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comprehend the most likely and probable things in the world; so that when any one says " Impossible,” I immediately infer that the thing is as good as done. “Now, my good friend, I hope you will not betray the confidence that I have placed in you, but that you will preserve the secret inviolably.” “Sir,” says he, “it is absolutely impossible that I should betray you !" Oh, is it? Then the matter is as good as advertised: all the world will know it to-morrow.
Impossible is a very pretty word to poke into the first sentence of an essay, or of a school-boy's theme. Exempli gratiâ: “ It is impossible to conceive of anything more absurd than Than what? Ay, there's the rub. I will defy any one to guess; for the commencement of the sentence will equally well fit five hundred terminations. Edipus himself would be puzzled to guess what that thing is, than which it is impossible to conceive anything more absurd. There are more absurdities 'twixt heaven and earth, than are dreamt of in our philosophy. In these march-of-intellect days, it might be a good speculation for any one to set himself up as a professor of impossibilities. By the way, now we are talking of impossibilities, I remember reading, not more than ten years ago, if so much, a very profound and philosophical paper in some political or literary journal, demonstrating--ay, demonstrating, and that by the help of sundry knowing-looking diagrams-that it was absolutely impossible to apply the power of steam to the purpose of propelling wheeled carriages. My memory fails me as to the name of the paper and the number of years, but I am sure of the fact. I read the paper with great attention, and I was convinced that the writer was right, and that nobody could be righter. You see, gentle reader, he demonstrated his position; he put it beyond all doubt. Now you know that when a thing is once demonstrated, it is settled and established. Euclid demonstrated that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles; and also, that in any right-angled triangle the square of the hypothenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. In like manner did this ingenious gentleman demonstrate, that it was absolutely impossible that there ever could be such things in nature as steam-coaches. He proved it—he convinced me beyond all gainsaying. I hope he does not retract his proofs; in fact, I don't see how he can.
You may retract an assertion that belongs to yourself, and it depends on yourself; but a demonstration is quite another thing-it is as firm as a rock, and immovable as the hills. I am sure that if Euclid himself were to rise from the dead and go to Cambridge, and tell any undergraduate that he had changed his mind about the three angles of a triangle being equal to two right angles, the undergraduate would tell him that he was a goose, and that he did not know what he was talking about. In fact, it is settled beyond all doubt that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. In like manner it is settled, beyond all doubt, that the power of steam cannot possibly be applied to the impelling of wheel carriages. The fact that steamcarriages are made and do move, may seem to militate against the impossibility of the fact in some slight degree ; but in truth, all that the fact proves is, not that it is not impossible, but that I am correct in saying that the thing that is impossible can be, and very often comes to pass. If reasonings were to be set aside by facts, philosophy would not be worth a straw, and nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine wiseacres out of a
thousand might pass for greenhorns and spoonies. Thus, in the matter of impossibilities, it may be stated that certain steam-engines may be constructed on such principles that it is utterly impossible that they should explode; yet sometimes these engines take the liberty of being unruly, and, in spite of the impossibility of the thing, will blow up; but then those who suffer from the explosion have the satisfaction of knowing, if they are capable of knowing anything at all, that they ought not to have been blown up, by rights.
In the vast compass of morals and physics we are perpetually encountering impossibilities which can be, and often come to pass. is impossible,” says one, “ to forget the kindness that you have shown me.” “ It is impossible,” says another, " that I should ever change my opinion on this topic." "It is impossible,” says a third,“ that I should ever be guilty of such an enormity.” “It is impossible,” says a fourth, " that there should be effects without causes, or causes without effects.” And yet we are continually finding that all these impossibilities are coming to pass. In the matter of the system of the universe there have been at divers times three different demonstrations : it has been demonstrated that the motion of the planets and the balance of forces are so perfect as to promise the perpetuity of the system. Again, it has been demonstrated that the planets of our system are all rapidly and gradually approaching the centre, and that some of these fine days all the whole set will be congregated together in one knot like a dab of frogs' spawn in a ditch. And, again, it has been demonstrated that the planets are gradually receding farther and farther from the sun, and that, in the course of a few years, we shall all fly off from the centre-whizz, -- like the drops of water from a trundled mop. It is a difficult question to answer, “ Who shall decide, when doctors disagree?” It is still more difficult to answer, “ Who shall decide, when demonstrations disagree?” Any one tolerably well skilled in the history of the human race might write a pretty book, having for its title “ The history of impossibilities.” Suddenly some one stops us short, and asks if we are going to prove that nothing is impossible. Certainly not; quite the reverse : we are proving, or rather have proved, that everything is impossible; only we wish it to be understood, that people labour under a slight misapprehension when they say, “ That the thing which is impossible can't be.” The long and short of the matter is, that impossible is a metaphysical word,--and metaphysics are totally out of fashion, and that physics are all the rage : so that when persons affirm that the thing which is impossible can't be, they make up a kind of mingled proposition compounded' of physics and metaphysics, and so they are quite out at sea, or rather they walk with one foot on land and one on sea. The best way to settle the matter is to allow that everything is impossible, only not to be too confident that we know the meaning of the word impossible. In this little paper we have shown that impossibility is no obstacle to anything being done,-that what one person proves and demonstrates to be impossible, another does. Steam-carriages move on land, though it has been demonstrated that they cannot; and
Julie Maria Fitzhigginbotham has ceased to love her ever-adorable Reginald Clutterbuck, notwithstanding its utter impossibility. Surely, we may safely, then conclude that nothing is—which is impossible, and everything which is impossible—is not.
