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Saying, we are twins in death, proud Sun,
"Tis Mercy bids thee go.
That shall no longer flow.
His pomp, his pride, his skill;
The vassals of his will ;-
For all those trophied arts
Entail'd on human hearts.
Upon the stage of men,
Life's tragedy again.
Of pain anew to writhe ;
Like grass beneath the scythe.
Behold not me expire.
gasp and gurgling breath
Receive my parting ghost !
That gave its heavenly spark ;
When thou thyself art dark !
By Him recallid to breath,
And took the sting from Death !
On Nature's awful waste
Of grief that man shall taste-
On Earth's sepulchral clod,
Or shake his trust in God!
ON THE ART OF SINGING SONGS.
GOLDSMITH, I think, says, that he seldom heard a young man attempt to sing in company without exposing himself; and it is too true that, owing to various causes, few people of any age can sing a song without grieving their friends. Yet, songs are the delight of mankind. Among ruder nations they are employed to animate heroism or to express sentiments for which common language is too poor ; and among people of the greatest refinement they often make an important part, or, as it were, the completion and consummation, of social enjoyment. Old gentlemen, who used to sing, are always delighted to find that vocal music is not yet extinct; old ladies, who used to be sung to, at, or of, are reminded by a skilful voice of the days when they and the world were young and happy; middle-aged people of the smallest pretensions to feeling, both men and women, love a song; and the young, who like pleasure in every shape, never object to it in this its most harmonious and seductive shape of all. There is no part of the country in which singing is not held in estimation. In the southern counties of this island, from the moisture of the air and the fatness of the soil, singers are not abundant, but singing is, perhaps, prized the more on that account.
In the central parts, and generally on what is called by geologists London gravel, a voice is more common, but scarcely less admired. In the eastern parts, among marsh-water, reeds, willows, wolds, and rabbit-warrens, singing is a patent of nobility; whilst in Yorkshire and other wild parts of the country it is considered a very exalted proof of gentle breeding ;-but among the mountains of Wales, in the glens and by the river sides in Scotland, in the depths and passes of the Highlands to the very remotest parts, and in every nook and corner of Ireland, singing is valued to a degree which less romantic people, and those who live in the plains, must strain their faculties to understand. The Welsh themselves sing tolerably, but with a certain monotony peculiar, I think, to mountaineers, and which haunts you too in Scotland, and is painfully recognised in the long-drawn and twanging close of an Irish ditty. The natives of Scotland, to speak without partiality, do in general sing in a manner unutterably frightful; but then you occasionally meet some fair-haired lovely woman in that country, one who might personate the loveliest heroine of Scottish poetry or the Scottish novels, who sings you into the third heaven, The Irish, strange to say, though exquisitely endowed with taste, and excelling on instruments of all kinds, and passionate to excess in all their feelings, are very deficient in vocal music; insomuch that it was acknowledged, in all the four provinces of that kingdom, that one great advantage of the exchange of militias was the importation of singers and songs from England. The French have some of the prettiest songs in the world, if they knew how to sing them ; their street-singing is exquisite; and it is a fine thing to hear a whole regiment of their dragoonsofficers, sergeants, corporals, privates, “ pioneers and all,” singing, as they are wont on a march, some grand national air; but on ordinary occasions their nasality is absolutely alarming, and they sing, as Rousseau used to say, as if grievously afflicted with the cholic. As this is not intended to be a treatise on music, it is unnecessary to go on to Italian singing. My present object is to treat especially and particularly of
domestic, festival, and after-supper singing,--an art little known on the Continent, but much cultivated in many parts of this country.
