« AnteriorContinuar »
barism, of oppression and prejudice, every institution that had become connected with the Christian religion, even the most absurd doctrines and perni. cious practices with which Catholicism has been charged, had their holy, their redeeming influence-when popery and the monastery alone preserved the social system from utier ruin. But no sooner had the Christian religion triumphed, than the seeds of corruption burst forth; the ministers of the Gospel, styling themselves the vicars of Christ, began by undoing his work. They withdrew his books and counterfeited his words; then they made their opinion a law, and enforced that law by fire and sword. They intruded themselves into the secrets of the heart, and laid conscience asleep. They monopolized the eternal clemency, and set a price for the ransom of the soul, even beyond the limits of the Vatican--the rivals of kings in wealth, in power, in crime.”vol. i. p. 88.
“ But if the monks had their own day, it has set long since. The mission of the convents is accomplished ; our gratitude has gone too far, and monkish pretensions still farther. There are other debts, and more recent, that we must be equally eager to discharge. The convents as a system must perish. The idle and pampered life of Franciscans, the loose morals and the tenebrous intrigues of Jesuits, the splendour and luxury of Benedictines, the bigotry and ferociousness of Dominicans, the vow of perpetual seclusion, the slow suicide of ascetic discipline, the fiendish aris by which inexperienced souls were walled up in a living tomb, have long been judged. It is not, we repeat, it is not the fault of Italy if there are still convents and popes. The last generation witnessed the sudden abolition of all these inveterate evils, and they have only returned with the re-establishment of that old-fashioned, hateful state of things against which that unfortunate nation is struggling.”- vol. i. p. 99.
Again, of the poets who preceded Dante we bave the following truly national and graphic sketch :
“Most of them were men of lofty character, and played a conspicuous part in the history of their age. They seem to rise before us as in their old-fashioned costume of cassoc and steel, each one pompously holding forth the manuscript of his Canzoniere, on which he lays his claims to the consideration of posterity; each one leading by the hand his peerless mistress, blushing at the sound of her praises; all stately forms, dark and solemn, assuming gigantic dimensions through the magnifying medium of the mist of time. The very first of the number, of whom, indeed, as of Faliero in the hall of the great council at Venice, nothing can be discerned but a black veil and a name, is Ciullo d'Alcamo, and under his bust are sculptured a few rude stanzas of the first Italian songs we have left. Ciullo remains behind a noble group of Sicilian bards, of judges, knights, and notaries constituting the court of the second Frederick, flourishing balf a century after him. Frederick, a bard himself and an Italian by birth and education, a knight, a scholar, a liberal patron of learning and genius, stands foremost with all the height of his commanding figure, stretching the ample folds of his imperial and royal purple, as if in the attitude of patronage over his courtiers and minions; like the prince of darkness hiding under the splendour of his crown the scars left in his forehead by the burnings of the Vatican. By his right side are his two sons, like him initiated in all the apprenticeships of knighthood and minstrelsy; and by his left the wretched victim of a moment of his inconsiderate wrath, the butt of cruelty, treason, and calumny,— Pier delle Vigne, turning towards his lord the hollow sockets whence his eyes were wrenched, and tendering to him the bowstrings with which he strangled himself in his dungeon.".--vol. i. p. 157.
The description of Dante, surrounded with forms of woe and deeds of horror, lending to that giant intellect its peculiar sadness; Francesca, Ugolino, Manfredi, Pier delle Vigne, Farinata, a fell period wben princes were poisoned by monks in the eucharistic elements, when even Dante's best and only friend, Guido Novello, the instant be bad covered Dante with decent earth, sunk à prey to a brutal mob; these are given with the dignity due to the magnificent objects crowded before our vision. The friendship of Petrarch and Boccacio— the proud Colonna, with bis cognizance, “Columna flecti nescio"—the crowning of Petrarch - the court and crimes of Joan of Naples-Boccacio's singular conversion, his successful efforts to revive Greek literature-Machiavelli-render the first volume full of bigb-stirring incident, and the characters stand out well from the events, and are not lost in them as is the case in that style of writing that gives the dry digest and nothing of the human action. We close the first volume with the description of Machiavelli :
6 His frequent embassies to the courts of Rome and France and his long mission to Cæsar Borgia gave him that frightful insight of human nature and of those detestable arts of policy of which he has been too generally believed to be the discoverer and promoter in Europe. Machiavelli, however, invented nothing; with a mind perfectly dead to all enthusiasm, he took a calm, cold, rather misanthropic survey of the human family, and described it as he saw it, with a placid though appalling fidelity-with an impartial though disheartening neutrality.
" Machiavelli, gifted with an essentially active mind, sought in public life rather employment than either power or fame, or much less honour and wealth. He was one of the most disinterested men that ever lived, and if he never perhaps loved any living being, neither did he certainly love himself, nor did he ever turn those powers, for which he has been so much praised and abused, to raise himself in the world. His delight was in sounding the depths of the human heart. He wished to appreciate men after their positive value, and from this dangerous knowledge he derived nothing for himself but the me lancholy advantage of being entitled to despise both the oppressors and the oppressed, the prince and his subjects. He was as good as a man can be without love or belief.”
