Изображения страниц

easy, which, after all, is the only way of arriving at grandeur in art. After a long fugue on the words, Et vitam venturi sæculi, the Credo ends with a slow and most beautiful coda, evidently intended to express the rest and peace of heaven. In it each solo voice, one after the other, rises gradually to its extreme height, and falls back in dropping notes, but only to rise again to the heights whence it had descended; while all the while the harmony of the chorus flows on peacefully beneath. We doubt not that Beethoven was thinking of the blessed spirits soaring up to enjoy the beatific vision, and then descending with messages of peace ; or perhaps he had read that beautiful passage of Dante which his music at once brought to our mind :

“ Then saw I light, in likeness as a river,

Gleaming with flashing stars, between two banks
Enamelled wondrously with hues of spring;
And from this stream there issued living sparks,
Which settled on each side, within the flowers,
Like rubies set in filagree of gold ;
Till, with their fragrancy inebriate,
Back would they plunge beneath that wondrous flood;

Whence, as one entered, still another rose." Even this lovely passage is carped at by Mr. Chorley, who asks why the composer has held back the climax by the passages of display for the solo voices in grave tempo ? Among the instances of Beethoven's study in setting the words of the Credo, we almost forgot to notice, that while he paints the words “ Ascendit in cælos,” he simply announces Et resurrexit." He may have considered that, as the resurrection was a mystery that no creature was allowed to witness, it was only to be declared, not described ; and therefore he reserved the musical description for the ascension.

As in the commencement of the Gloria and Credo Beethoven was anxious to preserve the character of the preceding intonation, he has kept to the same purpose in the beginning of the Sanctus, which quite preserves the character. of the preface which introduces it, as may be seen by the two following passages; the first of which is the conclusion of the preface, as chanted by the priest, the second the opening of the Sanctus :

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

in which the same charming vagueness of melody is most cleverly carried out. This movement soon gives place to a spirited piece of writing for the Pleni sunt cæli, and then succeeds a short fugue Hosanna. After the priest is supposed to have come to the most solemn part of the Mass, and while he prepares to utter the words of consecration, the orchestra plays the wonderful Præludium, in which the change of the character of the music from the thoughtful to the passionate is first indicated. While the priest is pronouncing the sacred words, Beethoven artlessly expresses the descent of God from heaven by a descending passage for a kind of trinity of instruments (a violin and two flutes), which is ridiculous to describe but charming to hear; and then the voices of the chorus solemnly chant forth the words Benedictus qui venit, &c. to a simple melody common in ecclesiastical chant. Then the instrumental symphony is resumed while the chalice is consecrated, after which succeeds a long but passionate and ravishing Benedictus, which, in a concert-room, would hardly fail of being re-demanded. This character of passionate devotion is continued throughout the Agnus Dei, the singular melody of which may be found nearly note for note in some of the ancient Gregorian music, though it is strangely transformed by the magical touch of the great master. Then follows the Dona nobis, the peaceful and almost pastoral character of which movement is twice broken in upon by the sounds of war, at first distant, afterwards close and threatening, and mingled with sounds of civil discord, expressed by a fugue in which the wind and the stringed instruments have different subjects; then again dying away, till at last the sound of the drum ceases, the struggle is over, and peace is won. Nothing can be more dramatic than this movement, and yet nothing can be further from any secular associations: of course the sound of war is the sound of war-nothing can make it otherwise; but the manner in which the prayer for peace steals over the chaos, and at last extinguishes it, removes this portion of the Mass from all undue secularity. The end is said to be abrupt; but after it there are collects to be chanted, and various ceremonies to be performed, so that the musical close does not represent the end of the function; this should always be borne in mind in judging of its effect.

The few particulars which we have thrown together will show that Beethoven, like the great masters of painting whom Vasari writes about, did not study the metaphysical profundities of theories on the sanctity of colour and tone, but devoted himself to the invention of the most simple and artless symbols, to shadow forth, not his own ideas, but the ideas of the text he had undertaken to illustrate by music. No amount of such study would dispense with the necessity of the innate genius; but when one of the masters of the art undertakes a religious work in such a spirit of patient obedience as is here shown, the result cannot but be a masterpiece, such as Beethoven's Missa Solennis.

We have made these brief remarks, to remove, as far as we can, an impression that this Mass, though wonderful as a piece of music, is useless for the church choir. It is useless for any such choir as we have in England; but it is not useless for some of the great cathedrals of Catholic countries, on such occasions as the coronation of an emperor or the installation of a bishop, when expense is not spared, and the highest expression of musical art is demanded. For, to our minds, it is the grandest and most satisfactory piece of sacred music, and the best adapted for its purpose, that has ever been written,

Short Notices.

THEOLOGY, PHILOSOPHY, &c. The Mind and its Creations; an Essay on Mental Philosophy, by A. J. X. Hart (New York, Appleton). Our author introduces himself as the inventor of a new theory of philosophy, the principle of which is, that the mind creates its own ideas. He rejects the notion that our ideas are furnished by God, becau it repugnant to suppose” that such innumerable phases of thought in the myriads of thinking beings “could possibly be the work of one single, ever-toiling idea-creator: we cannot venture therefore to ascribe their creation to one being, even an immortal and almighty one.” Therefore, the mind itself creates all its ideas. “Sensations are created by the mind, on occasion of the magnetic fluid radiating from some external object and communicating an impulse to the sense, or from some exterior object impinging on the organs of the body, so as to excite the nerves communicating that fluid to the mind , Emotions, on the other hand, are created by the spirit, on occasion of its own ideas, ever present to the mental eye,” So with ideas properly so called : “ The mind,” he says with Byron,

4. Is its own origin of ill, and end,

And its own place and time.” And to confirm this, he adduces the fact that ideas significant of the attributes of the human spirit are to be found in all men, identical in all, and can be referred to no other source than the mind.

