« PreviousContinue »
its scope and possibilities with the con- long winding road down Ferté-Milon hill, serving pride of a citizen from a practi- where I turned shoulder after shoulder cally non-oublietted country. Perhaps in of greenness, passing little houses where the dark my countenance bore the same children played! Had the mothers never expression of solemn pleasure and self- anxiety when these children strayed up congratulation that I saw on the face of to the castle? Had they no tales to an Alsatian nurse coming out of the Paris tell at night of horrors that had leaked morgue with thumb and forefinger pinch- through the old walls ? ing her nose.
“C'est affreuse ! the guide herself I do not know what made me slip. A whispered when she leaned with me over woman tipped back on her heels and fell the ladder.
the ladder. “Moi, j'ai peur." flat on the cathedral pavement of St. Myself, I had no fear at that time, Denis in a manner one would call whol- but I accumulated some later. ly bourgeoise. The ludicrous which we If the oubliette had received one more see first in the clumsiness of others is victim, who could have told her fate? as quickly felt in calamities of our own. When days went by, inquiry would have One instant holding to the wall and followed from a convent in Marne. When standing in security, and the next shoot- weeks went by, demands from Ameriing feet foremost into the oubliette, I ca would have become imperative. The was conscious of laughing at my plight police could have traced a tourist from before I was sick with terror. Yet in Montmirail to Mezy, from Mezy to Châperil the physical instinct is quicker than teau-Thierry, from Château-Thierry to any mental action. The timbers stopped Ferté-Milon; in Ferté-Milon, up to the my fall into the well, but the shock loos- castle, and, by means of the guide, into ened them. Trembling and dislodged, the courtyard and out again. they gave way. By one elbow I held to * She took that road down to the a stone in the floor, and with the other village, monsieur,” the woman would deband grasped whatever was in reach. I clare. “Madaine was last seen walking think it was a fallen joist, for I do not in that direction. I myself watched her.” remember anything except being glad of And nothing else would be known except strength in the arms and well-trained that there had been a mysterious disapback muscles. By what effort I was out pearance. of the pit's mouth and scrambling on all The dinner was very good at the Hô
urs up the ascending pavement is al tel de la Sauvage, and served privately, together unknown to me. I was flying undisturbed by parading soldiery. But from the top of the ladder across the par- after all the deliberate courses there was apet, when such unseemly haste struck still half an hour before the train was due. me as liable to bring a cloud of witnesses One may die or have indelible experiabout, and I leaned against the court- ences in such brief time. yard wall to recover breath.
A woman with a furtive and crouching
a The blank of panic is astonishing to look sat in the first-class waiting-room look back upon. Mentally I did not ex- when at last I returned to the railway ist at all between hanging in the oubli- station. She had two geese
with ette and reaching the upper air. Then straw under them, a cat in a high, narthe conventional sense revived, and I row wicker cage, a netting bag full of brushed my skirts, noticing that ooze and string-beans and green nuts of some sort, earth had left little stain, and that the three little hand-bags, and three gingham gloves with which I had literally been umbrellas. This woman was a peasant. shod had fared worst.
Her stock had not known any better for How delicious was the sunshine on that a thousand years than to load themselves VOL. LXXVII. — NO. 464.
like beasts. I reflected that my stock, also, between us. I smiled on her, and she for a thousand years, had not known any brightened up, reassured at once ; knowbetter than to plunge into various quests ing well that she had no business in the after knowledge and experience. There first-class waiting-room, and that the railwas a kind of fellowship — what the guide way official would turn her out into a would have called a correspondence - third-class if she sbould be detected.
Mary Hartwell Catherwood.
THE OPERA BEFORE THE COURT OF REASON.
