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reality of the case, perhaps, might be stated thus, that while Moore, in virtue of his Irish birth, and his constitutional dash of Irish patriotism, was, in a certain proportion of his productions, the popular poet of English-speaking Ireland, he was, moreover, in virtue of that quality of genial sentimentalism which he possessed in a more extensive measure, the lyrist, at the same time, of gay and cultured English circles. The cottars and the bare-footed maidens of Ireland may sing his songs, as the songs of one who has awaked the harp of Erin; and so in Ireland he may hold the really popular place that Burns holds in Scotland. But in England it is not the people that know Moore; it is the members of that class that sing and hear songs sung, not at the plough, or at the loom, or at homely rural feasts and lovemeetings, but in carpeted rooms, amid comforts and elegancies. This, however, is still a numerous class; and, considering how unlikely it is that England, with its many millions, will ever have a song-writer that will thrill its entire heart as Burns has thrilled the heart of his less populous country, it is something for Moore, that, Irishman as he was, he has made himself the lyrist in England of so large a circle. Within that circle he has left words and strains that will keep his memory alive. The last rose of summer,' Go where glory waits thee,' Rich and rare were the gems she wore,' 'Oh! no, it was something more exquisite still' these and a thousand other lines and phrases, equally well known-is it nothing to have left these in the hearts of thousands, associated, mayhap, with recollections of fair faces and happy bygone hours, when both tears and laughter were easier, and the whole world went so youngly? And this it is to be a writer of songs!
That Moore was conscious of the special nature of his claims as an English song-writer appears from the preface which he wrote, in 1841, to the fifth volume of the first general issue of his poetical works. Some passages in this preface deserve critical attention.
'The close alliance known to have existed between poetry and music, during the infancy of both these arts, has sometimes led to the conclusion that they are essentially kindred to each other, and that the true poet ought to be, if not practically, at least in taste and ear, a musician. That such was the case in the early times of ancient Greece, and that her poets then not only set their own verses to music, but sung them at public festivals, there is every reason, from all we know on the subject, to believe. A similar union between the two arts attended the dawn of modern literature in the twelfth century, and was, in a certain degree, continued down as far as the time of Petrarch, when, as it appears from his own memorandums, that poet used to sing his
POETRY, SONG, AND MUSIC.
verses in composing them, and when it was the custom with all writers of sonnets and canzoni to prefix to their poems a sort of keynote, by which the intonation in reciting or chanting them was to be regulated.... As the practice of uniting in one individual-whether Bard, Scald, or Troubadour-the character and functions both of musician and poet, is known to have been invariably the mark of a rude state of society, so the gradual separation of those two callings, in accordance with that great principle of political economy, the division of labour, has been found an equally sure index of improving civilization. So far in England, indeed, has this partition of workmanship been carried that, with the signal exception of Milton, there is not to be found, I believe, among all the eminent poets of England, a single musician. We witness, in our own times, as far as the knowledge or practice of music is concerned, a similar divorce between the two arts; and my friend and neighbour, Mr. Bowles, is the only distinguished poet of our day whom I can call to mind as being also a musician.... That Burns, however untaught, was yet, in ear and feeling, a musician, is clear from the skill with which he adapts his verse to the structure and character of each different strain. Still more strikingly did he prove his fitness for this peculiar task, by the sort of instinct with which, in more than one instance, he discerned the real and innate sentiment which an air was calculated to convey, though previously associated with words expressing a totally different cast of feeling. ... It was impossible that the example of Burns, in these, his higher inspirations, should not materially contribute to elevate the character of English song-writing, and even to lead to a reunion of the gifts which it requires; if not, as of old, in the same individual, yet in that perfect sympathy between poet and musician which almost amounts to identity; and of which, in our own times, we have seen so interesting an example in the few songs which bear the united names of those two sister muses, Mrs. Arkwright and the late Mrs. Hemans. Very different was the state of the song department of English poesy at the period when I first tried my novice hand at the lyre. The divorce between song and sense had then reached its utmost range; and to all verses connected with music, from a birth-day ode down to the libretto of the last new opera, might fairly be applied the solution which Figaro gives of the quality of the words of songs in generalCe qui ne vaut pas la peine d'etre dit, on le chante.' .. How far my own labours in this field have helped to advance, or even kept pace with the progressive improvement I have described, it is not for me to presume to decide. I only know that in a strong and inborn feeling for music lies the source of whatever talent I may have shown for poetical composition; and that it was the effort to translate into language the emotions and passions which music appeared to me to express, that first led to my writing any poetry at all deserving the name.'
The question started in this extract is one on which much might be written. Leaving the historical question of the early connexion between poetry and music alone, let us offer a hint
or two towards what may be called the scientific explanation of the matter.
We believe, then, that it will be found useful, in the investigation of such points, to distinguish between these three things, which may be united in him whom, in general terms, we call a poet-poetical power, or imagination; lyrical genius; and taste and accomplishment in the special art of music. The three may be united; but a writer may possess the first without the two last in any remarkable degree, or the first two without the last, and still be a true poet; nay, a writer may possess the second without much of either of the first or the third, and still, according to existing language, be justly ranked among the poets. Let us illustrate this a little.