It will be evident to our readers, that this writer labours under too great a confusion of mind ever to be a true philosopher. To give an additional specimen of this deficiency,--though he assures us that he renounces every opinion that may clash with the decision of the Church (p. iv.), yet in a very few pages we find him “humbly protesting against the doctrine of that authority which would dictate our opinions about the existence of facts, their natural interpretation, or the laws of matter and spirit; for no mere human authority can change those laws, or reverse the decrees of the Creator." He protests also against the poșition which Dr. Brownson is so triumphantly maintaining, namely, the supremacy of the Pope in the temporal as well as the spiritual order. We are afraid that the Church would make short work of many of his propositions. On the whole, we cannot congratulate the author on the execution of this work. In spite, however, of our disapproval of his theories, we sincerely congratulate him on the line of study which he has taken up, and do not despair of seeing something much better from his pen when his ideas have been corrected and his method matured.

Commentaries on Universal Public Law, by G. Bowyer, M.P. (London, Stevens and Norton; Ridgway). Mr. Bowyer has obtained considerable credit by his former legal works,” Commentaries on the Constitutional Law of England, ,,? 6 On the Modern Civil Law,” and by his “Reading, before the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple," which were, we believe, assiduously attended by some of our greatest legal authorities. The present book is a review of universal public law, that is, the law which has for its object the state, not the individual ; the law which directs the aggregation of society, and which is prior to private law, seeing that private law is a mere abstract idea, having no reality of life until after the establishment of a judicial power within the state. He takes a Catholic view of the relationship between public ecclesiastical law and public civil law. The book is a valuable one, charaeterised by great research.

We are rather amused at the preface; the gist of which is, that all the late revolutionary movements of Europe having been occasioned by a disregard of law, the great means of opposing the anarchical spirit is the encouragement of legal studies. Truly there is nothing like leather. The work is intended, not for lawyers only, but for the general public;---very general indeed, if it is meant to be read by all those to whom it is dedicated, “ The Clergy and People of Dundalk.”

Julian, or the Close of an Era, by L. F. Bungener. (2 vols. London, Hall, Virtue, and Co.) A work by the author of "The Priest and the Huguenot,” intended to show the progress of a mind, during the first French Revolution, from the philosophy of Rousseau through Biblereading to Evangelical pietism. The main outline of the story is quite as false as that of any common English Protestant novel; for if any thing is notorious, it is that Protestantism sided with infidelity in France to persecute the Church during the first revolution. We must, however, do the writer the justice to say that he has filled in his details with some regard to truth (of course making choice only of such as suit his own purpose), and that he has produced a book which may be read even with some degree of pleasure by a Catholic; though on the whole the author is far too didactic to make a good manufacturer of stories. He has read up the journals and brochures of the day with praiseworthy attention, and thus a good many amusing but superficial pictures of the society of 1790-99 are given us.



[ocr errors]

The History of the French Protestant Refugees, from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to the present time, by Charles Weiss (Blackwood), is a book containing a large amount of information; to which we only refer thus briefly, as we shall return to it at some length on a future occasion,

A Catholic History of England, by William Bernard M‘Cabe, Vol. III. (London, Newby). Mr. M'Cabe has just completed the third volume of his very laborious and praiseworthy undertaking ; an attempt to set before us the history of our country as it was really written by the most ancient and trustworthy of our annalists, "the monkish historians." The present volume, of nearly 900 octavo pages, embraces a period of scarcely a hundred years, from the commencement of the reign of St. Edward the Martyr, to the death of the last Harold, i.e., from 975 to 1066 ; and when we mention that the first volume of the People's edition of Dr. Lingard's work contains the history of some thirty or forty years more than all Mr. M‘Cabe's volumes put together, it will be obvious that this latter gentleman has spent no small labour on his undertaking, and brought together a most abundant supply of materials. Indeed, the plan which he has adopted necessarily renders his work not so much a history as a collection of materials for å history; and one inconvenient consequence of this arrangement is, that the narrative is often embarrassed by contradictory statements; the one-sided views of various writers being

recorded in their own unaltered language, without any attempt to combine and harmonise them into some consistent whole, which would probably represent the views of neither party. At the same tiine, much may be said for preferring this plan, under the circumstances of the day, to one that would have led to a more ambitious result. Catholic literature, especially that which relates to the history of this country, is necessarily to a great degree apolo. getic. Enemies wrote our history, when our hands were tied behind our backs, and we were unable to dispute their assertions. The cords are now loosened; but it may fairly be doubted, whether the best answer to the Protestant picture of the man killing the lion must be another in which the lion is represented as killing the man. Something suggestive of the probability that the last is the more correct representation of the two, may tend more to dissipate the unhappy prejudices of our fellow-countrymen than a more direct attack on their injustice, Mr. M'Cabe's plan is just one which suggests this. It implies that the question between Catholics and Protestants is one of facts, and it challenges our opponents to their examination. In this point of view, it is calculated to be entinently useful. Catholics also will derive from a perusal of these volumes much interesting information that will probably be new to them.

MISCELLANEOUS LITERATURE. Brazil, the River Plate and the Falkland Islands, by W. Hadfield (London, Longmans). The author was secretary to the South American Steam-Navigation Society, and went out with its first ship on a commercial mission. On his return he cooked up his own observations with extracts from all imaginable writers on the countries he had visited, and has thus emphatically made a book, illustrated with woodcuts of no great value, and a map of none at all. We do not at all mean to say that the book does not contain a good deal of information, some highly

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »