Imágenes de páginas

I know not, if any of these Psalm-tunes were ever popular : but Lawes's seventy-second Psalm was once the tune of the chimes of Saint Lawrence Jewry. Wood says, that he had seen a poem written by Sir Walter Raleigh," which had a musical composition “ of two parts set to it by the incomparable artist Henry Lawes.” Athen. Oxon. ii. p. 441. num. 510. See also vol. i. F. p. 194. More of Lawes's works are in the Treasury of Musick, 1669; in the Musical Companion, 1662 ; in Tudway's Collection of British Music; and in other old and obsolete musical miscellanies.

Cromwell's usurpation put an end to masks and music: and Lawes being dispossessed of all his appointments, by men who despised and discouraged the elegancies and ornaments of life, chiefly employed that gloomy period in teaching a few young ladies to sing and play on the lute. Yet he was still greatly respected; for before the troubles began, his irreproachable life, ingenuous deportment, engaging manners, and liberal connections, had not only established his character, but raised even the credit of his profession. Wood says, that his most beneficent friends during his sufferings for the royal cause, in the Rebellion and afterwards, were the ladies Alice and Mary, the Earl of Bridgewater's daughters, before mentioned. MSS. Mus. Ashmol. D. 17. p. 115. 4to. But in the year 1660, he was restored to his places and practice; and had the happiness to compose the Coronation Anthem for the exiled monarch. He died in 1662, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. Of all the testimonies paid to his merit by his contemporaries, Milton's commendation, in the thirteenth Sonnet and in some of the speeches in Comus, must be esteemed the most honour. able. And Milton's praise is likely to be founded on truth. Milton was no specious or occasional flatterer ; and, at the same time, was a skillful performer on the organ, and a judge of music. And it appears probable, that even throughout the Rebellion, he had continued his friendship for Lawes; for long after the king was restored, he added the Sonnet to Lawes in the new edition of his Poems, printed under his own eye, in 1673. Nor has our author only complimented Lawes's excellencies in music. For in Comus, having said that Thyrsis with his soft pipe, and smooth-dittied song, could still the roaring winds, and hush the waving woods, he adds, V. 88.

Nor of less faith.
And he joins his worth with his skill, Sonn. xiii. v. 5.

In 1784, in the house of Mr. Elderton, an attorney at Salisbury, I saw an original portrait of Henry Lawes on board, marked with his name, and “ ætat. suæ 26, 1626." This is now in the Bishop's palace at Salisbury. It is not ill painted; the face and ruff in tolerable preservation; the drapery, a cloak, much injured. Another in the Music-School at Oxford ; undoubtedly placed there before the Rebellion, and not long after the institution of that school, in 1626, by his friend Dr. William Heather, a gentleman of the

Royal Chapel. And among the mutilated records of the same School, is the following entry; “Mr. Henry Lawes gentleman of “his Majesty's Chapell Royall, and of his private musick, gave to " this School a rare Theorbo for singing to, valued at ..... with “the Earl of Bridgewater's crest in brasse just under the finger“ board, with its case: as also a sett of ... ." The Earl of Bridgewater is the second Earl John, who acted the part of the First Brother in Comus, being then Lord Brackley.

Henry's brother William, a composer of considerable eminence, was killed in 1645, at the siege of Chester: and, it is said, that the King wore a private mourning for his death. Herrick has commemorated his untimely fate, which suddenly silenced every violl, lute, and voyce, in a little poem Upon Mr. William Lawes the rare Musician. Hesperid. ut supr. p. 341. Of William's separate works, there are two bulky manuscript volumes in score, for various instruments, in the Music School at Oxford. In one of them, I know not if with any of Henry's intermixed, are his original compositions for Masks exhibited before the king at Whitehall, and at the Inns of Court. Most of the early musical treasures of that School were destroyed or dispersed in the reign of fanaticism; nor was the establishment, which flourishes with great improvements under the care and abilities of the present worthy Professor, effectually restored till the year 16656.

