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The Cynosure

  Michael Bakunin
  William Godwin
  Emma Goldman
  Peter Kropotkin
  Errico Malatesta
  Pierre-Joseph Proudhon
  Elisée Reclus
  Max Stirner
  Murray Bookchin
  Noam Chomsky
  Bright but Lesser Lights
  Cold Off The Presses
  Anarchist History
  Worldwide Movements
  First International
  Paris Commune
  Haymarket Massacre
  Spanish Civil War
  Art and Anarchy
  Education and Anarchy
  Anarchist Poets
  Music and Anarchy

This text was taken from Godwin's Life of Chaucer by William Godwin, London: T. Davison, White-Friars; 1804.

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There are few truths more striking in the history of human affairs than that things which may be hurtful and injurious in one stage of society, had probably their period in a different stage when they were eminently advantageous and salutary. No speculation can do less credit to the discernment of its authors, than that which, examining institutions and practices in the abstract, decides indiscriminately that this is good and universally desirable, while that is fitted only to be the plague of mankind. Every thing has its place; and it would be difficult to find any cause influencing the mind of man in society, however now perhaps antiquated, insipid or poisonous, which was not at one period genial and nourishing, restraining the ferocious and savage passions, or forwarding and maturing the fairest offspring of intellect. Thus, perhaps the secularised and degenerate religion established by Constantine and his successors contributed to bring on the darkness and ignorance of the middle ages: yet that very religion acting upon the barbarous usurpers of the Roman empire tended to keep alive some of the arts of a more cultivated period, and to prevent the darkness from becoming universal and complete.

What has been called the worship of images, or, more accurately speaking, the attempt to render more defined and habitual the intellectual conceptions of the multitude by the assistance of a gross and sensible representation, was the invention of the dark ages of the church. This was natural and just: without some contrivance to act powerfully upon the senses, there could not perhaps in such ages be any religion. This also tended, not merely to keep alive, but to raise into an object of general attention and request, the practice of some sort of sculpture and some sort of painting.

Our Saxon ancestors, when they issued from the forests painting of Scandinavia, had their images. Thor, Woden, and the other Gods of their mythology, were each personated by their solid and substantial representatives. Sometimes perhaps these vicarious divinities were as rudely fashioned as the God Terminus among the Romans: at others they were endowed by their creators with something of the human form". When the Saxons were converted to the catholic faith this idolatry was abolished; but it was not long before the Runic idols were succeeded by images and representations of a different nature. Crucifixes, and statues of the virgin Mary and the saints, were essential instruments of religious worship in these ages of the church. Nor was the art of painting neglected. Biscop abbot of Wcremouth in particular, who has already been mentioned as one of the great improvers of architecture in the seventh century, made five journeys to Rome for the purpose of procuring books,

In Verstegan [Restitution of Decayed Intelligence] there is a description of those deities with their attributes in the prints with which it is accompanied must however be regarded as purely imaginary and ornaments for the religious edifices he founded. Bede CHAP. IX. informs us that he adorned his church of St. Peter at ===== Weremouth with pictures of the virgin mother of God* of the twelve apostles, of the events of the gospel history, and of the visions of the Apocalypse, with which the walls appear to have been covered. This was done, as Bede expresses it, that all the persons who entered the building, though ignorant of letters, might be impressed with the amiable aspect of Christ and his saints, and instructed in the contents of the sacred volume. The church of the monastery of St. Paul, which Biscop built at Gyrwi or Yarrow, was also decorated in a similar mannerb.

As the veneration for images and demand for the pictures of sacred subjects increased, the Saxons, the clergy in particular, studied the art of manufacturing these commodities for themselves. The celebrated St. Dunstan, among his other accomplishments, was applauded for his skill in the art of paintingc. This was in the tenth century. At the same period we read of portraits, which were so common as for the same person to be painted several timesd; and of historical compositions representing the actions of persons of merit. Edclfleda, a Saxon and duchess dowager of Northumberland, had a curtain painted with the heroic achievements of her deceased lord, to perpetuate the memory of his integrity and virtuese.

