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Title: Musical Studies
Author: Newman, Ernest
Language: English
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                            MUSICAL STUDIES

                         _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_








                            MUSICAL STUDIES

                          _By_ ERNEST NEWMAN

                      NEW YORK: JOHN LANE COMPANY
                   TORONTO: BELL & COCKBURN. MCMXIV

                            _THIRD EDITION_

                  Printed by BALLANTYNE, HANSON & CO.
                  at the Ballantyne Press, Edinburgh

                 PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION (1905)

The greater part of the following matter has already appeared in
various periodicals--the _Fortnightly Review_, the _Contemporary
Review_, the _Speaker_, the _Chord_, the New York _Musical Courier_,
the _Atlantic Monthly_, the _Weekly Critical Review_, the _Monthly
Musical Record_, and the _Daily Mail_. All have been greatly altered,
however--some practically rewritten. The larger articles--those on
Programme Music, Strauss, and Berlioz--have been made up from sundry
articles that appeared at different times and in different journals;
any one who has tried to weld heterogeneous material of this kind into
one mass will appreciate the difficulty of the work, and will, I trust,
make allowances for whatever awkwardness of form the essays may show
here and there.

I must apologise for the fact that occasionally one essay touches
slightly upon ground that has already been more fully treated in
another. It sometimes happens that two quite different lines of
thought, starting from widely separated points, will converge and meet;
or, on the other hand, that the one æsthetic principle will prove
applicable to different phenomena. I am conscious of this occasional
overlapping in the essays, but there seemed no way of avoiding it; if
an argument was to have its proper force it had to be given in full,
even if for a page or so it duplicated what had already been said

My thanks are due to the Editors of the journals I have named for their
permission to reprint.

                                                               E. N.

                     PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

As this Second Edition is printed from moulds, no alteration of or
addition to the text of the First Edition has been possible. I should
have liked to expand one or two of the essays at various points and to
revise them at others. There is always something new to be said, for
example, about programme music, while any article on a living subject,
such as that on Strauss, is bound to contain many things that are not
so apposite now as when they were first written. But even these may
have a value as pictures of a bygone state of things; and in this way
such matter as that relating to the earlier attitude of the critics
and the public towards Strauss may be of some historical interest.
The Strauss article obviously needs bringing up to date. But even if
that were done, the new article would in turn be behind the times in
another year or two; while the reader will find a further discussion
of Strauss, and a consideration of the trend of his art since the
_Symphonia Domestica_, in my little book on him in the series of
"Living Masters of Music." The Appendix to the present volume is wholly

                                                               E. N.

                     PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION

A preface to the third edition can in the nature of things be little
more than a repetition of that to the second. While in one way it is
regrettable that the article on Strauss does not carry us further than
the _Symphonia Domestica_, that work, after all, is the most convenient
and the most logical closing point for a study of him in all but his
very latest activities. It is about seven years now since he launched
out upon a new sea with _Salome_. With that and the operas that
followed it he has made a new "period" in his artistic history. The
best time, however, for critically appraising what he has done in the
theatre will be when he comes out of it, and lets us see what influence
his operatic methods and ideals have had on his musical thinking as
a whole. He is said to have been engaged for some time on a "Nature"
Symphony. The appearance of that or of some other purely instrumental
work will give the opportunity for a rounded study of the later
Strauss, who has made even his own earlier works seem rather far-off

The Appendix to the volume remains as in the second edition. No
occasion has been given me to pursue the subject further.

                                                               E. N.
_Oct. 1913._









        MUSIC 189


        FUTURE 249


                          _To JAMES HUNEKER_

                            MUSICAL STUDIES

                     BERLIOZ, ROMANTIC AND CLASSIC


It is fairly safe to say that--with the possible exception of
Liszt--there is no musician about whom people differ so strongly as
about Berlioz. His case is, indeed, unique. We are pretty well agreed
as to the relative positions of the other men; roughly speaking, all
cultivated musicians would put Wagner and Brahms and Beethoven in
the first rank of composers, and Mendelssohn, Grieg, and Dvořàk
in the second or third. Even in the case of a disputed problem like
Strauss, the argument among those who know his work is not, I take it,
as to his being a musician of the first rank, but as to the precise
position he occupies among the others of that limited regiment. Upon
Berlioz, however, the world seems unable to make up its mind. The
dispute here is not as to where he stands among the great ones, but
whether he really belongs to the great ones at all. Though there is
no absolute unanimity of opinion upon the total work of, say, Wagner
or Beethoven--no complete agreement as to the amount of weakness
that is bound up with their strength--there is at all events perfect
unanimity of opinion that Wagner and Beethoven are of the royal line.
But we have Berlioz extolled to the skies by one section of competent
musicians, while another section can scarcely speak of him politely; he
really seems to create a kind of physical nausea in them; and some of
them even deny his temperament to have been really musical. There is
surely nothing in the history of music to parallel the situation. The
difference of opinion upon him, be it observed, is quite another thing
from the frequent and quite excusable perplexity that men feel over a
_contemporary_ composer. Men drift widely apart over Wagner while he
is alive; but the next generation, at all events, sees him practically
through the same eyes. The quarrel over Berlioz is not a contemporary
quarrel; the bulk of his most significant work had all appeared before
1850, and yet here we are, half a century after that time, still
debating whether he is really one of the immortals. For many people
Schumann's old question, "Are we to regard him as a genius, or only a
musical adventurer?" still remains unanswered.

On the whole--looking for a moment only at the external aspect of
the case--the current is now flowing not from but towards him. Even
putting aside the exceptional spasm of 1903, the centenary of his
birth, he probably gets more performances now than he ever did. Messrs.
Breitkopf and Härtel are bringing out a magnificent complete edition
of his works in score, superbly edited by Weingartner, the great
conductor, and Charles Malherbe, Archivist of the Paris Opera; while
in the admirable little Donajowski editions the full scores of the
_Symphonie fantastique_, _Harold en Italie_, _Roméo et Juliette_, and
half-a-dozen of the overtures, can now be had for a total expenditure
of a few shillings. Publishers do not generally take to bringing out
full scores, particularly at very low prices, unless there is some
demand for the works; and I think we may take it that just now there is
a quickening interest in Berlioz. Yet all the while the critical war
goes on, without signs of compromise on either side. The attitude of
a great many people is of course to be explained partly by imperfect
acquaintance with Berlioz's work, partly by their having revolted
against him at the outset and never settled down to ask themselves
whether their first impressions did not need revising. It is not every
one who has either the candour or the capacity for hard and patient
work of Weingartner, who has placed on record his own progress from
the traditional view of Berlioz as "a great colourist, the founder
of modern orchestration, a brilliant writer, and, in fact, almost
everything else except a composer of inspiration and melody," to
the view that Berlioz is one of the great masters, rich in feeling,
in beauty, in inventiveness. Many worthy people no doubt took their
cue from Wagner, who, besides giving a nonsensical pseudo-analysis
of Berlioz in _Opera and Drama_, referred to him disparagingly in
a well-known letter to Liszt. It is tolerably clear, however, that
Wagner knew comparatively little of Berlioz at that time, and that in
running down _Benvenuto Cellini_ and _La Damnation de Faust_ he was
only indulging that unfortunate habit of his of expressing himself
very positively upon subjects he knew nothing about.[1] But put aside
all the criticism of him that comes from imperfect knowledge--and it
must be remembered that up to quite recently it was not easy to get a
perfect knowledge of him, for his scores were rather scarce, and so
badly printed as to make the reading of them a trial--Wagner's
and we are still left face to face with a certain amount of good
critical intelligence that cannot, do what it will, take to Berlioz's
music. And since criticism is, or ought to be, concerned not only with
the psychological processes that go to make a work of art, but also
with the psychological processes that make us judge it in this way or
that--it is worth while trying to discover what it is in Berlioz that
makes so many worthy people quite unsympathetic towards him.


