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MOORE'S IRITH MELODIES.
Dublin, November 20, 1821. envy are in general much about the - MR North,
same--only that thought takes a cirTHERE are really some people, and of cuitous rout to the opinion, which stuextensive literary acquirements, who pidity finds at once. One of our probelieve and assert that Moore is no foundest thinkers has discovered, with poet—this is going too far with a joke. the Literary Gazette, though by a very The critical demurs thrown out against different process, that Lord Byron also him in good humour and whim, have is no poet ;--thus genius and dulness been eagerly seized on by these poeti- travel different sides of the same circal bigots, and magnified into almost cle, and meet at the same point. an utter annihilation of his fame. This Moore is not, I'll allow, like Wordsis the more dangerous and unjust, as worth or Coleridge, the poet's poet, those who devote themselves entirely nor is it necessary, in order to enjoy to poetical pursuits, and are conse- his writings, that we should create a quently the most powerful critics in taste for them, other than what we rethat department of literature, are most ceived from natureandour horn-books. apt to give themselves up to the exclu. Yet his style is contemned as tinsel sive admiration of one great master. and artificial, whereas the great praise That devotedness which bestows such bestowed on those preferred to it, is unity and power on poetic talent, is that they are the only true natural. too often accompanied by a littleness, Now, if it requires study and progresand a selfish pedantry, which incapa- sive taste to arrive at a sense of the citates its possessor from entering into natural, and but common feeling to the spirit, or justly appreciating the enjoy the beauties of the artificial, merit, of writings foreign to his style then certainly these names have chanof thought. In the progress of his ged places, since I met them in the knowledge and opinions, he insensibly dictionary. But let us shun, these horascends from the plane of vulgar na- rific words, art and nature, and that ture, he becomes the centre of arrother wearisome controversy, which seems sphere of objects-acquires another to have acted like a torpedo on every principle of delight and test of ge- pen, and has turned genius itself into nius, and not taking into account his babbling. If the subject was fresh, it aberrations from the current feelings would be well worth inquiring into; of men, he appeals for proofs of his but the waters have been so troubled, opinions to that common sense which and to so little purpose, that they inust he has left behind. Very unfortu- be allowed to settle, ere any one can nately for common sense, the appeal hope to see the bottom. is often as eloquent as it is unintelli- Formerly people were content with gible, and confounds the reader into estimating books-persons are the precoincidence with its opinions. Hence sent objects universally. It is not the spring those shoals that one meets pleasure or utility a volume affords, with-of neophyte followers of a school which is taken into consideration, but of taste, hot from conyiction, and the genius which it indicates. Each vaunting their new creed, as a boy person is anxious to forin his scale of does his breeches when he first gets excellence, and to range great names, into them-amazingly pleased and living or dead, at certain intervals and mightily inconvenienced. One can no in different grades, self being the hidmore find his reasons, than the other den centre whither all the comparihis pockets, but both are conscious of sons verge. In former times, works a sort of promotion, and are satisfied. of authors were compared with ideal The followers may be despised, but or with ancient models,—the humble the leaders cannot, they are not seldom crowd of readers were content to peour superiors; and the only method ruse and admire. At present it is by which we can maintain just and otherwise,- every one is conscious eifair sentiments against their over- ther of having written, or at least hawhelming sophistry, is to bear in ving been able to write a book, and mind, that what is illiberal is very consequently all literary decisions af likely to be false. The discourses of fect them personally ;
« Scribendi nihil a me alienum puto," knows no bounds ; its abettors, at the is the language of the age, and the same time that they reserve to them, most insignificant calculate on the selves the full advantage of dormant wonders they might have effected, had merit, make no such allowance to eschance thrown a pen in their way, tablished authors. They judge them The literary character has in fact ex- rigidly by their pages, assume that tended itself over the whole face of their love of fame and emolument society, with all the evils that D'Is- would not allow them to let any talent raeli has enumerated, and ten times be idle, and will not hear any argu. more-it has spread its fibres through ment advanced for their unexerted caall ranks, sexes, and ages. There no pabilities. longer exist what writers used to call The simplest and easiest effort of a public-that disinterested tribunal the mind is egotisin,-it is but baring has been long since merged in the body one's own breast, disclosing its curious it used to try. Put your finger on any mechanism, and giving exaggerated head in a crowd, it belongs to an au- expressions to every-day feeling. Yet thor, or the friend of one, and your no productions have met with such great authors are supposed to possess success - what authors can compete as a quantity of communicable celebrity to popularity with Montaigne, Byron, -an intimacy with one of them is a Rousseau ? Yet I cannot but believe sort of principality, and a stray anece that there have been thousands of men dote picked up rather a valuable sort in the world, who could have walked of possession. These people are al- the same path, and have met the same ways crying out against personality, success, if they had had the same and personality is the whole business impudence. Passionate and reflectof their lives. They can consider no- ing minds are not so rare as we supthing as it is, by itself; the cry is, pose, but the boldness that sets at “ who wrote it?"_" what manner of nought society, is. Nor would want man is he?"_" where did he borrow of courage be the only obstacle; there it?” They make puppets of literary are and have been, I trust, many, who men by their impertinent curiosity, would not exchange the privacy of and when one of themselves is drag- their mental sanctuary for the indulged from his malign obscurity in ban- gence of spleen, or the feverish dream ter or whimsical revenge, he calls on of popular celebrity. And if we can all the gods to bear witness to the in- give credit for this power to the many dignity he is made to suffer.
