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before Beaumont's death ; and they understood and imitated the conversation of gentlemen much better, whose wild debaucheries, and quickness of repartees, no poet can ever paint as they have done. That humour which Ben Jonson derived from particular persons, they made it not their business to describe : they represented all the passions very lively, bat above all, love. I am apt to believe the English language in them arrived to its highest perfection: what words have been taken in, are rather superfluous than necessary. Their plays are now the most pleasant and frequent entertainments of the stage; two of theirs being acted through the year for one of Shakspeare's or Jonson's : the reason is, because there is a certain gaiety in their comedies, and pathos in their more serious plays, which suits generally with all men's humour. Shakspeare's language is likewise a little obsolete, and Ben Jonson's wit comes short of theirs.
As for Jonson, to whose character I am now arrived, if we look upon him while he was himself (for his last plays were but his dotages), I think him the most learned and judicious writer which any theatre ever had. He was a most severe judge of himself as well as others. One cannot say he wanted wit, but rather that he was frugal of it. In his works you find little to retrench or alter. Wit and language, and humour also in some measure, we had before him; but something of art was wanting to the drama till he came.
He managed his strength to more advantage than any who preceded him. You seldom find him making love in any of his scenes, or endeavouring to move the passions; his genius was too sullen and saturnine to do it gracefully, especially when he knew he came after those who had performed both to such an height. Humour was his proper sphere, and in that he delighted most to represent mechanic people. He was deeply conversant in the ancients, both Greek and Latin, and he borrowed boldly from them : there is not a poet or historian among the Roman authors of those times, whom he has not translated in Sejanus and Catiline. But he has done his robberies so openly, that one may see he fears not to be taxed by any law. He invades authors like a monarch, and what would be theft in other poets, is only victory in him. With the spoils of those writers be so represents old Rome to us, in its rites, ceremonies, and customs, that if one of their pocts had written either of his tragedies, we had seen less of it than him. If there was any fault in his language, it was that he weaved it too closely and laboriously in his serious plays : perhaps. too, he did a little too much Romanize our tongue, leaving the words which he translated almost as much Latin as he found them; wherein, though he learnedly followed the idiom of their language, he did not enough comply with ours. If I would compare with him Shakspeare, I must acknowledge him the more correct poet, but Shakspeare the greater wit. Shakspeare was the Homer or father of our dramatic poets, Jonson was the Virgil, the pattern of elaborate writing; I admire bim, but I love Shakspeare. To conclude of lim, as he has given us the most correct plays, so in the precepts which he has laid down in his discoveries, we have as many and as profitable rules for perfecting the stage as any wherewith the French can furnish us.
THERE are few who have not felt the charms of music, and acknowledged its expressions to be intelligible to the heart. It is a language of delightful sensations, that is far more eloquent than words: it breathes to the ear the clearest intimations; but how it was learned, to what origin we owe it, or what is the meaning of some of its most affecting strains, we know not.
We feel plainly that music touches and gently agitates the agreeable and sublime passions ; that it wraps us in melancholy, and elevates in joy; that it dissolves and inflames: that it melts us in tenderness, and rouses to rage: but its strokes are so fine and delicate, that, likea tragedy, even the passions that are wounded please; its sorrows are charming, and its rage heroic and deliglitful; as people feel the particular passions with different degrees of force, their taste of harmony must proportionably vary. Music then is a language directed to the passions; but the rudest passions put on a new nature, and become pleasing in harmony: let me add, also, that it awakens some passions which we perceive not in ordinary life. Particularly the most elevated sensation of music arises from a confused perception of ideal
or visionary beauty and rapture, which is suffi. ciently perceivable to fire the imagination, but not clear enough to become an object of knowledge. This shadowy beauty the mind attempts, with a languishing curiosity, to collect into a distinct object of view and comprehension; but it sinks and escapes, like the dissolving ideas of a delightful dream, that are neither within the reach of the memory, nor yet totally fled. The noblest charms of music then, though real and affecting, seems too confused and fluid to be collected into a distinct idea. Harmony is always understood by the crowd, and almost always mistaken by musicians: who are, with hardly any exception, servile followers of the taste of mode, and who, having expended much time and pains on the mechanic and practical part, lay a stress on the dexterities of hand, which yet have no real value, but as they serve to produce those collections of sound that move the passions. The present Italian taste for music is exactly correspondent to the taste of tragi-comedy, that about a century ago gained ground upon the stage. The musicians of the present day are charmed at the vnion they form between the grave and the fantastic, and at the surprising transitions they make between extremes, while every hearer who has the least remainder of the taste of nature left, is shocked at the strange jargon. It the same taste should prevail in painting, we must soon expect to see the woman's head, a horse's body, and a fish's tail, united by soft gradations, greatly admired at our public exhibitions. Musical gentlemen should take particular care to preserve in
its full vigour and sensibility their original natural taste, which alone feels and discovers the true beauty of music.
If Milton, Shakspeare, or Dryden, had been born with the same genius and inspiration for music as for poetry, and had passed through the practical part without corrupting the natural taste, or blending with it prepossession in favour of the slights and dexterities of hand, then would their notes be tuned to passions and to sentiments as natural and expressive as the tones and modulations of the voice in discourse. The music and the thought would not make different expressions : the hearers would only think impetuously; and the effect of the music would be to give the ideas a tumultuous violence and divine impulse upon the mind. Any person
conversant with the classic poets, sees instantly that the passionate power of music I speak of, was perfectly understood and practised by the ancients; that the muses of the Greeks always sung, and their song was the echo of the subject, which swelled their poetry into enthusiasm and rapture. An inquiry into the nature and merits of the ancient music, and a comparison thereof with modern composition, by a person of poetic genius and an admirer of harmony, who is free from shackles of practice, and the prejudices of the mode, aided by the countenance of a few men of rank, of elevated and true taste, would probably lay the present half Gothic mode of music in ruins, like those towers of whose little laboured ornaments it is an exact picture, and restore the Grecian taste of passionate harmony once more, to the delight and