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strongest comprehension: further, inasmuch as poetry can most accurately imitate them:" inasmuch as, besides all imitation, there is a charm in poetry arising from its very numbers;* whereas painting has pretence to no charm, except that of imitation only: lastly, (which will soon be shewn,') inasmuch as poetry is able to associate music as a most powerful ally, of which assistance painting is utterly incapable: from all this it may be fairly concluded, that poetry is not only equal, but that it is, in fact, far superior to its sister art of painting.
IV. But if it exceed painting, in subjects to which painting is not adapted, no doubt will it exceed music, in subjects to music not adapted. For here it has been preferred, even in those subjects which have been held adapted the best of all.
V. Poetry is, therefore, on the whole, much superior to either of the other mimetic arts; it having been shewn to be equally excellent in the accuracy of its imitation; and to imitate subjects which far surpass, as well in utility," as in dignity.
ON MUSIC, CONSIDERED NOT AS AN IMITATION, BUT AS DERIVING ITS EFFICACY FROM ANOTHER SOURCE. ON ITS JOINT OPERATION BY THIS MEANS WITH POETRY. AN OBJECTION TO MUSIC SOLVED. THE ADVANTAGE ARISING TO IT, AS WELL AS TO POETRY, FROM THEIR BEING UNITED. CONCLUSION.
In the above discourse, music has been mentioned as an ally to poetry. It has also been said to derive its efficacy from another source than imitation. It remains, therefore, that these things be explained.
Now, in order to this, it is first to be observed, that there are
That there is a charm in poetry, arising from its numbers only, may be made evident from the five or six first lines of the Paradise Lost; where, without any pomp of phrase, sublimity of sentiment, or the least degree of imitation, every reader must find himself to be sensibly delighted; and that, only from the graceful and simple cadence of the numbers, and that artful variation of the caesura, or pause, so essential to the harmony of every good poem.
An English heroic verse consists of ten semipeds, or half-feet. Now, in the lines above mentioned, the pauses are varied upon different semipeds in the order which follows; as may be seen by any, who
various affections which may be raised by the power of music. There are sounds to make us cheerful, or sad; martial, or tender; and so of almost every other affection which we feel.
It is also further observable, that there is a reciprocal operation between our affections and our ideas; so that, by a sort of natural sympathy, certain ideas necessarily tend to raise in us certain affections; and those affections, by a sort of counter-operation, to raise the same ideas. Thus, ideas derived from funerals, tortures, murders, and the like, naturally generate the affection of melancholy. And when, by any physical causes, that affection happens to prevail, it as naturally generates the same doleful ideas.
And hence it is, that ideas derived from external causes, have at different times, upon the same person, so different an effect. If they happen to suit the affections which prevail within, then is their impression most sensible, and their effect most lasting. If the contrary be true, then is the effect contrary. Thus, for instance, a funeral will much more affect the same man if he see it when melancholy, than if he see it when cheerful.
Now this being premised, it will follow, that whatever happens to be the affection or disposition of mind, which ought naturally to result from the genius of any poem, the same, probably, it will be in the power of some species of music to excite. But whenever the proper affection prevails, it has been allowed that then all kindred ideas, derived from external causes, make the most sensible impression. The ideas, therefore, of poetry, must needs make the most sensible impression, when the affections," peculiar to them, are already excited by the music. For here a double force is made to cooperate to one end. A poet, thus assisted, finds not an audience in a temper averse to the genius of his poem, or, perhaps at best, under a cool indifference; but by the preludes, the symphonies, and concurrent operation of the music in all its parts, roused into those very affections which he would most desire.
An audience so disposed, not only embrace with pleasure the ideas of the poet when exhibited, but, in a manner, even anticipate them in their several imaginations. The superstitious have not a more previous tendency to be frightened at the sight of spectres, or a lover to fall into raptures at the sight of his mistress, than a mind, thus tempered by the power of music, to enjoy all ideas which are suitable to that temper.
And hence the genuine charm of music, and the wonders which it works through its great professors. A power which
Quintilian elegantly, and exactly apposite to this reasoning, says of music, Namque et voce et modulatione grandia elate, jucunda dulciter, moderata leniter
canit, totaque arte consentit cum eorum, quæ dicuntur, affectibus. Inst. Orator. l. i. c. 10.