Let us first of all look at him biographically and historically, as
he was in himself and in his relations to his contemporaries. His is
perhaps the strangest story in all the records of music. In contrast
to musicians like Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, and a score of
others, who grew up from childhood in an atmosphere saturated with
music, Berlioz is born in a country town that is practically destitute
of musical life. Even the piano is not cultivated there, the harp and
guitar being almost the sole instruments known; in 1808--five years
after the birth of Berlioz--there is still only one piano in the
Department. There is no teacher of music in the place; Berlioz's father
ultimately combines with other residents to bring over for this purpose
a second violinist from the theatre at Lyons. Although the music in the
boy cannot quite be kept down, for nearly the first twenty years of his
life he is, to all intents and purposes, ignorant of the elements of
technique, and never hears a bar of first-rate music. "When I arrived
in Paris in 1820,"[2] he says, "I had never yet set foot in a theatre;
all I knew of instrumental music was the quartets of Pleyel with which
the four amateurs composing the Philharmonic Society of my native town
used to regale me each Sunday after mass; and I had no other idea of
dramatic music than what I had been able to get in running through a
collection of old operatic airs arranged with an accompaniment for
the guitar." Yet, untutored as he was, and practically ignorant of
even the elements of harmony, he had from his boyhood been writing
music. The opening melody of the _Symphonie fantastique_ was really
written by Berlioz in his twelfth year, to some verses from Florian's
_Estelle_;[3] and we know of other boyish compositions, fragments
of which have been conserved in some of his later works. It may not
be absolutely true, as M. Edmond Hippeau says, that until the age
of twenty-three he was "ignorant of the most elementary principles
of music"; but at all events he was just beginning to learn these
principles at an age when nine other composers out of ten have left far
behind them all the drudgery of the apprentice. In Paris he does indeed
study after a fashion; but it is characteristic of him that he gets
most of his musical experience from the performances at the Opera, and
from a diligent reading of the scores of Gluck in the library of the

Even in Paris, at that time, there was little to call out the best
there was in such a man as Berlioz--little that could teach him the
proper use of his own strange faculties, or by whose standard he could
test the worth of his own inspiration. He did indeed hear a little
Gluck occasionally, and a travesty of Weber; but it was not until 1828
that Beethoven made any impression on Paris. Orchestras were generally
incompetent and audiences ignorant. The calibre of the average French
orchestra of the time may be gauged from the fact that even the more
reputable bands found Mozart's symphonies by no means easy. One
shudders to think what the ordinary orchestras must have been like,
and what was the quality of music to which they had grown accustomed.
As for the audiences, where they were not extremely uneducated they
were extremely prejudiced, clinging blindly to the remains of the
pseudo-classical principles that had been bequeathed to them by their
fathers. An audience that could be worked into a perfect frenzy of rage
because an actor, outraging all the proprieties of the time, actually
referred in _Othello_ to something so vulgar as a handkerchief, would
hardly look with favour on anything revolutionary either in idea or
technique. At the opera the Italians were most in vogue. The French
public knew little of instrumental music pure and simple, and were
almost entirely ignorant of the huge developments of German music.
Cherubini, of course, was a stately and impressive figure, a serious
thinker of the same breed as the great Germans; but apart from him,
there were no Parisian composers who could by any stretch of the
imagination be called modern, or could do anything to teach a man
like Berlioz. Lesueur, the favourite master of Berlioz, seems to have
been progressive--indeed, revolutionary--in some of his theories of
music and poetry; but his theory was better than his practice. From
such a type as the amiable and ineffectual Boïeldieu nothing new could
possibly come. He frankly avowed his inability to understand Beethoven,
and declared to Berlioz his preference for "la musique qui me berce."
Yet this young musician from the country, with years of lost time to
regret, with little musical education, with the very slightest of
stimuli from the great music of the past, and with little encouragement
in his own surroundings, produces in quick succession a number of works
of the most startling originality--original in every way, in the turn
of their melodies, in their harmonic _facture_, in their orchestration,
in their rhythm, in their view of men and things. Now that the complete
Berlioz is being printed, we know a good deal more of him than was
possible even a few years ago. We do not now commence our study of him
with the _Symphonie fantastique_; we can watch the workings of his
brain in the two early cantatas--_Herminie_ and _Cléopâtre_--that in
the eyes of two sapient juries of the time were insufficient to win
him the _Prix de_ _Rome_. Here we see a freshness of outlook and of
style--particularly in the matter of rhythm--that is one of the most
remarkable phenomena in the history of music. In his earliest years, as
in his latest, Berlioz was himself, a solitary figure owing practically
nothing to other people's music, an artist, we may almost say, without
ancestry and without posterity. Mozart builds upon Haydn and influences
Beethoven; Beethoven imitates Mozart and in turn influences the
practice of all later symphonists; Wagner learns from Weber and gives
birth to a host of imitators. But with Berlioz--and it is a point to
be insisted on--there is no one whose speech he tried to copy in his
early years, and there is no one since who speaks with _his_ voice. How
many things in the early Beethoven were made in the factory of Mozart;
how many times does the early Wagner speak with the voice of Weber!
But who can turn over the scores of Berlioz's early works and find a
single phrase that can be fathered upon any previous or contemporary
writer? There was never any one, before his time or since, who thought
and wrote just like him; his musical style especially is absolutely
his own. Now and then in _L'Enfance du Christ_ he suggests Gluck--not
in the turn of his phrases but in the general atmosphere of an aria;
but apart from this it is the rarest thing for him to remind us of any
other composer. His melody, his harmony, his rhythm, are absolutely his


