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THE exceedingly limited time which has been allotted to me for the preparation of this address, renders it necessary that I should beg your indulgence for the rambling nature of my remarks; for to use the words of Pliny the Younger: “I have not had time to write you a short letter, therefore I send you a long one.”
In attempting to condense into words the feelings and thoughts which have long haunted me concerning music, I feel myself as a child, who, standing upon the sands, beholds the ocean stretching before it without visible shore, yet who would fain enclasp it within the circle of his arms. So nearly impossible does it seem to comprehend within the reach of language, the boundless spirit of music, that every word that I speak only seems to limit what in its essence is illimitable, and to chain and fetter that which is free as air. To many I may seem extravagant in what I shall say; but it will be only to those who have neither deeply felt nor profoundly studied its nature, that any words will seem to outrun my subject. Truly "music is," as Hoffman says, "the sanscrit of nature expressed in tones." It seems to me like that cloudy pillar which led the Israelites of old, which rested upon the earth and buried its head in the heavens, which fore-ran their wanderings, which guided their steps, which no
hands could touch, and yet which was a visible presence whereon was impressed the finger of God.
By the term music, I must not be understood to include any compositions constructed from those vapid commonplaces, and that unmeaning jingle, which are floating about at random, and whose only claim to be so considered, lies in the fact, that they are subjected to the rules of the art; but rather, to intend that modulation of sound, and procession of harmonies, which is the exponent of a deep sentiment, and the revelation of a spiritual truth.
Art has been the culminating blossom of every century. The refined sensualism of the Grecian polytheism embodied itself in the harmonious form of sculpture; the aspiration and humane fervor of Catholic christianity invested itself in the warm coloring of painting; and latterly, the depth of a less ascetic love and sentiment hath been interpreted to us in the language of music. What Phidias was to the classic age of Greece, Raphael was to the Catholic era of the middle ages in Italy, and Beethoven is to the romantic age of our own day. It would be curious to follow out the various developements which music acquired in the progress of the religious sentiment, from the stern reiteration of the unison in the old Romish church, through the Protestant questioning and high argument of Sebastian Bach, in the involved and intricate fugue, to the God-spoken serenity of Handel, and the lofty aspiration of Beethoven. In our age, these great souls have successively risen in a perfect growth, each representing a different phase of one great whole, "four faced to four corners of the sky." In Bach, we behold the struggle of the soul in form and in the rules of art-a struggle which is made in trust and hope, and which is always successful. The fugue, through its curious entanglements and intricate windings, plying with a thousand shuttles the self
same web, and as constantly fulfilling in the end the perfect flower in its tissue, seems to represent that mental phase, when, through struggle and earnest will, the individual is developing from the seemingly inharmonious elements and diverging forces of his nature, the true and simple idea of his life. In Mozart we find the evolvement of impulse and passion, the humors of temperament and constitution, and the natural re-action of the mind upon incident. His music is dramatic and full of individual characterization; and in the opera, wherein his genius found its true scope and expression, he has left the most perfect master-pieces of the art in the Zauberflöte and the Don Giovanni. He represents, therefore, the social relations of man. The world of Haydn is the world of sense-the offspring of healthy animal spirits, prompting a soul delicate in its sympathies and pure in its impulses. It is full of love, happiness and a child-like, contented health. The shadows of sorrow and discontent are but as passing cloud-shades- that slight petulance which is instantly effaced by a smile. His genius, while it faithfully mirrors the forms and colors of external nature, bestows upon them the tinge of a fanciful and refined sentieven as the clouds and trees and downward heavens, when painted in the calm depths of a lake, borrow from that reflection a tender beauty unpossessed before. His music is descriptive, abides in the half sentiments, and represents the childhood of man and his sensuous relations to nature. Then comes Handel, the form of the perfected man, steady, clear, simple and strong. Such exquisite directness and truth lie in his melodies, that they seem fore-ordained to the thought which they embody. In his music is no vacillation, no indeterminateness, but a calm energy, and faith continually attaining its end, and completing its design. What more was needed to represent the forces and phases of the
universal man? We already had the childhood and simple abandonment to impulse-the struggle and birth of willthe character, and relations of passion- and the educated force of the perfect man. But genius as yet had not been represented; and the relations of the internal world were reserved to be expressed by a soul deeper than all—by Beethoven. That infinite aspiration which overflows all the moulds of art; that yearning, which can not be repressed within the limits of form; that restless self dissatisfaction with what is accomplished; that haunting presence of a power which urges on the soul with vast and infinite whispers — all, in sooth, which we mean when we speak of genius—it was for Beethoven to express. And has he not achieved his task? The fifth symphony in C minor-the work of his complete manhood,—seems distinctly to enunciate the story which was allotted him to tell; the story of genius struggling with nature for expression. In the first grand division is developed the limitation and prohibition which nature asserts to the aspirations of the spirit, and that blind struggle between the soul and fate, as of one in the folds of a snake. Here is painted the spasmodic effort and failure, the aimless seekings-the panting as for breath within a confined atmosphere—the fatal approximation to despair-the doubtsthe fears the disappointment. It is, as Beethoven himself said, "as if fate was knocking at the door." In the second movement is the morning landscape of a new era, whereon the beams of faith and hope are dawning through the cloudy bars of doubt and distrust, which circle the horizon. Hope as yet is stronger than Faith, and that superstitious child hath not yet left her mother's side. Still the old wearisome limit, the weakened prohibition, and the echo of a former despair, are heard, like the suppressed growling of a lurking thunderstorm. Aspiration often, in its soaring, changes to doubt and