Page images

to be found on every side, they disgust and prevent his giving credit to the many good qualities that often accompany them. He declares he can sooner pardon crimes, because they proceed from the passions, than these minor vices, that spring from egotism and self-conceit. We had a long argument this evening on the subject, which ended, like most arguments, by leaving both of the same opinion as when it commenced. I endeavored to prove that crimes were not only injurious to the perpetrators, but often ruinous to the innocent,' and productive of misery to friends and relations, whereas selfishness and vanity carried with them their own punishment, the first depriving the person of all sympathy, and the second exposing him to ridicule, which to the vain is a heavy punishment, but that their effects were not destructive to society as are crimes.

He laughed when I told him that having heard him so often declaim against vanity, and detect it so often in his friends, I began to suspect he knew the malady by having had it himself, and that I had observed through life, that those persons who had the most vanity were the most severe against that failing in their friends. He wished to impress upon me that he was not vain, and gave various proofs to establish this; but I produced against him his boaBtsof swimming, his evident desire of being considered more un hotnme de societe than apoet, and other little examples, when he laughingly pleaded guilty, and promised to be more merciful towards his friends.

We sat on the balcony after tea; it commands a fine view, and we had one of those moonlight nights that are seen only in this country. Every object was tinged with its silvery lustre. In front were crowded an uncountable number of ships from every country, with their various flags waving in the breeze which bore to us the sounds of the various languages of the crews. In the distance we enjoyed a more expanding view of the sea, which reminded Byron of his friend Moore's description, which he quoted:

.-'The sea is likea silv'ry lake.'

The fanale casting its golden blaze into this silvery lake, and throwing a red lurid reflection on the sails of the vessels that passed near it; the fishermen, with their small boats, each having a fire held in a sort of grate fastened at the end of the boat, which burns brilliantly, and by which they not only see the fish that approach, but attract them; their scarlet caps,-which all the Genoese sailors and fishermen wear, adding much to their picturesque appearance, all formed a picture that description falls far short of; and when to this are joined the bland odors of the richest and rarest flowers, with which the balconies are filled, one feels that such nights are never to be forgotten, and while the senses dwell on each, and all, a delicious melancholy steals over the mind, as it reflects that, the destinies of each conducting to far distant regions, a time will arrive when all now before the eye will appear but as a dream.

>' This was felt by alt: the party, and after a silence of many minutes,

it was broken by Byron, who remarked, ' What an evening, and what a view! Should we ever meet in the dense atmosphere of London, shall we not recall this evening, and the scenery now before us: but no! most probably there, we should not feel as we do here; we should fall into the same heartless, loveless apathy that distinguish one half of our dear compatriots, or the bustling, impertinent importance to be considered supreme bon ton that marks the other.'

Byron spoke with hitterness, but it was the hitterness of a fine nature soured by having been touched too closely by those who had lost their better feelings through a contact with the world. After a few minutes silence, he said,' Look at that forest of masts now before us! from what remote parts of the world do they come! o'er how many waves have they not passed, and how many tempests have they not been, and may again be exposed to! how many hearts and tender thoughts follow them! mothers, wives, sisters, and sweethearts, who perhaps at this hour are offering up prayers for their safety.'

While he was yet speaking sounds of vocal music arose; national hymns and barcaroles were sung in turns by the different crews, and when they had ceased, 'God save the King' was sung by the crews of some English merchantmen lying close to the pier. This was a surprise to us all, and its effects on our feelings was magnetic. Byron was no less touched than the rest; each felt at the moment that tie of country that unites all when they meet on a far distant shore. When the song ceased, Byron, with a melancholy smile, observed,' Why, positively, we are all quite sentimental this evening, and I, J who have sworn against sentimentality, find the old leaven still in my nature, and quite ready to make a fool of me. 'Tell it not in Gath,' that is to say, breathe it not in London, or to English ears polite, or never again shall I be able to enact the stoic philosopher. Come, come, this will never do, we must forswear moonlight, fine views, and above all, hearing a national air sung. Little does his gracious Majesty Big Ben, as Moore calls him, imagine what loyal subjects he has at Genoa, and least of all that I am among their number.'

Byron attempted to be gay, but the effort was not successful, and he wished us good night with a trepidation of manner that marked his feelings. And this is the man that I have heard considered unfeeling! How often are our best qualities turned against us, and made the instruments for wounding us in the most vulnerable part, until, ashamed of betraying our susceptihility, we affect an insensihility we are far from possessing, and, while we deceive others, nourish in secret the feelings that prey only on our own hearts!