The monks in the different convents were necessarilypersons of great leisure, and it is not wonderful that they applied themselves with perseverance and assiduity to the more delicate and refined departments of the mechanic arts. Among the legacies of Charlemagne, who died in the year 814, are mentioned three tables of silver, of extraordinary magnitude and weight. One of them was square, and enchased with a representation of the city of Constantinople; a second was round, and exhibited in the same manner the effigies of the city of Rome; and the third, which was larger and more beautiful than the rest, contained within three circles a representation of the whole world, in workmanship exquisitely minute and finef. "Whether these tables were constructed by the command of the emperor, or were the remains of a greater antiquity, we are not told; but they may at least be supposed to have excited an emulation of skill in the minds of the spectators. Accordingly we meet with various instances of a similar ingenuity in the English nation. St. Dunstan is no less celebrated by his biographer for dexterity in engraving, and manufacturing various saintly trinkets, than for his proficiency in the art of paintingg; and the excellence of the English artists in these particulars was so notorious, that the mode of decorating the curious caskets, adorned with gold, silver and precious stones, in which the relics of the saints were kept, seems in these times to have been styled by way of distinction opus Anglicumh. The same commendation was acquired by the natives of England in the practice of embroidery . A very curious monument of the state of this art at the time of the Norman conquest is the celebrated tapestry of Bayeux, which still exists, and is publicly exhibited at stated periods in the cathedral of that city. It is a web of linen, nearly two feet in breadth, and two hundred and forty-two in length, embroidered with the history of that memorable expedition, from the embassy of Harold to the Norman court in 1065 till his death in the following year. The scenes of this busy period are successively exhibited, and consist of many hundred figures of men, horses, beasts, birds, trees, houses, castles and churches, with inscriptions over them, explanatory of their meaning and history k. This work is understood to have been performed under the direction of Matilda consort to William I, and was not improbably executed by the hands of English women, whose superiority in performances f this kind was then universally acknowledged.

The revolution produced in this country by the Norman conquest was no less favourable .to the progress of the arts of sculpture and painting, than to that of architecture. As the Normans built more costly and magnificent structures, it was to be expected that they should be sumptuous and diligent in adorning them. The painted cielings executed by the orders of Lanfranc archbishop of Canterbury, and Aldred archbishop of York, contemporaries of William the Conqueror, in certain cathedrals and churches, are mentioned in terms of warm approbation by the contemporary historians1. Portraits, supposed to be taken from the life, of William the Conqueror, his queen Matilda, and his two sons Robert and William, the latter being yet a stripling, were painted upon the outside of the .walls of the chapel of St. Stephen's Abbey at Caen, and were destroyed on occasion of some alterations made in that building in the year 1 700 m. An extraordinary story is told by William of Malmesburyn, which, if worthy of credit, would imply that portrait-painting had at this time, at least .in one essential point, arrived at considerable perfection. Anselm archbishop of Canterbury performed a journey to Rome in the year 1097. Urban II. was at that time pope, and Guibert antipope. The counsellors of Guibert were impressed with an opinion that Anselm was travelling with an immense sum of money, drawn from the fertile province of England, and destined to support Urban in' his pretensions. Under this persuasion they determined to waylay and plunder him. The pious archbishop however received information of their plot, and avoided the ambuscade. Guibcrt, incensed at his escape, projected to intercept him in his return, and for this purpose dispatched a painter to Rome to make his picture, that, whatever disguise he might assume, it might be impossible for him again to elude the pontifical bravoes. The usual interposition of providence however attended the holy man; intelligence was given him of what had passed, and he took his journey by a different route.

During the preaching of the crusade under the same pope, one of the artifices employed to rouse and exasperate the godly to engage in the expedition, was the transmitting certain pictures into the different regions of Christendom, and exposing them to the view of the people. One of these represented Christ, with his usual symbols and tokens, tied to a stake,, and scourged by an Arabian, supposed to be Mahomet, or, as he was then named in the West, Mahound. Another displayed a Saracen champion, mounted on his war-horse, and trampling upon the holy sepulchre, his horse appearing at the same time in the act of staling upon this mysterious receptacle of a departed God.

