« VorigeDoorgaan »
Hence it is, that though every emotion accompanied with desire, is strictly speaking a passion; yet commonly none of these are denominated passions, but where a sensible being, capable of pleasure and pain, is the object.
Power of Sounds to raise Emotions and Passions.
UPON a review, I find the foregoing section almost wholly employed upon emotions and passions raised by objects of sight, though they are also raised by objects of hearing, As this happened without intention, merely because such objects are familiar above others, I find it proper to add a short section upon the power of sounds to raise emotions and passions.
I begin with comparing sounds and visible ob. jects with respect to their influence upon the mind. It has already been observed, that of all external objects, rational beings, especially of our own spe. cies, have the most powerful influence in raising emotions and passions; and, as speech is the most powerful of all the means by which one human being can display itself to another, the objects of the eye must so far yield preference to those of the ear. With respect to inanimate objects of sight, sounds may be so contrived as to raise both terror and mirth beyond what can be done by any such object. Music has a commanding influence over the mind, especially in conjunction with words.) Objects of sight may indeed contribute to the same end, but more faintly; as where a love poem is rehearsed in a shady grove, or on the bank of a purling stream. But sounds, which are vastly more ductile and va
rious, readily accompany all the social affections expressed in a poem, especially emotions of love and pity.
Music, having at command a great variety of emotions, may, like many objects of sight, be made to promote luxury and effeminacy; of which we have instances without number, especially in vocal music. But, with respect to its pure and refined pleasures, music goes hand in hand with gardening and architecture, ber sister-arts, in humanizing and polishing the mind;* of which none can doubt who have felt the charms of music. But, if autho. rity be required, the following passage from a grave historian, eminent for solidity of judgment, must have the greatest weight. Polybius, speaking of the people of Cynætha, an Arcadian tribe, has the following train of reflections. 66 As the Arca6 dians have always been celebrated for their pi
ety, humanity, and hospitality, we are naturally “ led to inquire, how it has happened that the Cy
nætheans are distinguished from the other Arca36 dians, by savage manners, wickedness, and cru6 elty. I can attribute this difference to no other “ cause, but a total neglect among the people of 66 Cynætha, of an institution established among the • ancient Arcadians with a nice regard to their “ manners and their climate: I mean the discipline " and exercise of that genuine and perfect music, “ which is useful in every state, but necessary to “ the Arcadians; whose manners, originally rigid 66 and austere, made it of the greatest importance “ to incorporate this art into the very essence of 6 their government. All men know that, in Arca“ dia, the children are early taught to perform “ hymns and songs composed in honour of their
* See Chapter 24.
66 gods and heroes; and that, when they have « learned the music of Timotheus and Philoxenus, « they assemble yearly in the public theatres, 6 dancing with emulation to the sound of flutes, " and acting in games adapted to their tender
years. The Arcadians, even in their private “ feasts, never employ hirelings, but each man “ sings in his turn. They are also taught all the 6 military steps and motions to the sound of in
struments, which they perform yearly in the the
atres, at the public charge. To me it is evident, « that these solemnities were introduced, not for “idle pleasure, but to soften the rough and stub. 6 born temper of the Arcadians, occasioned by the “coldness of a high country. But the Cynætheans, “ neglecting these arts, have become so fierce and
savage, that there is not another city in Greece
so remarkable for frequent and great enormities. “ This consideration ought to engage the Arca“dians never to relax in any degree, their musical " discipline; and it ought to open the eyes of the “ Cynætheans, and make them sensible of what “importance it would be to restore music to their “ city, and every discipline that may soften their “ manners; for otherwise they can never hope to 6 subdue their brutal ferocity."*
No one will be surprised to hear such influence attributed to music, when, with respect to another of the fine arts, he finds a living instance of an influence no less powerful. It is unhappily indeed the reverse of the former; for it has done more mischief by corrupting British manners, than music ever did good by purifying those of Arcadia.
The licentious court of Charles 11. among its many disorders, engendered a pest, the virulence
of which subsists to this day. The English comedy, copying the manners of the court, became abo. minably licentious; and continués so with very little softening. It is there an established rule, to deck out the chief characters with every vice in fashion, however gross. But, as such characters viewed in a true light would be disgustful, care is taken to disguise their deformity under the embellishments of wit, sprightliness, and good humour, which in mixed company makes a capital figure. It requires not much thought to discover the poi. sonous influence of such plays. A young man of figure, emancipated at last from the severity and restraint of a college education, repairs to the capital disposed to every sort of excess. The playhouse becomes his favourite amusement; and he is enchanted with the gaiety and splendour of the chief personages. The disgust which vice gives him at first, soon wears off, to make way for new notions, more liberal in his opinion ; by which å sovereign contempt of religion, and a declared war upon the chastity of wives, maids, and widows, are converted from being infamous vices to be fashionable virtues. The infection spreads gradually through all ranks, and becomes universal. How gladly would I listen to any one who should undertake to prove, that what I have been describing is chimerical! but the dissoluteness of our young men of birth will not suffer me to doubt of its reality. Sir Harry Wildair has completed many a rake; and in the Suspicious Husband, Ranger, the humble imitator of Sir Harry, has had no slight influence in spreading that character. What woman, tinctured with the playhouse morals, would not be the sprightly, the witty, though dissolute Lady Townly, rather than the cold, the sober, though virtuous Lady Grace ? How odious ought
writers to be who thus employ the talents they have from their Maker most traitorously against himself, by endeavouring to corrupt and disfigure bis creatures! If the comedies of Congreve did not rack him with remorse in his last moments, he must have been lost to all sense of virtue. Nor will it afford any excuse to such writers, that their comedies are entertaining; unless it could be maintain. ed, that wit and sprightliness are better suited to a vicious than a virtuous character. It would grieve me to think so; and the direct contrary is exemplified in the Merry Wives of Windsor, where we are highly entertained with the conduct of two ladies, not more remarkable for mirth and spirit than for the strictest purity of manners.
Causes of the Emotion of Joy and Sorrow.
This subject was purposely reserved for a separate section, because it could not, with perspicuity, be handled under the general head. (An emotion accompanied with desire is termed a passion ; and when the desire is fulfilled, the passion is said to be gratified.) Now, the gratification of every passion must be pleasant; for nothing can be more natural, than that the accomplishment of any wish or desire should affect us with joy: I know of nó exception but when a man stung with remorsé desires to chastise and punish himself. The joy of gratification is properly called an emotion ; because it makes us happy in our present situation, and is ultimate in its nature, not having a tendency to any thing beyond. On the other hand, sorrow must be the result of an event con