It is difficult to judge when Lord Byron is serious or not. He has a hahit of mystifying, that might impose upon many; but that can be detected by examining his physiognomy; for a sort of mock gravity, now and then broken by a malicious smile, betrays when he is speaking far effect, and not giving utterance to his real sentiments. If he sees that he is detected, he appears angry for a moment, and then laughingly admits, that it amuses him to hoax people, as he calls it, and that when each person, at soma future day will give their different statemerits of him', they will be so contradictory, that affwill be doubted,— an idea that gratifies him exceedingly! The mohility of his nature is extraordinary, and makes him inconsistent in his actions, as well as in his conversation. He introduced the subject of La Contessa Guiccioli and her family, which we, of course, would not have touched on. He stated that they lived beneath his roof because his rank as a British Peer afforded her father and brother protection, they having been banished from Ravenna, their native place, on account of their politics. He spoke in high terms of the Counts Gamba, father and 6on; he said that he had given the family a wing of his house, but that their establishments were totally separate, their repasts never taken together, and that such was their scrupulous delicacy, that they never would accept a pecuniary obligation from him in all the difficulties entailed on them by their exile. He represented La Contessa Guiccioli as a most amiable and lady-like person, perfectly disinterested and noble-minded, devotedly attached to him, and possessing so many high and estimable qualities, as to offer an excuse for any man's attachment to her. He said that he had been passionately in love with her, and that she had sacrificed everything for him; that the whole of her conduct towards hhn had been admirable, and that not only did he feel the strongest personal attachment to her, but the highest sentiments of esteem. He dwelt with evident complacency on her noble hirth and distinguished connexions,—advantages to which he attaches great importance. I never met any one with so decided a taste for aristocracy .is Lord Byron, and this is shown in a thousand different ways.

He says the Countessa is well-educated, remarkably fond of, and well read in, the poetry of her own country, and a tolerable proficient in that of France and England. In his praises of Madame Guiccioli, it is quite evident that he is sincere, and I am persuaded this is his last attachment. He told mc that she had used every effort to get him to discontinue ' Don Juan,' or at least to preserve the future Cantos from all impure passages. In short, he has said all that was possible to impress me with a favorable opinion of this lady, and has convinced me that he entertains a very high one of her himself.

Byron is a strange melange of good and evil, the predominancy of either depending wholly on the humor he may happen to be in. His is a character that nature totally unfitted for domestic hahits, or for rendering a woman of refinement or susceptihility happy. He confesses to me that he is not happy, but admits that it is his own fault, as the Contessa Guiccioli, the only object of his love, has all the qualities to render a reasonable being happy. I observed, apropos to some observation he had made, that I feared La Contessa Guiccioli had little reason to be satisfied with her lot He answered, 'Perhaps you are right; yet she must know that lam sincerely attached to her; but the truth is, my hahits are not those requisite to form the happiness of any woman; I am worn out in feelings, for, though only thirty-six, I feel sixty in mind, and am less capable than ever of those nameless attentions that all women, but above all, Italian women, require. I like solitude, which has become absolutely necessary to me, am fond of

shutting myself up for hours, and when with the person I like, am
often distrait and gloomy. There is something I am convinced
(continued Byron) in the poetical temperament that precludes happi-
ness, not only to the person who has it, but to those connected with him.
Do not accuse me of vanity because I say this, as my belief is, that the
worst poet may share this misfortune in common with the best. The
way in which I account for it is, that our imaginations being warmer
than our hearts, and much more given to wander, the latter have not
the power to control the former; hence, soon after our passions are grat-
ified, imagination again takes wing, and finding the insufficiency of
actual indulgence beyond the moment, abandons itself to all its way-
ward fancies, and during this abandonment, becomes cold and insensi-
ble to the demands of affection. This is our misfortune but not our
fault, and dearly do we expiate it; by it we are rendered incapable of
sympathy, and cannot lighten, by sharing, the pain we inflict. Thus
we witness, without the power of alleviating, the anxiety and dissatis-
faction our conduct occasions. We are not so totally unfeeling, as not
to be grieved at the unhappiness we cause, but this same power of im-
agination, transports our thoughts to other scenes, and we are always so
much more occupied by the ideal than the present, that we forget all
that is actual. It is as though the creatures of another sphere, not sub- #
ject to the lot of mortality, formed a factitious alliance (as all alliances
must be that are not in all respects equal) with the creatures of this
earth, and, being exempt from its sufferings, turned their thoughts to
brighter regions, leaving the partners of their earthly existence to suffer
alone. But, let the object of affection be snatched away by death, and
how is all the pain ever inflicted on them avenged! The same imagi-
nation that led us to slight, or overlook their sufferings, now that they
are for ever lost to us, magnifies their estimable qualities, and increases
en-fold the affection we ever felt for them—

'Oh '. what are thousand living loves,
To that which cannot quit the Head?' . .