Another invention brought to considerable excellence at this period was that of illuminating manuscripts, or surrounding the title-page, and capital letters at the commencement of certain paragraphs, with paintings. The colours employed in these illuminations are of singular brilliancy and lustre: they are adorned with a profusion of gilding; and the workmanship is frequently executed with surprising minuteness and perseverance. It was natural that the solitary and sedentary monk in his cloister, one of whose employments often was the transcribing of books, should strain his eyes, and exhaust his hours, in this delicate and microscopical industry. A collection has been made, from these sources, of the miniature portraits of all the kings and several of the queens of England, from Edward the Confessor to Henry VII, together with many eminent persons of both sexesp. It is obvious however that little stress is to be laid upon such portraits, respecting which we may reasonably believe that the persons they represent never sat to the delineator. Arts of working In metallic works, tapestry and embroidery, the progress and was somewhat similar to that which was made in the art of painting. Matthew Paris, who composed the Lives of the Abbots of St. Albans, has furnished us with several important anecdotes on this subject. Richard, abbot of St. Albans in the reign of William Rufus, gave to his convent, together with various other ornaments, a tapestry in which was figured the martyrdom of their patron-saint "J. Robert, his successor in the reign of Henry II, presented to pope Adrian on his accession to the papal chair three mitres and a pair of sandals of admirable workmanship, with which the pope was so much pleased that, refusing the other oblations which this dignitary offered him, he yet condescended to accept of these, Adrian, understanding the superiority of the English in metallic arts, further commissioned Robert to procure him two candlesticks, delicately manufactured of silver and gold, that should be set before the high altar of St. Peters at Rome; which opmmission the abbot, to the great satisfaction of the pope, speedily after performed. Simon the next abbot, a learned man and a devoted friend to Thomas of Becket, was peculiarly munificent in gifts to his monastery. He oaused a most sumptuous shrine to be made for receiving the relics of St. Alban, which was several years in completing. In the front of this shrine was represented in alto relievo the decollation of the saint, and on the other sides the events of his life, which formed as it were the earnest and preparation of his martyrdom. The lid presented to the spectator two oblique surfaces: on that to the east was carved the crucifixion, with the Virgin and St. John attending, the whole being set round with a frame of precious stones: and on the surface to the west appeared the Virgin with the infant Christ on her knees, seated upon a throne, and profusely adorned with jewels. Each corner of the shrine was surmounted with a turret, with windows beautifully carved, and roofs of chrystal. The same abbot gave to his monastery a large chalice of gold wrought with flowers and foliage of the most exquisite workmanship; and a vessel for containing the finest gold, and adorned with gems of inestimable, value, in which nevertheless the workmanship excelled the materials: this vessel was suspended over the high altar.

We shall be little surprised at finding some of these arts carried to a higher degree of perfection, and many of their productions more elaborately executed, than perhaps from so remote a period of society we might have been inclined to suspect, if we recollect the pride, the wealth and ostentation of the clergy of these times, and the innumerable multitude of persons, secular and regular, of which their body consisted. The mistaken piety of a superstitious age is computed to have surrendered into their hands one third of the rent-roll of England; their leisure was great, their science infinitely superior to that of their contemporaries, and their ambition immeasurable. They planted the island with the most beautiful and magnificent religious structures; and, having done so, it was natural that they should adorn them with equal prodigality and research. When we consider these men under every point of view; how wise, how wealthy and how bountiful; that they possessed themselves of every engine for afiecting the heart of man, and that the heart of man was laid naked and defenceless beneath their hand; the wonder is rather, that their operations were not more astonishing, than that they did so much.

The reign of Henry III. was still more favourable to the imitative arts than that of any of his predecessors; and this monarch, however inglorious be the figure he makes CHAP. IX. amidst the turbulent spirits of the thirteenth century, appears from his records to have cherished with some anxiety the species of taste which then existed. Upward of twenty royal warrants have been exhibited, containing various directions for adorning with historical paintings his palaces of Winchester, Woodstock, Windsor, Westminster and othersu. Among these we may remark one dated in the year 1239, directing the wainscot of the king's chamber in Winchester castle to be painted with the same histories and pictures with which it had been painted before; whence we may infer that painting the chambers of profane buildings was in use in England so long before this period, as for the paintings to be already tarnished, and in want of being renewed. This warrant, as well as several of the rest, is directed to the sheriff of the county, and is understood to imply that he was to impress painters, in the same manner as it was the custom of these times to impress masons and other artificers; a circumstance which has no great tendency to excite in us an idea of the improved and refined state of the art. It has also been remarked that another of these warrants, dated in the year 123Q, is so expressed as to imply that the use of oil-colours was then known, an improvement vulgarly supposed to have been introduced two centuries lateru. The subjects of these pictures are chiefly from sacred writ; together with some from the legends of the saints, as St. Christopher bearing Christ, and St. Edward giving a ring from his finger to a stranger-pilgrim; and some from the history of the crusades, which last particular is conjectured to have occasioned one of the apartments in the old palace at Westminster to be called the Jerusalem chamber.

