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tion at the courts of princes. Now of all dances, this is the only one, as a class, of which you can truly describe the motion to be continuous, that is, not interrupted, or fitful, but unfolding its fine mazes with the equability of light, in its diffusion through free space. And wherever the music happens to be not of a light, trivial character, but charged with the spirit of festal pleasure, and the performers in the dance so far skilful as to betray no awkwardness verging on the ludicrous, I believe that many people feel as I feel in such circumstances, viz., derive from the spectacle the very grandest form of passionate sadness which can belong to any spectacle whatsoever. Sadness is not the exact word; nor is there any word in
arose (according to a great authority) in this way out of propriety; i. e. the Latin idea of proprietas, split off into a secondary sense, to which it had long tended; whilst by a drawing back of accent from the second syllable to the first, and a melting of the two middle syllables into one, (forming proprety, finally euphonized into property,) this secondary sense, hitherto liable to an ambiguity from the too wide and generic meaning of propriety, thus gained a separate and specific word; and the original stock, on which the corruption had arisen, at the same time became disposable for a more specific limitation of its meaning than before. Without dwelling, however, on this particular illustration, what I am here taking occasion to insist on, is the general principle, that in every language it must not be allowed to weigh against the validity of a word once fairly naturalized by use, that originally it crept in upon an abuse or a corruption. Prescription is as strong a ground of legitimation in a case of this nature as it is in law. And the old axiom is applicable - Fieri non debuit, factum valet. Were it otherwise, languages would be robbed of much of their wealth. And, universally, the class of purists, in matters of language, are liable to grievous suspicion, as almost constantly proceeding on half knowledge, and on insufficient principles. For example, if I have read one, I have read twenty letters, addressed to newspapers, denouncing the name of a great quarter in London, Maryle-bone, as ludicrously ungrammatical. The writers had learned, or were learning French; and they had thus become aware, that neither the article nor the adjective were right. True: but, for want of blackletter French, they did not know that in our Chaucer's time both were right. Le was then the article feminine as well as masculine.
any language [because none in the finest languages] which exactly expresses the state; since it is not a depressing, but a most elevating state to which I allude. And, certainly, people of the dullest minds can understand, that many states of pleasure, and in particular the highest, are the most of all removed from merriment, or from the ludicrous. The day on which a Roman triumphed was the most gladsome day of his existence; it was the crown and consummation of his prosperity; yet assuredly it was also to him the most solemn of his days. Festal music, of a rich and passionate character, is the most remote of any from vulgar hilarity. Its very gladness and pomp is impregnated with sadness; but sadness of a grand and aspiring order. Let, for instance, (since without individual illustrations there is the greatest risk of being misunderstood,) any person of musical sensibility listen to the exquisite music composed by Beethoven, as an opening for Bürger's Lenore, the running idea of which is the triumphal return of a crusading host, decorated with laurels and with palms, within the gates of their native city; and then say whether the presiding feeling, in the midst of this tumultuous festivity, be not, by infinite degrees, transcendent to any thing so vulgar as mere hilarity. In fact, laughter itself is of an equivocal nature; — as the organ of the ludicrous, laughter is allied to the trivial and the ignoble as the organ of joy, it is allied to the pas sionate and the noble. From all which the reader may comprehend, if he should not happen experimentally to have felt, that a spectacle of young men and women, flowing through the mazes of an intricate dance under a full volume of music, taken with all the circumstantial adjuncts of such a scene in rich men's halls; the blaze of lights and jewels, the life, the motion, the sea-like undula tion of heads, the interweaving of the figures, the araxu
zais or self-revolving, both of the dance and the music, 'never ending, still beginning,' and the continual regeneration of order from a system of motions which seem for ever to approach the very brink of confusion; that such a spectacle, with such circumstances, may happen to be capable of exciting and sustaining the very grandest emotions of philosophic melancholy to which the human spirit is open. The reason is, in part, that such a scene presents a sort of masque of human life, with its whole equipage of pomps and glories, its luxury of sight and sound, its hours of golden youth, and the interminable revolution of ages hurrying after ages, and one generation treading over the flying footsteps of another; whilst all the while. the overruling music attempers the mind to the spectacle, the subject (as a German would say) to the object, the beholder to the vision. And, although this is known to be but one phasis of life of life culminating and in ascent, -yet the other, and repulsive phasis is concealed upon the hidden or averted side of the golden arras, known but not felt or is seen but dimly in the rear, crowding into indistinct proportions. The effect of the music is, to place the mind in a state of elective attraction for everything in harmony with its own prevailing key.
