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away;" but while “ they all tease him together,” the heart gives a satisfactory answer to none of them ;-is ashamed of its want of resources to supply the repeated calls upon its sensibility, seeks relief from the importunity of endless excitement in fastidious apathy or affected levity; and in the midst of luxury, pomp, vanity, indolence, and dissipation, feels only the hollow, aching void within, the irksome craving of unsatisfied desire, because more pleasures are placed within its reach than it is capable of enjoying, and the interference of one object with another ends in a double disappointment. Such is the best account I can give of the nature of the Opera, -of the contradiction between our expectations of pleasure and our uneasiness there, -of our very jealousy of the flattering appeals which are made to our senses, our passions, and our vanity, on all sides,-of the little relish we acquire for it, and the distaste it gives us for other things. Any one of the sources of amusement to be found there would be enough to occupy and keep the attention alive; the tout ensemble fatigues and oppresses it. One may be stifled to death with
A head-ache may be produced by a profusion of sweet smells or of sweet sounds : but we do not like the head-ache the more on
that account. Nor are we reconciled to it, even at the Opera.
What makes the difference between an opera of Mozart's and the singing of a thrush confined in a wooden cage at the corner of the street ? The one is nature, and the other is art: the one is paid for, and the other is not. Madame Fodor sang the air of Vedrai Carino in * Don Giovanni'so divinely, because she was hired to sing it; she sang it to please the audience, not herself, and did not always like to be encored in it; but the thrush that awakes at daybreak with its song, does not sing because it is paid to sing, or to please others, or to be admired or criticised. It sings because it is happy : it pours the thrilling sounds from its throat, to relieve the overflowings of its own heart—the liquid notes come from, and go to the heart, dropping balm into it, as the gushing spring revives the traveller's parched and fainting lips. That stream of joy comes pure and fresh to the longing sense, free from art and affectation; the same that rises over vernal groves, mingled with the breath of morning, and the perfumes of the wild hyacinth ; it waits for no audience, it wants no rehearsing, and still
Hymns its good God, and carols sweet of love."
This is the great difference between nature and art, that the one is what the other seems, and gives all the pleasure it expresses, because it feels it itself. Madame Fodor sang, as a musical instrument may be made to play a tune, and perhaps with no more real delight: but it is not so with the linnet or the thrush, that sings because God pleases, and pours out its little soul in pleasure. This is the reason why its singing is (so far) so much better than melody or harmony, than bass or treble, than the Italian or the German school, than quavers or crotchets, or half-notes, or canzonets, or quartetts, or any thing in the world but truth and nature !
The Opera is the most artificial of all things. It is not only art, but ostentatious, unambiguous, exclusive art. It does not subsist as an imitation of nature, but in contempt of it; and instead of seconding, its object is to pervert and sophisticate all our natural impressions of things. When the Opera first made its appearance in this country, there were strong prejudices entertained against it, and it was ridiculed as a species of the mock-heroic. The prejudices have worn out with time, and the ridicule has ceased; but the grounds for both remain the same in the nature of the thing itself. At the theatre, we see and hear what has been said,
thought, and done by various people elsewhere : at the Opera, we see and hear what was never said, thought, or done any where but at the Opera. Not only is all communication with nature cut off, but every appeal to the imagination is sheathed and softened in the melting medium of Siren sounds. The ear is cloyed and glutted with warbled ecstasies or agonies; while every avenue to terror or pity is carefully stopped up and guarded by song and recitative. Music is not made the vehicle of poetry, but poetry of music; the very meaning of the words is lost or refined away in the effeminacy of a foreign language. A grand serious Opera is a tragedy wrapped up in soothing airs, to suit the tender feelings of the nurslings of fortune
- where tortured victims swoon on beds of roses, and the pangs of despair sink in tremulous accents into downy repose.
Just so much of human misery is given as to lull those who are exempted from it into a deeper sense of their own security: just enough of the picture of human life is shewn to relieve their languor, without disturbing their indifference ;-not to excite their sympathy, but “with some sweet, oblivious antidote,” to pamper their sleek and sordid apathy. In a word, the whole business of the Opera is to stifle emotion in its birth, and
to intercept every feeling in its progress to the heart. Every impression that, left to itself, might sink deep into the mind, and wake it to real sympathy, is overtaken and baffled by means of some other impression, plays round the surface of the imagination, trembles into airy sound, or expires in an empty pageant. In the grand carnival of the senses the pulse of life is suspended, the link which binds us to humanity is broken ; the soul is fretted by the sense of excessive softness into a feverish hectic dream ; truth becomes a fable; good and evil matters of perfect indifference, except as they can be made subservient to our selfish gratification; and there is hardly a vice for which the mind on coming out of the Opera is not prepared, no virtue of which it is capable !
But what shall I say of the company at the Opera ? Is it not grand, select, splendid, and imposing? Do we not see there “ the flower of Britain's warriors, her statesmen, and her fair,” her nobles and her diplomatic characters? First, one only knows the diplomatic characters by their taking prodigious quantities of snuff, and as to the great warriors, some that I know had better not show their faces-if there is
truth in physiognomy; and as to great men, I know of but one in modern times, and neither Europe