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O my Antonio, I am all on fire,
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!
Off slavery! O curse, that I alone
Can beat and flutter in my cage, when I
Would soar, and stoop at victory beneath !—Mourning Bride, act 3. 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 forgot.
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 connexion with words, may be agreeable without relation to any sentiment: harmony, properly so called, though delightful when in perfection, hath no relation to sentiment; and we often find melody without the least tincture of it. Thirdly, in vocal music, the intimate connexion 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 discordance.
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
* 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.
f 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.
such emotions forced into union produce always 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 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 emotion in the same tone; and hence our taste for airs expressive of mirth and jollity. Sympathe. tic 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 disagrecable 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
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 from the music, and scarce at all from the sentiments: a happy concordance of the emotions raised by the song and by the music, is extremely rare; and I venture to affirm, that there is no example of it, unless where the emotion raised by the former is agreeable as well as that raised by the latter.*
The subject we have run through appears not a little entertaining. It is extremely curious to observe in many instances, a plurality of causes producing in conjunction a great pleasure: in other instances, no less frequent, no conjunction, but each cause acting in opposition. To enter bluntly upon a subject of such intricacy, might gravel an acute philosopher; but taking matters in a train, the intricacy vanisheth.
Next in order, according to the method proposed, some external effects; which lead us to passions as the causes of external effects. Two co-existent passions that have the same tendency, must be similar: they accordingly readily unite, and in conjunction have double force. This is verified by experience; from which we learn, that the mind receives not impulses alternately from such passions, but one strong impulse from the whole in conjunction; and indeed it is not easy to conceive what should bar the union of passions that have all of them the same tendency.
Two passions having opposite tendencies may proceed from the same cause considered in different views. Thus a mistress may at once be the cause both of love and of resentment: her beauty inflames the passion of love; her cruelty or inconstancy causes resentment. When two such passions co-exist in the same breast, the opposition of their aim prevents any sort of union; and accordingly, they are not felt otherwise than in succession: the consequence of which must be, either that the passions will balance each other and prevent external action, or that one of them will prevail and accomplish its end. Guarini, in his Pastor Fido, describes beautifully the struggle between love and resentment directed to the same object:
Corisca. Chi vide mai, chi mai udì più strana
* A censure of the same kind is pleasantly applied to the French ballattes by a celebrated writer: "Si le Prince est joyeux, on prend part à sa joye, et l'on danse: s'il est triste, on veut l'égayer, et l'on danse. Mais il y a bien d'autres sujets de danses: les plus graves actions de la vie se font en dansant. Les prêtres dansent, les soldats dansent, le dieux dansent, le diables dansent, on danse jusques dans les enterremens, et tout danse à propos de tout."
S'i'miro à le bellezze di Mirtillo,
Ed in quel punto in me sorge un talento
Un ritroso? uno schifo? un che non degna?
E provo nel mio mal le pene altrui.-Act. 1. sc. 3.
Ovid paints in lively colours the vibration of mind between two opposite passions directed to the same object. Althea had two brothers much beloved, who were unjustly put to death by her son Meleager in a fit of passion: she was strongly impelled to revenge; but the criminal was her own son. This ought to have witheld her hand but the story is more interesting, by the violence of the struggle between resentment and maternal love :
Dona Deûm templis nato victore ferebat;
At simul est auctor necis editus; excidit omnis
Ulciscor, facioque nefas.. Mors morte pianda est ;
Dummodo, quæ dedero vobis solatia, vosque
Ipsa sequar, dixit: dextrâque aversa trementi