Of bountiful new ballads, what a subject !” English operatic songs that have be- But, to be serious—with vulgar slang come really and permanently popular. grave interest can never amalgamate. The airs of " Woman is like a fair Divested of this, however, I do not see flower in its lustre," "I like the fox why the peculiar vicissitudes of a shall grieve," and,“ Can love be con- sailor's life might not give variety to trolled by advice?” are in themselves the lyric muse, or why the exploits beautiful, without reference to the pe- of the “ Vikingr,” whether of good culiarities of the plot of the
piece. For old Saxon or more modern times, are the right appreciation of the duet of not as capable of tuneful commemora“ The Miser thus," and of the song tion as those of heroes upon dry land. of “ The Charge is prepared,” it must Campbell's “ Battle of the Baltic,” I be recollected, that we set out with a have read a hundred times, but have highwayman for a hero, and the whole never seen the music, if there is any action is under the atmosphere of New- appended to it. The Storm of G. A. gate. The songs of the Duenna I Stevens, too, no doubt contains pasmust always regard as the weakest part sages of high lyrical merit; but it is, of that performance, nor will the Ele upon the whole, by far too much of a giacs of Burgoyne and Jackson of Exe- ballad. Black-eyed Susan, and Gloter, in the Lord of the Manor, go farver's Admiral Hosier's Ghost, are, I to redeem the English opera from the think, hardly to be classed as mediocrity which seems to be its fate.
songs. The scenes, to be sure, are Incledon and Dibdin did their best laid on board of ship, but they emto make sea songs popular, and for a body no feelings or incidents of any while they succeeded. Dibdin, how- consequence, which are peculiar to a ever, wanted judgment, for, from his
sea life.--I am,
When first I sought that smile of brightness, And, as the harp's enliven'd strain
Without the players will or care
we should My buried heart was turn’d to stone,
I might have known that this would prove part,
No hindrance to the growth of love.
Which to the flinty rock will cling,
And as the slender lichens spring, As sunbeams that in winter glow,
Obtaining life one knows not where, Glance brightest from the wreathed snow.
Strike root, and live, and flourish there : But, oh! my bosom, which before
Or say the fragile verdure drew Began so lightly to adore,
Its being from the air and dew; Would now perversely have thee be So love its tender leaf uprears, E'en constant in inconstancy.
Sown but by sighs, and fed with tears.
IF fate will tear thee from my heart,
If the last wafture of thy hand
Were death to part us, I could rest
Nor let it dwell with thee-nor pine My sinking head upon thy breast,
That thou hast no adieu of mine; And when the agony was past,
Ev'n from thyself thy going hide, My gaze would fade from thine at last. Think thou art here, and I have died. But, oh! what other pow'r shall break Count me no longer to be one My lips' last hold upon thy cheek, Whom earthly airs will breathe upon ; Or loose my stiffen'd arms that strain But keep, when thou hast ceas'd to grieve, Thy waist in grief's convulsive pain The legacy of love I leave. Or from my shoulder's resting place Yesso preserve my every sigh, Turn that pale tear-besullied face,
Stored deeply in thy memory, Or part our trembling hands that clasp So hold my love, since we must part, Their latest and long-ling’ring grasp. As if thou had'st embalm'd my heart. If fate will tear thee from my heart, May he to whom kind Heav'n shall give Without a warning sign depart,
Once more to bid thy wishes live, For I can give no answering sign,
And wake that eye's soft ray, serene, Nor faulter a farewell to thine.
Be to thee what I would have been. Thou wast like angel here below,
Give thou to him, with thine, the heart And from me, angel-like, must go,
Thou takest from me, now we part; That, losing, I may know, not how, Give it, and, of that heart possess't, But that thou art no longer now.
He shall be true as well as blest. D. T.
The following touching Verses are taken from a Newcastle Newspaper, the “ Tyne
A WINTER MORNING,
It was upon a wintry morn,
“ Come, mother, come ! nor tarry longer, When snow flakes on the wind were borne, For oh! this weakness grows still stronger ; The keen black frost had scarcely failed, Come, mother ! take me to my home And sleet and rain by turns assailed How faint I am-come--mother-come. I marked, as where in warmth I stood, He said no more his little breast And the sight did almost freeze my blood, Heaved but once, then sunk to rest. A little infant, on a stone,
Now calm, and colder than the stone Chilled and shivering, sat alone.
Where first he sat, he lies alone. The snow fell thick and fast, yet he
But soon that wretched mother came, Did never speak, but piteously
With her eyes in tears and her heart in flame; Upon each passer, with a sigh,
And God! how she stood in mute surprise Bent his little, tearful eye
When first the vision met her eyes, Yet of him notice none was taken,
When first his little face she knew He seemed to be by all forsaken,
So chang'd from the last and lovely hue As cold and shivering on the stone,
It wore that morn, when she left him alone, The little sufferer sat alone.
In tempest and storm, on a damp cold stone. He asked not aid he looked for one But who shall tell the pangs she felt, Who camne not-who, alas ! was gone As madly in the snow she knelt For ever from him-ne'er was he
And clasp'd him round, in her deep distress, Again that guilty one to see,
In all his chilling iciness ? Nor e'er again was that sweet boy
The tear at once forsook her eye, To warm his mother's heart with joy- And she rais'd a harsh and horrid cry, For she, that morn, upon that stone, That seem'd on its rushing wing to beat Had left him there to sit alone.
The last of her knowledge of grief and care. At length his fears his silence broke, Oh! ne'er will she taste sweet rest again And thus the little lost one spoke :
For madness reigns in her troubled brain, • Alas! methinks she lingers long- For her boy she calls through day and night; I cannot see her in the throng,
In coldness-in darkness in pale moon. I strain my eyes to look in vain,
light Alas! she will not come again
“ My boy !--my boy!--have you seen my And yet she promised, when alone
boy ?" She left me sitting on this stone.
Not another thought does her mind employ “ Oh, mother! come to me, for I
Not a gleam of hope from the past can she
borrow, Am cold and sick-and verily Methinks the night begins to fall,
As she wanders along in the grasp of her
sorrow ! For darkness shuts me out from all I saw before I feel not now The damp show falling on my brow,
Newcastle, Dec. 2. And sure the cold has left this stone, Where I have sat so long alone.