The art of sculpture docs not seem to have obtained less encouragement and countenance in this reign than that of painting. Matthew Paris particularly celebrates Walter of Colchester, sacrist of the abbey of St. Albans, whom he pronounces an incomparable artist, and declares that he knew of no one equal to him that had lived before, nor did he believe that an equal would ever come after him. His most finished performances were to be found in the abbey of St. Albans, of which Matthew Paris was a member.

It was from the latter part of the reign of Henry III, that what has usually been called the revival of the arts in Italy dates its commencement. Cimabué was born in the year 1240, and Giotto in the year 1276. All that is prior, in painting or sculpture, to the labours of the first of these artists, may be considered as representative of monsters rather than men, and has no countervailing merits to redeem its obvious deformities y. It was useful and commendable in its day; it as effectually swayed the mind and edified the soul as the more meritorious productions of ancient or modern refinement are capable of doing; it awakened the imagination and purified the intellect of its contemporaries: but it has nothing, brilliancy of colour perhaps excepted, which, even with every allowance for the rudeness of the times, a cultivated taste can persuade itself to admire. Such at least is the decision of artists and connoisseurs; the less disdainful temper of a sound philosophy would perhaps be less peremptory and indiscriminate in its judgment.

Nothing however is more unquestionable than the improvements made in the imitative arts in Italy, in the latter part of the thirteenth and commencement of the fourteenth century ; improvements which went on with an almost uninterrupted progress till they terminated in the glorious and sublime productions of Michel Agnolo and Raffaële. The amendment which took place under Giotto is perhaps more conspicuous than in the case of any other individual. The sharp hands and feet, the unbending drapery, the unforeshortened figures, the shrivelled and unmuscular limbs, the vacant countenance, and the total want of shadow, all of them faults to a considerable degree imputable to bis predecessors, are each remedied or diminished by him. His figures have some degree of freedom and life; their members are often manly and strong; and the features are to a surprising degree enlivened with expression and passion.

One of the most curious monuments of the state of the fine arts in England in the time of Chaucer, was discovered in the year 1800, when certain alterations were made in the apartment occupied by the lower house of parliament, in consequence of the addition of one hundred members from Ireland, by means of the union with that country. This apartment was originally built by king Stephen, as a chapel for the accommodation of himself and his successors, within the royal palace of Westminster; and was dedicated by him to his patron saint, Stephen the protomartyr. It was rebuilt, or rather finished with great magnificence, by Edward III; who rendered it collegiate, and established a foundation in it for one dean and twelve canons, beside vicars, choristers and servitors, by a patent, dated 6 August 1348 This was one of the establishments abolished at the reformation, and the chapel given as a place of assembly to the lower house of parliament by Edward VI. In 1800 the wainscot with which the whole apartment was lined, was taken down, and behind it were discovered on all sides the most magnificent paintings, and die richest ornaments and gilding, which England in the reign of Edward III. was able to produce. Though executed so long before, they appeared in all their freshness, the gilding brilliant, and the colours untarnished. These paintings appear to have been modelled in a certain degree upon the improvements of Giotto, but with that inferiority which is usually found in proportion as the exertions of any art depart from the centre (which at that time, under the head of painting, Was Italy) where that art is most successfully cultivated.

Extraordinary efforts appear to have been made, to render the paintings in fresco on the walls of St. Stephen's Chapel, the most splendid and complete that circumstances, and the state of the art of painting at that time, would allow. A writ appears to have been directed to a certain knight, authorising and empowering him to procure competent artists for this great work: and, if artists who should be judged competent could not be found in England, they were to be invited from the continent; and, according to the mode of the times, to be imprisoned, if refractory, till they should show themselves disposed to apply the whole treasures of their skill to complete this monument of the monarch's piety. The two principal painters finally employed are understood to have been by name, John of , and Thomas of and the work, which was begun in 1347, was not completed till 1379, the second year of Richard II.