How did I feel this when Allegra, my daughter, died! While she lived,
her existence never seemed necessary to my happiness; but no sooner
did I lose her, than it appeared to me as if I could not live without her.
Even now the recollection is most hitter, but how much more severely
would the death of Teresa afflict me with the dreadful consciousness,
that while I had been soaring into the fields of romance and fancy, I
had left her to weep over my coldness or infidelities of imagination.
It is a dreadful proof of the weakness of our natures, that we cannot
control ourselves sufficiently to form the happiness of those we love, or
to bear their loss without agony.'

The whole ofthis conversation made a deep impression on my mind, and the countenance of the speaker, full of earnestness and feeling, impressed it still more strongly on my memory. Byron is right; a brilliant imagination is rarely, if ever, accompanied by a warrrf heart; but on this latter depends the happiness of life; the other renders us dissatisfied with its ordinary enjoyments.

(To be continued.)

[merged small][ocr errors]

To the genius of Beethoven is instrumental music indebted fcr the high and intellectual character which it lias assumed in Germany during the present century, and particularly within the last fifteen years. Haydn, and after him Mozart, were, as we have observed in a preceding paper, the founders of modern concerted instrumental music, both chamber and orchestral; but neither ever looked forward to the immense range of power and effect, to the imposing sublimity and poetic grandeur subsequently imparted to this beautiful art, by the immortal composer whom we have selected as the subject of the present sketch.

When Haydn first began those noble productions which gave the impetus to modern instrumentation, the powers of his mind weie cramped by the severe and unmeaning rules of composition laid down by the contrapuntists of preceding ages, and adopted by their successors; and by a strict adherence to which, lie was unable to give to his conceptions the warmth of life and poetry. But the stimulating energy of his genius impelled him to burst these fetters, imposed by ignorance in the early stages of the art, and afterwards maintained by a mistaken prejudice in favor of things gone by. The rules to which musical composition was then strictly confined, and which, even to the present day, form the subject of scientific study in the theorist, were in general arhitrary, deduced from no consistent premises, and supported upon no philosophical principles. As the infancy of music merged into imperfect adolescence, its early lispings, ere it had yet left the cradle, were mistaken for the matured voice of manhood, and, under an assumption that the art had already reached its culminating point, were made the basis of a defective system which was to cramp the genius of future ages, but which bad fbrtunately no power to enslave minds like those of Haydn, and his two great successor*, Mozart and Beethoven.

These rules of composition, although the only ones taught in all the schools ol our own times, are unsatisfactory, because all musicians know that nothing good can be produced without violating them. But no one has ever thought of inquiring into their origin: no attempt has ever been made to relieve the art from a thraldom, whose effects tend to stigmatise as faults the brightest coruscations of genius, and to term licenses, those marvellous comhinations which impart to sound its most exalted powers of imaginative poetry, and high intellectual excitement.

The truth is, that the elements of musical composition which we have received from the contrapuntists, and whose application produces effects much more pleasing to the eye than agreeable to the car, derive their origin from a cause purely physical. They were in principle intended to apply only to the voice, because in the primitive stage of music there were no instrumental accompaniments. From the untutored state of the ear at those periods, much care was requisite in composing for two or more voices in conjunction, because it was found very difficult for the human voice to produce ceitain intervals perfectly in tune, whenever the chant or melody proceeded by skips, or the performers were takt-n by surprise. Some intervals in consecution were found intolerable to the ear, and could not therefore be sung twice in succession, without some other interval intervening; whilst others, abstractedly disagreeable, but which, under certain comhinations, produced a beautiful effect, could only be obtained in tune by the note forming them being prepared, that is to say, previously sounded in some agreeable interval, and retained for the disagreeable one through the next chord; by which means the voice, having first sounded the note in tunc, was able to keep it to the same pitch through the succeeding harmonic comhination. Hence the rules that consecutive fifths must be avoided, that a fourth must be prepared as likewise all the intervals which musicians so improperly and paradoxically.

« PreviousContinue »