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as I sing them myself, is lost in the process they must undergo for publication ; but the truth is, that, not being sufficiently practised in the rules of composition to rely upon the accuracy of my own harmonic arrangements, I am obliged to submit my rude sketches to the eyes of a professor before they can encounter the criticisms of the musical world ; and, as it but too often happens that they are indebted for their originality to the violation of some established law, the hand that corrects their errors is almost sure to destroy their character,* and the few little flowers they may boast are generally pulled away with the weeds. In singing them myself, however, I pay no such deference to criticism, but usually give both air and harmony, according to my own first conception of them, with all their original faults, but at the same time, all their original freshness.
Among those who have taken the trouble of revising my attempts at composition, I have found no one so indulgent to their anomalies as my friend Sir John Stevenson-no one so anxious to reconcile every irregularity, to conceal, where he scrupled to correct, my offences against science, and sometimes even to feel with Martial, “ simpliciter pateat vitium,” rather than risk the loss of a grace by too rigid an amend
* I know I shall be told by the learned musician, that whatever infringes the rules of composition must be disagreeable to the ear, and that, according to the pure ethics of the art, nothing can possibly be pleasant that is wrong; but I am sorry to say that I am lawless enough to disagree with him, and have sometimes been even so lost to all sense of musical rectitude, as to take pleasure in a profane succession of fifths !
ment of errors.
And, after all, perhaps the mortification I now and then suffer, in seeing the fairy Criticism steal away my wild offspring, and lay some formal-featured changelings of her own in their place, is but a proper punishment for my temerity in venturing into the mazes of modulation, where even those who hold the clue of science are so very apt to bewilder themselves, and where melody and sentiment are most frequently lost on the way. Wherever I have been content to remain simply in the key in which I began, without wandering from home in search of discords and chromatics, I have not only been independent of critical aid, but the strains I have produced were much more touching and effective.*
Rousseau, who, though an excellent theorist in Music, had but little experience in the art of composition, very wisely, as well as tastefully, chose, in his Devin du Village, a story of young and innocent lovers, whose sentiments required but few notes to express them, and were best told in those simple, unpretending airs, to which bis tender and melancholy spiritt gave birth. GRETRY, a musician, who seems to have felt, more than most of his brethren, the charms of Song unmixed with the refinements of Harmony, is of
Among the pieces but very little altered from my original notation, are "Oh Lady Fair!"_ When Time, who steals, "_" Here's the Bower,"
Farewell, Bessy,"_“ The Canadian Boat Song,"_“Young Love liv'd once."
+ Melancholy is the soul of Music-all national airs have a sadness in them ; even those that seem gayest.
« Ce caractère n'est senti que par des oreilles musiciennes ; le peuple l'ignore, c'est avec gaité qu'il chante tristement." De Chabanon, de la Musique, considérée, en elle-même, &c. Chap. 2. p. 46.
opinion* that, if Rousseau had attempted a more complicated subject, where a greater variety of passions was to be expressed, he would have found himself embarrassed in scientific difficulties, and, in short, have been wholly unequal to the task.
There is but one instruction I should venture to give to any person desirous of doing justice to the character of these ballads, and that is to attend as little as possible to the rhythm or time in singing them. The time, indeed, should always be made to wait upon the feeling, but particularly in this style of musical recitation, where the words ought to be as nearly spoken as is consistent with the swell and sweetness of intonation, and where a strict and mechanical observance of time completely destroys all those pauses, lingerings, and abruptnesses, which the expression of passion and tenderness requires. The truth of this remark needs but little enforcement to those who have ever heard a song of feeling and delicacy paced along in the unrelenting trammels of an orchestra.
I could say a good deal more on this subject, but it has already tempted me into too much egotism: and perhaps,
" next to singing the most foolish thing
+ Essais sur la Musique, Tom. 1. p. 276.—Youth (says this interesting composer and writer) is the time for producing melodies and he is right. There is a romantic sadness about youth.
AWAY with this pouting and sadness,
BELIEVE me, if all those endearing young charms,
CAN I again that look recall,
DEAR aunt! in the olden time of love,
ERIN! the tear and the smile in thine eyes,
FAINTLY as tolls the evening chime,
IF I swear by that eye, you'll allow,
LOVE, my Mary, dwells with thee,
MARY I believ'd thee true,
NOW let the warrior plume bis steed,