The Illustrated London Reading Book eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 377 pages of information about The Illustrated London Reading Book.
of, was perfectly understood and practised by the ancients—­that the Muses of the Greeks always sung, and their song was the echo of the subject, which swelled their poetry into enthusiasm and rapture.  An inquiry into the nature and merits of the ancient music, and a comparison thereof with modern composition, by a person of poetic genius and an admirer of harmony, who is free from the shackles of practice, and the prejudices of the mode, aided by the countenance of a few men of rank, of elevated and true taste, would probably lay the present half-Gothic mode of music in ruins, like those towers of whose little laboured ornaments it is an exact picture, and restore the Grecian taste of passionate harmony once more to the delight and wonder of mankind.  But as from the disposition of things, and the force of fashion, we cannot hope in our time to rescue the sacred lyre, and see it put into the hands of men of genius, I can only recall you to your own natural feeling of harmony and observe to you, that its emotions are not found in the laboured, fantastic, and surprising compositions that form the modern style of music:  but you meet them in some few pieces that are the growth of wild unvitiated taste; you discover them in the swelling sounds that wrap us in imaginary grandeur; in those plaintive notes that make us in love with woe; in the tones that utter the lover’s sighs, and fluctuate the breast with gentle pain; in the noble strokes that coil up the courage and fury of the soul, or that lull it in confused visions of joy; in short, in those affecting strains that find their way to the inmost recesses of the heart,

    Untwisting all the chains that tie
    The hidden soul of harmony.—­Milton.


* * * * *


    Say ye—­oppress’d by some fantastic woes,
    Some jarring nerve that baffles your repose,
    Who press the downy couch while slaves advance
    With timid eye to read the distant glance;
    Who with sad pray’rs the weary doctor tease,
    To name the nameless, ever new disease;
    Who with mock patience dire complaint endure,
    Which real pain, and that alone, can cure: 
    How would ye bear in real pain to lie,
    Despised, neglected, left alone to die? 
    How would ye bear to draw your latest breath,
    Where all that’s wretched paves the way for death?

    Such is that room which one rude beam divides,
    And naked rafters form the sloping sides;
    Where the vile bands that bind the thatch are seen,
    And lath and mud are all that lie between,
    Save one dull pane that coarsely patch’d gives way
    To the rude tempest, yet excludes the day: 
    There, on a matted flock with dust o’erspread,
    The drooping wretch reclines his languid head! 
    For him no hand the cordial cup supplies,
    Nor wipes the tear which stagnates in his eyes;
    No friends, with soft discourse, his pangs beguile. 
    Nor promise hope till sickness wears a smile.

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The Illustrated London Reading Book from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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