And here, for the present, we must conclude our notice of our author's labours, thanking him for the delight his book has afforded us, to which we shall possibly again advert by another notice of the second volume, filled as it is with Italian legends, told by an Italian; for who amid those of a colder clime can describe the deeds of his land equal to the son of her, of bright and lustrous brow even yet, although the world's age-saddened queen.
MUSIC ABROAD AND AT HOME.
ITALY. The following remarks on the music of the Catholic Church in Italy will, we doubt not, be read with interest; they are extracted from a highly pleasing and amusing work by Miss Catharine Taylor, in her“Letters from Italy to a Younger Sister," just published. This lady, if we mistake not, is a daughter of the celebrated Gresham lecturer, Dr. Taylor. She fully expresses our feeling when she says, “The constant introduction of secular music into the service of the Catholic Church is offensive to hear; the airs from Rossini's or Bellini's operas, or the noisy overtures of Auber, are so discordant with my feelings that I have often left the church in disgust. Widely different is the effect produced by the music which properly belongs to the service of religion. Those who have heard the sublime and massive harmonies of Palestrina, performed as they are at Rome by the Papal choir, can feel all the influence which ecclesiastical music possesses over the mind.”
The most noble specimen of the ancient Roman school of music is the famous Mass of Palestrina, which saved music from being banished from the Church service. “The edict had been already prepared which was to banish music in parts, to ordain no other employment of it than the Gregorian Chaunt. It was at this momentous crisis, when the doom of the art appeared to be sealed, that a young man, scarcely known as a singer in the Pope's Chapel, dared to stand forth as the champion and representative of his art, and in its defence to appeal at once to the head of the Church. This man was Pier Luigi da Palestrina: Ere,' said he, you decree the extinction of an art which Heaven has allied to devotion, and before you silence that gift of the Almighty which He designed to elevate the soul of man, to inspire it with pure and holy thoughts, and to connect it with Himself, listen to its spirit, and hear what you are about to destroy; I will reveal it to you, for to me it has been already revealed ! Such was Palestrina's appeal in behalf of his art, and if ever the soul of genius spoke, it was then. I know of no such instance of that self-reliance which marks the highest order of intellect. Who, besides Palestrina, ever ventured to stake the very existence of an art upon the perilous issue of his own ability to reveal its power? His request was granted, and the promulgation of the decree suspended until he had completed his promised composition. Palestrina triumphed, and music was saved. We can scarcely place ourselves in the situation of those who first heard this extraordinary effort of genius; the effect must have appeared like the birth of a new scene, and awakened emotions before unknown: the scientific hearer would be made to feel that the erudition which he had been accustomed to regard as the end of study, was but the means to a greater end; and the consummate skill with which the arts of counterpoint were employed, would be absorbed in amazement and delight at the effects which they produced; and in this feeling we share. Time may have overspread the surface of the structure with a deeper and mellower tint, but its noble outline and its fair proportions are unchanged.”
FLORENCE.— The production of Meyerbeer's Roberto il Diavolo bas been
attended with the most flattering marks of success; the Theatre Pergola, unquestionably one of the principal theatres in Italy, was crowded with admiring and applauding audiences at every representation. The cast consisted of Roberto, C.del Massi; Bertram or Beltramino, C. Porto; Isabella the princess, Sofia Mequillet; and Alice, M. Schubert. It has been performed upwards of thirty nights, and was withdrawn in order to afford Mlle. Unger an opportunity of again delighting this city in Lucretia Borgiu.
TRIESTE.- Mlle. Fanny Goldberg has been reaping new laurels in Mercadante's opera of Giuramento; the applause she has received is indescribable.
BOLOGNA.-During the last three months we have not had any musical novelty. Donnizetti's Gemma di Vergy, Bellini's Somnumbula, and Speranza's Due Figaro, have been severally performed. Rossini takes great interest in his new Musical Lyceum.
FRANCE. Paris.—The great novelty at the Académie Royale has been the production of Weber's justly celebrated Der Frieschutz in a style of great splendour. The entire musical arrangement had been confided to the hands of Berlioz, and the result has proved how zealous and unremitting he has been in his exertions to procure a perfect and well-drilled chorys to give effect to this splendid opera. Mlle. Stoltz made an effective Agatha; her voice is soft and Hexible. Marié, as Max, sang with great nerve and feeling. Bouché made an indifferent Caspar, but Mlle. Nau sang and played the character of Anna delightfully, and was most warmly applauded. The opera has been repeated several times and gains on the Parisian public; the beautiful overture and the unrivalled hunting chorus were encored on each performance.
Halevy has a new opera in rehearsal at the Académie Royale..