I have purposely reserved what I had to say particularly about Lawes's Comus, with a few remarks on the characteristic style of his music, to the end of this note. Peck asserts, that Milton wrote Comus at the request of Lawes, who promised to set it to music. Most probably, this Mask, while in projection, was the occasion of their acquaintance, and first brought them together. Lawes was

b I find the following injunction from Cromwell's Vice-Chancellor and Dele. gates, dated April 3, 1656. “ Whereas the Musick Lecture usually read in the * Vesperüs Comitiorum (in this School) is found by experience to be altogether “ uselesse, noe way tending to the honour of the University, or the furtherance of

any literature, but hath been an occasion of great dishonour to God, scandall to “ the place, and of many evills: It is ordered by the Delegates that it be utterly “ taken away." MS. Acta Delegator. Univ. Oxon. ab ann. 1655. sub ann. 1656. Yet soon afterwards the following order occurs under the same year. “ Concerning “ the Musick Lecture, it was approved by the Delegates, that Instruments bee “ provided according to the will of the founder: and Mr. Proctor bee desired to " goe to the President and Fellows of S. John's for the gift or loan of their Chaire“ organ." And afterwards it is ordered under 1657, that the musick books of the School, which had been removed by one Jackson, a musician and royalist, should be restored, and the stipend duly paid to the professor Dr. Wilson. This institution, however, languished in neglect and contempt till the Restoration; and for this slight support, I suspect, was solely indebted to the interposition of Dr. Wilkins, one of the Delegates, Cromwell's Warden of Wadham College, a profound adept in the occult sciences, and a lover of music on philosophical principles.

[ocr errors][merged small]

now a domestic for a time at least, in Lord Bridgewater's family, for it is said of Thyrsis in Comus, v. 85.

That to the service of this house belongs,

Who with his soft pipe, &c. And, as we have seen, he taught the Earl's daughters to sing, to one of whom, the Lady Alice, the Song to Echo was allotted. And Milton was a neighbour of the family. See the last note. It is well known, that Lawes's Music to Comus was never printed. But by a manuscript in his own hand-writing it appears, that the three Songs, Sweet Echo, Sabrina Fair, and Back Shepherds Back, with the lyrical Epilogue, “ To the Ocean now I fly," were the whole of the original musical composition for this drama. I am obliged to my very ingenious friend, the late Doctor William Hayes, Professor of Music at Oxford, for some of this intelligence. Sir John Hawkins has printed Lawes's song of Sweet Echo with the words, Hist. Mus. iv. 53. So bas Doctor Burney. One is surprised that more music'was not introduced in this performance, especially as Lawes might have given further proofs of the vocal skill and proficiency of his fair scholar. As there is less music, so there is less machinery, in Comus, than in any other mask. The intrinsic graces of its exquisite poetry disdained assistance.

For a composition to one of the airs of Cartwright's Ariadne, mentioned above, Lawes, as I have before incidentally remarked, is said to have introduced the Italian style of music into England : and Fenton, in his Notes on Waller, affirms, that he imparted a softer mixture of Italian airs than was yet known. This perhaps is not strictly or technically true. Without a rigorous adherence to counterpoint, but with more taste and feeling than the pedantry of theoretic harmony could confer, he communicated to verse an original and expressive melody. He exceeded his predecessors and contemporaries, in a pathos and sentiment, a simplicity and propriety, an articulation and intelligibility, which so naturally adapt themselves to the words of the poet. Hence, says our author, Sonn. xiii. 7.

To after age thou shall be writ the man

That with smooth air could humour best our tongue. Which lines stand thus in the manuscript,

To after age thou shalt be writ the man

That didst reform thy art. And in Comus, Milton praises his " soft pipe, and smooth-dittied "song," v. 86. One of his excellencies was an exact accommodation of the accents of the music to the quantities of the verse. As in the Sonnet just quoted, v. 1. seq.

Harry whose tuneful and well measur'd song

First taught our English music how to span

Words with just note and accent, not to scan
With Midas-ears, committing short and long.

Waller joins with Milton in saying, that other composers admit the poet's sense but faintly and dimly, like the rays through a churchwindow of painted glass : while his favourite Lawes