I suppose no man who has ears to hear will deny that singing is a great advantage to any man. People are often supported through all the formalities of reception at an evening party, and endure all the meagre hospitalities of the occasion, and the arrangement of the cardtables, and the intense heat, and the abortive attempts at sprightly and continuous conversation, and all that must be undergone on these occasions, for hours, in the hope of hearing some vocal gentleman sing a favourite song at last: and as singers are every where scarce, the singing gentleman is feasted, flattered, coaxed, seduced from the whisttable, and, above all, entreated by all the lovely voices and faces in the room to sing that sweet song which he sung at Mrs. So and So's. Blushing, and delighted, and palpitating, he seems averse to begin, wben, in fact, his heart pants for that breathless silence of sweet tongues, without which no man of any vanity can venture, in cold blood, to begin a cherished and valued song. At last the general pause takes place, and that sun-flower conversion of all eyes upon the singer, during which even those who hate him must force their faces into an expression of delighted expectation. This is a moment fatal to the inexperienced, but to a practised and familiarised singer worth six weeks of common existence. Dinner companies also are occasionally collected together, of which, unfortunately, ladies form no part; and after a certain hour in the evening, there being no summons to the drawing-room, a good song is worth its weight in gold. How delightful it is in such circumstances to find that a man who has been sitting next to you, and who ate heartily and drank freely, but was withal heavy, mute, and unimaginative, starts at once into a delightful companion, and, whilst he sings at least, is as good as the rest of the company! To say the truth, however, this seldom happens : the true singer, the man with a voice of various power, and with well-chosen songs, is a man of soul and feeling, and talks as much or more than the other guests : every thing interests him, every thing animates him; a thousand things rouse him into vinous eloquence, a thousand things affect him; and what an advantage has such a man, at an hour when the party feels little interest in any thing, and can scarcely be roused by any thing, when eloquence itself is powerless, when wit is exhausted, all activity of mind at an end, and all the softer affections in a state of lethargy, who, by the simple power of his voice and by the aid of song, can call up from the depths of sleepiness all the lively feelings of his hearers, and can kindle them into enthusiasm or soften them into sentiment as he chooses. This the singer can do with ease; for he is master of a divine art which can throw enchantment over much that would be otherwise mean and insignificant. With what complacent and reviving countenances do the people turn to him! with what re-animated and glistening eyes regard him! acknowledging the mighty supremacy of his harmonious and irresistible accomplishment. There are, besides, such things as supper-parties, petits soupers of agreeable people, nearly exploded, it is true, in the economical rage for those unsocial and lower-extremity-fatiguing things called Stand-up suppers, but still in existence, after which a song is always desired, often requested, and ever received as a favour of the highest value. And what a reward it
is for a singer to behold the glowing faces round the table, all their bloom called forth by good eating and drinking, and all eyes fixed upon him, proving that there is still an ungratified desire of pure and celestial harmony, a longing after that minstrelsy, which is one of the things in which we excel the beasts that perish! How pleasant is it to see the gentlemen drinking the delight of singing and their wine at once, and still more to see the females, who refuse the wine, actually intoxicated with a song! Other occasions there are, particularly in mountainous and romantic countries,-long nights of revelry, in which every man sings who can, and every man who cannot sing makes a noise. There are moments of earthly existence yet more precious, in which a song may sway or soften a heart, and bless the singer beyond the power of words or even of songs to express.
Enough has been said to prove the value of a voice. It remains to be told what are the requisites for a domestic, festival, or after-supper singer ; what kind of songs he should sing on different occasions and at different hours ; and in what manner he should sing them : subjects involving many particulars and of the highest interest.