A great sensation has been created in the musical circles of Paris by the reports in the Belgium newspapers of the invention of a steam organ by M.
At the Opera Comique Bellini's Dame Blanche, and Auber's Les Diamans de la Couronne, with Madame Rossi Caccia, continue to attract numerous audiences. In the latter Madame A. Thillon acts with captivating spirit and animation; she sings delightfully.
Singing is now taught in Paris in 52 schools, on the system of mutual instruction, 21 schools directed by the Frères de la Doctrine Chrétienne, and 12 evening schools for adults. These comprise together upwards of 1500 adult scholars, and 5000 children.
THE DRAMA.—The long announced comedy of Mariage sous Louis XV. has at length been produced at the Théâtre Français. The two first acts are full of humour and originality, but the concluding portion of the comedy is by no means so good; the interest, instead of increasing, fags, and there seems a want of sufficient incident to carry the piece through. This comedy bas not obtained the success that had been anticipated, nevertheless it is a work of merit and would bear translating. Mlle. Fitz James, whose reception at the Renaissance has been so enthusiastic, is now engaged at the Théâtre Français, and will speedily make her appearance on those boards. She is represented to possess all the energy and feeling of a first-rate dramatic actress; her voice is full and sonorous, and she promises to be a successful imitator, if not a rival, of the accomplished Mlle. Rachel.
Victor Hugo's beautiful drama of Hernuni has been reproduced for the debût of Mlle. Guyon, and the loud and frequent applause with which she was interrupted, testifies her complete success.
A homely little drama, called Le Balai d'Or, has been successful at the Théâtre du Vaudeville. The principal character is a retired druggist, from the Rue des Lombards, whose shop bore the sign which gives its title to the piece. Here he has lived all his days, and made a handsome fortune; but on surrendering the establishment to his successor, who is his son-in-law, he finds with horror that the young man is one of the “new school.” The old dirty respectability of the boutique is changed to that of modern display; and, finally, things go on so badly, that the old proprietor is, to his great joy, obliged to quit his cabbages and villa, and take his post once more behind the counter, in order to preserve the concern from bankruptcy. With a change of manners and ideas this piece might, in Mr. Webster's hands, be made to succeed in London.
At the little Théâtre Ambigu-Comique, situate in the Boulevard du Temple, a melo drama, entitled Fabio, is receiving great applause. The piece turns on a struggle between the maternal and the connubial feelings in the breast of the heroine, who ultimately gives her husband up to the scaffold, in order to preserve her son. The incidents and situations are well imagined, and the acting highly creditable.
GERMANY. LEIPZIG.-.The Spring Concert season commenced some time since, but only two attractive concerts have been given. Mme. Clara Schumann, better known by her maiden name of Wieck, gave a concert in aid of the fund for decayed musicians, at which this talented pianist reaped new laurels -even Mendelssohn, who presided, expressed his admiration ; but the most attractive feature was the first performance of a new symphony by Dr. Robert Schumann. This composer had never produced any great work, his compositions being chiefly songs and concerted pieces for the pianoforte. This symphony is said to exhibit great taste, judgment, and originality, and to be free from those boisterous and extravagant forte movements which deface the modern school of music. MM. Regondi and Liddel, just arrived from London, assisted at the concert, and performed a duo in a very effective manner.
At the second concert, given on 23d April, in aid of the poor at the Gewandhouse, two novelties from a new composer, Julius Rietz, of Düsseldorf, were successfully produced. The first was a MS. overture to Hero and Leander, and the second an ancient German War Song with an effective chorus. Both pieces exhibited great talent.
Mlle. Cæcilie Kreutzer has successfully appeared as Julia, and as Alice in Meyerbeer's Robert the Devil.
AGRAM.-M. Mareczek, the Jewish composer, and author of the opera of Hamlet, has been appointed mailre de chapelle in this town-he has a new opera founded on the celebrated “ Nibelungenlied” in a forward state.
WEISBADEN.- Benedict's opera of the Gipsey's Warning was most successful on its first representation in this town-the translation of the libretto into German, is by Herr Gollmick.
RIGA.-Dorn, the composer, has nearly completed a new opera, entitled Das Banner von England (The Banner of England), of which report speaks highly.
RADOM, IN POLAND.-Thalberg, on his recent visit to this town, was received with such marks of public favour, that the governor gave a splendid supper, at which he presented him with a silver tankard in the name of the principal inhabitants, as a token of the regard in which he was held by the town.
His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge, Duke Maximilian of Bavaria, and Lapinsky, have been elected honorary members of the “Deutschen National Musik Verein," of Stuttgart.
The third musical festival of the Northern Germans will take place at Hamburg on the 5th, 7th and 8th July. On the first day they will perform Handel's Messiah, under the direction of Dr. F. Schneider; on the second day, Weber's overture to Euryunthe, an overture of Beethoven's, and his Sinfonia eroica, will