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the poetic sentiment correspondent to my idea of the musical expression; then choose my theme; begin one stanza; when that is composed, which is generally the most difficult part of the business, I walk out, sit down now and then, look out for objects in nature around me that are in unison and harmony with the cogitations of my fancy and workings of my bosom; humming every now and then the air, with the verses I have framed. When I feel my muse beginning to jade, I retire to the solitary fireside of my study, and there commit my effusions to paper; swinging at intervals on the hind legs of my elbow chair, by way of calling forth my own critical strictures, as my pen goes on. Seriously, this, at home, is almost invariably my way."*
In writing for old airs it is often difficult to hit on a proper stanza, unless we have the old words to which they have been sung.
“ I have tried my hand (we again quote Burns) with Robin Adair, and you will probably think, with little success; but it is such a cramp, out-of-the-way measure, that I despair of doing any thing better to it.
* Burns's Letters to Mr. Thomson.
In a subsequent letter,
“ That crinkum crankum tune, Robin Adair, has run so in my head, and I succeeded so ill in my last attempt, that I have ventured in this morning's walk one essay more.
Had I a cave on some wild, distant shore,
There would I weep my woes,
Ne'er to wake more !
Falsest of womankind, canst thou declare
To thy new lover hie,
What peace is there!
Mr. Moore has written the following Song to the same tune, which the Irish call Aileen Aroon.'
Erin! the tear and the smile in thine eyes
Shining through sorrow's stream,
Weep while they rise !
Erin! thy silent tear never shall cease,
Till, like the rainbow's light,
One arch of peace.
Mr. Moore, as well as Burns, complained that the Music cramped the measure of his Songs; and of this we have apparent proofs in his Irish Melodies, in which he has been forced to use modes of versification that would not have been chosen for an unfettered poem. It requires some practice to give the proper cadence in reciting the following lines :
At the mid hour of night, when stars are weeping, I fly, To the lone vale we loved, when life shone warm in thine
eye! And I think that, if spirits can steal from the region of air To revisit past scenes of delight, thou wilt come to me
there, And tell me our love is remember'd even in the sky!
Another five-barred cadence to the air “I once had a true love,” although the feet walk more smoothly, must also have cost considerable pains to the poet.
Through grief and through danger, thy smile hath cheer'a
my way, Till hope seem'd to bud from each thorn that round me lay; The darker our fortune, the brighter our pure love burn'd, Till shame into glory; till fear into zeal was turn’d: Oh! slave as I was, in thy arms my spirit felt free, And bless'd e'en the sorrows that made me more dear to
We formerly remarked * that it is the thought
* Page 230.
and not the measure which renders the stanza grave or gay; and something similar may be observed of the Music. Tenderness, and even pathos, may be given to the most lively air, provided it be accompanied with verses of a plaintive kind, sung with tender expression and to slow time. It is not, however, to be recommended, to the writer of a serious Song, to chuse an Air which has been originally adapted to lighter verses ; because the earlier association is apt to return upon the mind of the hearer, and thereby to retranspose the melody (and with it the song) into a species of burlesque. The Banks of the Dee' (which the Scotch have appropriated as a National Song, although the Nightingale was never heard in their country) is set, in slow time, to the Irish Air of Langolee': that tune to which so many ludicrous verses have been made and sung.
It has been said that Love and Wine are the exclusive subjects of Song; but he who said so forgot Patriotism to which we owe many of the finest Songs in every language. This patriotism, however, is not necessarily enlightened. The poet need only to be an enthusiast; and the offspring of his muse will be equally prized by his party, whether they be in favour of republicanism, or of the divine right of kings. The Marseillois hymn animated the French sol