We are face to face, then, with a personality which, whether we like
it or not, is of extraordinary strength and originality. If we are to
realise what kind of force he was, and how he came to do the work he
did, we must study him both from the standpoint of history and from
that of physiological and psychological science. Musical criticism is
apt to become too much a mere matter of wine-tasting, a bare statement
of a preference of this vintage or a decided dislike for that. We need
to study musicians as a whole, as complete organisms hanging together
by virtue of certain peculiarities of structure. If a man does not
like Liszt's music he compares it disparagingly with Wagner's--as if
this placing of people on the higher or lower rungs of a ladder were
the be-all and the end-all of criticism. Shakespeare is the greatest
figure of the Elizabethan literary world; but what critic thinks of
disposing of Ford and Massinger and Jonson and Webster and Marlowe
and Tourneur with the off-hand remark that not one of them was a
Shakespeare? In the same way it is not sufficient to write down Berlioz
as a purveyor of extravagant ideas clothed sometimes in ugly and
unpleasing forms; it is much more profitable to set ourselves to find
out why he came to have such a bias in art, and what were his relations
to the general intellectual movements of his time. It is only when we
study him from the historical standpoint that we can understand many
of his ideals; and to understand them is more important than to rail
at them. The criticism that rejects the less beautiful specimens of
an art because they are not perfect is like the natural history that
would take account only of the typical organisms, passing over the many
instructive variations from the type. In the long run human folly and
human failure are just as interesting to the student of humanity as its
wisdom and its triumphs; and the critic should always aim at being an
impartial student of humanity, not a mere wine-taster or a magistrate.

As we have seen, whatever other qualities we may deny to Berlioz,
we cannot at any rate refuse his claim to originality. Readers of
Théophile Gautier's _Histoire du Romantisme_, in which the cool,
objective poet and critic reviews all the leading figures of the
Romantic movement--Victor Hugo, Gérard de Nerval, Alfred de Vigny,
Delacroix, and a score or so of lesser lights--will remember that
Berlioz is the only musician admitted to that brilliant company.
It was not due to any personal preference on Gautier's part, or to
his ignorance of the other Romantic musicians; there simply were no
others. So far as music was concerned, the whole Romantic movement
began and ended with Berlioz. When we are tempted to feel annoyed at
some of his extravagances or banalities we should remember that he had
to conquer a new world unaided. He was not only without colleagues
but without progenitors. When he arrived in Paris in 1821, at the
age of eighteen, what was the position of music in France? Gluck's
epoch-making work had terminated in 1779 with _Iphigenia in Tauris_;
the dramatic school of which he was the leader made something like its
last effort in Sacchini's _Œdipe à Colone_ in 1789. The often charming
but flimsy work of Dauvergne, Duni, Monsigny, Dalayrac and Grétry was
without any importance for the opera of the future. Two musicians
alone commanded serious respect--the great Cherubini, who, however,
was neither typically French nor very revolutionary, and Méhul, whose
_Joseph_ appeared in 1807. Lesueur and Berton do not count; while
Hérold, strong man as he was in some ways, was not strikingly original
either in form or in expression. The French music produced during the
years of Berlioz's early manhood was of the type of Boïeldieu's _La
Dame Blanche_ (1828), Auber's _Masaniello_ (1828) and _Fra Diavolo_
(1830), or Adam's _Postillon de Longjumeau_ (1836). Neither Spontini
in the first decade of the century, nor Rossini in later years, were a
necessary link in the chain of development of French music. In fact,
of almost all the music heard in Paris between 1790 and 1830 we may
say that whenever it was great it was not French, and whenever it was
French it was not great. Above all it was scarcely ever _contemporary_
music; it rarely showed any trace of having assimilated the life and
art of its own day. Especially was it unaffected by the hot young
Romantic blood that in the second and third decades of the century was
transforming both French poetry and French painting. Think of the
artists and poets, and then think of the musicians, and you seem to
enter another and inferior world of thought.