Such, above all, is George Frederic
consists not in imitations, and the raising ideas, but in the raising affections to which ideas may correspond. There are few to be found so insensible, I may even say so inhuman, as when good poetry is justly set to music, not in some degree to feel the force of so amiable an union; but to the Muses' friends it is a force irresistible, and penetrates into the deepest recesses of the soul.
Pectus inaniter angit,
II. Now this is that source from whence music was said formerly to derive its greatest efficacy; and here, indeed, not in imitation, ought it to be chiefly cultivated. On this account also it has been called a powerful ally to poetry. And, further, it is by the help of this reasoning that the objection is solved, which is raised against the singing of poetry, (as in operas, oratorios, &c.) from the want of probability and resemblance to nature. To one, indeed, who has no musical ear, this objection may have weight; it may even perplex a lover of music, if it happen to surprise him in his hours of indifference. But when he is feeling the charm of poetry so accompanied, let him be angry (if he can) with that which serves only to interest him more feelingly in the subject, and support him in a stronger and more earnest attention; which enforces, by its aid, the several ideas of the poem, and gives them to his imagination with unusual strength and grandeur. He cannot surely but confess, that he is a gainer in the exchange, when he barters the want of a single probability, that of pronunciation, (a thing merely arbitrary, and everywhere different,) for a noble heightening of affections which are suitable to the occasion, and enable him to enter into the subject with double energy and enjoyment.
III. From what has been said, it is evident, that these two arts can never be so powerful singly, as when they are properly united for poetry, when alone, must be necessarily forced to waste many of its richest ideas, in the mere raising of affections, when, to have been properly relished, it should have found those affections in their highest energy; and music, when alone, can only raise affections which soon languish and decay, if not maintained and fed by the nutritive images of poetry. Yet must it be remembered, in this union, that poetry ever have the pre
Handel; whose genius having been cultivated by continued exercise, and being itself far the sublimest and most universal now known, has justly placed him without an equal, or a second. This transient testimony could not be denied so excellent an artist, from whom this treatise has borrowed such eminent examples, to justify
its assertions in what it has offered con-
h Horat. Epist. 1. 1. ii. 211.
For the narrow extent, and little effi-
cedence; its utility," as well as dignity, being by far the more considerable.
IV. And thus much, for the present, as to music," painting, and poetry; the circumstances in which they agree, and in which they differ; and the preference due to one of them above the other two.
Chapter v. sect. 2.
" Page 27.
J. H. to F. S.
NATURE seems to treat man as a painter would his disciple, to whom he commits the outlines of a figure lightly sketched, which the scholar for himself is to colour and complete: thus from nature we derive senses, and passions, and an intellect, which each of us for himself has to model into a character. And hence (the reverse of every species beside) human characters alone are infinitely various; as various, indeed, as there are individuals to form them: hence, too, the great diversity of systems, and of doctrines, respecting the laws, and rules, and conduct of human life.
It is in the history of these, my friend, you have so successfully employed yourself: you have been studious to know, not so much what Greeks, Romans, or Barbarians have done, as what they have reasoned, and what they have taught. Not an epicure has more joy in the memory of a delicious banquet, than I feel in recollecting what we have discoursed on these subjects.
And here you cannot forget (for we were both unanimous) the contempt in which we held those superficial censurers, who profess to refute, what they want even capacities to comprehend. Upon the faith of their own boasting, (could that be credited,) sentiments are exposed, opinions demolished, and the whole wisdom of antiquity lies vanquished at their feet. Like Opera heroes, upon their own stage, they can with ease despatch a lion, or discomfit a whole legion. But, alas! were they to encounter, not the shadow, but the substance, what, think you, would be the event then? Little better, I fear, than was the fortune of poor Priam, when the feeble old man durst attack the youthful Pyrrhus:
a Ut Phidias potest a primo instituere signum, idque perficere; potest ab alio inchoatum accipere et absolvere: huic est sapientia similis. Non enim ipsa genuit
hominem, sed accepit a natura inchoatum: hanc ergo intuens, debet institutum illud, quasi signum absolvere. Cic. de Fin. iv. 13. p. 334. edit. Davis.