Among the pictures which had sustained the least injury from the hands of the workmen employed, either on former occasions or in these last repairs, two of the most observable were, a Nativity, with the adoration of the shepherds, on one side of the high altar; and a representation of the catastrophe of the family of Job, as described in the first chapter of the history of that patriarch: " While his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house, a great wind came from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they died." The length of these pictures was about three feet each, and the figures about sixteen inches in height; so that there must have been a great number of similar pieces painted on the different walls of the chapel. But, beside these sacred histories, there was an infinite number of figures, above, below, and on every side, of saints, angels, princes and heroes, with appropriate inscriptions, and blazonry of arms. There was also, on the side of the high altar opposite to the Nativity, but not in the corresponding place {that was blank, the painting which had filled it being effaced), a delineation of two royal personages, probably Edward III. and his queen Philippa, as large, or nearly as large, as life. With these more serious subjects were mixed, according to the manners of the times, several ludicrous representations in a smaller size ; among them a cat hanging, attended by other cats, apparently her executioners: this had probably some satirical meaning which, at this distance of time, we are unable to decipher.

In these pictures, as in the paintings of Giotto, though they exhibited great improvements upon the delineations of former artists, there appeared a continual violation, and" almost total ignorance, of the principles of anatomy, proportion and perspective, with very little knowledge of light and shadow, and what is called the harmony of colour. The breach of perspective was so gross in the picture of the Nativity, as for Joseph, who was in the back-ground, to be the largest figure, while several in front were painted in a diminutive si?e. It is to be remarked that these pictures were unquestionably finished in oil.

Most of these particulars are given on the authority of Mr. Flaxman, sculptor and royal academician, to whose liberal information I acknowledge. myself greatly indebted. Some exquisite imitations of parts of the painting* in St. Stephen's Chapel, by Mr. R. Smirke, junior, are hung up in the library of the Antiquarian Society. Mr. Smith of Newman Street is preparing a full delineation and history of these antiquities, and is understood to have ia

One of the best specimens of the art of painting in England in the fourteenth century, is said to be a whole length of Richard II, which is placed in the Jerusalem Chamber of Westminster Abbey. It is however understood to have been repainted by a modern artist, so that our judgment of the state of the art is rather perhaps to be formed from the engraving which has been taken of it, than from the picture as it now appears. Chaucer therefore had a right to consider himself as fallen upon no barbarous or inglorious age. Among his immediate predecessors in the period of their existence were Giotto and Dante; and their successors, his coequals, perhaps his friends, were fast advancing in the career which they had opened. The achievements of the human mind never appear so stupendous as when they exhibit themselves in their newest gloss. After the lapse of ages we may possibly find that we have been continually improving, and that in most, though not in all, the arts and exercises of our nature, we have gained something in scope and something in address. But our ancestors were so considerable, and our own additions have been so miscellaneous or minute, as to afford to an impartial and dispassionate observer small cause for any high degree of elation. Chaucer had only to look back for a single century to find the whole of Europe in a state comparatively barbarous. The sun of science had risen, and the dews which welcome its beams were not yet dissipated: he smelled the freshness of the morning, and his heart dilated at the sight of its soft and unsullied hues.

The history of music in this country has been in some degree anticipated in what has been already said of the minstrels. The island of Great Britain resounded with musical compositions from the commencement to the close of the Saxon dynasty. No nation is so barbarous as not to amuse its hours of festival and recreation with the M concord of sweet sounds." What has been handed down to us respecting the ancient scalds and Runic songs, inspires us with more honour and mysterious veneration, than we feel for the early professors of music of almost any other age or country. The Death-song of Lodbrog is represented as having been sung by him, with a firm and threatening voice, amidst the agonies of a tormenting death; and whether we regard this statement as severe history, or as heightened by the colouring of imagination, it equally proves how high an opinion was entertained of, and how powerful effects were experienced from, the performance of music and song. Egil Skallagrim had killed the son and several of the friends of the king of Norway; he was sent a prisoner and a victim to the irritated monarch; thus circumstanced, he sung before his enemy and judge a song adapted to the occasion, which afterward received the name of Egil's Ransom, and the effect of his

