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I prefer to make myself so little obvious, or so apparently harmless, to a bird that she will herself show me her nest, or at least the leafy screen behind which it is hidden. Then if I take advantage of her absence to spy upon her treasures, it is as a friend only, friend who respects her desire for seclusion, who never lays profane hands upon them, and who shares the secret only with one equally reverent and loving. Naturally, I do not find so many nests as do the vandals to whom nothing is sacred, but I enjoy what I do find, in a way it hath not entered into their hearts to conceive.
In spite of my disinclination, we made one more call upon the magpie family, and this time we had a reception. This bird is intelligent, and by no means a slave to habit; because he has behaved in a certain way once, there is no law, avian or divine, that compels him to repeat that conduct on the next occasion. Nor is it safe to generalize about him, or any other bird for that matter. One cannot say, "The magpie does thus and so," because each individual magpie has his own way of doing, and circumstances alter cases, with birds as well as people. On this occasion we placed ourselves boldly, though very quietly, in the paths that run through the oak-brush. We had abandoned all attempt at concealment; we could hope only for tolerance. The birds readily understood; they appreciated that they were seen and watched, and their manners changed accordingly. The first one of the black-and-white gentry who entered the grove discovered my comrade, and announced the presence of the enemy by a loud cry, in what somebody has aptly called a "frontier tone of voice." Instantly another appeared, and added his remarks; then another, and still another, till within five minutes there were ten or twelve excited magpies shouting at the top of their voices, and hopping and flying about her head, coming ever nearer and nearer, as if they medi
tated a personal attack. I did not really fear it, but I kept close watch, while remaining motionless in the hope that they would not notice me. Vain hope! nothing could escape those sharp eyes when once the bird was aroused. After they had said what they chose to my friend, who received the taunts and abuse of the infuriated mob in meek silence, lifting not her voice to reply, they turned the stream of their eloquence upon me.
I was equally passive, for indeed I felt that they had a grievance. We have no right to expect birds to tell one human being from another, so long as we, with all our boasted intelligence, cannot tell one crow or one magpie from another, and all the week they had suffered persecution at the hands of the village boys. Young magpies, nestlings, were in nearly every house, and the birds had endured pillage, and some of them doubtless death. I did not blame the grieved parents for the reception they gave us; from their point of view, we belonged to the enemy.
After the storm had swept by, and while we sat there waiting to see if the birds would return, one of the horses of the pasture made his appearance on the side where I sat, now eating the top of a rosebush, now snipping off a flower plant that had succeeded in getting two leaves above the ground, but at every step coming nearer me. It was plain that he contemplated retiring to this shady grove, and, not so observing as the magpies, did not see that it was already occupied. When he was not more than ten feet away, I snatched off my sun hat and waved it before him, not wishing to make a noise. He stopped instantly, stared wildly for a moment as if he had never seen such an apparition, then wheeled with a snort, flung out his heels in disrespect, and galloped off down the field.
The incident was insignificant, but the result was curious. So long as we stayed in that bit of brush not a horse attempted to enter, though they all
browsed around outside. They avoided it as if it were haunted, or, as my comrade said, "filled with beckoning forms." Nor was that all; I have reason to think they never again entered that particular patch of brush; for, some weeks after we had abandoned the study of magpies, and the pasture altogether, we found the spot transformed, as if by the wand of enchantment. From the burned-up desert outside we stepped at once into a miniature paradise, to our surprise, almost our consternation. Excepting the footpaths through it, it bore no appearance of having ever been a thoroughfare. Around the foot of every tree had grown up clumps of ferns or brakes, a yard high, luxuriant, graceful, and exquisite in form and color; and peeping out from under them were flowers, dainty wildings we had not before seen there. A bit of the tropics or a gem out of fairyland it looked to our sun and sand weary eyes. Outside were the burning sun of June, a withering hot wind, and yellow and dead vegetation; within were cool greenness and a mere
rustle of leaves whispering of the gale. It was the loveliest bit of greenery we saw on the shores of the Great Salt Lake. It was marvelous; it was almost uncanny.
Our daily trips to the pasture had ceased, and other birds and other nests had occupied our thoughts for a week or two, when we resolved to pay a last visit to our old haunts, to see if we could learn anything of the magpies. We went through the pasture, led by the voices of the birds away over to the farther side; and there, across another fenced pasture, we heard them plainly, calling and chattering and making much noise, but in different tones from any we had heard before. Evidently, a magpie nursery had been established over there. We fancied we could distinguish maternal reproof and loving baby-talk, beside the weaker voices of the young, and we went home rejoicing to believe that, in spite of nest robbers and the fright we had given them, some young magpies were growing up to enliven the world another summer.
Olive Thorne Miller.
A WINTER TWILIGHT.
BLOOD-SHOTTEN through the bleak, gigantic trees,
In every skulking shadow Fancy sees
A sullen footstep, treacherous and slow,
Their earliest and their latest waves resound, As each, alternate, nears or leaves the strand.
John B. Tabb.
FROM LITERATURE TO MUSIC.
"Music alone ushers man into the portal of an intellectual world, ready to encompass him, but which he may never encompass."
MUSIC is often called a universal language. I like to think of it as a thing of numerous languages, carrying at one and the same time messages of infinite variety. Though we occasionally meet a person to whom not one of these languages is intelligible, I wish to show that this unfortunate condition need not exist.
As one human being differs from another, so may his comprehension of one rather than another of these music-languages differ from his neighbor's; or his musical perceptions may include several phases of music, while his neighbor's may recognize but one. The usual view of the subject presupposes lower and higher forms of the art, a natural growth in one's apprehension from low to high, and a start from near the beginning. If this view be correct, how shall we account for enthusiasm over compositions by Bach or Handel, where none has ever existed for Strauss; for Donizetti, with never any advance to Beethoven?
When a boy, I heard a story that great ly amused me, of Jullien and an eminent musical critic who was in no sense a musician. The story ran that Jullien, having read an uncomplimentary newspaper critique on one of his compositions, went in a great rage to see the writer thereof, whereupon ensued the following dialogue: "Mr. Critic, did you ever write a fugue?" "No." "Can you write a fugue? "No." "Did you ever play a fugue?" "No." "Can you play a fugue?' "No." "Then what the deevil you know 'bout a fugue, anyway?" Of course experience soon taught me that there was nothing amusing in all this excepting the musician's stupidity.
It is not easy to gauge the extent of
true poetic musical insight that is frequently shown by persons who have no technical knowledge of musical art. On the other hand, it is not at all uncommon to find a well-equipped musician in whom it is difficult to discover artistic perceptions that are at all lofty, far reaching, or real in any fine sense.
The apparent love for music which is developing on every hand is subject matter for hearty congratulation to those who love this noblest of the fine arts, while at the same time there exists some anxiety concerning its sincerity and its permanence. There is abundant evidence that music of a superior order is welcomed and enjoyed with avidity by many who have no technical knowledge of the art. From the lips of such persons can frequently be heard comments so full of appreciation and perception as to show that their attitude in the premises is genuine.
It is one purpose of this paper to suggest a cause for the unwonted presence at musical performances of a large number of people whose absence in former years was notable. I hope that in this same suggestion may be found a possible way to the enjoyment of music for those who are naturally unappreciative.
It may not be amiss to call attention to the fact that some of us take music so seriously that the custom of publishing newspaper advertisements of symphony concerts, quartette concerts, oratorios, etc., under the heading "entertainments," seems as inappropriate as it would be thus to classify scientific lectures. Whether this position be sound or not, it probably accords with the conviction of many that the province of music is to reach and affect the innermost sense, and to elevate as well as possibly to excite one's imagination. Failing to realize this is like thinking of a rainfall as simply making one's pathway muddy.
It is a well-known fact that many persons who to-day show much interest in music confessedly cared nothing about it some years ago. The question naturally arises, Is this departure genuine? To say that it is not, and to suggest fashion as the probable cause, is to match shallowness with shallowness. Journeys to and from Baireuth for the hearing of a single opera, lengthy performances of severely classical works, etc., are experiences not persistently endured for fashion's sake.
I say that the departure is genuine, and, moreover, that they who remain unmoved by music might be under its influence, if they would not doggedly look into a mirror when the subject is mentioned. The man who responds to an appeal to take a new outlook by obstinately insisting upon his own particular position in the premises is quite like one who turns to the mirror and sees nothing beside his own likeness.
I wish to think that music is for all, and not for a favored few, and to present reasons for believing that there are susceptibilities in us all which, on being touched by their counterpart in musical art, cause us to respond with emotion, and possibly with warm appreciation. A circuit is established, so to say.
Presupposing willingness on the part of an individual who has received nothing from music, I believe that he can acquire enough of it greatly to enrich and beautify his life.
