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insurmountable, which continually present themselves in tracing their early progress, too frequently render the studies of the antiquarian irksome to himself, and useless to society. In respect to the music of antiquity, all at present is fable or conjecture, the few documents that have survived the irruption of the northern nations tending to embarrass rather than to elucidate our inquiries.
The system of harmony adopted by the ancient Greeks was most probably invented, or at least brought from Egypt, at that time the abode of elegance and refinement, by PYTHAGORAS, a name sufficiently known and revered; but his system, however excellent, is now irretrievably lost. It were useless, therefore, to enumerate the names of those who are said to have followed and improved upon his original idea; for, in all instances where there are no circumstances which constitute character, and familiarize us to the persons spoken of, we naturally inquire, "Who were they?" and, for want of further information, become indifferent as to what is recorded of them.
The tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides, and indeed all the dramas of ancient Greece and Rome, were unquestionably not only sung, but also accompanied by musical instruments, probably very much in the style of the recitative of the modern serious
Italian opera. From various circumstances, however, it is conjectured, that this music was of a very simple and artless description, and in every respect greatly inferior to the performances of the present day.
"Ancient Greece," says Mr. Dacier, " had many "musicians who were not poets, but not one poet "who was not a musician, and who did not com"pose the music of his own pieces; for in Greece, "music was the foundation of all sciences; the edu"cation of children was begun by it, from a per"suasion that nothing great could be expected from
a man who was ignorant of music. This probably (6 gave the Greek poetry such a superiority over the “Latin, as well as over that of modern languages; "for at Rome, poetry and music were two distinct "sciences, and poets were there obliged to give "their pieces to be set by musicians, as is the case "at present every where else."
The admirable Metastasio, a man of the world, of elegance and refinement, a poet, and a musician, was compelled to restrain his natural propensity to the science of harmony; candidly confessing, that the study of modern music required too much time for a man of letters ever to be able to qualify himself for the business of a composer.
The Greeks indeed, during the time of their education, had no language to learn but their own; hence they had more time for other studies.
But notwithstanding the simplicity of their music, the poets themselves being able to set their own pieces, and to sing them so well to the satisfaction of the public, is a certain proof that their music had not only fewer difficulties, but also fewer excellencies than the modern.
To be at once a great poet and a great musician, appears to our conception utterly impossible; otherwise, why should not such a coincidence of talents frequently occur? Milton studied music, and so have many of our poets; but to understand it equally well with a professor, is a drudgery to which they could not submit: besides, a genius for poetry is so far from including a genius for music, that some of our greatest poets have not only been enemies to harmony, but have had ears so unfortunately constructed, as not to enable them to distinguish one sound from another.
The Grecian sage, according to Gravina, was at once a philosopher, a poet, and a musician. "In "separating these characters," says he, "they have "all been weakened: the sphere of philosophy has "been contracted, ideas have failed in poetry, and "force and energy in song. Truth is now extin"guished from among men, the philosopher no "longer speaks through the medium of poetry, nor " is poetry any more heard through the vehicle of
"melody." To our apprehensions, the REVERSE of all this is exactly true; for, being separated, each of these professions receives a degree of cultivation which fortifies and renders it more powerful. The music of ancient philosophers, and the * philosophy of modern musicians, may, on a fair estimate, be considered equal in excellence.
The profession of an actor was long honourable among the Greeks. Their poets, who were likewise
* Modern musicians appear to belong to a spurious sect of Epicureans. The original tenets of Epicurus inculcated moderation in the indulgence of every sensual appetite, upon the principle, that the excess of to-day would poison the enjoyments of to-morrow; a rational philosophy for the heathen world, who, having no certain assurance of a future state, most effectually secured to themselves the comforts of this life by habits of temperance and regularity.
This degenerate sect, adhering to the letter, rather than to the spirit of the maxim, "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die," usually live to lament the mistaken principle on which they act. Habits of intemperance and inconsiderate prodigality, as we shall find in the course of our researches, too frequently reducing eminent modern musicians, to the fatal necessity of terminating a life of riot, in hospitals, workhouses, and jails.
orators, statesmen, and generals, performed the principal characters in their own pieces; and even Sophocles, the first tragedian who did not appear on the stage, was prevented only by the natural imperfection of his voice.
In the most flourishing era of the Athenian republic, so great was the passion of the people for shews and public spectacles, that the government, which was at the charge of these exhibitions, has been accused by Plutarch, of supporting them at a greater expense than their fleets and armies.
The chorus formed a prominent feature in the tragedy of the ancients. The performers in the odes, or grand chorusses, were multiplied in the time of Æschylus to fifty persons; their number, however, was afterwards reduced by a law to fifteen. Their leader, who was called Coryphæus, frequently spoke in the course of the drama, as a single person, either in dialogue with the characters of the piece, or to acquaint the audience with what was going forward, as well as commiserate virtue in distress, or deplore the unruly passions of the vicious.
The Greek tragedies being composed of fifteen or sixteen hundred verses, would be too long, if sung to airs like our operas, and too short if spoken. Relaxation, however, was necessary both to the actors and the audience; and this, if it did not give birth to the