( Originally Published 1879 )
"When griping grief the heart doth wound,
O THE rapturous charm of music! What power it has to soften, melt, enchain in its spirit-chords of subduing harmony ! Truly there is power in music; an almost omnipotent power. It will tyrannize over the soul. It will force it to bow down and worship, it will wring adoration from it, and compel the heart to yield its treasures of love. Every emotion, from the most reverent devotion to the wildest gushes of frolicsome joy, it holds subject to its imperative will. It calls the religious devotee to worship, the patriot to his country's altar, the philanthropist to his generous work, the free-man to the temple of liberty, the friend to the altar of friendship, the lover to the side of his beloved. It elevates, empowers, and strengthens them all. The human soul is a mighty harp, and all its strings vibrate to the gush of music.
Who does not know the softening power of music, especially the music of the human voice? It is like the angel-whisperings of kind words in the hour of trouble. Who can be angry when the voice of love speaks in song? Who hears the harsh voice of selfishness, and brutalizing passion, when music gathers up her pearly love-notes to salute the ear with a stray song of paradise? Sing to the wicked man, sing to the disconsolate, sing to the sufferer, sing to the old, and sing to the children, for music will inspire them all.
The human voice is the most perfect musical instrument ever made; and well it might be, for it had the most skillful Maker. The voice should be cultivated to sing the tones of love to man and God. Around the fireside, in the social circle, it should sing the voice of love, and at the altar of God it should pour forth melodious praise.
How sweet does it make the worship of God to have the reverent emotions poured out in song ! How early should children be taught to sing; for what is sweeter than the songs of innocent childhood, so refining, so refreshing, so suggestive of heaven? Music sweetens the cup of bitterness, softens the hand of want, lightens the burden of life, makes the heart courageous, and the soul cheerfully devout. Into the soul of childhood and youth it pours a tide of redeeming influence. Its first and direct effect is to mentalize the musical performer; not to give him knowledge, nor more wisdom in the practical, business affairs of life, but to stir his mental being to activity, to awaken strong emotions, to move among the powers within as a common electrifier, touching here with tenderness, there with energy, now with holy aspiration, and anon with the inspiring thrill of beauty. It breathes like a miracle of inspiration through the soul, to elevate, refine, and spiritualize. No lethargy can exist in the soul that is pouring forth a tide of music numbers. Its very recesses are all: astir. Everything within becomes active; the perceptions acute, the affections warm, the moral sensibilities quick and sensitive. When we think how much the world wants awakening, we can think of no power better calculated to do it than that which dwells in the mysterious melodies of music. Let every body become musicians, and surely they would become living souls.
Besides music being powerful, universal, the voice of love, and the type of the infinite, it is venerable for its age. As it is the voice of God's love, we know not but it is co-existent with His being. It is reasonable to suppose that its swelling: numbers have rolled and made heaven vocal with its strains of praise since creation dawned. But the first account of it on record was at the laying of the foundations of the earth, when the "morning stars," delighted with the promise of a new planet, "sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy." As soon as the earth was made, its rocky spires thrown up, its forest harps strung, its ocean organs tuned, it raised its everlasting anthem to swell the chorus of the skies.
Every song soothes and uplifts. It is just possible that at times a song is as good as a prayer. Indeed, a song of the pure kind recognized- in Scripture, is akin to a petition, which it is also in the spirit of thanks-giving. The "sweet singer of Israel" wedded his sincerest prayers to melody and wafted them upward on the night air from his throbbing heart. In the soul that has been touched and made tender by the fingers of pain, music finds a place where it may murmur its sweetest chords.
