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times listen, and sometimes dream, and sometimes be forced to perform my task without the benefit of either; but, however it be, I hope my readers will accept and consider my well-intended essays, without being too curi. ous as to how I came by my information, granting me always the privilege of overhearing whatever I think proper.
Music often has a charm,
It was one of those still Autumn nights, when the silence of nature bears rather the character of death than of repose—when, the ear listening in vain for so much as the falling of a withered leaf, a momentary sensation steals
the mind that we only are remaining in existence, while all is extinct besides. There was not so much as a ripple to break the moonbeam that was sleeping on the water, a still, pale streak of unvarying brightness. A few light sails of some far-distantsessels hung motionless upon the surface, courting the breeze in vain; but most, in despair of further progress, had dropped the anchor and betaken themselves to the hold, whence a gleam of light now and then glanced upon the water to give the only token of existence. The moon hung in solitary splendour midway in the heavens, and the outline of every object was as distinctly traced as in the full light of day; seeming to gain magnitude and sublimity by the loss of colouring. The cliff appeared to have grown to an immeasurable height, the woods to impenetrable thickness. There was not to be seen in all the heavens a cloud, nor on all the earth
a vapour. Thoughts of lightness and folly can find no welcome in the mind at such an hour as this. That Being with whom we seem to be left alone in the universe, becomes more sensibly the guardian of our path. When removed from all other observation, we grow more conscious of His presence; and the sensation is powerful, though mistaken, that persuades us He can more distinctly mark our feelings in the solitude of night than amid the noise and bustle of the day.
It was so I felt and so I thought, as I walked between the huge dark cliff, and the far-receded waters, listening in vain for any sound that might break on the solemn stillness of the evening. I was now drawing near to the habitations of men, that, stretching from the town, spread themselves at unequal distances along the cliff; rare at first, but increasing in thickness as they drew nearer to the centre from which they emanated. Here too all was silent. Small store of fire and candles had led the peasant early to his rest—the cottage door was closed—the honest were wrapt in wholesome slumber, and the nightly depredator had not yet come forth on his errand of mischief. I paused a moment to consider the mercy
of Him who watches over the unguarded pillow of the one, and forbears the punishment due to the deeds of the other; when a sound, as of distant music, came upon my ear. Walking a little forward, I perceived that it proceeded from a house, yet at some distance, that stood between me and the town. The notes, as far as I could distinguish them, were soft and plaintive; and in the silence of such a night, there seemed to me something in them almost celestial. My feelings at that moment told me music was the gift of heaven, and therefore must have been given for our good; and rapidly my
mind ran over the various uses that have been made of it.
In every age and every country, music has been made the emblem of whatever is most lovely and enchanting; and whether the tales that are told us of its influence be truth or fiction, they equally prove the general perception of its power over the feelings and affections of humanity. From the coarse whistle of the ploughboy, riding homeward on the fore-horse of his team, to the loud peal of the organ amid the chorus of some hundred voices, music seems to be the most natural language of the happy, the spontaneous solace of the sad. With every idea of things beautiful, pure, and delightful, music has been associated; but we never mix it with the images of things base, vicious, and disgraceful. No heathen savage ever pictured to himself a future heaven, but he placed music among the first of its delights; and in those bright prospects of eternal bliss, so often opened to us in the Holy Scriptures, music is always made a part, real or emblematical, of our promised enjoyment.
A power so universal in its influence on our feelings, so naturally combined with whatever is good and fair, and honoured with so much notice in the commands and promises of God, must surely be a gift from heaven, for the use of which we are responsible. Given, as we may suppose it, to our first parents in Paradise, it was there the language of gratitude and joy. The first use of music upon earth, perhaps, was to sound forth the praises of the Creator; and certainly it is the only one of our talents, of the continuance and purpose of which hereafter any mention has been made. Surely, then, it is a gift too sacred to be used as an instrument of folly and impiety. It is not my purpose here to dis
close the worst uses to which it has been perverted: may my readers long and ever continue strangers to them.
My loitering steps now brought me near to the window whence the delightful sounds had issued. I heard them still, and could distinguish voices mingled in natural and simple harmony. Imagination supplying what I did not hear, I fancied it the language of piety going forth from glad and grateful hearts, and stealing through the silence of the night to find gracious acceptance at the throne of mercy; and now my propensity to know more than was intended for my observation became strong within me; ascending a small elevation directly opposite to the inviting window, I set myself to see what might be passing within.
The room was dressed with flowers, and gaily lighted, shining with many a fair and happy coun. tenance. There was not a brow amongst them that seemed to bear the weight of twenty years, and some not half that number. The little group were variously occupied. Some were examining the wild flowers, or turning over the shells and pebbles that had been gathered in their morning walk; others were spreading forth prints and drawings for the amusement of their friends. One was placed at the piano, while another tuned the harp, and the leaves of the music-book were rapidly turned over in search of the selected song.
My active fancy now found ample business. There was so much innocence in the employments, and so much pleasure in the countenances of the young assembly, that all seemed in unison with my previous feelings. I imagined it some happy birthday night, which the inmates of the mansion had assembled their friends to celebrate. I looked on each