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Power Of Music

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



ORPHEUS was so skillful with his lyre as to move the trees and rocks, and charm the wild beasts of the forest that gathered about him to hear his melody. An incident is related by Mr. Hope, illustrating the power of song over irrational creatures : We were invited to take tea in the orchard. This occasion was memorable to me, chiefly for the evidence which it furnished of the wonderful faculty and power of a young girl, Penelope, to impress all who came within her reach. The place where we were invited to sit down and partake of the gratifications of the table was a beautiful knoll, rising some eighteen or twenty feet above the surrounding land. It was covered with most beautiful green grass, shaved close by the scythe, and was, as I have said, sheltered by the overhanging branches of thrifty old apple-trees. At its foot was a running spring coming out of the earth and gurgling away through the meadow to the creek, which, in its turn, emptied into a lake at the western side of the village.

" This grass knoll was in the centre of a lot of a few acres which Mr. P. owned, and wherein on this present occasion were feeding his horse, which had been taken out of the stable; a cow which Gerrit had lately purchased; and the turkeys and chickens, among which were a beautiful pair of game-fowls, the male of which was a proud fellow clad in red feathers with a black breast and yellow legs, and who walked about as if he were ` monarch of all he surveyed.' In every branch of every tree overhanging us there seemed to be birds ; and when we had seated ourselves at the table, and Mr. F. had asked a blessing, and our repast had begun, the music of these birds was, beyond all expression, enchanting. The horse, which, when we first walked up the knoll was at the farthest end of the lot, came nearer, as if musing on the scene before him, till he stood within a rod of us; the cow wandered up to the edge of our little circle; the turkeys and chickens were all around us, with their cluck and gobble. And Penelope, the presiding genius of the repast, served us with inimitable grace, and appeared on this occasion to be as apt in the performance of the duties appropriate to the hour, as she had in the morning shown herself able to perform her duties at the aviary.

" At the conclusion of our supper, Penelope arose, and, walking away from us some twenty or thirty feet sat down on the grass and began to sing us ` a wee bit of a song' such as she had sung in the morning, when the birds came down and alighted upon her. It seemed to have the most magical effect upon everything about us that had life ; first upon the birds, then upon the horse, then upon the chickens, then upon the cow, then upon the turkeys, and lastly upon ourselves.

" She was surrounded by a living mass of life; the birds lighted upon her and sung ; the horse neighed ; the rooster crowed ; the cow lowed ; the turkey gobbled ; and we, first in amazement, then in delight, caught the spirit of her song, and laughed, and sat down on the ground, and for the once made our-selves the ` little children ' who are playing under the shade of some pine-tree, whose long, old branches hang down over the edges of some pebbly brook. I never can forget that day ; and though I am now an old man, and this girl has grown up, and is now one of the foremost women of the country in all that gives grace and glory and greatness to human character, she has in no relation of life ever impressed herself upon me in any direction, as she did in the manifestation of her wonderful power over those animal organizations made by divine ordainment subject to man."

The eye leads more directly to the intellect, the ear is the broad avenue to the heart of man. What strange magnetism there is in music ! What witchery there is in the sound of a human voice ! What sorrows have been soothed, what hopes inspired, what sacrifices for home and country have been endured, what sublime acts of heroism have been performed under the inspiration of music! Since the world began music has drawn human spirits to the heart of God. In the old and new dispensations, music and song have always been important parts of divine worship. Some of the musical masterpieces of the children of God, have charmed vast audiences, and almost great empires. Starr King has said : " Music is the universal language of the innermost spiritual nature. It can be understood in its signs and its voice, by races and by grades of spirits that cannot understand each other's speech- and that are alienated in all other ways. Yes, and all that we cultivate of its highest spirit in its great religious expressions here will go with us as preparation for eternity. We shall not talk German probably in the future world ; but I do not know why the Andante of the Fifth Symphony of Beethoven may not be played in heaven. The angelic masters must be inspired beyond our present capacity of appreciation if they can produce anything that will make that seem meagre. We shall slough off, probably, our English vocabulary and tongue in the grave; but even in the final gathering of the redeemed out of every nation, tongue and clime, one strophe of the consummate Anthem to the Lamb, and through Him to the infinite who shall put all things under his feet, may be the Hallelujah Chorus of the " Messiah," contributed from this earth to form part of the everlasting language of the skies."



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