« PreviousContinue »
much cramped in these respects. A simple, uninvolved style is the natural one for impassioned poetry as well as for oratory,
2. Every sentence should be constructed so as to express emotion. Every thing in the form of reasoning, logical statement or inference, explanation or discussion, requires a state of mind wholly inconsistent with that holy and devout excitement implied in sacred music.
3. Sentences and clauses should contain, as far as is practicable without occasioning a stiff and tedious uniformity, complete sense in themselves. A succession of clauses bound together by weak connectives, exhausts the performer, by allowing no. opportunity for pausing ;. while, by multiplying unmeaning words, and keeping the mind too long on the same course, it also wearies the hearer. It contributes greatly to the spirit and force of the hymn, as well as to the ease of the performer, to throw off rapidly, in a concise form, one thought after another, each complete in itself, and with each beginning a new rhetorical clause.
4. The structure of each stanza should be such that the mind shall perceive the meaning immediately. All hypothetical clauses, placed at the beginning, or other clauses containing positions or arguments having reference to some conclusion which is to follow, are to be avoided. They contain no meaning in themselves, and bring nothing before the mind expressive or productive of feeling, till the performer reaches the important words at the close of perhaps the second or fourth line. The only method of wading through such lines, set to music, is for the performer to suspend all thought and feeling, and struggle hard and patiently, till he shall come to the light. The first word should, if possible, express something in itself, and every word should add to it.' But, from a spirited clause at the beginning, the mind may derive an impulse which shall carry it through a heavy one that may follow. Clauses, how. ever, which follow the main one, to qualify it, connected by a relative, are always heavy and injurious.
5. The words should be easy of enunciution, and capable of being dwelt upon, without seeming harsh or unnatural. Difficult and unpleasant combinations of consonants; all successions of words and syllables in which the same sound frequently occurs; long words, where all thought and feeling must stand still, like spectators, while four or five syllables are drawn out to as many minims or semibreves; and all slender syllables, on which the voice cannot dwell without distorting them, especially if two or three of them occur together, or in an important part of the line,-are great defects in a hymn, if they do not entirely destroy its vigor. To express the whole thought in one syllable, is, of course, much more forcible than to express it in many. The best orators and the best poets abound in monosyllables.
6. The pauses should be arranged with reference to effect. There should be a pause at the end of each line. The music is generally adapted to more or less of a cadence at that point, and, as his own ease requires it, the performer will naturally make one there. If, therefore, the nominative comes at the
end of one line, and the verb at the beginning of the next, the lines, when sung, must make nonsense. If the performer attempts to run the lines together, and preserve the connection, the measure of the line, the returning rhyme, the length of the sentence, and the cadence of the music, all demanding a pause, but being violated together, will render the performance unnatural, and produce a harshness worse, perhaps, than
If long pauses are introduced within the line, they should be at or before the middle; and never, unless to secure some peculiar expression, near the end. Even the short pause following an address, which may occur any where else, should not be admitted there.
7. The accented parts of the stanza should correspond with the accented notes of he tune. The want of this is a defect of more frequent occurrence in hymns than any other. Articles or conjunctions, or the lightest syllables in important words, are often so placed, that, in the regular movement of the tune, they are pronounced on the longest and most accented notes; while the more important words and syllables, by their side, fall on the weakest and most unaccented notes. The judicious singer, in such cases, may be able, to some extent, to accommodate the music to the words; but ordinary choirs will entirely destroy the meaning and force of the poetry. Such a misplacing of the accent, such a swelling upon the unimportant syllables, and such a depression of the important ones, is as unfavorable to alt beauty and force, and as utterly nonsensical, in singing, as in reading or speaking.
8. The several stanzas of a hymn should possess a good degree of uniformity, as to measure, accent, and pauses. If each stanza were to be sung to a tune made specially for it, their structure might be ever so diverse without inconvenience; but, as they are all to be sung to the same tune, it is obvious that all the stanzas should be similar to each other, and regularly conformed to the measure adopted.
9. Each stanza, and the whole hymn, should be so constructed, that the importance of the sentiments, the force of expression, the emotion, and the general effect of the piece, shall be increasing through to the end. A sinking, retrograde movement is worse, if possible, in lyric poetry, than in oratory.
It is not claimed for the psalms and hymns, in this collection, that they are entirely free from the faults that have now been referred to. Perhaps no hymn could be found in the English language, in which some of these faults might not be detected. The writers of sacred devotional poetry seem to have thought very little of adapting it to musical purposes. Had they felt the importance of this, and turned their thought to it, much the larger part of all the irregularities now found in their hymns might very easily have been avoided. Now, many of them cannot be removed, without rendering the pieces disagreeably stiff, or breaking down their whole fabric. In compiling this book, the principles just laid down have been kept constantly in view, and, in innumerable instances, such faults as have here been noticed have been corrected. The fact that some imper
fections, of various kinds, must remain, is no reason why they should not be rendered as few as possible.
In noticing the sources from which the materials for this book have been drawn, it may be stated that, besides the version of the psalms by Dr. Watts, and those versions that preceded his, and those of some authors of less note, made since his time, use has been made of two nearly entire versions, and one very extensive collection, recently published in England, Versions of many single psalms have been found scattered through the several collections of hymns which have been examined. In selecting the hymns, in addition to the hymnbooks used by the various denominations of Christians in the United States, the compilers have examined eight or ten extensive general collections of hymns, besides a large number of smaller collections published in England, and which have never been republished, or for sale, in this country. In these and other works, they suppose that they have examined nearly all the good lyric poetry in the English language.
