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Obfervations on the Correspondence between Poetry and Mufic. By the Author of An Enquiry into the Beauties of Painting. Small 8vo. 3s. Dodfley, &c. 1769.
M that, though the influence of mufic over the paffions is
R. Webb, the ingenious Author of this work, observes,
very generally felt and acknowledged, yet we find ourselves embarraffed in our attempts to reafon on this fubject, by the difficulty that attends the forming a clear idea of any natural reJation between found and fentiment.
To folve this difficulty, the Author supposes, that both paffion and found act by fucceffive impreffions.
As we have,' fays he, no direct nor immediate knowledge of the mechanical operations of the paffions, we endeavour to form fome conception of them from the manner in which we find ourselves affected by them: thus we fay, that love foftens, melts, infinuates; anger quickens, ftimulates, inflames; pride expands, exalts; forrow dejects, relaxes of all which ideas we are to observe, that they are different modifications of motion, fo applied, as beft to correfpond with our feelings of each particular paffion. From whence, as well as from their known and vifible effects, there is juft reafon to prefume, that the paffions, according to their feveral natures, do produce certain proper and diftinctive motions in the moft refined and fubtle parts of the human body. What these parts are, where placed, or how fitted to receive and propagate these motions, are points which I fhall not inquire into. It is fufficient for my purpose to have it admitted, that fome fuch parts muft exift in the human machine: however, as in our purfuits after knowledge, it is dif couraging to be reminded every moment of our ignorance, I fhall take advantage of the received opinion touching this matter, and affign the functions in question to the nerves and fpirits. We are then to take it for granted, that the mind, under Vo VI, particular
particular affections, excites certain vibrations in the nerves, and impreffes certain movements on the animal spirits.
I fhall fuppofe, that it is in the nature of mufic to excite fimilar vibrations, to communicate fimilar movements to the nerves and spirits. For, if mufic owes its being to motion, and, if paffion cannot well be conceived to exift without it, we have a right to conclude, that the agreement of mufic with paffion can have no other origin than a coincidence of movements.'
So that when mufical founds produce the fame fenfations with particular paffions, the Author fuppofes them to excite fimilar vibrations in the nerves, and imprefs fimilar movements on the animal spirits; and in that cafe, he says, the mufic is in unifon with the paffion.
But as mufic produces effects fimilar to those of paffion merely by exalting, dilating, or depreffing the fpirits, it cannot of itfelf fpecify any particular paffion: the movements of each class muft be in accord with all the paffions of that class; the tender melting tones, which may exprefs the paffion of love, will be equally in unifon with the collateral feelings of benevolence, friendship, and pity; but if eloquence co-operates with mufic, the impreffion common to a clafs is referred to a particular paffion, and the mind is moved by two forces at once, correfponding movements being produced by the co-operation of found and fentiment.
Poetry thus combines eloquence and mufic; verfe, confidered as mere found, operates like mufic, and, in a degree, dilates, fublimes, and depreffes; confidered as fentiment, it refers general impreffions to a particular paffion: tender tones, that are common to love, friendship, and pity, it refers exclufively to either.
It seems to me,' fays the Author, that the pleasure which we receive from great and fublime images arifes from their being productive of fenfations fimilar to thofe which are excited by pride. Whether the fenfation springs from a conscioufness of fuperiority in ourselves, or from the contemplation of greatness in external objects, we feel the fame enlargement of heart; 'our emotions are congenial, and their accords confonant.'
This pofition, however, may well be queftioned; the pleafure which we receive from great and fublime images is frequently mixed with fear, humility, and awe; fenfations wholly diffimilar to thofe excited by pride.
The Author obferves, that our paffions in general being derived from anger, pride, forrow and love, we may, by various combinations of the primary correfponding movements, exprefs almost every paffion: Thus,' fays he,pity will find its accord in an union of the movements of forrow and love, for there cannot be pity without benevolence, and benevolence di
rected to a particular object, is a mode of Love.' It feems, however, that mere movement will not, exclufively, accord with pity, for the reason affigned by this Author. The fame tones,' fays he, which exprefs pity, will equally exprefs friendship and love.' If the fame tones then exprefs both the combination of forrow and love, and love without forrow, fo, it may be inferred, will the fame movement; fo that it is either not neceffary to combine the movement of love with that of forrow to exprefs pity, or, when they are fo combined, they do not express pity diftinct from other paffions of the fame clafs. The Author, however, makes a juft diftinction between imitation by movement, and imitation by found:
In general,' fays he, a protracted found, joined to a kind of languor or weakness in the movement, will be happily expreffive of forrow:
Longas in fletum ducere voces.
Earth felt the wound, and nature from her feat
Sighing, thro' all her works gave figns of woe
On comparing this paffage with the following, we fhall obServe the difference between an imitation by movement, and an imitation by found:
Tellus et pronuba Juno
Dant fignum, fulfere ignes et confcius Ether
Connubii, fummoque ulularunt vertice nymphæ †.
