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a German (as most certainly he was, and continued so to his last breath), yet adopted the English manner.' Yes, to be sure, just as much as Rubens the painter did. Your correspondent, in the course of his discoveries, tells us besides, that some of the best Scotch ballads, «The Broom of Cowdenknows,» for instance, are still ascribed to David Rizzio.' This Rizzio must have been a most original genius, or have possessed extraordinary imitative powers, to have come, so advanced in life as he did, from Italy, and strike so far out of the common road of his own country's music.
'Handel was originally a German; but by a long continuance in England, he might have been looked upon as naturalized to the country. I do not pretend to be a fine writer: however, if the gentleman dislikes the expression (although he must be convinced it is a common one), I wish it were mended.
1 I said that they were ascribed to David Rizzio. That they áre, the objector need only look into Mr. Oswald's Collection of Scotch Tunes, and he will there find not only « The Broom of Cowdenknows,» but also « The Black Eagle," and several other of the best Scotch tunes, ascribed to him. Though this might be a sufficient answer, yet I must be permitted to go farther, to tell the objector the opinion of our best modern musicians in this particular. It is the opinion of the melodious Geminiani, that we have in the dominions of Great Britain no original music except the Irish; the Scotch and English being originally borrowed from the Italians. And that his opinion in this respect is just (for I would not be swayed merely by authorities), it is very reasonable to suppose, first, from the conformity between the Scotch and ancient Italian music. They who compare the old French Vaudevilles, brought from Italy by Rinuccini, with those pieces ascribed to David Rizzio, who was pretty nearly contemporary with him, will find a strong resemblance, notwithstanding the opposite characters of the two nations which have preserved those pieces. When I would have them compared, I mean I would have their bases compared, by which the similitude may be most exactly seen. Secondly, it is reasonable from the ancient music of the Scotch, which is still preserved in the Highlands, and which bears no resemblance at all to the music of the low-country. The Highland tunes are sung to Irish words, and flow entirely in the Irish manner. On the other hand, the Lowland music is always sung to English words.
A mere fiddler,' a shallow coxcomb, a giddy, insolent, worthless fellow, to compose such pieces as nothing but genuine sensibility of mind, and an exquisite feeling of those passions which animate only the finest souls, could dictate ; and in a manner too so extravagantly distant from that to which he had all his life been accustomed!-It is impossible. He might indeed have had presumption enough to add some flourishes to a few favourite airs, like a cobbler of old plays when he takes it upon him to mend Shakspeare. So far he might go; but farther it is impossible for any one to believe, that has but just ear enough to distinguish between the Italian and Scotch music, and is disposed to consider the subject with the least degree of attention.
March 18, 1760.
THERE can be perhaps no greater entertainment than to compare the rude Celtic simplicity with modern refinement. Books, however, seem incapable of furnishing the parallel; and to be acquainted with the ancient manners of
David Rizzio was neither a mere fiddler, nor a shallow coxcomb, nor a worthless fellow, nor a stranger in Scotland. He had indeed been brought over from Piedmont, to be put at the head of a band of music, by King James V. one of the most elegant princes of his time, an exquisite judge of music, as well as of poetry, architecture, and all the fine arts. Rizzio, at the time of his death, had been above twenty years in Scotland: he was secretary to the Queen, and at the same time an agent from the Pope; so that he could not be so obscure as he has been represented.
our own ancestors, we should endeavour to look for their remains in those countries, which being in some measure retired from an intercourse with other nations, are still untinctured with foreign refinement, language, or breeding.
The Irish will satisfy curiosity in this respect preferably to all other nations I have seen. They in several parts of that country still adhere to their ancient language, dress, furniture, and superstitions; several customs exist among them, that still speak their original; and in some respects Cæsar's description of the ancient Britons is applicable to them.
Their bards, in particular, are still held in great veneration among them; those traditional heralds are invited to every funeral, in order to fill up the intervals of the howl with their songs and harps. In these they rehearse the actions of the ancestors of the deceased, bewail the bondage of their country under the English government, and generally conclude with advising the young men and maidens to make the best use of their time, for they will soon, for all their present bloom, be stretched under the table, like the dead body before them.
Of all the bards this country ever produced, the last and the greatest was CAROLAN THE BLind. He was at once a poet, a musician, a composer, and sung his own verses to his harp. The original natives never mention his name without rapture; both his poetry and music they have by heart; and even some of the English themselves, who have been transplanted there, find his music extremely pleasing. A song beginning
translated by Dean Swift, is of his composition; which, though perhaps by this means the best known of his pieces, is yet by no means the most deserving. His songs in general may be compared to those of Pindar, as they have frequently the same flights of imagination; and are composed (I do not say written, for he could not write) merely to flatter some man of fortune upon some excellence of the same kind. In these one man is praised for the excellence of his stable, as in Pindar, another for his hospitality, a third for the beauty of his wife and children, and a fourth for the antiquity of his family. Whenever any of the original natives of distinction were assembled at feasting or revelling, Carolan was generally there, where he was always ready with his harp to celebrate their praises. He seemed by nature formed for his profession; for as he was born blind, so also he was possessed of a most astonishing memory, and a facetious turn of thinking, which gave his entertainers infinite satisfaction. Being once at the house of an Irish nobleman, where there was a musician present who was eminent in the profession, Carolan immediately challenged him to a trial of skill. To carry the jest forward, his Lordship persuaded the musician to accept the challenge, and he accordingly played over on his fiddle the fifth concerto of Vivaldi. Carolan, immediately taking his harp, played over the whole piece after him, without missing a note, though he never heard it before; which produced some surprise: but their astonishment increased, when he assured them he could make a concerto in the same taste himself, which he instantly composed; and that with such spirit and elegance, that it may compare (for we have it still) with the finest compositions of Italy.
His death was not more remarkable than his life. Homer
was never more fond of a glass than he; he would drink whole pints of usquebaugh, and, as he used to think, without any ill consequence. His intemperance, however, in this respect at length brought on an incurable disorder, and when just at the point of death, he called for a cup of his beloved liquor. Those who were standing round him, surprised at the demand, endeavoured to persuade him to the contrary; but he persisted, and, when the bowl was brought to him, attempted to drink, but could not; wherefore, giving away the bowl, he observed with a smile, that it would be hard if two such friends as he and the cup should part at least without kissing; and then expired.
Or all men who form gay illusions of distant happiness, perhaps a poet is the most sanguine. Such is the ardour of his hopes, that they often are equal to actual enjoyment; and he feels more in expectance than actual fruition. I have often regarded a character of this kind with some degree of envy. A man possessed of such warm imagination commands all nature, and arrogates possessions of which the owner has a blunter relish. While life continues, the alluring prospect lies before him he travels in the pursuit with confidence, and resigns it only with his last breath.
It is this happy confidence which gives life its true relish, and keeps up our spirits amidst every distress and disappointment. How much less would be done, if a man