This pleasure, as always on similar occasions, I had at present; and if I have spent rather more words than could have been requisite in describing a very obvious state of emotion, it is not because, in itself, it is either vague or doubtful, but because it is difficult, without calling upon a reader for a little reflection, to convince him that there is not something paradoxical in the assertion, that joy and festal pleasure, of the highest kind, are liable to a natural combination with solemnity, or even melancholy the most profound. Yet to speak in the mere simplicity of truth, so mysterious is human nature, and so little to be read by
him who runs, that almost every weighty aspect of truth upon that theme will be found at first sight startling, or sometimes paradoxical. And so little need is there for courting paradox, that, on the contrary, he who is faithful to his own. experiences will find all his efforts little enough to keep down the paradoxical air of what yet he knows to be the truth. No man needs to search for paradox in this world of ours. Let him simply confine himself to the truth, and he will find paradox growing everywhere under his hands as rank as weeds. For new truths of importance are rarely agreeable to any preconceived theories; that is, cannot be explained by these theories; which are insufficient, therefore, even where they are true. And universally, it must be borne in mind that not that is paradox which, seeming to be true, is upon examination false, but that which, seeming to be false, may upon examination be found true.*
The pleasure of which I have been speaking belongs to all such scenes; but on this particular occasion there was also something more. To see persons in the body,' of whom you have been reading in newspapers from the very earliest of your reading days, those, who have hitherto been great ideas in your childish thoughts, to see and to hear moving and talking as actual existences amongst other human beings, - had, for the first half hour or so, a singular and strange effect. But this naturally waned rapidly after it had once begun to wane. And when these first startling impressions of novelty had worn off, it must be confessed that the peculiar circumstances attaching to
* And therefore it was with strict propriety that Boyle, anxious to fix public attention upon some truths of hydrostatics, published them avowedly as paradoxes. They were truths, indeed; but in the first annunciation they wore the air of falsehood. They contradicted men's preconceptions and first impressions.
a royal ball, were not favorable to its joyousness or genial spirit of enjoyment. I am not going to repay her Majesty's condescension so ill, or so much to abuse the privileges of a guest, as to draw upon my recollections of what passed, for the materials of an ill-natured critique. Everything was done, I doubt not, which court etiquette permitted, to thaw those ungenial restraints which gave to the whole too much of a ceremonious and official character, and to each actor in the scene too much of the air belonging to one who is discharging a duty, and to the youngest even among the principal personages concerned, an apparent anxiety and jealousy of manner-jealousy, I mean, not of others, but a prudential jealousy of his own possible oversights or trespasses. In fact, a great personage bearing a state character cannot be regarded with the perfect freedom which belongs to social intercourse, nor ought to be. It is not rank alone which is here concerned that, as being his own, he might lay aside for an hour or two; but he bears a representative character also. He has not his own rank only, but the rank of others to protect he embodies and impersonates the majesty of a great people; and this character, were you ever so much encouraged to do so, you neither could nor ought to dismiss from your thoughts. Besides all which, it must be acknowledged, that to see brothers dancing with sisters, as too often occurred in those dances to which the Princesses were parties, disturbed the appropriate interest of the scene, being irreconcilable with the allusive meaning of dancing in general, and laid a weight upon its gaiety which no condescensions from the highest quarter could remove. This infelicitous arrangement forced the thoughts of all present upon the exalted rank of the parties which could dictate so unusual an assortment. And that rank again it presented to us under one of its least happy