In this fecond inftance, the agreement depends on the force of a particular word or found, as being imitative of a particular idea. In the former, the accord fprings from an agreement of fyllables or founds no otherwife imitative than as they determine by their fucceffion the nature of the movement. A diftinction which must be carefully obferved in the application of that general maxim,
"The found must seem an echo to the fenfet." The following remark is alfo curious and new:
If there are paffions which come not within the reach of mufical expreffion, they must be fuch as are totally painful. Painting and Sculpture, on whatever fubjects employed, act fimply, as imitative arts; they have no other means of affecting us than by their imitations. But Mufic acts in the double character of an art of impreffion as well as of imitation: and if its impreffions are neceffarily, and, in all cafes pleafing, I do not fee how they can, by any modification, be brought to unite with ideas of abfolute pain. I am confirmed in this opinion by obferving, that fhame, which is a forrowful reflection on our own unworthiness, and therefore entirely painful, hath no unifons in Pope's Effay on Criticifm. mufic.
Eneid. 1. IV.
mufic. But pity, which is a forrow flowing from sympathy, and tempered with love, hath a tincture of pleasure.'
So emulation has an unifon in mufic, but not envy; anger but not hatred. '
The Author cenfures Mr. Lock for confidering all the paffions as modes of pleasure or pain, and dividing them into fuch as are abfolutely pleafing or abfolutely painful; he thinks, on the contrary, that there are mixed affections, which include both pleasure and pain: nothing however can be more clear, than that in all thefe affections fuppofed to be mixed, pain or pleasure must predominate; and the paffion in which pain predominates may furely, with philofophical precifion, be faid to be absolutely painful; and fo the contrary.
The Author endeavours to illuftrate his pofition by an allufion to painting: he fuppofes the painful paffions, to be fhades, the pleafing, lights; and many of our paffions to be composed of mid-tints running more or less into light or fhade, pleasure or pain, according to the nature, motive, or degree of the paffion: but this allufion feems not much to illuftrate. The mid-tint muft be light with refpect to darker tints, and dark with respect to the lighter. It is therefore as truly light and fhade as another tint; as truly, as paffions mixed of pleafure and pain become abfolutely pleafing or painful, by the predominance of either. If the mid-tint is not confidered as relative light or fhade, the paffion must be confidered as neutralifed by equal pleasure and pain; and of a paffion which, upon the whole, is neither painiul nor pleasant, it is not perhaps very eafy to conceive.
The Author has fuppofed lights and fhades to represent different paffions; he fhould therefore have fhewn, that, by the mixture of thefe, fomething analogous to the middle tint would be produced; but he has, on the contrary, fuppofed fomething analogous to the middle tint to refult from the fame paffion according to its nature, motive, or degree. Grief, fays he, arifing from the fufferings of others, becomes pity, and is pleafing; grief arifing from our own fufferings, if hopelefs, becomes deIpair, and is painful from its degree. But the proof of his pofition requires, that pity and despair fhould be paffions radically and fpecifically different, and that different mixtures of thefe, one a painful, the other a pleafing paffion, fhould run more or Jefs into pleasure or pain, and that, after all, the mind might at the fame moment both fuffer and enjoy, which perhaps can no more be conceived, than that the body should at the fame moment freeze and burn.
The pleasure that arifes from pity, proves rather the malignity than the benevolence of human nature. Pity is by no means pleafing, when those who fuffer are objects of ftrong affection. A mother feels no pleasure in contemplating the y of her
infant; yet her paffion is a mixture of grief and love, and a mixture of grief and love, a painful and a pleafing paffion, is pity. The Author obferves, that there are fituations in which we are faid to indulge our grief.
"Afk the faithful youth,
Why the cold urn of her whom long he lov'd
So often fills his arms " +"
But afk any befides the faithful youth, whether they wish to be in his fituation; whether they suppose it to be better than if the idea of her whom he had loft was totally obliterated from his mind? He judges under the influence of a paffion fatal not only to enjoyment, but perhaps to health and life; he thinks the violation of his forrow a violation of his love, and would be offended if you should tell him it is even poffible, that what is now an agony of regret and grief, will, in time, be meliorated to a tender remembrance; yet all his friends are fo fenfible of the mifery he fuffers even by indulging his forrow, that they wish this melioration had already taken place.
Of English verfe, the Author obferves, that, though it cannot pretend to equal the sweetness of found, or dignity of motion in the Greek measures, yet if our measures can afcend to the most exalted, and defcend into the most depressed condition of the mind, they muft neceffarily include the accords of the intermediate affections: and he refts the proof of thele powers on the following examples:
"Mean while inhabit lax, ye pow'rs of heav'n ;
Such is the effect of this laft movement, that our fpirits partake in the enlargement, the expanfion, of the divine effence. How affecting is the contraft in thefe beautiful lines!
"So much I feel my genial fpirits droop,
My hopes all flat; nature within me seems
In all her functions weary of herself +."
Perhaps few of our Readers will find their fpirits partake in the enlargement, the expansion of the divine effence, by reading the firft of thefe extracts, or feel the contraft faid to be fo affecting in the last; as far as the proof of the powers in question refts on these examples, therefore, it may be fuppofed to fail.
In the process of this work, the Author endeavours to prove, that the laws of mufical, and therefore of metrical proportions, however varied in their modes, are univerfal in their influence; that they obtain in all languages, and extend through every branch of elocution; that, for this reason, profe hath its rhyth
Akenfide's Pl. of Imag.