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A CHAPTER ON EARS. —0–
I HAVE no ear.— Mistake me not, reader—nor imagine that I am by nature destitute of those exterior twin appendages, hanging ornaments, and (architecturally speaking) handsome volutes to the human capital. Better my mother had never borne me.—I am, I think, rather delicately than copiously provided with those conduits; and I feel no disposition to envy the mule for his plenty, or the mole for her exactness, in those ingenious labyrinthine inlets—those indispensable sideintelligencers. Neither have I incurred, or done anything to incur, with Defoe, that hideous disfigurement, which constrained him to draw upon assurance—to feel “quite unabashed,” and at ease upon that article. I was never, I thank my stars, in the pillory; nor, if I read them aright, is it within the compass of my destiny, that I ever should be. When therefore I say that I have no ear, you will understand me to mean—for music. To say that this heart never melted at the concord of sweet sounds, would be a foul self-libel. “Water parted from the sea” never fails to move it strangely. So does “In infancy.” But they were used to be sung at her harpsichord (the old-fashioned instrument in vogue in those days) by a gentlewoman—the gentlest, sure, that ever merited the appellation—the sweetest—why should I hesitate to name Mrs. S-, once the blooming Fanny Weatheral of the Temple—who had power to thrill the soul of Elia, small imp as he was, even in his long coats; and to make him glow, tremble, and blush with a passion, that not faintly indicated the dayspring of that absorbing sentiment which was afterwards destined to overwhelm and subdue his nature quite for Alice W-n. I even think that sentimentally I am disposed to harmony. But organically I am incapable of a tune. I have been practising “God save the King ” all my life; whistling and humming of it over to myself in solitary corners; and am not yet arrived, they tell
me, within many quavers of it. Yet hath the loyalty of Elia never been impeached. I am not without suspicion, that I have an undeveloped faculty of music within me. For thrumming, in my wild way, on my friend A.'s piano, the other morning, while he was engaged in an adjoining parlour, on his return he was pleased to say, “he thought it could not be the maid! ” On his first surprise at hearing the keys touched in somewhat an airy and masterful way, not dreaming of me, his suspicions had lighted on Jenny. But a grace, snatched from a superior refinement, soon convinced him that some being—technically perhaps deficient, but higher informed from a principle common to all the fine arts—had swayed the keys to a mood which Jenny, with all her (less cultivated) enthusiasm, could never have elicited from them. I mention this as a proof of my friend's penetration, and not with any view of disparaging Jenny. Scientifically I could never be made to understand (yet have I taken some pains) what a note in music is; or how one note should differ from another. Much less in voices can I distinguish a soprano from a tenor. Only sometimes the thorough-bass I contrive to guess at, from its being supereminently harsh and disagreeable. I tremble, however, for my misapplication of the simplest terms of that which I disclaim. While I profess my ignorance, I scarce know what to say I am ignorant of. I hate, perhaps, by misnomers. Sostenuto and adagio stand in the like relation of obscurity to me; and Sol, Fa, Mi, Re, is as conjuring as Baralipton. It is hard to stand alone in an age like this, (constituted to the quick and critical perception of all harmonious combinations, I verily believe, beyond all preceding ages, since Jubal stumbled upon the gamut,) to remain, as it were, singly unimpressible to the magic influences of an art, which is said to have such an especial stroke at soothing, elevating, and refining the passions.—Yet,
rather than break the candid current of my and be obliged to supply the verbal matter; confessions, I must avow to you, that I have to invent extempore tragedies to answer to received a great deal more pain than pleasure the vague gestures of an inexplicable ramfrom this so cried-up faculty.