who have lived unknown and shunned It is this spirit which has perverted publicity, how much more must we criticism, and reduced it to a play of not be inclined to allow to him of acwords. To favour this vain eagerness knowledged genius, and who has maof comparison, all powers and faculties nifested it in works of equal beauty are resolved at once into genius,--that and of greater merit, inasmuch as they vague quality, the supposition of which are removed from self. * is at every one's cominand; and cha- These considerations ought at least racters sublime in one respect, as they to prevent us from altogether merging are contemptible in another are viewed a writer's genius in his works, and under this one aspect. The man, the from using the name of the poem and poet, and the pbilosopher, are blended, that of the poet indifferently. For my and the attributes of each applied to part, Mr North, I think, that if Thoa all without distinction. One person inas Moore had the misfortune to be acquires the name of a poet, because metaphysical, he might have written he is a reasoner, another because he is the Excursion, (but this with a per. mad, another because he is conceited. haps)—that had he the meanness to Johnson's assertion is taken for grant- borrow, and at the same time disguise ed-that genius is but great natu- the feelings of the great Lake Poets, ral power directed towards a particu- he might have written the only good lar object; thus all are reduced to parts of Childe Harold- and had he the same scale Wellington, Byron, the pluck or the whim to be egotistiand Kean, measurel by the same cal, he might lay bare a little mind of standard. This fury of comparison his own, as proudly and as passionate
• Coleridge, in his Biographia, estcems the choice of a subject renoved from self, as a test of genius.
ly organized, as the great Lord, whom spoiled child, pouting because he is some one describes “to have gutted turned out of company before the suhimself, body and soul, for all the gar-plumbs come on the table. But world to walk in and see the show." what of all that?-extremes meet, and So much for the preliminary cavils if he be half-man, half-infant, let not which are thrown in the teeth of the peccadilloes of the child prevent us Moore's admirers. They have been from rendering justice to the talents picked up by a small fry of critics, of maturity. who commenced their career with a The gravest of Moore's critics is the furious admiration of him, Pope, and Baron Lawerwinkel. The poet has Campbell, but have since thought it allowed his objections to be just, and becoming to grow out of their early even, if I have not been misinformed, likings. And at present they profess promised to profit by his advice reto prefer the great works which they specting the ideal of the female charachave never read, and which they will ter. The Baron's great demur is, that never be able to read, to those classic Moore is not the poet of Ireland ;—and poems, of which they have been the pray, to use the language of your “Old most destructive enemies, by bethumb- friend with the new face," who the ing and bequoting their beauties into deuce ever said he was? The Gertriteness and common-place.
