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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Handel and Music             119

From a dramatic point of view Handel's treatment of
these words must be condemned for reasons in respect of
which Handel was very rarely at fault. It puzzles the listener
who expects the words to be treated from the point of view
of the vanquished slaves and not from that of the tyrants.
There is no pretence that these particular tyrants are not
so bad as ordinary tyrants, nor these particular vanquished
slaves not so good as ordinary vanquished slaves, and, unless
this has been made clear in some way, it is dramatically
de rigueur that the tyrants should come to grief, or be about
to come to grief. The hearer should know which way his
sympathies are expected to go, and here we have the music
dragging us one way and the words another.

Nevertheless, we pardon the departure from the strict
rules of the game, partly because of the welcome nature of
good tidings so exultantly announced to us about all fear of
punishment being o'er, and partly because the music is,
throughout, so much stronger than the words that we lose
sight of them almost entirely. Handel probably wrote as
he did from a profound, though perhaps unconscious, per-
ception of the fact that even in his day there was a great
deal of humanitarian nonsense talked and that, after all,
the tyrants were generally quite as good sort of people as
the vanquished slaves. Having begun on this tack, it was
easy to throw morality to the winds when he came to the
words about all fear of punishment being over.

Handel and Marriage

To man God's universal law

Gave power to keep the wife in awe

sings Handel in a comically dogmatic little chorus in Samson.
But the universality of the law must be held to have failed in
the case of Mr. and Mrs. M'Culloch.

Handel and a Letter to a Solicitor

Jones showed me a letter that had been received by the
solicitor in whose office he was working :

" Dear Sir; I enclose the name of the lawyer of the lady