Music is healthful. There is no better cure for bad humors, and no medicine more pleasant to take. We cannot join those who lament that the piano is heard where once the monotone of the spinning-wheel, and the click of the shuttle, were the only instrumental performances. It is a matter of rejoicing rather that muscles of iron and fingers of steel, driven by the tire-less elements, now perform the laborious work of cloth manufacture and give leisure to cultivate refined tastes in the household. Music is to the ear and to the intellect what strawberries, peaches, and other luscious fruits, are to the taste. Who regrets that the forests have been . cleared, the walls and fences built, the grain crops made sufficiently easy of cultivation, to allow the addition of the fruit yard and garden for the enjoyment of the cultivator? One of the greatest attractions for old and young, when visiting our cities, is the music that may be heard here. Why should the farmer's household not be as cheerful, as full of pleasure as that of the merchant or the professional 'man? We know of nothing more genial and heart-warming than to hear the whole family joining in a hymn or song. They will love each other and their home better for it. Songs learned in childhood are like birds nestling in the bosom; their notes will be' heard and loved in after years. The hymn sung by a mother to her little boy may in after days be a voice that will recall him from ruin.
No family can afford to do without music. It is a luxury and. an economy; an alleviator of sorrow, and a spring of enjoyment; a protection against vice and an incitement to virtue. When rightly used, its effects, physical, intellectual and moral, are. good, very good, and only good. Make home attractive; music affords a means of doing this. Contribute kindly feeling, love. Music will help in this work. Keep out angry feeling. "Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast." Show us the family where good music is cultivated, where the parents and children are accustomed- often to mingle their voices together in song, and we will show you one 'where peace, harmony and love prevail, and where the great vices have no abiding place.
One morning the sweet voice of a woman was heard singing a ballad in one of the tenement house districts of the Garden City. The effect of it was almost magical. Not only did children swarm out of their dingy homes and surround the singer, but the stoops were crowded by adults, and old heads leaned out of windows for several blocks on either side. Faces brightened everywhere. The blacksmith ceased his din and stood with arms akimbo on the sidewalk. The poor, sick widow in a near tenement listened and forgot her sorrow and pain; the broad-faced wife whose stolid countenance, hardened by want and contact with vice, paused from her employment, and as she listened some-thing touched her heart, her better nature was stirred, and beating time to the simple melody, wished she had a penny to give the songster.
The hod-carriers halted; the well-dressed pedestrian, on whose face, when he saw the crowd gathering, there was at first a look of disdain, as if he would say, "No hand-organ music for me, if you please," at last stood still and blushed, as the beauty of the song stirred his inmost heart. And when the music ceased, the listen ers turned again to their employments, as if refreshed in spirits and quickened to contented thoughts of the work-a-day world.
Music means not merely tunes adapted to particular emotions—a set of notes, a warbling voice, a strain of "melting sweetness "— O ! no: music can be acted as well as sung. The heart may make music when the lips are dumb. A simple word may be full of music, and stir the pulses to new and better emotions, the soul to higher joys! The harmony of a well ordered life is most graceful music; the tender cares and caresses of a wife; her fond solicitude to make home all it should be; the kindred gentleness and affection of the husband; the quiet and ready obedience of the children—all these, do they not make a household of music, that in the land beyond shall be chanted by choirs of angels, when at last such families meet, unbroken bands, in heaven?
If only sound were music, how many thousands would be denied that delightful solace ! Some there are who cannot sing-and yet whose natures are finest harps, from which an unheard melody (unheard by mortal ears) is continually ascending. Some there are who cannot even speak, nor hear, and yet their sympathies, their nice comprehensions, are beautiful with the subtle instinct of melody. O ! tell us where music is not ! Now we hear it in the pensive sound of the autumnal winds-we see it in the sparkling flow of the bright river; we hear it, as it were, in the morning stars; and just now a sweet voice uttered words of music. It is in, all the elements; the flame hath a cheerful hum of its own, and the crackling sparks beat time. The water ripples with music; the air is always whispering melody, and the bountiful earth ceases never its songs of praise. The trickling rain-drops sing as they fall; the crowded leaves answer to the pipes of the birds; the sun sets the day to singing, and the Almighty hath made man to sing songs of praise to him, throughout all eternity.
But the world needs music—the touching domestic song that tells in few words the loves, the trials, or the blisses of life—the more sacred music that leads the soul to communion with God—it needs music—its poor cry aloud for music; they are tired of the inharmonious din of toil, and a few sweet notes bring with them hours of pleasure to the weary and world-forsaken.