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Another Knight, in the moonshine bright,
Is bending at her knee,
And valleys of the world!
Another Knight beside her,
With the death-mark on his brow-
Doth a bloody death avow;
I keep my vow to thee!
Thy plighted troth to me
And valleys of the world ?”
Her lily hand he taketh,
And she stared, in wild dismay,
The Murderer near them lay,
Looked up in palsied dread,
Beside her wedded Dead,
And valleys of the world!
[“ Dear P.-Not having anything of my own which I could contribute (as is my wish and duty) to this pious Adventure of yours, and not being able in these hot busy days to get anything ready, I decide to offer you a bit of an Excerpt from that singular · Conspectus of England, lately written, not yet printed, by Professor Ezechiel Peasemeal, a distinguished American friend of mine. Dr. Peasemeal will excuse my printing it here. His · Conspectus,' a work of some extent, has already been crowned by the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Bunkum, which includes, as you know, the chief thinkers of the New World; and it will probably be printed entire in their • Transactions' one day. Meanwhile let your readers have the first taste of it; and much good may it do them and you !”– T. C.]
Music is well said to be the speech of angels; in fact, nothing among the utterances allowed to man is felt to be so divine. It brings us near to the Infinite; we look for moments, across the cloudy elements, into the eternal Sea of Light, when song leads and inspires us. Serious nations, all nations that can still listen to the mandate of Nature, have prized song and music as the highest; as a vehicle for worship, for prophecy, and for whatsoever in them was divine. Their singer was a vates, admitted to the council of the universe, friend of the gods, and choicest benefactor to man.
Reader, it was actually so in Greek, in Roman, in Moslem, Christian, most of all in Old-Hebrew times : and if you look how it now is, you will find a change that should astonish you. Good Heavens, from a Psalm of Asaph to a seat at the London Opera in the Haymarket, what a road have men travelled! The waste that is made in music is probably among the saddest of all our squanderings of God's gifts. Music has, for a long time past, been avowedly mad, divorced from sense and fact; and runs about now as an open Bedlamite, for a good many generations back, bragging that she has nothing to do with sense and fact, but with fiction and delirium only; and stares with unaffected amazement, not able to suppress an elegant burst of witty laughter, at my suggesting the old fact to her.
Fact nevertheless it is, forgotten, and fallen ridiculous as it may be. Tyrtæus, who had a little music, did not sing Barbers of Seville, but the need of beating back one's country's enemies; a most true song, to which the hearts of men did burst responsive into fiery melody, followed by fiery strokes before long. Sophocles also sang, and showed in grand dramatic rhythm and melody, not a fable but a fact, the best he could interpret it: the judgments of Eternal Deity upon the erring sons of men. Æschylus, Sophocles, all noble poets were priests as well; and sang the truest (which was also the divinest) they had been privileged to discover here below. To “sing the praise of God,” that, you will find, if you can interpret old words, and see what new things they mean, was always, and will always be, the business of the singer. He who forsakes that business, and, wasting our divinest gifts, sings the praise of Chaos, what shall we say of him !
David, king of Judah, a soul inspired by divine music and much other heroism, was wont to pour himself in song; he, with seer's eye and heart, discerned the Godlike amid the Human ; struck tones that were an echo of the sphere-harmonies, and are still felt to be such. Reader, art thou one of a thousand, able still to read a Psalm of David, and catch some echo of it through the old dim centuries; feeling far off, in thy own heart, what it once was to other hearts made as thine ? To sing it attempt not, for it is impossible in this late time; only know that it once was sung. Then go to the Opera, and hear, with unspeakable reflections, what men now sing!
Of the Haymarket Opera my account, in fine, is this :Lustres, candelabras, painting, gilding at discretion : a hall as of the Caliph Alraschid, or him that commanded the slaves of the Lamp; a hall as if fitted up by the genies, regardless of expense. Upholstery, and the outlay of human capital, could do no more. Artists too, as they are called, have been got together from the ends of the world, regardless likewise of expense, to do dancing and singing, some of them even geniuses in their craft. One singer in particular, called Coletti or some such name, seemed to me, by the cast of his face, by the tones of his voice, by his general bearing, so far as I could read it, to be a man of deep and ardent sensibilities, of delicate intuitions, just sympathies; originally an almost poetic soul, or man of genius as we term it; stamped by Nature as capable of far other work than squalling here, like a blind Samson, to make the Philistines sport !
Nay, all of them had aptitudes, perhaps of a distinguished kind; and must, by their own and other people's labour, have got a training equal or superior in toilsomeness, earnest assiduity, and patient travail, to what breeds men to the most arduous trades. I speak not of kings' grandees, or the like show-figures; but few soldiers, judges, men of letters, can have had such pains taken with them. The very balletgirls, with their muslin saucers round them, were perhaps little short of miraculous ; whirling and spinning there in strange mad vortexes, and then suddenly fixing themselves motionless, each upon her left or right great-toe, with the other leg stretched out at an angle of ninety degrees;- as if you had suddenly pricked into the floor, by one of their points, a pair, or rather a multitudinous cohort, of mad restlessly jumping and clipping scissors, and so bidden them rest, with opened blades, and stand still, in the Devil's name! A truly notable motion; marvellous, almost miraculous, were not the people there so used to it. Motion peculiar to the Opera ; perhaps the ugliest, and surely one of the most difficult, ever taught a female creature in this world. Nature abhors it; but Art does at least admit it to border on the impossible. One little Cerito, or Taglioni the Second, that night when I was there, went bounding from the floor as if she had been made of indian-rubber, or filled with hydrogen gas, and inclined by positive levity to bolt through the ceiling: perhaps neither Semiramis nor Catherine the Second had bred herself so carefully.
Such talent, and such martyrdom of training, gathered from the four winds, was now here, to do its feat and be paid for it. Regardless of expense, indeed! The purse of Fortunatus seemed to have opened itself, and the divine art of Musical Sound and Rhythmic Motion was welcomed with an explosion of all the magnificences which the other arts, fine and coarse, could achieve. For you are to think of some Rossini or Bellini in the rear of it, too; to say nothing of the Stanfields, and hosts of scene-painters, machinists, engineers, enterprisers ; — fit to have taken Gibraltar, written the History of England, or reduced Ireland into Industrial Regiments, had they so set their minds to it!
Alas, and of all these notable or noticeable human talents, and excellent perseverances and energies, backed by mountains of wealth, and led by the divine art of Music and Rhythm vouchsafed by Heaven to them and us, what was to be the issue here this evening? An hour's amusement, not amusing either, but wearisome and dreary, to a high-dizened select Populace of male and female persons, who seemed to me not much worth amusing! Could any one have pealed into their hearts once, one true thought, and glimpse of self-vision : “ High-dizened, most expensive persons, Aristocracy so-called, or Best of the