He who aspires to the character of a social singer, and would sing with comfort and credit in private parties, must possess, 1st. A voice. 2d. A considerable share of modest assurance and presence of mind. 3d. Excellent wind. 4th. Good taste in the selection of his songs. 5th. Good understanding, that he may know what he sings. 6th: Imagination and passion, that he may feel what he sings. A public singer may be destitute of all these qualifications except the first and second, and yet by the direction of others, by management and by imitation, may pass very well; but no man can be a good private singer without them all. His voice must be powerful, that it may be heard, that it may affect, that it may move, that it may overpower ; yet not too loud, lest it should annoy, and torture, and distress, and deafen. He should be able to sing boldly and freely, but no less able to sing faintly, sweetly, and as it were dyingly. By an excellent wind, it is not meant that he should merely be able to sing "voce magna et bonis lateribus," for every carpenter can do as much; but that he should have that power, that compass and variety, that height, and breadth, and depth of voice, which may no less express every pathetic feeling than every manly sentiment, avoiding the boisterous extreme on one hand and contemptible whining on the other. There is great art in commencing a song in the proper key; yet cleverness in that particular is indispensable, otherwise the singer seems to be running a race or paying a penalty, rather than singing for amusement. Time should be ordered not by beating it, for that is unpardonable, but by favouring the expression in such a manner as to excuse any liberties that may be taken in this particular. The singer must cunningly profit by every sentimental pause to collect his scattered breath; yet this should be done without gasping as the tragedians do, without that perpetual winking of both eyes, so commonly affected among public singers, and without any ungentlemanly effort or straining. Nothing hurts a singer so much as not thinking well enough of himself. He should know his own value, and sing upon it; without overrating either his efforts or his merit. If he fancies his sounds are never to be forgotten, he is mistaken; and he may be assured, let him sing as well or as ill as he
chooses, his song will soon be thought of no more. But it behoves him to cast out all fear and trembling, to begin calmly, collectedly, courageously ; let him be spirited where he ought, and insinuating where he may, but let all be done coolly and with something of dignity, so as to seem to say that, however delightfully he may sing, singing is rather the result of his other accomplishments than his only excellence.
The selection of songs is a very important point, for which no intelligible rules can be given which do not pre-suppose taste, judgment, and discrimination. I do not mean merely the selection according to the composition of the audience, for that is a matter in which the common sense of men will commonly guide them safely; but the disposi-. tion and arrangement, especially where, as will frequently happen, there is only one singer in the company. Let the singer beware of that. fault ever committed by ladies who perform, albeit superlatively, on the pianoforte, who, to the destruction of ears and the ruin of the fine mechanism of the nerves, will go on playing one piece after another in the same style and time until men who hate music have an opportunity of rejoicing over the tortures of those who presume to think they admire it. Let him rather consider the disciplined art of bands of military music, which ever intersperse airs of different measure and expression ; now a solemn march, and now a spirited and enlivening. strain. This is the great secret of making a musical-party productive of pleasure; and the neglect of it the true and only cause of all the trouble of the entertainers being generally productive of weariness and pain to their visitors as well as themselves. This rule being kept in mind as regards singing, it is only necessary to avoid singing such songs as, for private or public reasons, nobody present can sympathize in. I remember the officers of a marching regiment being invited, when at Yarmouth, to dine on board the admiral's ship, on which oecasion the
gentlemen of the navy were much distressed by the incredible length and monotony of some old fighting songs of some persevering old captains, and the officers of the land-service were exceedingly disturbed by a succession of sea-songs retorted upon them by their most vociferous entertainers. In general, in a mixed company, there are some who sympathize with songs of both these descriptions, but a succession of either is a proof of the worst possible taste. In the same way, four or five love-songs, or four or five Scotch songs, or four or five Irish melodies, are very afflicting ; besides that the style of songs ought to depend, not on professional feelings or personal attachments, but on the style of the voice; a matter in which many singers grievously offend. There are men of great gravity who have the misfortune to think themselves pleasant in a comic song: I know a country gentleman, with a most effeminate throat, who is sadly addicted to hunting-songs; and another, whose voice would command attention at the Westminster-hustings, who is never so happy as when he is demolishing some simple ballad or soft and plaintive ditty. Men of this
nistaken taste have a great aversion to solos : whatever they hear well sung, they fancy they could sing well; and to prove it, they make choruses where none are intended, and, with the best intentions in the world, drive a sensitive singer to the brink of insanity.
It is the custom of some singers always to put forth their best song first ; but these, if they go on, please less and less as they proceed: