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The poetical composition termed a Song is essentially characterized by the circumstance of being adapted to vocal music; but this is applicable to pieces so various in their style and subject, that some discrimination is obviously requisite to afford a precise idea of the different kinds of productions which rank under this general head.
The alliance between poetry and music is of very ancient date, and appears originally to have been constant. The praises of gods and heroes, the triumphal strains
of happiness and victory, and the lamen-, tations of affliction and defeats were sung in measure to the sound of the rude in struments which early art bad iovented in almost every country of which we possess historical records, In process of time, however, as poetry became the vehicle of a wider range of sentiment, and of long continued narrative, the accompaniment of inusic was often found inconvenient, and a recitation more approaching to common speech was substituted; while the poetical character of the piece was sufficiently indicated by a peculiarity of diction, and the artifice of versification, How, early this divorce took place is not ascertained; but it seems probable that the Homeric rhapsodies, at some distancefrom the age of the poet, were rather, recited, than sung, before those to whom the tale of Troy was so interesting a topic, At least is it certain that in the later times of
cultivated Greek and Roman poetry, the epie, didactie, 'pastoral, elegiac, and various ottier species of poetry were, as with as, simply read or repeated.'*** E-Still, however, a large class of compositions was reserved for association with musical tones, with the expressions of which their subjects were supposed peculiarly adapted to harmonize ; and under the name of Lyric poetry (defined by Horace “ verba socianda chordis”) some of the most celebrated productions of the Greek and Latin Muses were the objects of general admiration in their own times, and have delighted all subsequent ages as far as those languages have been cultivated. These, indeed, have come down to us detached from the vocal and instrumental notes to which they were origi. nally-united; but they are on that account better suited to serve as examples or comparisons for similar compositions of mo
dern times, which are for the most part presented equally separate from the tunes that may bave been once accommodated to them, and are merely regarded as pieces of poetry. It is obviously in this light that they must be considered when they have become part of the poetical reading of a country, addressed to the critical judgement of those, who may either be destitute of musical taste, or may never have heard the words actually sung or played. This must be the case with respect to almost all those pieces which can claim an antiquity beyond the present generation; for nothing is more shortlived than the vocality of even the most fashionable song : of course, the greatest number of those distinguished for poetical merit must be dead to the singer, and existing only to the reader. And when we cast our eyes on the trash which modern musical composers seem in pre
ference to select as the vehicles of their notes, we may be excused if, in treating on sóng-writing as a species of poetry, we entirely neglect the circumstance of musical accompaniment, further than to regard it as essential that neither in point of length, nor measure, any obvious unfitness for being set to a tune should appear in a composition bearing the distinctive appellation of a song.
The Lyric poetry of the ancients comprehended a great variety of topics: indeed, it is not easy to say what it rejected that other poetry admitted, except the continued narrative of the Epic, and the methodical instruction of the Didactic. Homer (if the hymns ascribed to him be genuine), and Callimachus, sung the praises of the Gods: Pindar celebrated kings and the victors in the Grecian games, and also, as we learn from Horace, adapted to his lyre the pathetic incidents