song was such, that the king immediately loosened his chains, and dismissed him free and unhurte. The powerof music is thus hyperbolically commemorated in one of the songs of the Runic bards. I know a song, by which I soften and inchant the arms of my enemies; and render their weapons of none effect. I know a song which I need only to sing when men have loaded me with bonds; for the moment I sing it, my chains fall in pieces, and I walk forth at liberty. I know a song, useful to all mankind; for as soon as hatred inflames the sons of men, the moment I sing it they are appeased. I know a song of such virtue, that were I caught in a storm, I can hush the winds, and render the air perfectly calm." Nor was music more cultivated by the scalds and the of sacred music minstrels, than it was by the heads of the church their contemporaries. We have seen the ecclesiastics of these ages ready on several occasions to take a lesson from the professors of arts which they vilified, and they found their advantage in it. When Austin, the apostle of the Saxon dynasty, and the companions of his mission, had their first audience of Ethelbert king of Kent, they approached him in procession, singing litanies; and afterward, as they entered the city of Canterbury, they sung a litany, and at the end of it an Allelujah. They trusted probably as much to the charms of the Roman Chant, as settled by pope Gregory the Great, as to the arguments of the apostles and evangelists, for the. conversion of their idolatrous hearers. Church-music was one of the studies most assiduously pursued in the colleges of this period ; professors of this art were distributed throughout England; those who were desirous of attaining the highest degree of excellence in it travelled to Rome for that purpose; and no accomplishment led with greater certainty to the most eminent stations in the church. The Gospels, the Epistles, and almost every part of the service, were in these times set to music, and performed by rules of art, Dancing, as well as music, appears also to have constituted a part of the service of the church. The word choir as a denomination for that compartment of the sacred edifice adjoining to the altar, seems to have owed its origin to this circumstance. Every thing in this era of the church was adapted to the pleasure of the eye and the car; and men were won over to the cause of devotion by means best adapted to their rude habits and untrained understandings.

The eleventh century appears to have been the period at which the most important and remarkable changes were introduced into the science of music. It was during this century that counterpoint, or the method of singing in parts, was introduced; that Guido Aretino invented his scale of music; and Franco of Cologn the time-table, or method of notation by which the length to be given to each musical sound was determined '. Previously to this last indention, time had no separate or independent existence Chap, Ix. relative to musical sounds, but was regulated by the long === or short quantity of the syllables of the words to which each tune or piece of music was appropriated. These three discoveries may be regarded as the parent events to Which the character and refinements of modern music are indebted for their origin.

Much may be alleged, and not without justice in commendation of these refinements; but they ought not to be so praised as to make us forget the real and indestructible merits of the ancient music. It has already appeared that the music of the dark ages may without disadvantage compare with the music of any age or country as to its power over the passions. Nor has any lapse of time, or progress of improvement, been able to supersede the favour with which music of this ancient and simple character is regarded by the mass of almost every nation in Europe.

The reason of these facts is obvious. In the ancient music the sounds produced by the singer or the instrument were subordinate to the words; and every man, not infatuated with the passion for music, will admit that, however rapturous or impressive may be the accord of sounds, yet the language of music, taken separately from words, is loose, obscure and enigmatical, susceptible of various interpretations, and guiding us with no sufficient decision to any. When we hear a tune unaccompanied with words (unless that tune by past association is enabled to raise up in our minds the image or general purpose of certain words), or when we hear a tune in which the luxuriance and multiplicity of musical sounds obscures and tramples with disdain upon the majestic simplicity of words, our attention will almost universally be fixed less upon the passion which ought to be communicated, than upon the skill of the artist; we shall admire much, and feel comparatively little. In a tune in which the number and time of the musical sounds are regulated by the syllabic measure of the verse, there will be an awful or a fascinating simplicity, which is capable of powerfully moving the heart. Refined and scientifical music can delight no man, but from affectation, unless it be aided by previous habits or education. The taste for it is consequently an artificial taste; and when most perseveringly and successfully cultivated, yet its power over the mind will never rise to so great a degree of strength, as the pleasures of natural taste.