Could truly boast,

That not a syllable is lost. And this is what Milton means, where he says in the sonnel so often cited, " Thou honour'st verse." v. 9. In vocal execution, he made his own subservient to the poet's art. In his tunes to Sandys's Psalms, his observance of the rythmus and syllabic accent, an essential requisite of vocal composition, is very striking and per. ceptible; and his strains are joyous, plaintive, or supplicatory, according to the sentiment of the stanza. These Psalms are for one singer. The solo was now coming into vogue: and Lawes's talent principally consisted in songs for a single voice: and here his excellencies which I have mentioned might be applied with the best effect. The Song to Echoin Comus was for a single voice, where the composer was not only interested in exerting all his skill, but had at the same time the means of shewing it to advantage ; for he was the preceptor of the lady who sung it, and consequently must be well acquainted with her peculiar powers and characteristical genius. The poet says, that this song “ tose like a steam of rich-distilled “ perfumes, and stole upon the air, &c.” v. 555. Here seems to be an allusion to Lawes's new manner; although the lady's voice is perhaps the more immediate object of the compliment. Perhaps this song wants embellishments, and has too much simplicity, for modern critics, and a modern audience. But it is the opinion of one whom I should be proud to name, and to which I agree,

that were Mrs. Siddons to act the Lady in Comus, and sing this very simple air, when every word would be heard with a proper accent and pathetic intonation, the effect would be truly theatrical. Another excellent judge, of consummate taste and knowledge in his science, is unwilling to allow that Lawes had much address in adapting the accents of the music and the quantities of the verse. He observes, that in this Song to Echo a favourable opportunity was suggested to the musician for instrumental iterations, of which he made no use: and that, as the words have no accompaniment but a dry bass, the notes were but ill calculated to waken Echo however courteous, and to invite her to give an answer. Burney's Hist. Mus. vol. iii. ch. vii. p. 382, 383, 384, 393. It is certain, that the words and subject of this exquisite song afford many tempting capabilities for the tricks of a modern composer.

Mr. Mason has paid no inconsiderable testimony to Lawes's mun sic, in encouraging and patronising a republication of his Psalmtunes to Sandys's Paraphrase, with variations, by the ingenious Mr. Matthew Camidge, of York cathedral. From the judicious Preface to that work, written by Mr. Mason, I have adopted, and added to what I had hazarded on the subject in my last edition, many of these criticisms on Lawes's' musical style. Lawes has also received another tribute of regard from Mr. Mason : in Lawes's Song lo Echo, he has very skilfully altered or improved the bass, and modernised the melody. T. Warton.

ORIGIN OF COMUS. IN Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess, an Arcadian comedy recently published, Milton found many touches of pastoral and superstitious imagery, congenial with his own conceptions. Many of these, yet with the highest improvements, he has transferred into Comus; together with the general cast and colouring of the piece. He catched also from the lyric rhymes of Fletcher, that Dorique delicacy, with which Sir Henry Wotton was so much delighted in the Songs of Milton's drama. Fletcher's comedy was coldly received the first night of its performance. But it had ample revenge in this conspicuous and indisputable mark of Milton's approbation. It was afterwards represented as a Mask at court, before the King and Queen on twelfth-night, in 1633. I know not, indeed, if this was any recommendation to Milton; who in the Paradise Lost speaks contemptuously of these interludes, which had been among the chief diversions of an elegant and liberal monarch. B. iv. 767. (where see the note.) I believe the whole compliment was paid to the genius of Fletcher.

The ingenious and accurate Mr. Reed has pointed out a rude outline, from which Milton seems partly to have sketched the plan of the fable of Comus. See Biograph. Dramat. ii. p. 441. It is an old play, with this title, “ The old Wives' Tale, a pleasant conceited « Comedie, plaid by the Queens Maiesties players. Written by “ G. P. [i. e. George Peele.) Printed at London by John Danter, and

are to be sold by Ralph Hancocke and John Hardie, 1595." In quarto. This very scarce and curious piece exhibits, among other parallel incidents, two Brothers wandering in quest of their Sister, whom an Enchanter had imprisoned. This magician had learned his art from his mother Meroe, as Comus had been instructed by his mother Circe. The Brothers call out on the Lady's name, and Echo replies to their call. They find too late their Sister is under the captivity of a wicked magician, and that she had tasted his cup of oblivion. In the close, after the wreath is torn from the magician's head, and he is disarmed and killed, by a Spirit in the shape and character of a beautiful page of fifteen years old, she still remains subject to the magician's inchantment. But in a subsequent scene the Spirit enters, and declares, that the Sister cannot be delivered but by a Lady, who is neither maid, wife, nor widow. The Spirit blows a magical horn, and the Lady appears; she dissolves the charm, by breaking a glass, and extinguishing a light. A curtain is withdrawn, and the Sister is seen seated and asleep.

« AnteriorContinuar »