THERE must be a large class of re- ceiving the wider general bearings of art spectable persons, - so large, indeed, as the more clearly and completely for living to be respectable for their numbers, if for watchfully around it, instead of absorbed nothing else, — not gifted with creative and workfully within it, — we feel that powers, but well endowed through their while the finest foliage, flowers, and love of beauty with very important ap- fruits of art growth are found on the slenpreciative powers, who would gladly wel- der upper stems of finer and more delicome an authoritative discussion on the cate fibre, which, as they wind their way function of reason (I narrowly escaped farther and farther into the upper air, calling it common sense) in matters of art. bend more freely and flexibly before the To make such a discussion truly authori- wandering and incalculable breath of intative, however, its protagonists should spiration (“Thou canst not tell whence possess not only acknowledged artistic it cometh and whither it goeth”), neverculture and insight, but also strong and theless these final and glorious gifts of honest logical faculty; and this com- art are possible only because those flowbination is of mournfully rare er and fruit bearing stems are borne by rence. It is a question whether most of and draw strength through the sturdy those now claiming to possess the best trunk of reason under them, which is itartistic culture and insight would not be self firmly rooted in and nourished from ready to dismiss this subject instantly the solid ground of everlasting truth, by the positive statement that reason has the mother earth of the tree of human no function whatever in matters of art, progress. and common sense still less. Such a It would be very comforting to have dictum would of course be intuitively re- this feeling put into forceful words by jected by the respectable class of appre- some strong one whose very name would ciators just described, but these are sel- compel respectful attention from the dom sufficiently voluble and self-confident claimants of artistic authority, and keep to clothe their intuitive convictions in them from calling us fools and Philiswords convincing to others; while, un- tines. For surely, unless men have sunk fortunately, the claimants of artistic au- into egoistic hedonists, all fine and earthority nearly always belong to that class nest art must now seek truth first of all, so aptly described by Sam Weller as - philosophy's truth by which to justify having "the gift o'gab wery gallopin',” its existence and its pursuit, and nature's and they often get a verdict by mere de- truth by which to express itself. The fault, and not on the real merits of the first of these was once felicitously indi
cated by Mr. Howells in the Easy Chair Now we of class first, - perhaps per- of Harper's Magazine (I quote from
memory), " The old pagan idea of art it will be difficult, at least for those befor art's sake has become obsolete with longing to the species homo sapiens, to thinkers, and has been replaced by the fix upon the where and the why for remodern Christian idea of art for human- fusing to follow reason's lead farther. ity's sake ;” and the second is found in But even the least logical of the arts those fundamental maxims of modern art must use a deal of common sense in the schools, “ Paint what you see. Be sin- management of their means of exprescere.” (Please note that the rule does sion, the tools of their trades, to speak
- , “ Paint what you would like to irreverently. The poets, — genus irrisee.") Even dramatic art, justly ranked tabile vatum, who might perhaps be by Mr. Birrell lowest in the list, has en- ranked as next to the least logical of arnobled itself in our day by treading the tists, - even the dear poets are compelled same path toward truth. Both writer to parse, and to punctuate, and to scan ; and actor must now go to the realities of or rather, they used to be. Nowadays, life, the one for motives, and the other for I believe, the claimants no longer think it methods. The very stage fittings and ac- necessary
that poetry should either parse cessories must now be real to the utmost or scan, though it still is punctuated to possibility. No more wooden chickens some extent. and empty cups are seen in stage feasts. Rash though it may be, my present aim Dramatic action must be studied from is a common - sense consideration, reckand modeled after actual life,
less of the claimants' scorn, of some asactual death, too, — and Duse surpasses pects of that old and great quæstio vexaBernhardt because she fulfills this re- ta between classic and dramatic music : quirement more closely and sincerely. and this is attempted because I find so
It would not be difficult to cover some many who, like myself, have been keen pages with proofs and instances of the lovers and learners of music all their lives widening reign of reason over the drama; without ever feeling sure that some of its but with music this is not so apparent, chief apostles and loudest professors are and I fear that the claimants of artistic preaching the real truth about it. authority, and perhaps others, would be Here let me say that since most perquick to call that man rash, if not stupid, sons who speak of dramatic music mean who should try to bring common sense opera or music-drama, that meaning will into a discussion on taste in music, an be taken here, though I do not indorse art generally admitted to be the most it as a strict definition. When, however, emotional, and therefore the least logical the effort is made to express the classic of all. Yet Mr. Krehbiel, in a recent lec- side of this question in a similarly conture on Listening to Music, opened his densed way, some very serious difficulsubject by stating that among the writers ties are met. If we try to boil it down and talkers about music there are two into a phrase, we find that some of its sorts who should be equally shunned, most characteristic contents are so volaboth being objectionable and misleadingtile and expansive that they are driven because both are equally unreasonable, off. I myself should be quite willing to though in opposite directions, — the ped- come down at once to describing the quesants and the rhapsodists. Now this is tion as the case of Truth versus Opera ; only a rather picturesque variant of the but I should not expect many to come old maxim “In medio tutissimus ibis," with me, for choice of sides on this queswhich is just as true of the other arts, tion seems to be controlled usually by of all art in the largest sense, as it is of idiosyncrasy rather than by thought, and music ; and it admits reason as a gov- to be the result of processes not so much erning principle of judgment. This done, mental as temperamental. In fact, the temptation to accept as belief on proof main chords of the usual harmony in that which one wants to believe is just as the remembered instrumental accompairresistible here as in morals and religion niment? I myself cannot, and I have and all other things ; and so the discus- yet to find any musical person (others sions of this question have been more in are out of this question) who, after fair the nature of pleas for previously adopt- trial and thought, will claim such ability. ed views than of earnest searches after Is that song, so heard, true monody to fundamental truth. Naturally enough, such hearers? Truly not; and I believe also, these views have been almost as this holds good of every theme, vocal or many and as various as the viewers and instrumental, whose harmonic foundation their points of view. Some talk learned- is known to the hearer; and it is preëmily of absolute music as the antithesis nently true of those many masterpieces of dramatic music, and some still more of modern song-writing whose accompalearnedly about subjective and objective niments are essential and integral parts music; and always, the more of such of the works, and are sometimes splendid learning there is in the talk, the greater specimens of polyphonic writing in themseems the loss by evaporation when you selves without the vocal parts they were come to boil it down.