Previously to the eleventh century the only species of music which existed in Europe was that which has been technically denominated Plain Song; in other words, however great was the number of voices which joined in executing any piece of music, they all sung precisely the same note at the same instant of time. The first innovation upon this simplicity, already referred to, was the practice of singing in parts; that is, a second or third series of notes was performed during the execution of the principal part, which was designed to accompany and embellish the body or main thread of the tune. This had a necessary tendency to obscure the words, and perhaps to sacrifice in some degree the passion of the performance, to the design of affording a more rich and various pleasure to the hearer. The second innovation arose out of the invention of a method of notation for marking the time to be assigned to musical sounds. This notation, by rendering in its consequences the length of the notes entirely independent of the words and syllables of the song, produced a sort of divorce; between poetry and music; music being by this contrivance enabled at pleasure either to drown the words in the luxuriances of her fantastic variations, or to rest upon her private and intrinsic claims to favour, and reject the aid of words altogether. Guido Aretino's invention of his musical scale was neutral as to these revolutions ; except that by rendering the method of committing music to writing more full and exact, he facilitated the study of the art, and rendered it more easily susceptible either of fancied or real improvements.

But, though the method of singing in parts is to be traced back as far as the eleventh century, it made little progress for several centuries after. The songs of the minstrels still retained for the most part their ancient rudeness and simplicity; and, when we consider the length of some of the performances they chanted (poems even of twenty thousand lines, written at this time, bear internal evidence of being intended for music), it will not be supposed that the recital of them was accompanied with many of the graces of a modern tune. Nor did the innovations we have spoken of find in many instances a more cordial reception in the church, than from the companies of profaner practitioners. The ecclesiastics have always been, still more than any other incorporated body of men, the enemies of change; and the monastic writers of this period uniformly express themselves with horror against these daring refinements, which they regard as a sort of sacrilege, substituting for the solemnity of pious adoration, an unholy emulation in the tricks of the voice, or in the difficulties and escapes of instrumental executionl: instruments of Venerable Bede, who died in the year 735, though minute in his account of the psalmody of his times, is entirely silent on the subject of instrumental music ma clear proof that no such was then allowed in the church. The first organ which was seen in France was sent from Constantinople as a present to king Pepin, soon after the death of Bede ". This instrument, so peculiarly adapted to sacred music, gradually gained admission in religious worship. St. Dunstan in the tenth century appears to have been the constructor of one of the first organs which were admitted into the English church ?. The minstrels of the early ages resembled in their performances the simplicity of the church, and for a long time were contented with the single accompaniment of the harp. The number of instruments however gradually increased, and before the middle of the fourteenth century we have an account of a concert in France, in which no fewer than thirty musical instruments of different names were introduced.

This remark applies to his treatise De Musica Theorctica. A second treatise follows in the collection of his works, entitled De Musica Quudi uta, ten Mensurata, in which the organ, viol, atola, and other instruments are named. But this treatise speaks also of singing in parts, or descant; of measured song, and other subsequent improvements; and could not have been written till some centuries after the death of Bede.

Chaucer appears to have been himself a great lover of music. He never omits an occasion of celebrating its power; and the passages of his works which relate to this subject are peculiarly lively and animated. The concert of birds at the end of the Court of Love, and the Contention of the Cuckow and Nightingale, particularly de- serve to be referred to as examples of this; and the manner in which he describes the " noise and swetnesse" that awoke him from his sleep, in the Book of the Duchess may be cited as a proof that the practice of singing in part was by this time sufficiently common.

Me thoughten thus, that it was Maye,

And in the dawning there I lay

( Mermet thus) in my bed al naked,

And loked forthe, for I was waked

With smale foule"s a gret hepe,

That had8 afraied me out of slepe;

And everiche songe" in his wise

The moste swete and solempne servise

By note, that ever man I trowe

Had herde, for some of hem songe lowe,

Some highe, and al of one accorde.

We have now taken a survey of many of the circumstances, scenes and institutions of this period, which were particularly fitted to impress and modify the youthful mind of Chaucer. Many others will spontaneously present themselves in the course of the narrative, and unite with these already described, to furnish a picture of the manners, customs, deficiencies and improvements of the English nation in the fourteenth century.


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