bling mime — these are faint shadows of I am constitutionally susceptible of noises. what I have undergone from a series of the A carpenter's hammer, in a warm summer ablest-executed pieces of this empty instrunoon, will fret me into more than midsummer mental music. madness. But those unconnected, unset. I deny not, that in the opening of a concert, sounds are nothing to the measured malice I have experienced something vastly lulling of music. The ear is passive to those single and agreeable :- afterwards followeth the strokes ; willingly enduring stripes while it languor and the oppression.—Like that dishath no task to con. To music it cannot be appointing book in Patmos; or, like the passive. It will strive-mine at least will — comingson of melancholy, described by spite of its inaptitude, to thrid the maze; Burton, doth music make her first insinualike an unskilled eye painfully poring upon ting approaches :—“Most pleasant it is to hieroglyphics. I have sat through an Italian such as are melancholy given to walk alone Opera, till, for sheer pain, and inexplicable in some solitary grove, betwixt wood and anguish, I have rushed out into the noisiest water, by some brook side, and to meditate places of the crowded streets, to solace upon some delightsome and pleasant subject, myself with sounds, which I was not obliged which shall affect him most, amabilis insania, to follow, and get rid of the distracting and mentis gratissimus error. A most incomtorment of endless, fruitless, barren attention! parable delight to build castles in the air, to I take refuge in the unpretending assemblage go smiling to themselves, acting an infinite of honest common-life sounds ;—and the variety of parts, which they suppose, and purgatory of the Enraged Musician becomes strongly imagine, they act, or that they see my paradise.
done.—So delightsome these toys at first, I have sat at an Oratorio (that profana- they could spend whole days and nights tion of the purposes of the cheerful play- without sleep, even whole years in such conhouse) watching the faces of the auditory templations, and fantastical meditations, in the pit (what a contrast to Hogarth's which are like so many dreams, and will Laughing Audience !) immoveable, or affect- hardly be drawn from them-winding and ing some faint emotion-till (as some have unwinding themselves as so many clocks, said, that our occupations in the next world and still pleasing their humours, until at the will be but a shadow of what delighted us last the SCENE TURNS UPON A SUDDEN, and in this) I have imagined myself in some cold they being now habitated to such meditaTheatre in Hades, where some of the forms tions and solitary places, can endure no of the earthly one should be kept up, with company, can think of nothing but harsh none of the enjoyment; or like that
and distasteful subjects. Fear, sorrow, sus
picion, subrusticus pudor, discontent, cares, - Party in a parlour All silent, and all DAMNED.
and weariness of life, surprise them on a
sudden and they can think of nothing else ; Above all, those insufferable concertos, and continually suspecting, no sooner are their pieces of music, as they are called, do plague eyes open, but this infernal plague of melanand embitter my apprehension.—Words are choly seizeth on them, and terrifies their something ; but to be exposed to an endless souls, representing some dismal object to battery of mere sounds; to be long a dying; their minds; which now, by no means, no to lie stretched upon a rack of roses ; to labour, no persuasions, they can avoid, they keep up languor by unintermitted effort; to cannot be rid of, they cannot resist.” pile honey upon sugar, and sugar upon Something like this “SCENE TURNING” honey, to an interminable tedious sweet- I have experienced at the evening parties, ness ; to fill up sound with feeling, and at the house of my good Catholic friend strain ideas to keep pace with it; to gaze on Novm ; who, by the aid of a capital empty frames, and be forced to make the organ, himself the most finished of players, pictures for yourself; to read a book, all stops, converts his drawing-room into a chapel, his
week days into Sundays, and these latter into minor heavens.” When my friend commences upon one of those solemn anthems, which peradventure struck upon my heedless ear, rambling in the side aisles of the dim Abbey, some fiveand-thirty years since, waking a new sense, and putting a soul of old religion into my young apprehension—(whether it be that, in which the Psalmist, weary of the persecutions of bad men, wisheth to himself dove's wings — or that other, which, with a like measure of sobriety and pathos, inquireth by what means the young man shall best cleanse his mind)—a holy calm pervadeth me.—I am for the time
—rapt above earth, And possess joys not promised at my birth.
But when this master of the spell, not content to have laid a soul prostrate, goes on, in his power, to inflict more bliss than lies in her capacity to receive, impatient to overcome her “earthly” with his “heavenly,” —still pouring in, for protracted hours, fresh waves and fresh from the sea of sound, or from that inexhausted German ocean, above
which, in triumphant progress, dolphinseated, ride those Arions Haydn and Mozart, with their attendant Tritons, Bach, Beethoven, and a countless tribe, whom to attempt to reckon up would but plunge me again in the deeps, I stagger under the weight of harmony, reeling to and fro at my wits' end;—clouds, as of frankincense, oppress me — priests, altars, censers, dazzle before me—the genius of his religion hath me in her toils—a shadowy triple tiara invests the brow of my friend, late so naked, so ingenuous—he is Pope, and by him sits, like as in the anomaly of dreams, a she-Pope tootri-coroneted like himself —I am converted, and yet a Protestant;-at once malleus hereticorum, and myself grand heresiarch : or three heresies centre in my person:—I am Marcion, Ebion, and Cerinthus—Gog and Magog—what not ?—till the coming in of the friendly supper-tray dissipates the figment, and a draught of true Lutheran beer (in which chiefly my friend shows himself no bigot) at once reconciles me to the rationalities of a purer faith ; and restores to me the genuine unterrifying aspects of my pleasant-countenanced host and hostess.
