Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

126              Handel and Music

similar piece and lay it under contribution. This is not to
spring from the loins of living ancestors but to batten on
dead men's bones. He who takes thus will ere long lose
even what little power to take he may have ever had. On
the other hand there is no enjoyable work in any art which
is not easily recognised as the affiliated outcome of something
that has gone before it. This is more especially true of music,
whose grammar and stock in trade are so much simpler than
those of any other art. He who loves music will know what
the best men have done, and hence will have numberless
passages from older writers floating at all times in his mind,
like germs in the air, ready to hook themselves on to anything
of an associated character. Some of these he will reject at
once, as already too strongly wedded to associations of their
own ; some are tried and found not so suitable as was thought;
some one, however, will probably soon assert itself as either
suitable, or easily altered so as to become exactly what is
wanted; if, indeed, it is the right passage in the right man's
mind, it will have modified itself unbidden already. How,
then, let me ask again, is the musician to comport himself
towards those uninvited guests of his thoughts ? Is he to
give them shelter, cherish them, and be thankful ? or is he
to shake them rudely off, bid them begone, and go out of his
way so as not to fall in with them again ?

Can there be a doubt what the answer to this question
should be ? As it is fatal deliberately to steer on to the
work of other composers, so it is no less fatal deliberately to
steer clear of it; music to be of any value must be a man's
freest and most instinctive expression. Instinct in the case
of all the greatest artists, whatever their art may be, bids
them attach themselves to, and grow out of those predecessors
who are most congenial to them. Beethoven grew out of
Mozart and Haydn, adding a leaven which in the end leavened
the whole lump, but in the outset adding little ; Mozart grew
out of Haydn, in the outset adding little ; Haydn grew out of
Domenico Scarlatti and Emmanuel Bach, adding, in the
outset, little. These men grew out of John Sebastian Bach,
for much as both of them admired Handel I cannot see that
they allowed his music to influence theirs. Handel even in
his own lifetime was more or less of a survival and protest;
he saw the rocks on to which music was drifting and steered