The number of metrical pieces of the .psalms is 454, and the number of the hymns 731, making 1185 in all. Of these, 421 are from Dr. Watts, who has, undoubtedly, written more good psalms and hymns, of a highly lyrical character, than any other author, and to whom the church is indebted, probably, for nearly half of all the valuable lyric poetry in the language. The names of the several authors, when known, or the collections from which the pieces have been taken, are given in the index to the first lines.
In selecting and arranging these materials, the compilers have aimed to make a hymn-book of a thoroughly evangelical character, in doctrine and spirit, and as highly lyrical as the materials, with such labor as could be bestowed upon them, would permit. They have, accordingly, rejected a large amount of religious poetry, excellent in itself, so far as the sentiments and language are concerned, and aimed to select only such pieces as are adapted to be sung. As the same piece was often found with important variations, in different books, they have aimed to select that copy which seemed best suited to the design of this work, without inquiring how the author originally wrote it. They have treated the hymns which have come before them as public property, which they had a right to modify and use up according to their own judgment. Omissions, abridgments, alterations, and changes in the arrangement of the stanzas have, therefore, been made with freedom, whenever it appeared that the piece could thereby be improv: ed. These alterations have been made principally to avoid prosaic and unimpassioned passages; low or otherwise unsuitable imagery or expression ; abrupt transitions ; unmeaning and cumbrous words and clauses; long, complicated, and obscure sentences; feeble connectives; long words, and harsh and slender syllables; a wrong position of the accent and pauses ; the anticlimactic structure, and a disagreement in the form and rhythm of the several stanzas.
A considerable number of pieces, possessing less of a lyrical character than is desirable, have been retained; partly because
the subjects were important, and nothing better on them could be found; and partly because, though not well adapted to public worship generally, they might be useful on special occasions, or for families and individuals.
On some important topics, it may be asked why so few pieces have been inserted. The reply must be, that on such topics, all have been inserted, which could be found, that seemed worthy of a place. Not one hymn, in all respects good, on any useful topic, has been designedly omitted. If it is asked why so large a portion of the pieces are so short, the reply is similar—that all of each piece was inserted that seemed worth inserting; and it was not thought worth while to print poor stanzas for the sake of increasing their number. Besides, four and five stanzas are, in ordinary cases, as much as can he sung with ease or profit. Singing, of all the exercises of puülic worship, should least be protracted so as to become wearisome, as it necessarily must be, when six or eight stanzas are given out.
In the arrangement, it was thought best, for various reasons, to preserve the psalms separate, as has been done heretofore, in the books most commonly used. In the index of subjects, the psalms are arranged under the appropriate heads with the hymns. The several parts of each psalm have been arranged according to their metre, and are numbered on continuously throughout, in the most simple manner. In arranging the hymns, those heads were selected which, it was thought, would most easily cover the whole ground, and run into each other the least. They follow each other in what seemed the most natural order. The hymns, under each of the general and subordinate heads, are intended to be so arranged, that, while they are read in course, the mind shall be steadily advancing in the subject. The arrangement is certainly imperfect; yet, probably, few who examine it will see so many imperfections in it as they saw who made it. It is doubtful whether, while hymns possess so little unity, any such arrangement can be adopted, as that many hymns may not, with about equal propriety, be placed under any one of two or three different heads. In the index of subjects here, they are so placed.
Tunes from the Handel and Haydn Society's Collection of Church Music have been prefixed to each piece. The number of tunes from which the selection has been made is limited, and such have been chosen as are not only appropriate in their general spirit and movement, but whose accent and pauses correspond with those of the several stanzas to be sung. Often, the tune prefixed merely indicates the class of tunes to be used. Others would be equally appropriate. Different choirs, or different circumstances,may render it expedient to use different tunes. Judgment should be exercised, and time, place, occasion, &c., should be consulted.
To indicate, to some extent, the manner of performance, those marks for musical expression have been used which are commonly employed in music-books, and with which choirs are generally acquainted, rather than any arbitrary signs.
very soft. P piano,
soft. mp mezzo piano, a little soft. m mezzo,
middle-neither loud nor soft. This mark is
also applicable to those hymns or passages
which now have no mark. mf
mezzo forte, a little loud.
increasing and then diminishing.
diminishing and then increasing. dol dolce,
in a gentle, smooth, gliding manner. Aff
affetuoso, with deep and tender feeling.
staccato, short, distinct, articulate.
After all which can be done, directions for musical expression must be merely hints, by which the general character of the expression to be given is indicated. The various kinds and degrees of the emotions to be expressed, requiring a corresponding variation of the manner of performance, are so numerous, and so complicated in their nature, that only a ready susceptibility of emotion, joined to good taste and judgment, and careful attention to the subject, can secure a correct manner of singing.
In the index to the first lines, as well as in that to the subjects, the psalms and hymns are brought together without distinction, and the reference is uniformly to the page. In the latter index, the different subjects are not inserted under words arbitrarily selected, and placed in alphabetical order, but under the principal and subordinate topics of the arrangement in the book, thus bringing all the psalms and hymns on the same or kindred topics near each other in the index, so as to be easily found.
This is believed to be the most convenient plan for such an index.
With these remarks and explanations, this work, on which the compilers have bestowed much time and labor, and in which they have found much pleasure, is now given to the churches for their use.
DAVID GREENE.'LBoston, August, 1831.