man sages know but little of Ireland The merits of Pope and of Moore when they talk in this manner. Born have suffered depreciation from the and bred in Dublin, a Hibernian Cocksame cause--the facility of being imi. ney, Moore knows as much about Irish tated to a certain degree. And as vul- feeling as Lady Morgan ; but then he gar admiration seldom penetrates be- does not pretend to it like her ladyyond this degree, the conclusion is, ship. To be sure, he talks of liberty, that nothing can be easier than to and the wreath of Harmodius, like write like and even equal to either of any other jolly old Grecian, but the these poets. In the universal self- gibs of all colleges write their themes comparison, which is above mentioned after that fashion. He coquetted also as the foundation of modern criticism, a little with the loyalists—complained feeling is assumed to be genius—the that some people had accused him of passive is considered to imply the ac- favouring revolutionary principles, and tive power. No opinion is more com- exciting popular feeling in Ireland; inon or more fallacious—it is the “flat- whereas, taking it for granted that tering unction" which has inundated there are a few rebels in this country, the world with versifiers, and which the devil a one ever thought of him. seems to under-rate the merit of com. There are too some songs in the Velopositions, in which there is more in- dies, over which young ladies shake genuity and elegance than passion, their heads, and think the poet a kind Genius is considered to be little more of little hero for talking so big ; but than a capability of excitement-the Moore has friends in Ireland, and he greater the passion, the greater the visited them the other day, who might merit; and the school-boy key on have quieted his conscience, by assuwhich Moore's love and heroism is al- ring him that his songs will never exways set, is not considered by any cite any commotions here beyond the reader beyond bis reach. This is cer- chords of the piano. He may also tainly Moore's great defect; but it is have learned from his trip, how much perhaps more that of his taste than of his countrymen have adopted his grateany superior faculty: And being on ful sentiments towards their sovereign, the subject of his defects, let me speak who, by the by, understood at once and of them at once. There can be no entered into the spirit of Irish feeling, doubt that Tommy Little will be Tom, better than e'er a poet or speechifier of my Little all the days of his life, whe- them all. ther he praises liberty or flaxen locks But there are some patriotic people, --whether he paints maidens flinging who think that a country cannot exroses at one another, or young Azim ist without a national poet. Ireland in yellow boots routing whole legions in particular ought to be much obliged of Musselmen, to the tune of “ Alla to these gentlemen :-some would give Akbar”-above all, in those lampoons, her Ossian-some would cram Derwhich some people call satires, where mody down her throat-Charles Phihe displays precisely the spirit of a lips would lay hold of her for himself ; while others engage her for Moore. Poets, at least a great many of them, The greatest obligation they can pos. are strange inconsistent creatures sibly bestow on their beloved country, they strive to be patriots and cosmois to hold their tongues. She has given politans at once ; both themes are so birth to Burke, to Sheridan, to Wel fertile and convenient, that they never lington, to Moore-they may be, or perceive them to be contradictory. Van may have been, first-rate men, but we nity makes them aspire to be national, have no right to fix on them against and vanity prevents them. Launch their wills, and against the testimony ed into the sea of words and sophistry, of their lives and pursuits, the epithet which they mistake for wisdom, they of national- they were men of great- forsake all natural and national prinness, and of the world. Ireland dis- ciple for some butterfly word that atdains to rank exclusively in her fa- tracts their attention. And after a life mily those who do not openly claim of moral loves and hatreds equally the privilege. Grattan was a nation- vain, their discerning faculties fall into al orator,—what Burke and Sheridan such a state of effacement, that so far were not; we can wait for a national from being imprinted with a national poet,-what Moore is not. We have character, they have lost even their contributed our mite to the celebrity own, and are to be distinguished from of Europe, and trust with confidence the rabble of cities, and the harangues to our soil and fate to occupy in the of market-places, merely by their sueyes of posterity our proper space of perior extravagance both of flattery and consideration.
of spite-an atom more of creed or soNational feeling is a more subtle lidity they have not. No-nationality and a more innate spirit than even ge- is not to be looked for among the poets nius itself; it is not to be learned or of modern times. There are and have gleaned from books, but must be im- been great and enviable exceptions, bibed with the milk of infancy, and especially in the land to which this is the associations of youth. It is here- addressed ; but here, with Lady Morditary, and orally handed down in the gan and Mrs Peck to illustrate our great families of a country, and in the national character, Miss Edgeworth to noblest of those families—its national turn it into ridicule, and Moore to be peasantry. It is a privileged kind of put forth as our chosen minstrel, we enthusiasm, which the soil alone can are prettily represented in the literary bestow, far removed from the vulgar world. and secondary notions of patriotism, But you must be astonished at my which school-boys are taught to ga- contradictory reasoning. A firin adther from the declamatory writings of mirer of Moore, I am equally indigGreece and Rome. Its idea of liber- nant with them who have become blind ty is not borrowed or second-hand to his merit from fickleness, and those founded on sophism or on precept; who would imprudently elevate his rethe contrary of the term, and there. putation at the expence of his counfore itself is unknown- liberty with try's. In the airy spirit of gallantry, of it is implied in the natural feelings of trifling, of tenderness, and often of pride and independence. There can- passion, no poet can be superior to not be a stronger proof of real mean- Moore; but then it is in a language ness and littleness of mind than the and feeling common to all the world eternal mouthing of this word, to it is Irish, French, Circassian, or what which no idea is attached :-it is sick- you please. In the beautiful collection ening beyond the worst insipidity of of the Irish melodies, those songs cant to hear such writers as Moore and founded on national tradition are Byron aping the language of the an- meagre, flat, and spiritless, nor can cients on a subject for which they evi- they even convey the story without the dently have no real feeling, and string- lumbering assistance of a note. There ing truisms against slavery, devoid of is, however, one exception, and a gloall existence but for their own ima- rious one-“ Rich and Rare"-which ginations. 'Tis the extreme of cow. taken, music, words, and all, is worth ardice and affectation mingled, which an epic poem to the Irish nation, thus raises bugbears out of words, simple, elegant, tender, sublime, it is and falls down in trepidation before the very essence of poetry and musia them.
