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World, beware, beware what proofs you give of betterness and bestness !” And then the salutary pang of conscience in reply: “ A select Populace, with money in its purse, and drilled a little by the posture-maker: good Heavens! if that were what, here and everywhere in God's Creation, I am ? And a world all dying because I am, and shew myself to be, and to have long been, even that ? John, the carriage, the carriage; swift! Let me go home in silence, to reflection, perhaps to sackcloth and ashes !” This, and not amusement, would have profited those high-dizened persons.
Amusement, at any rate, they did not get from Euterpe and Melpomene. These two Muses, sent for, regardless of expense, I could see, were but the vehicle of a kind of service which I judged to be Paphian rather. Young beauties of both sexes used their opera-glasses, you could notice, not entirely for looking at the stage. And it must be owned the light, in this explosion of all the upholsteries and the human fine arts and coarse, was magical; and made your fair one an Armida, — if you liked her better so. Nay, certain old Improper-Females (of quality), in their rouge and jewels, even these looked some reminiscence of enchantment; and I saw this and the other lean domestic Dandy, with icy smile on his old worn face ; this and the other Marquis Singedelomme, Prince Mahogany, or the like foreign Dignitary, tripping into the boxes of said females ; grinning there awhile, with dyed moustachios and macassar-oil graciosity, and then tripping out again :— and, in fact, I perceived that Coletti and Cerito and the Rhythmic Arts were a mere accompaniment here.
Wonderful to see; and sad, if you had eyes! Do but think of it. Cleopatra threw pearls into her drink, in mere waste; which was reckoned foolish of her. But here had the Modern Aristocracy of men brought the divinest of its Arts, heavenly Music itself; and, piling all the upholsteries and ingenuities that other human art could do, had lighted them into a bonfire to illuminate an hour's flirtation of Singedelomme, Mahogany, and these improper persons ! Never in Nature had I seen such waste before. O Coletti, you whose inborn melody, once of kindred as I judged to the Melodies eternal,' might have valiantly weeded out this and the other false thing from the ways of men, and made a bit of God's Creation more melodious,—they have purchased you away from that; chained you to the wheel of Prince Mahogany's chariot, and here you make sport for a macassar Singedelomme and his improper-females past the prime of life! Wretched spiritual Nigger, oh, if you had some genius, and were not a born Nigger with mere appetite for pumpkin, should you have endured such a lot ? I lament for you, beyond all other expenses. Other expenses are light; you are the Cleopatra's pearl that should not have been flung into Mahogany's claret-cup. And Rossini too, and Mozart and Bellini
- Oh Heavens, when I think that Music too is condemned to be mad and to burn herself, to this end, on such a funeral pile,—your celestial Opera-house grows dark and infernal to me! Behind its glitter stalks the shadow of Eternal Death; through it too I look not "up into the divine eye,' as Richter has it, 'but down into the bottomless eyesocket — not up towards God, Heaven, and the Throne of Truth, but too truly down towards Falsity, Vacuity, and the dwelling-place of Everlasting Despair. * * *
Good sirs, surely I by no means expect the Opera will abolish itself this year or the next. But if you ask me, Why heroes are not born now, why heroisms are not done now ? I will answer you, It is a world all calculated for strangling of heroisms. At every ingress into life, the genius of the world lies in wait for heroisms, and by seduction or compulsion unweariedly does its utmost to pervert them or extinguish them. Yes; to its Hells of sweating tailors, distressed needlewomen, and the like, this Opera of yours is the appropriate Heaven ! Of a truth, if you will read a Psalm of Asaph till you understand it, and then come hither and hear the Rossini-and-Coletti Psalm, you will find the ages have altered a good deal. * * *
Nor do I wish all men to become Psalmist Asaphs and fanatic Hebrews. Far other is my wish; far other, and wider, is now my notion of this Universe. Populations of stern faces, stern as any Hebrew, but capable withal of bursting into inextinguishable laughter on occasion :- do you understand that new and better form of character ? Laughter also, if it come from the heart, is a heavenly thing. But, at least and lowest, I would have you a Population abhorring phantasms ; abhorring unveracity in all things; and in your 'amusements, which are voluntary and not compulsory things, abhorring it most impatiently of all. * * *
THE NEW PROMETHEUS.
BY CHARLES H. HITCHINGS.
STROKING sleek her pampered palfrey, led for pastime from his stable
Every look and motion instinct with a proud patrician grace On a bright May morning early saw I first the Lady Mabel,
Known for miles round as a beauty-perfect form, and perfect face.
Perfect form, erect and stately - very Juno-like in stature
Perfect face, divinely chiselled, with a clear commanding eye: All the calm therein concentred of a high-born woman's nature,
Shut by walls of cold convention out from common sympathy.
Very perfect, to be gazed on-like a statue to beholding;
Like a sculptor's pure ideal of a grand majestic queen-
Power of queendom, power unrivalled in her calm and conscious mien.
So she stood, when first I saw her, with her vassals dumb before her
Scarce a woman for my choosing, had it been my lot to chooseYet she won me as a statue, that in memory long I bore her,
With her hand upon her palfrey, and her footstep on the dews.
Years rolled on: in haunted places of the golden South I wandered,
Shrines of Art, and fanes of Beauty, rich with master-works divine ; Yet, amid their choicest galleries, where my dreaming fancy pondered,
Saw I never, Lady Mabel, form or face to equal thine !
Niched in memory thus I held her, to myself thus inly musing
“Pity, form and face so perfect should so ever lifeless be ! Pity, no quick revelation, light and warmth of soul diffusing,
Should upbreak the dazzling frost-work of her icy apathy !”
So I mused, till, home returning, once again I did behold her,
No more statue-like and stately, but a woman pure and warmBright and warm, of whom I once said, “Not the marble's self is colder;"
Passion in her glowing cheek, and passion in her moulded form.
And I wondered while I saw her, changed so wholly from the creature
Of convention, calm and formal, to a lifelike human thing, To a sharer in the birthrights of our common human nature,
Fed like us with joy and kindness, touched like us with sorrow's sting.
Till a friend, that heard me wonder, said, “No marvel, though to seeming
'Tis a change might merit credence in the old forgotten age, When the types of inward feeling set the earlier bards to dreaming,
With the myths of whose creation glows for aye the poet's page.
“ For there came a new Prometheus to the hall where dwelt your Dian,
With the fire from heaven to warm her from her stonelike apathy; Sooth, to say, a simple poet brought from London as a lion,
'Mongst the courtly lords and ladies shy and simple as could be ;
“But with her all fire and passion; for he saw, with true perception,
. Through the cold, unlovely surface, to the perfect soul within,She the dream of his ideal, he the type of her election,
Youth, and hope, and life before them- he had but to woo to win.
“Till the Earl, with lordly anger, through their common phrase discerning
Thoughts too deep for tongues' revealing, bade the poet from her side. Human joy she found with Mertoun-human sorrow now she's learning,
And in human tears hath melted all the frost-work of her pride.
“ He meanwhile, the new Prometheus—on the rocks of hard rejection
Pays the forfeit of his daring, on the flinty rocks of scorn ;Pays the forfeit of upraising to a woman's bright perfection
That pale statue of a Lady - very pure and highly born.”