ENGLISH COMPOSERS-ENGLISH OPERA.
" Music and sweet poetry agree, As they must needs, the sister and the brother."- Shakspeare. “ Comme partie essentielle de la Scene Lyrique, dont l'objet principal est l'imitation, la Musique devient un des beaux arts, capable de peindre tous les tableaux, d'exciter tous les sentimens, de lutter avec la Poësie, de lui donner une force nou. velle, de l'embellir de noveaux charmes et d'en triompher en la couronnant."
GENTIE, generous, omni-sensient Shakspeare felt, as did the “selftorturing sophist,” all that, in his time, could be felt of the loveliness of music, and he paid it the tribute of many a melodious verse. Poetry, to surpass
own, it has not, since he sung, been given us to hear, but in his day, “ music, heavenly maid ! was young;” and even he could not have anticipated the glories of her maturity. Had he known the eloquence of passion with which Italy has since taught her to discourse, or the majestic and mighty harmonies to which Germany has tuned her many tongues, he would have known her as more than sweet-he would have praised her with a grander line. He would have done amplest homage to her potent sceptre. How different with his successors of the present day! How poorly do they appear, in comparison with him, to appreciate the sister of their muse! All literature in England owes a heavy debt to music. All literature in England has incurred a deep and damning responsibility for indifference towards its merits and its interests. In proportion as, under happier auspices, it seemed to develope its vast and various power, has it, to all appearance, been neglected by those who should have been the first to cherish its progressive efforts and exult in its success. We have a republic of letters, and heaven knows it is the most ungenerous of republics. By no other in Europe have the fine arts been so coldly repulsed. It seems to partake largely of that vice, so plausibly imputed to our Saxon natures, of aristocratizing, and stands jealously and proudly apart from the kindred classes of the intellectual. Thus, in our social system, while feudal marshalling falls into disuse, we create, with a perverse ingenuity, new forms of social graduation, and each and all wrap ourselves up in distinctive arrogances. Rome was scarcely more insolent than this same republic of letters of ours. Every region of thought beyond its boundaries is little better than barbarian. It will patronize, peradventure, or it wilt oppress; but fraternization, the extension of its citizenship, it holds superlatively dear. Yes, to this, which is rarely or never alluded to, amongst other causes commonly harped upon, must we trace our almost uniform inferiority to foreigners in all the fine arts, but especially in music. Our masters of these divine mysteries, if they have been occasionally praised or petted, have had such amenities condescended to them, rather as amusing minions, with whom it was the mode to trifle away an idle hour, than as men partaking in the same attributes of soul which make the poet and the philosopher. Neither musical composer, nor painter, nor sculptor, have, we do avouch, been duly or to the full, justly or generously, recognized amongst us, in the intrinsic honour of their vocations; and from
king to clown all have been more inclined to do them right than our self-sufficient clerk. Had the latter been intrusted with arranging the classic coterie of Parnassus, no nine would court Apollo in sisterly equality; one-third of the number would surely be degraded into maids of all work to the rest. Contrast the view which the Greeks took of this matter, with that of our illuminati. The greatest philosophers amongst them, their Aristotles, their Platos, deemed music worthy of their gravest attention, of their warmest eulogium; while amongst the numberless tomes of onr authors of mark how rarely do we encounter either an intelligent or a zealous passage on the subject. Even Edmund Burke could scarcely find a brief and unmeaning chapter for music in his “ Sublime and Beautiful.” A few illustrious exceptions there have been to this bad rule ; but they who, in other courses, were leaders, in this were deserted by the stubborn herd. Shakspeare has wreathed music with the sweetest flowers of his fancy. Nor has Marlowe forgotten it in his mighty line when he makes even the reminiscence of music beguile his Faustus from the despair of deep damnation :
“ Have I not made blind Homer sing to me
Of Alexander's love and (Enon's death?
