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The pretty Sparrow, thus, is dead
Deed of spite! poor bird!-ah! see,
Next as to the effects of dissimilar emotions, which we may guess will be opposite to what are above described. Dissimilar coexistent emotions, as said above, never fail to distress the mind by the difference of their tones; from which situation a feeling of harmony never can proceed; and this holds whether the causes be connected or not. But it holds more remarkably where the causes are connected; for in that case the dissimilar emotions being forced into an unnatural union, produce an actual feeling of discord. In the next place, if we would estimate the force of dissimilar emotions coexistent, we must distinguish between their causes as connected or unconnected: and in order to compute their force in the former case, subtraction must be used instead of addition; which will be evident from what follows. Dissimilar emotions forced into union by the connection of their causes, are felt obscurely and imperfectly; for each tends to vary the tone of mind that is suited to the other; and the mind thus distracted between two objects, is at no instant in a condition to receive a deep impression from either. Dissimilar emotions proceeding from unconnected causes, are in a very different condition; for as there is nothing to force them into union, they are never felt but in succession; by which means, each has an opportunity to make a complete impression.
This curious theory requires to be illustrated by examples. In reading the description of the dismal waste, book I. of Paradise Lost, we are sensible of a confused feeling, arising from dissimilar emotions forced into union; to wit, the beauty of the description, and the horror of the object described.
Seest thou yon dreary plain, forlorn and wild,
Save what the glimmering of these livid flames
And with respect to this and many similar passages in Paradise Lost, we are sensible, that the emotions being obscured by each other, make neither of them that figure they would make separately. For the same reason, ascending smoke in a calm morning, which inspires stillness and tranquillity, is improper in a picture full of violent action. A parterre, partly ornamented, partly in disorder, produces a mixt feeling of the same sort. Two great armies in act to engage, mix the dissimilar emotions of grandeur and of terror.
Sembra d'alberi densi alta foresta
L'un campo, e l'altro; di tant' aste abbonda.
Bello in sì bella vista anco è l' orrore
Gerusalemme Liberata, Cant. 20. st. 29, 30.
He chafes, he stampes, careers, and turnes about
He fomes, snorts, neighs, and fire and smoake breaths out.
Suppose a virtuous man has drawn on himself a great misfortune, by a fault incident to human nature, and therefore venial: the remorse he feels aggravates his distress, and consequently raises our pity to a high pitch: we at the same time blame the man; and the indignation raised by the fault he has committed, is dissimilar to pity: these two passions, however, proceeding from the same object, are forced into a sort of union; but the indignation is so slight, as scarcely to be felt in the mixture with pity. Subjects of this kind are of all the fittest for tragedy; but of that afterward.*
Opposite emotions are so dissimilar as not to admit any sort of union, even where they proceed from causes the most intimately connected. Love to a mistress, and resentment for her infidelity, are of that nature: they cannot exist otherwise than in succession, which by the connection of their causes is commonly rapid; and these emotions will govern alternately, till one of them obtain the ascendant, or both be spent. A succession opens to me by the death of a worthy man, who was my friend as well as my kinsman: when I think of my friend I am grieved; but the succession gives me joy. These two causes are intimately connected; for the succession is the direct consequence of my friend's death: the emotions however being oppo site, do not mix; they prevail alternately, perhaps for a course of time, till grief for my friend's death be banished by the pleasures of opulence. A virtuous man suffering unjustly, is an example of the same kind. I pity him, and have great indignation at the author of the wrong. These emotions proceed from causes nearly connected; but being directed to different objects, they are not forced into union: their opposition preserves them distinct; and accordingly they are found to prevail alternately.
* Chap. 22.
I proceed to examples of dissimilar emotions arising from unconnected causes. Good and bad news of equal importance arriving at the same instant from different quarters, produce opposite emotions, the discordance of which is not felt, because they are not forced into union: they govern alternately, commonly in a quick succession, till their force be spent:
Shylock. How now, Tubal, what news from Genoa? hast thou found my daughter?
Tubal. I often came where I did hear of her, but cannot find her.
Shy. Why there, there, there, there! a diamond gone, cost me two thousand ducats in Francfort? the curse never fell upon our nation till now; I never felt it till now: two thousand ducats in that, and other precious, precious jewels! I would my daughter were dead at my foot, and the jewels in her ear; O would she were bears'd at my foot, and the ducats in her coffin. No news of them; why, so! and I know not what's spent in the search: why, thou loss upon loss! the thief gone with so much, and so much to find the thief; and no satisfaction, no revenge, nor no ill luck stirring but what lights o' my shoulders; no sighs but o' my breathing, no tears but o' my shedding.
Tub. Yes, other men have ill luck too; Antonio, as I heard in Genoa
Shy. What, what, what? ill luck, ill luck?
Tub. Hath an argosie cast away, coming from Tripolis.
Shy. I thank God, I thank God; is it true? is it true?
Tub. I spoke with some of the sailors that escaped the wreck.
Shy. I thank thee, good Tubal; good news, good news, ha, ha; where, in Genoa?
Tub. Your daughter spent in Genoa, as I heard, one night, fourscore ducats. Shy. Thou stick'st a dagger in me; I shall never see my gold again; fourscore ducats at a sitting, fourscore ducats!
Tub. There came divers of Antonio's creditors in my company to Venice, that swear he cannot chuse but break.
Shy. I am glad of it, I'll plague him, I'll torture him; I am glad of it.
Tub. One of them shew'd me a ring, that he had of your daughter for a monkey. Shy. Out upon her! thou torturest me. Tubal; it was my Turquoise; I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor; I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkies.
Tub. But Antonio is certainly undone.
Shy. Nay, that's true, that's very true; go see me an officer, bespeak him a fortnight before. I will have the heart of him, if he forfeit; for were he out of Venice, I can make what merchandise I will. Go, go, Tubal, and meet me at our synagogue; go, good Tubal; at our synagogue, Tubal.
Merchant of Venice, Act III. Sc. I. In the same manner, good news arriving to a man laboring under distress, occasions a vibration in his mind from the one to the other:
Osmyn. By Heav'n thou'st rous'd me from my lethargy.
The spirit which was deaf to my own wrongs,
Revive, or raise, my people's voice has waken'd.
My soul is up in arms, ready to charge
And bear amidst the foe with conqu'ring troops.
To victory; their shouts and clamours rend
My ears, and reach the heav'ns: where is the king?
To break these chains. Off, off, ye stains of royalty
Can beat and flutter in my cage, when I
Mourning Bride, Act III. Sc. 2.
If the emotions be unequal in force, the stronger, after a conflict, will extinguish the weaker. Thus the loss of a house by fire, or of a sum of money by bankruptcy, will make no figure in opposition to the birth of a long-expected son, who is to inherit an opulent fortune: after some slight vibrations, the mind settles in joy, and the loss is forgotten.
The foregoing observations will be found of great use in the fine arts. Many practical rules are derived from them, which shall afterward be mentioned; but for instant gratification in part, the reader will accept the following specimen, being an application of these observations to music. It must be premised, that no disagreeable combination of sounds is entitled to the name of music: for all music is resolvable into melody and harmony, which imply agreeableness in their very conception. Secondly, the agreeableness of vocal music differs from that of instrumental: the former, being intended to accompany words, ought to be expressive of the sentiment that they convey; but the latter having no connection with words, may be agreeable without relation to any sentiment: harmony, properly so called, though delightful when in perfection, has no relation to sentiment; and we often find melody without the least tincture of it. Thirdly, in vocal music, the intimate connection of sense and sound rejects dissimilar emotions, those especially that are opposite. Similar emotions produced by the sense and the sound, go naturally into union; and at the same time are concordant or harmonious: but dissimilar emotions, forced into union by these causes intimately connected, obscure each other, and are also unpleasant by discord
These premises make it easy to determine what sort of poetical compositions are fitted for music. In general, as music in all its various tones ought to be agreeable, it never can be concordant with any composition in language expressing a disagreeable passion, or describing a disagreeable object: for here the emotions raised by the sense and by the sound, are not only dissimilar but opposite; and such emotions forced into union, always produce an unpleasant mixture. Music, accordingly, is a very improper companion for sentiments of malice, cruelty, envy, peevishness, or of any other dissocial passion; witness among a thousand King John's speech in Shakspeare, soliciting Hubert to murder Prince Arthur, which, even in the most cursory view, will appear incompatible with any sort of
*Sounds may be so contrived as to produce horror, and several other painful feelings, which in a tragedy, or in an opera, may be introduced with advantage to accompany the representation of a dissocial or disagreeable passion. But such sounds must in themselves be disagreeable; and upon that account cannot be dignified with the name of music.
+ It is beyond the power of music to raise a passion or a sentiment: but it is in the power of music to raise emotions similar to what are raised by sentiments expressed in words pronounced with propriety and grace; and such music may justly be termed sentimental.
music. Music is a companion no less improper for the description of any disagreeable object, such as that of Polyphemus in the third book of the Eneid, or that of Sin in the second book of Paradise Lost: the horror of the object described and the pleasure of the music, would be highly discordant.
With regard to vocal music, there is an additional reason against associating it with disagreeable passions. The external signs of such passions are painful; the looks and gestures to the eye, and the tone of pronunciation to the ear: such tones, therefore, can never be expressed musically, for music must be pleasant, or it is not music.
On the other hand, music associates finely with poems that tend to inspire pleasant emotions: music for example in a cheerful tone, is perfectly concordant with every motion in the same tone; and hence our taste for airs expressive of mirth and jollity. Sympathetic joy associates finely with cheerful music; and sympathetic pain no less finely with music that is tender and melancholy. All the different emotions of love, namely, tenderness, concern, anxiety, pain of absence, hope, fear, accord delightfully with music and accordingly, a person in love, even when unkindly treated, is soothed by music; for the tenderness of love still prevailing, accords with a melancholy strain. This is finely exemplified by Shakspeare in the fourth act of Othello, where Desdemona calls for a song expressive of her distress. Wonderful is the delicacy of that writer's taste, which fails him not even in the most refined emotions of human nature. Melancholy music is suited to slight grief, which requires or admits consolation: but deep grief, which refuses all consolation, rejects, for that reason, even melancholy music.
Where the same person is both the actor and the singer, as in an opera, there is a separate reason why music should not be associated with the sentiments of any disagreeable passion, nor the description of any disagreeable object; which is, that such association is altogether unnatural. The pain, for example, that a man feels who is agitated with malice or unjust revenge, disqualifies him for relishing music, or any thing that is pleasing; and, therefore, to represent such a man, contrary to nature, expressing his sentiments in a song, cannot be agreeable to any audience of taste.
For a different reason, music is improper for accompanying pleasant emotions of the more important kind; because these totally engross the mind, and leave no place for music, nor for any sort of amusement: in a perilous enterprise to dethrone a tyrant, music would be impertinent, even where hope prevails, and the prospect of success is great. Alexander attacking the Indian town, and mounting the wall, had certainly no impulse to exert his prowess in a song.
It is true, that not the least regard is paid to these rules, either in the French or Italian opera: and the attachment we have to operas, may, at first, be considered as an argument against the foregoing doctrine. But the general taste for operas is no argument: in these compositions the passions are so imperfectly expressed, as to leave the mind free for relishing music of any sort indifferently; and it cannot be disguised, that the pleasure of an opera is derived, chiefly,