« FöregåendeFortsätt »
unexcelled: nor was the actor less perfect in managing the cadences and intonations of a voice “as musical as is Apollo's lute," in the delivery of the most familiar, impassioned, or heroic speeches which the whole range of the British drama imposed, from King Lear to Abel Drugger.
It is a common complaint with ordinary composers, that poets do not write verses suitable for music. Though there is some truth in the statement, as refers to poets of the same class as such composers themselves are, yet it is the express business of those who set poetry at all to adapt their notes to the pitch of it, whereby their own melodies will be proportionately exalted; not to require that the poet's lay should be brought down to their standard of adaptation, and the nobler art be degraded by condescending to the inferior. That the most exquisite strains of English verse may be fitted to strains of music worthy of them, we have examples abundant in the present day, from the songs of Robert Burns to the melodies of Thomas Moore. Yet something must be conceded occasionally on the part of the poets, though no more than may, at the same time, improve their lines as verse, while it renders them more obedient subjects for music. Dryden, in the preface to one of his operas, gives vent to his impatience at being necessitated to make his noble but reluctant numbers submit to be drilled and disciplined to the tactics of a French composer. After enumerating some of his miserable shifts, he says,"It is true, I have not often been put to this drudgery; but where I have, the words will sufficiently show that I was then a slave to the composition, which I will never be again. It is my part to invent, and the musician's to humour that invention. I may be counselled, and will always follow my friend's advice where I find it reasonable, but I will never part with the power of the militia.”—Introduction to Albion and Albanus.
Poetry and Painting.
Poetry is superior to painting; for poetry is progressive, painting stationary, in its capabilities of description. Poetry elevates the soul through every gradation of thought and feeling, producing its greatest effects at the last. Painting begins precisely where poetry breaks off,—with the climax of the subject, and lets down the mind from the catastrophe through the details of the story, imperceptibly soothing it from sublime astonishment into tranquil approbation. Painting is limited to a movement of time and an eye-glance of space; but it must be confessed that it can make that moment last for ages, and render that eye-glance illustrious as the sun. Poetry is restrained neither to time nor place; resembling the sun himself, it may shine successively all round the globe, and endure till "the earth, and the works therein, shall be burnt up."
Painting exhibits its whole purpose at one view, but with a generality of character which requires previous acquaintance with that purpose before the spectator can judge whether it has been effected; we must know all that was intended to be done before we can comprehend what has actually been done. Then, indeed, if the aim has been successfully accomplished, the glory of the artist is consummated at once; and while the enthusiasm of admiration settles down into calm delight, or spreads itself in patient and interested examination of particulars, the mind goes back through all the difficulties which have been overcome in the management and conduct of the performance as a work of art, and all the circumstances which must have concurred to bring the story, if the subject be narrative, the scenery if it be landscape, or the person if it be portrait, to that
special crisis, light, or aspect which has enabled the inventor to exhibit the sum of his ideas so felicitously as to imply the various antecedent, accompanying, and conventional incidents which are necessary to be understood before the beholder can perfectly gather from the forms and colours before his eye the fine fancies, deep feelings, and glorious combinations of external objects which pre-existed in the artist's mind; and out of a thousand of which he has produced one partaking of all and concentrating their excellences, like the Venus of Apelles, to which the beauties of Greece lent their loveliness, and were abundantly repaid by having that part in her which she borrowed from them. Perhaps in portrait alone can painting claim the advantage of poetry; because there the pencil perpetuates the very features, air, and personal appearance of the individual represented; and when that individual is one of eminence,- -a hero, a patriot, a poet, an orator,-it is the vehicle of the highest pleasure which the art can communicate; and in this respect portrait-painting (however disparaged) is the highest point of the art itself,-being at once the most real, intellectual, and imaginative.
A poem is a campaign, in which all the marches, sufferings, toils, and conflicts of the hero are successively developed to final victory. A painting is the triumph after victory, when the conqueror, the captives, the spoils, and the trophies are displayed in one pageant of magnificence,-implying, undoubtedly, all the means, the labour, and diversities of fortune by which the achievement was attended, but without manifesting them to the uninformed bystanders. Without previous knowledge, therefore, of the subject, the figures in the most perfect historical group are nameless; the business in which they are engaged is obscure; while often the country, the age, and even the class of life to which they be
longed, can be only imperfectly guessed. Of consequence, little comparative interest will be excited. The child's question, "Is it true?" immediately occurs; and just in proportion as we ascertain the facts, the person, the whole story, we are charmed, affected, or surprised by the power of the master. Without the book the wand of the enchanter cannot work the spell.
Landscape-painting is that which is most easily understood at first sight; because the objects of which it is composed are as familiar to our eyes as the words in which they could be explained are to our ears; so that we recognise them at once, and can judge without commentary of the grouping and perspective. But the pleasure in contemplating the most exquisite productions of Claude Lorraine, Gaspar Poussin, and other great masters, is exceedingly enhanced by consideration of the skill of the artists in creating, what never, indeed, for one moment becomes an illusion, but that which enables the mind within itself to form an ideal prototype worthy of the pictured representation. Even when we know that the scenes are from nature, admiration of the pencil that drew them is the highest ingredient of our delight in beholding them,-unless by local, historical, or personal associations, the trees, the streams, the hills, or the buildings remind us of things greater and dearer than themselves. This, of course, is the most exalted gratification which landscapepainting can offer; yet poetry, which, in distinct delineations of natural objects, is otherwise inferior, has decided pre-eminence here.
The following stanzas from probably a hasty, but certainly a happy, effusion of Thomas Campbell's, in the dew and blossom of his youthful poetry, will exemplify this fact. They refer to a morning walk, in company with a Russian lady, to a place called "the Fountain of the Thorn," on an eminence near Vienna, commanding a view of the city,
the Danube, and the neighbouring country to a vast extent:
"Ah how long shall I delight
In the memory of that morn
"And beheld his waves and islands
To the mountains of the Hun,
"There was gladness in the sky,
There was verdure all around;
Look'd on rich historic ground.
"Over Aspern's field of glory
Noontide's distant haze was cast,
What could a painter do with this? Assuredly he might produce a landscape as superb as ever emanated, in colours of this world, from the pencils of Titian or Rubens. All the elements are at hand. A bird's-eye prospect from a height overlooking a majestic river, studded with islands, "flashing, glittering in the sun;" the "gorgeous towers" of an imperial city; the verdure of woods on every side; over all, a brilliant sky; and far away, beneath the haze of summer-noon, long lines of undulated hills, lessening, lightening, vanishing from the view. The canvass might be covered with all these; yet, though they might dazzle the eye, and enchant the imagina.
*The introductory and concluding verses, being merely complimentary, are omitted. The poem itself first appeared in this country in the "Fam ily Magazine of November, 1830," edited by Mr. Shoberl, who acknow, ledges that he copied them from a German periodical published at Vienną They were probably written about the year 1802.