THE compliments of the season to my worthy masters, and a merry first of April to us all !
Many happy returns of this day to you— and you—and you, Sir–nay, never frown, man, nor put a long face upon the matter. Do not we know one another ? what need of ceremony among friends ! we have all a touch of that same—you understand me— a speck of the motley. Beshrew the man who on such a day as this, the general festival, should affect to stand aloof. I am none of those sneakers. I am free of the corporation, and care not who knows it. He that meets me in the forest to-day, shall meet with no wise-acre, I can tell him. Stultus sum. Translate me that, and take the
* I have been there, and still would go; 'Tis like a little heaven below.—DR. WATTs.
bells to what tune he pleases. I will give your worship’s poor servant to command. you, for my part,
-Master Silence, I will use few words with
you.-Slender, it shall go hard if I edge not - The crazy old church clock, And the bewildered chimes.
you in somewhere-You six will engross all
the poor wit of the company to-day. I know Good master Empedocles, you are wel-it, I know it. come. It is long since you went a salaman- Ha! honest R- , my fine old Librarian der-gathering down Ætna. Worse than of Ludgate, time out of mind, art thou here samphire-picking by some odds. 'Tis a again ? Bless thy doublet, it is not overmercy your worship did not singe your new, threadbare as thy stories :—what dost mustachios.
thou flitting about the world at this rate ? Ha! Cleombrotus! and what salads in Thy customers are extinct, defunct, bed-rid, faith did you light upon at the bottom of have ceased to read long ago.—Thou goest the Mediterranean ? You were founder, still among them, seeing if, peradventure, I take it, of the disinterested sect of the thou canst hawk a volume or two.—Good Calenturists.
| Granville S , thy last patron, is flown. Gebir, my old free-mason, and prince of
King Pandion, he is dead, plasterers at Babel, bring in your trowel,
All thy friends are lapt in lead... most Ancient Grand! You have claim to a seat here at my right hand, as patron of Nevertheless, noble R- , come in, and the stammerers. You left your work, if take your seat here, between Armado and I remember Herodotus correctly, at eight Quisada ; for in true courtesy, in gravity, in hundred million toises, or thereabout, above fantastic smiling to thyself, in courteous the level of the sea. Bless us, what a long bell smiling upon others, in the goodly ornature you must have pulled, to call your top work- of well-apparelled speech, and the commendmen to their nuncheon on the low grounds ation of wise sentences, thou art nothing of Shinar. Or did you send up your garlic inferior to those accomplished Dons of Spain. and onions by a rocket? I am a rogue if The spirit of chivalry forsake me for ever, I am not ashamed to show you our Monu- when I forget thy singing the song of ment on Fish-street Hill, after your altitudes. Macheath, which declares that he might be Yet we think it somewhat.
| happy with either, situated between those What, the magnanimous Alexander in two ancient spinsters—when I forget the tears l-cry, baby, put its finger in its eye, it inimitable formal love which thou didst shall have another globe, round as an orange, make, turning now to the one, and now to pretty moppet !
I the other, with that Malvolian smile--as it Mister Adams- 'odso, I honour your Cervantes, not Gay, had written it for his coat-pray do us the favour to read to us hero ; and as if thousands of periods must that sermon, which you lent to Mistress revolve, before the mirror of courtesy could Slipslop—the twenty and second in your have given his invidious preference between portmanteau there — on Female Inconti- a pair of so goodly-propertied and meritnence — the same - it will come in most orious-equal damsels. irrelevantly and impertinently seasonable to To descend from these altitudes, and not the time of the day.
to protract our Fools' Banquet beyond its Good Master Raymund Lully, you look appropriate day,-for I fear the second of wise. Pray correct that error.