there is not one simile or conceit, nor
one idle crotchet to be met with more systematic mocle of pursuing throughout.
knowledge. The exercise of the imaMoore, in his preface to the new gination possesses this accompaniment edition, expresses a great disinclination in the highest degree, and the greatest to a divorce between the tune and transport we are capable of perhaps, is, words--a modest confession, how in this consonance of the ear and eye, much he thinks the latter dependent each framing for itself and enjoying on the former. He is right, and this the peculiar pleasures of its own sense. seemning defect is one of the great me- To inquire into the matter and origin rits of the work: the musical as well of this mental harmony, would, for the as the poetical taste of the writer is present, bewilder me in metaphysics. evident in every line, nor is one allow. But as to its degrees, which are here ed to shine at the expense of the other of important consideration, I am in, Moore has composed some beautiful clined to make a bold assertion, that songs, but seems shy of exerting this naturally the lowest and most common faculty, dreading, perhaps, that suc- trains of thought generate the prettiest cess in that pursuit would detract from tunes. The prettier the music, the his poetical fame. The union of the more animal the pleasure-it sets meretalents is rare, and some have affirmed ly the nerves in motion, and has more that they even exclude one another. effect on the toes and fingers than on When Gretry visited Voltaire at Fer- the imagination. T'hus, by observing ney, the philosopher paid him a com- the thoughts which different kinds of pliinent at the expense of his profes- music excite, we may discover the musion; " Vous étes musicien,” said Vol- sic that different degrees of thought taire, “ et vous avez de l'esprit; cela demand. The music of the senses and est trop rare pour que je ne prenne pas that of the soul are hostile, and tend à vous le plus vif interêt." Nature to exclude one another. The tune that certainly may be supposed not over- a plough-boy thinks, as he paces along inclined to be prodigal in bestowing the furrow,—and if he thinks at all, he on the same object the several gifts thinks a tune,-is, I'm certain, consithat are peculiarly hers, but as far as dered as music, more beautiful than the assertion rests on experience, it is that to which Milton composed his powerfully contradicted by the names Paradise Lost. The latter, if set, would of Moore and Rousseau.
scarcely be understood, though, acAll trains of thought appear to me cording to the system, it should be to be set to music, unless when the found consonant to all the just rules of mind is actively employed upon its melody. own ideas, in reasoning, comparing, in- The foregoing paragraph is a sketch ferring, &c.-thus interrupting the from a large system, which this is not natural links. Perhaps it is this which the place to follow up. It would lead, renders close thought an enemy to however, to some useful speculations health ; nature having given us an on the connexion between melody and internal harmony to counteract the thought, and consequently between fretting effects of mental exercise,-to melody and poetry. The principles of .blunt as it were the edge of thought, the latter connexion we are not only we feel the ill effects of dispensing with theoretically unacquainted with, but it, when we pursue what we think a practically sin against every day. Think
* As Power's new edition has not yet made its appearance, I subjoin the Preface, which I have through the medium of a friend.
“ Though an edition of the poetry of the Irish Melodies, separate from the Music, has long been called for, yet having, for many reasons, a strong objection to this sort of divorce, I should with difficulty have consented to a disunion of the words from the airs, had it depended solely upon me to keep them quietly and indissolubly together. But, besides the various shapes in which these, as well as my other lyrical writings, have been published throughout America, they are included, of course, in the two editions of all my works printed at Paris, and have lately appeared, in a volume full of typographical errors, in Dublin. I have, therefore, readily acceded to the wishes of the proprietor of the Irish Melodies for a revisal and complete edition of the Poetry of the Eight Num. bers ; though well aware that it is impossible for these verses to be detached from the beautiful airs to which they are associated, without losing even more than the 'animæ, dimidium' in the process." * This edition, in a beautiful pocket volume, has been published since we received this article.