written to sustain. One of the brightest and pleasantest Is there, then, no such thing as true of the later essays on this question de- monody to modern musical ears? When nies dramatic power to polyphonic music, such a determined effort after it as the and grants it to monodic music, and for piping of the peasant in Wagner's Trisillustrative examples cites Three Blind tan is found to carry with it suggestions Mice as polyphonic harmony, and Home, of various minor and major chords, as it Sweet Home, as monodic melody. But is found to do on close and honest scrufrom my point of view not only is this pro- tiny, it almost seenis as if real monody posed principle quite wrong, but the ex- must be relegated to those distant days amples given do not illustrate it. Three B. C. when Theocritus reveled in the Blind Mice was one of the earliest of my songs
of the Sicilian shepherds as musical experiences, and I can still re- fairest meed of the gods,” and told with member distinctly the childish pity for pride how Menaleas skillfully made and the wretched little rodents inspired by played a herdsman's pipe, but lost it to those pathetic descending thirds when Daphnis in an open-air song competition. the second voice enters, and the hurrying It may be safely assumed that no accomhorror when the quicker - moving third panying chords and harmonies suggested voice tells out the tragedy of the tails and themselves to the ears that listened to the carving-knife: and all this without their music. the slightest action on the part of the
But I think the real roots of the quessingers. I was not a very impression- tion lie much below all this, and lower able child ; I am sure there must have than most music lovers are willing to dig been many others who felt that music for them.
Perhaps my purpose will be just as I did : and this seems to me to be best served by at once taking hold of evidence of dramatic quality inherent in what seems to me a sort of tap-root, and the very music that was cited as devoid working upwards. of it.
Some years ago I happened to hear, in As to Home, Sweet Home, for an exam- the English West Indian island Triniple of monody, can any one who knows dad, a party of negro working men and that song listen to it sung unaccompanied women at one of their customary moonwithout being conscious of hearing in his light-night outdoor dances. The music, mind's ear, along with the melody, the or, more correctly, motive power, was
furnished solely by an empty keg with tunes, and all with really delightful pera piece of hide stretched over one end, fection of time, tone, and expression. I assisted by a gourd containing dried peas had always known that negroes are a and small pebbles; the first was thumped tuneful race, but this performance was a and the second rattled, in strictest time surprising one. and with exasperating continuity, until Do not these incidents point to the moonset. These two instruments were natural order and succession of steps in generally accompanied by hand-clapping the evolution of music? Rhythm first, from some of those not dancing. Now suggested and shown to individuals in the there was rhythm, pure and simple and motion of their own limbs; then rhythm alone, utterly independent and neglectful becoming stronger, and marked by utof the musical qualities and attributes of tered sound, as the walking of one man the sound produced, and used only as a grows into the marching of many men ; means of conveying the ictus to the ears then rhythm still more marked, as the of all the party, in order that individual joyous excitement of friendly association overflow of emotion might be worked off seeks outlet in the excited and exciting in associated physical motion; and to motions of the dance, led by rhythmical this pure rhythm the negroes danced al- sounds of percussion; then rhythmic most all night. Occasionally a dancer shouting; and then song; and all the rest would give a staccato shout, and the sit- follows naturally. But always present, ters around would answer with a longer and controlling, and inspiring, is rhythm. crooning on two or three notes, wordless, When the evolutionary process arrives rising and falling in apparently aimless at recording the music, then the rhythm but musical intervals. When the dancers of notes and bars is discovered to be the all gave out and stopped to rest, which only means by which music can be writwas very seldom, the thump and the rat- ten and read. When the further stage tle kept right on, and somebody began to of several persons playing or singing tosing one of the many songs in the West gether is reached, then still more must Indian French patois ; marked rhythm rhythm rule them all alike, all reading being also a conspicuous feature in these the same record. And when the final somewhat monotonous melodies. Pre- stage of the great orchestras and choruses sently the song would stop and dancing is reached, then, above and beyond the would be resumed for a while, and so on same written record placed before all, till the moon was gone.
there must also be visible to all the imThe next Sunday I attended morning perative controlling rhythm of the conservice at the English Church in Port of ductor's beat, in order to secure perfect Spain, and saw a large chancel choir of ensemble performance. negroes only, young men and girls and Let us now consider what part rhythm boys, all dressed in the cleanest of white plays in volitional human action, which clothes, and seated in rows with becom- is the main constituent of that visible huing seriousness. They might very well man life to which we have already seen have been children of some of those I that artistic dramatic action must in these had heard dancing and singing almost days be true. The walking of a grown like savages, to the drum and rattle in
person is about as automatic as breaththe moonlight; and yet this choir, led bying, and may be justly set aside with it as the admirable playing of an English or- scarcely volitional action. But rhythm ganist, sang in unison the music of the evidently governs marching, and danEnglish Church service, including an cing, and in fact any conditions of life elaborate Te Deum by Berthold Tours wherein the object is to produce continand several chants and modern hymn. uous consentient and coincident action