April is not many hours distant-in sober Duns, spare your definitions. I must fine verity I will confess a truth to thee, reader. you a bumper, or a paradox. We will have I love a Fool-as naturally, as if I were of nothing said or done syllogistically this day. kith and kin to him. When a child, with Remove those logical forms, waiter, that no child-like apprehensions, that dived not gentleman break the tender shins of his below the surface of the matter, I read apprehension stumbling across them. those Parables—not guessing at the involved
Master Stephen, you are late.-Ha! Cokes, wisdom — I had more yearnings towards is it you ?-Aguecheek, my dear knight, let that simple architect, that built his house me pay my devoir to you.—Master Shallow, upon the sand, than I entertained for his
more cautious neighbour: I grudged at the hard censure pronounced upon the quiet soul that kept his talent; and—prizing their simplicity beyond the more provident, and, to my apprehension, somewhat unfeminine wariness of their competitors—I felt a kindliness, that almost amounted to a tendre, for those five thoughtless virgins.—I have never made an acquaintance since, that lasted : or a friendship, that answered ; with any that had not some tincture of the absurd in their characters. I venerate an honest obliquity of understanding. The more laughable blunders a man shall commit in your company, the more tests he giveth you, that he will not betray or overreach you. I love
warrants; the security, which a word out of season ratifies. And take my word for this, reader, and say a fool told it you, if you please, that he who hath not a dram of folly in his mixture, hath pounds of much worse matter in his composition. It is observed, that “the foolisher the fowl or fish, woodcocks,—dotterels—cods'-heads, &c., the finer the flesh thereof,” and what are commonly the world's received fools, but such whereof the world is not worthy and what have been some of the kindliest patterns of our species, but so many darlings of absurdity, minions of the goddess, and her white boys —Reader, if you wrest my words beyond their fair construction, it is you, and not I,
the safety, which a palpable hallucination that are the April Fool.
Still-born Silence thou that art Flood-gate of the deeper heart 1 Offspring of a heavenly kind Frost o' the mouth, and thaw o' the mind . Secrecy's confidant, and he Who makes religion mystery ! Admiration's speaking'st tongue! Leave, thy desert shades among, Reverend hermits’ hallow’d cells, Where retired devotion dwells With thy enthusiasms come, Seize our tongues, and strike us dumb l’ READER, would'st thou know what true peace and quiet mean ; would'st thou find a refuge from the noises and clamours of the multitude; would'st thou enjoy at once solitude and society; would'st thou possess the depth of thine own spirit in stillness, without being shut out from the consolatory faces of thy species; would'st thou be alone and yet accompanied; solitary, yet not desolate ; singular, yet not without some to keep thee in countenance; a unit in aggregate ; a simple in composite:–come with me into a Quakers’Meeting. Dost thou love silence deep as that “before the winds were made l’’ go not out into the wilderness, descend not into the profundities of the earth; shut not up thy casements; nor pour wax into the little cells of thy ears, with little-faith’d self-mistrusting
* From “Poems of all sorts,” by Richard Fleckno, 1653.
Ulysses.—Retire with me into a Quakers' Meeting. For a man to refrain even from good words, and to hold his peace, it is commendable; but for a multitude it is great mastery. What is the stillness of the desert compared with this place what the uncommunicating muteness of fishes —here the goddess reigns and revels.- “Boreas, and Cesias, and Argestes loud,” do not with their interconfounding uproars more augment the brawl—nor the waves of the blown Baltic with their clubbed sounds—than their opposite (Silence her sacred self) is multiplied and rendered more intense by numbers, and by sympathy. She too hath her deeps, that call unto deeps. Negation itself hath a positive more and less; and closed eyes would seem to obscure the great obscurity of midnight. There are wounds which an imperfect solitude cannot heal. By imperfect I mean that which a man enjoyeth by himself. The perfect is that which he can sometimes attain in crowds, but nowhere so absolutely as in a Quakers' Meeting.—Those first hermits did certainly understand this principle, when they retired into Egyptian solitudes, not singly, but in shoals, to enjoy one another's want of conversation. The Carthusian is