A difficult subject to deal with would be a person who is naturally in touch with some one phase of music, but who rests just there, and closes his senses to all that does not conform to his position. For instance, the association of a short tune with certain words or with a given rhythm, as in dancing or marching, marks the narrow limit of the musical appreciation of some persons. I claim that such lovers of music could easily go much further. More than that, I believe that most people who have lived to middle
age without comprehending any phase of music can, if they are at all imaginative, become devoted to it.
As has been intimated before, a wellequipped musician, technically speaking, may be quite without true musical instincts, while one who is entirely ignorant of music as an art may be musical and perceptive. The listener who comprehends in one of Beethoven's toneworks nothing but the music is dangerously like the reciter who carries only the words of a poem, or one who sees nothing in a picture but its color.
The frequency with which we meet persons who have never cared for the jingle of street music, but who are reverently devoted to Handel or Bach, presents to our consideration an interesting fact. A boy who has shown a marked distaste for sculpture or for painting in any form may, on becoming a man, find great pleasure in a statue or a painting of a favorite subject in literature, in which his ideal has found expressive representation in form or color.
By all this I am trying to show that imagination may right willingly ally itself with sound; perhaps because sound is intangible, plastic, full of subtleties, and insinuating to a high degree.
To reason about music, to treat it as one can a picture or a poem, is difficult; it scales one's environments, and rides into one's being, into one's very soul, by any and every means at hand, without let or hindrance.
It would seem that for us of this period Richard Wagner has opened up a mission for music whereby it more closely allies itself to the romantic in literature, and is less fixed in its own paths of independent absolute form. It is generally conceded that music, to be true to itself, should be the logical development of well-conceived themes, as well worked out and as shapefully and consistently interwoven as the materials used by an architect for an edifice. This might
be in the construction of a song or a
symphony, the duet in an opera or the chorus in an oratorio. Although Wagner has turned away from rigid forms, and worked on lines that almost deny his music the right to stand quite alone, may he not, unwittingly, perhaps, and in the simplicity of his greatness, have hit upon a helpful path for those who have failed to recognize music as easily and naturally as others, a path which leads the rather literary or the purely imaginative mind into a comprehension of what it might otherwise have missed?
Speaking of the poem of the Niebelungen Ring during its composition, Wagner said, "It presents this interesting and important myth in the form of a play, just as a fairy tale is given to a child; thus everything makes a plastic effect, and all is understood at once." What did he mean by this? He was treating of Wotan and Walhalla, of Rheingold and Rhine Daughters, of the Walkyrie, of Niebelheim, the Twilight of the Gods, etc., in the fusion of materials taken from mediæval German and Norse mythology into his four-evening drama, and he said, "It is like a child's fairy tale, easily understood at once"! "Easily understood at once" was musically speaking, perhaps. He made no doubt that the subject and matter of his libretto would quicken the reader's imagination abundantly. He then gave expression to his musical imagination, and this union produced the works for which he is so justly famous.
That Wagner was right is now not often questioned. Is it not reasonable to think that this union between romance in literature and romance in music is constantly bringing the latter into the lives of many to whom it was before unknown? Where music does not stand entirely by and for itself, but is the handmaiden and accessory of dignified literature, is it not possible that by such an alliance a way is opening through which one can enter the enchanted ground by a literary instead of a purely musical path? VOL. LXXIII. NO. 436.
A sharp line should be drawn between programme music and Wagner's method of using short musical phrases which are indissolubly identified with various characters, situations, and even emotions connected with, or, rather, an integral part of, his music-dramas. Certainly, these phrases are charged with some potent force that makes them mean, if possible, more than the matter for which they stand. Another marvel is their simplicity; and here comes a point that is important to note. If we can recall some of the so-called motives that stand in Wagner's operas, respectively, for Walhalla, the Rhine Daughters, the Holy Grail, Kundry, Niebelheim, Lohengrin, the Walkyrie, Parsifal, etc., we shall bring to mind combinations of sound that are but a slight tax upon the comprehension of any one who is not deaf, unless it be a person who is without the power to distinguish high from low in sound, or fast from slow in motion.
It is, unfortunately, true that there are civilized people in the world "which have eyes to see and see not, and have ears to hear and hear not," but why need we deal with the abnormal? Such unfortunates are blessed with unconsciousness of what they lose, and are simply to be pitied, unless they are of the sort who parade, as if it were a joke, this fact of their incomplete natures.
It would be delightful if Richard Wagner should prove to be a writer for the larger world, and that through him many are to reach the truth who otherwise might have failed to find it. Thus he would have builded better than he knew.