I am resolved, Faustus shall not repent ! Spenser wrote not his exquisite "Eftsoons, they heard a most delicious sound,” without a deep sense of the nature and beauty of vocal harmony. Milton was himself a musician; his works alone would prove his zeal for the art, even though we did not know how he loved to refresh his mind and win new dreams of immortal poetry from the organ. How appropriate to him the epic instrument ! “ The poet blind, yet bold,” waking and ruling all its wondrous harmonies, from its gentlest breathings, as of recorders, to the might of its diapason, was a picture worthy the antique. In conception, however, of the powers of music, and in its enthusiastic praise, Glorious John surpassed all others. He made himself its laureate, and gave to the English language the immortal ode on St. Cecilia's Day. Why had he not a British Beethoven to echo them back with an equally fine phrenzy? The Timothean German could well have exemplified the "harmony,” the “ heavenly harmony," and with his fitful, potent hand, have proved
“ What passion cannot music raise and quell.” When we come to our own times, we find coldness on the part of our poets, almost in the ratio of the improvement which music has undergone in the last century. It passes away without comment. Moore and Leigh Hunt are both honourable exceptions to the wretched rule. The latter has proved himself to have all the requisites—the knowledge, the gusto, of a fine critic on the art, and that is the most substantial compliment he could pay it. Moore is himself a musician, and, as we have heard, avows that his ruling passion was rather for the lyre than the song. Indeed he candidly says or sings as much, in language too fervid not to be sincere :
“ Music, oh how faint, how weak;
He has, no doubt, found both most amicable rivals, and can address them in his own Anacreontic lines :
“ And thou the flame shalt feel, as well
As thou the flame shalt sweetly tell.”—First Ode. But even in the best tributes which have been paid by these illustrious minds to music, it is to be remarked with deep regret, that the eulogium never goes beyond the thing itself-- never is it conducted up to the individual from whom the exquisite or sublime emanation has proceeded. The composer is never once alluded to- he is not considered identified with his music as the poet with his verse ; nor is more merit seemingly attributed to the hapless wight than might be to the girl in the fairy tale, who, as she spoke, uttered unwittingly priceless pearls and precious stones. Herein it is that a most ungenerous and unnatural absence of spontaneous sympathy between intellect and intellect is betrayed, -the result being, that the poor composer neither finds himself elevated in society by his efforts, nor encouraged by any ennobling emulation to strain forward in his career.
If these remarks are at all less applicable now a-days than they have been, it must be admitted that they still hold good to unfortunately too great an extent, where our native musicians are concerned. We should be blind indeed to all that is going on around, if we did not observe that a change greatly for the better has, for some time, been taking place in the public mind on the subject of our complaint. We do not wish to underrate the number of those who, in our city populations, are able and willing to appreciate the music composer's merits. It is considerable—it has increased, and is increasing; but we do assert that our literary men are far from contributing proportionably to that number, while the great mass of even the well-educated portion of the community, unenlightened and unstimulated by these guides, philosophers, and friends, look upon the whole body of composers as shallow amusement-mongers, who have a happy knack, and but little more, of making music to them after a very pleasant sort of fashion. Neither one nor the other dream, or would readily admit, we ween, that if John Milton have had a rival intellect, that rival belongs to the realms of music, and is no other than George Frederick Handel ;—that the ideas in each mind were equally various in sublimity and beauty, and expressed by each with equal force, grandeur, and felicitous elegance; that their language alone was different, while there was as much, not only of inventive genius, but of cultivated and refined thought in the musician as in the poet. Nay, we should be justified in going farther, and maintaining that, as regarded sublimity, the choruses of Handel surpass the greatest conception of the Paradise Lost. They have assuredly never been rivalled in their own art. Their mighty volume of harmony, “ vast heaving,” is not like the result of human ingenuity; in its simplicity, majesty, and mighty movement, it rises immeasurably above the happiest results of the elaborate composition of others. It is superhuman—an element swaying through infinite space; or, as the music of the new-born planets rolling forth on their first journey in creation.
We say, then, that such works proceeded from similar and equivalent mental attributes in the musician as in the poet—from as educated and reflective a mind. And so it is in every style of successful musical