The essential quality of the poet, as the etymology of the word itself serves to signify, is certainly that which we call imaginative, or creative power, the power of working on and on in an ideal element, producing combinations of intellectual beauty by the plastic operation of the mind on previous material, whether of experience or conception. The poetry of Keats, or the minor poems of Milton, may be taken as excellent examples of such pure poetical composition. By a kind of general consent on the part of those who have practised this art, metre has been deemed essential to its perfection; though it is universally admitted that the poiesis, or intellectual process of beautiful creation, in which the essence of the art consists, may be carried on in prose. Wordsworth, who was one of the most gifted practitioners of the art of pure poetry, also philosophised upon it; and his rationale of the use of metre in poetical composition was, that by this means there was provided for the reader or hearer, a series of pleasurable surprises, additional to the pleasure of the meaning. This, we think, was rating the office of metre in pure poetry too low. Not only is metre an artificial addition of pleasure to the reader in the act of receiving the meaning, it is also an artificial addition of power to the poet in the act of conceiving the meaning, a means, so to speak, of complicating his intellectual associations as he composes; a subjection, so to speak, of his invention to a new set of conditions, so as to make the product more rare, wonderful, and exquisite. More unexceptionable, as applied to pure poetry, was that other observation of Wordsworth, made in the course of his critical onslaught on the artificial diction of the poets from Dryden to his own time, that the language of the poet should be simple and natural, and such as would not seem out of place in prose, provided a meaning exactly the same, and exactly as tender, peculiar, beautiful, or sublime were to be expressed in prose. The more our readers think of the matter,
POETRY, SONG, AND MUSIC.
in connexion with actual instances, the more they will find that, in the case of pure poetry of a high order, the truly poetical meaning, the beautiful substance which has exuded from the poet's genius, will survive in a literal prose translation. Not, observe, that the metre was not necessary, in the first place, towards the elaboration of that meaning, or substance-towards making it precisely such, and so fine and admirable; but that the meaning, once snatched, by metrical or other help, from the region of the unconceived, remains for ever here and conceivable. The Greek tragic poets are great the whole superiority of their genius over that of other men is discernible in the baldest literal versions of their works used stealthily by schoolboys; and exquisite as the meaning of Milton's Penseroso is a rare and, as it were, merely aromatic essence, an intellectual attar of roses-yet were that meaning sweetly expressed in a prose composition, the feeling would be, that the mind that had produced it was that of a genuine poet. In the loss of the metrical form, there is, of course, a loss of much of the charm; but the test of a poet, in the sense in which we at present understand the term, is in the poema, the intellectual thing made; and that will survive the metre, as a vase will remain when the mould is broken.
The lyrist or song-writer (using that word now restrictedly) differs from the poet proper, as above defined, in this, that his object is, not so much to produce a beautiful intellectual combination or picture in verse, as to express an immediate emotion. He does not work on and on in an ideal element, linking together sweet or majestic fantasies with leisurely and composed delight; he pours forth a feeling fervidly and at once. Passion, as distinct from imagination, is a rough expression of the leading quality of the lyrist, as distinct from the pure poet. Of course the two may be, and always to some extent are, combined; but the distinction will be found applicable to real examples. The French have much lyrical spirit, but little pure poetical faculty. Wordsworth was a man of high poetical genius, with far less of the lyrical fire than many other poets-less for example than Byron or Tennyson, and far less than Burns. In a poet highly endowed, as some poets have been with both, it is not difficult to discern, even in long poetical compositions, those passages where the lyrist bursts through the poet. And, inva riably, that which distinguishes such passages, is a certain peculiarity of sound, swelling or wailing through the ordinary metre. Such passages may be pointed out in scores, even in Wordsworth. In reading such passages, the feeling is that the poet, when he wrote them, was unusually excited; that some chord was touched, on the touching of which some fountain broke
within the soul and the words came big and fast. When this is the case in any extraordinary degree, it is a happy dictate of art-practised, as we see, by Byron in his Childe Harold, by Tennyson in his Princess, and even by Keats in his Endymion-to interrupt the poem proper, and change into a chant or song. Now the lyrist, in the restricted sense, is the man who, instead of thus occasionally rising out of poetry into song, sings always, and becomes a poet in the act of singing. His is not a process of the imaginative intellect working composedly or otherwise under the rule of metre; it is the process of giving articulate expression in words to a feeling which brings, if not its metre, at least its music with it. The hum or cadence, so to speak, already exists in the mind of the writer; and he becomes a poet to give it vent in words. Hence, in lyrical pieces, the sound has a peculiar value; and to give never so close a rendering of the mere meaning of the words of a song, apart from the actual march or rhythm, could be no adequate translation at all. Hence, also, the language of a song, or of a passage in the lyrical spirit, may be less strict, and the arrangement of the words may deviate more from the just logical order than would be agreeable in a purely poetical composition. A circumstance this, to which Wordsworth appears not to have sufficiently attended in his strictures on the arbitrary diction in use among the poets!
Is there, now, any ascertainable connexion between either the metrical delicacy and skill of the poet, or the native rhythmic power of the lyrist, and technical musical science or taste? The question is an intricate one. That there must be some connexion between the ear for metrical harmony, and what is more technically called the musical ear, would seem undeniable; and yet facts seem to prove that the connexion must be a very recondite one. Of all the great masters of English verse, Milton alone, as Moore remarks, is known to have been accomplished in music. It may be that his skill in music assisted him in writing his most harmonious verse; but, if so, other poets have written harmonious verse without that assistance. The verse of Coleridge is always cited as, perhaps, the most musical in the language; yet Coleridge had no special gift or learning in music proper. Wordsworth was no musician; Byron was no musician; Goethe, for a German, was no musician. Capable, like all men of poetical temperament, of being deeply affected by certain kinds of music, none of these poets was distinguished-indeed very few poets have been distinguished-by the possession of the so-called musical ear. On the other hand, Browning is said to possess this gift in a more than ordinary degree; and yet musical rhythm is the quality least conspicuous in his verses. The