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of Monmouth's landing. The opera was shortly after published. In 1687 Grabut published the music, with a dedication to James II. •
t Langbaine has preserved another jest upon our author's preference Of Grabut to the English musicians.
Grabut, his yokemate, ne'er shall be forgot, Whom th' god of tunes upon a muse begot;
Bayes on a double score 10 hint belongs, As well for writing, as for setting songs;For some have sworn the intrigue so odd is laid. That Bayes and he mistook each other's trade,
Grabut the lines, and he the music made.
If wit has truly been defined, "a propriety of thoughts and words,*" then that definition will extend to all sorts of poetry; and, among the rest, to this present entertainment of an opera. Propriety of thought is that fancy which arises naturally from the subject, or which the poet adapts to it; propriety of words is the clothing of those thoughts with such expressions as are naturally proper to them; and from both these, if they are judiciously performed, the delight of poetry results. An opera is a poetical tale, or fiction, represented by vocal and instrumental music, adorned with scenes, machines, and dancing. The supposed persons of this musical drama are generally supernatural, as gods, and goddesses, and heroes, which at least are descended from them, and are in due time to be adopted into their number. The subject, therefore, being extended beyond the limits of human nature, admits of that sort of marvellous and surprising conduct, which is rejected in other plays. Human
* This definition occurs in the preface to the " State of Innocence;" but although given by Dryden, and sanctioned by Pope, it has a very limited resemblance to that which is defined. Mr Addison has, however, mistaken Dryden, in supposing that he applied this definition exclusively to what we now properly call air. From the context it is plain, that he meant to include all poetical composition.—See Spectator, N°. 62. The word once comprehended human knowledge in general. We still talk of the wit of man, to signify all that man can devise."
impossibilities are to be received as they are in faith; because, where gods are introduced, a supreme power is to be understood, and second causes are out of doors; yet propriety is to be observed even here. The gods are all to manage their peculiar provinces; and what was attributed by the heathens to one power, ought not to be performed by any other. Phoebus must foretel, Mercury must charm with his caduceus, and Juno must reconcile the quarrels of the marriage-bed; to conclude, they must all act according to their distinct and peculiar characters. If the persons represented were to speak upon the stage, it would follow, of necessity, that the expressions should be lofty, figurative, and majestical: but the nature of an opera denies the frequent use of these poetical ornaments; for vocal music, though it often admits a loftiness of sound, yet always exacts an harmonious sweetness; or, to distinguish yet more justly, the recitative part of the opera requires a more masculine beauty of expression and sound. The other, which, for want of a proper English word, I must call the songish part, must abound in the softness and variety of numbers; its principal intention being to please the hearing, rather than to gratify the understanding. It appears, indeed, preposterous at first sight, that rhyme, on any consideration, should take place of reason; but, in order to resolve the problem, this fundamental proposition must be settled, that the first inventors of any art or science, provided they have brought it to perfection, are, in reason, to give laws to it; and, according to their model, all afterundertakers are to build. Thus, in epic poetry, no man ought to dispute the authority of Homer, who gave the first being to that masterpiece of art, and endued it with that form of perfection in all its parts, that nothing was wanting to its excellency. Virgil therefore, and those very few who have sueceeded him, endeavoured not to introduce, or innovate, any thing in a design already perfected, but imitated the plan of the inventor; and are only so far true heroic poets, as they have built on the foundations of Homer. Thus, Pindar, the author of those Odes, which are so admirably restored by Mr Cowley in our language, ought for ever to be the standard of them; and we are bound, according to the practice of Horace and Mr Cowley, to copy him. Now, to apply this axiom to our present purpose, whosoever undertakes the writing of an opera, which is a modern invention, though built indeed on the foundation of ethnic worship, is obliged to imitate the design of the Italians, who have not only invented, but brought to perfection, this sort of dramatic musical entertainment. I have not been able, by any search, to get any light, either of the time when it began, or of the first author; but I have probable reasons, which induce me to believe, that some Italians, having curiously observed the gallantries of the Spanish Moors at their zambras, or royal feasts, where music, songs, and dancing, were in perfection, together with their machines, which are usual at their sortijas, or running at the ring, and other solemnities, may possibly have refined upon those moresque divertisements, and produced this delightful entertainment, by leaving out the warlike part of the carousals, and forming a poetical design for the use of the machines, the songs, and dances. But however it began, (for this is only conjectural,) we know, that, for some centuries, the knowledge of music has flourished principally in Italy, the mother of learning and of arts *; that poetry and painting have been there restored,
* The first Italian opera is said to have been that of" Dafne," performed at Florence iu 1597.—See Burney's Uibtory of Music, Vol. iv. p. 17.
and so cultivated by Italian masters, that all Europe has been enriched out of their treasury; and the other parts of it, in relation to those delightful arts, are still as much provincial to Italy, as they were in the time of the Roman empire. Their first operas seem to have been intended for the celebration of the marriages of their princes, or for the magnificence of some general time of joy; accordingly, the expences of them were from the purse of the sovereign, or of the republic, as they are still practised at Venice, Rome, and at other places, at their carnivals. Savoy and Florence have often used them in their courts, at the weddings of their dukes; and at Turin particularly, was performed the "Pastor Fido," written by the famous Guarini, which is a pastoral opera made to solemnise the marriage of a Duke of Savoy. The prologue of it has given the design to all the French; which is a compliment to the sovereign power by some god or goddess; so that it looks no less than a kind of embassy from heaven to earth. I said in the beginning of this preface, that the persons represented in operas are generally gods, goddesses, and heroes descended from them, who are supposed to be their peculiar care; which hinders not. but that meaner persons may sometimes gracefully be introduced, especially if they have relation to those first times, which poets call the Golden Age; wherein, by reason of their innocence, those happy mortals were supposed to have had a more familiar intercourse with superior beings; and therefore shepherds might reasonably be admitted, as of all callings the most innocent, the most happy, and who, by reason of the spare time they had, in their almost idle employment, had most leisure to make verses, and to be in love; without somewhat of which passion, no opera can possibly subsist.
It is almost needless to speak any thing of that