It was Berlioz, and Berlioz alone, who brought French music into line
with the activities of intelligent men in other departments. He put
into it a ferocity and turbulence of imagination and an audacity of
style to which it had hitherto been a stranger. Often when I listen
to him now I feel that we do not even yet quite appreciate his
originality. Even after the lapse of so many years the music sometimes
strikes us, in spite of all the enormous development of the art between
his day and ours, as startlingly new and unconventional. What then must
it have sounded like in the ears of those who heard it for the first
time? Imagine the bourgeois audience of those days suddenly assailed by
the March to the Scaffold, or the Witches' Sabbath, in the _Symphonie
fantastique_! There was here as violent a rupture with the staid
formulas of the classic and the pseudo-classic as anything achieved by
Victor Hugo or Delacroix or Gros or Géricault.

The springs that moved Berlioz, in fact, were just the springs that
moved his great contemporaries. The essence of their revolt was an
insistence upon the truth that beauty is co-extensive almost with
life itself. The nerves of the younger men were sharper than their
fathers'; their ears were more acute, their eyes more observant. They
saw and felt more of life, and tried to express in art what they had
seen and felt; which could not be done without not only breaking the
mould of the pseudo-classic technique, but also finding voice for a lot
of sensations and ideas to which the men of the previous generation
had been impervious. Recent French critics have noticed, as one
evidence of the more sensitive nerves of the early Romanticists, the
fineness and variety of their perceptions of colour. To the literary
man of the eighteenth century an object is merely blue or red; the
new writers perceive a dozen shades of blue and red, and ransack the
whole vocabulary to find the right discriminating word.[4] There was
a general effort to escape from the conventions that had fast-bound
poetry, painting, the drama, and the opera. The dress of the actors
and singers now aimed at some correspondence with that of the epoch of
the play, instead of making the vain attempt to produce an historical
illusion with the costume of their own time. The subjects of dramas,
novels, poems, and operas, instead of being exclusively classic, were
now sought in contemporary manners or in earlier European history; and
with the change of matter there necessarily came a change of style. At
the same time there sprang up an intellectual intimacy, previously
unknown, between all classes of artists. The poet and the musician hung
about the studio of the painter; the painter and the poet sang the
songs of the musician, or attended the performances of his opera, to
criticise it from the point of view of men who themselves were used to
thinking in art. The imagination of each was stimulated and enriched
by the ideas and sensations of the others. The new achievements of
line or colour or language or sound prompted the devotee of each art
to fresh experiments in his own medium. This in turn led to another
new phenomenon, of particular importance in the history of music.
There came to the front an original type--the literary musician, who
made a practice, and sometimes a profession, of writing about his
art, of educating the public at the same time as he clarified his own
ideas and tested his own powers. This type was accompanied by yet
another new product--the literary man or poet who wrote on music, not
as a professor or a pedant, and not after the manner of the Rousseaus
and Suards of the eighteenth century, but with dynamic force and
directness, correlating music with life and thought, estimating it by
its actual meaning to living men. There was nothing in the eighteenth
century to correspond to the prose writings of musicians like Berlioz
and Schumann, nothing to compare with the treatment of musical subjects
by literary men such as Hoffmann and Baudelaire.[5] And yet, while
there was in this way a greater actual expenditure of brain-power
upon music and art generally, the men themselves were not such solid
types as the men of the eighteenth century. Neither Hugo, nor Gautier,
nor Delacroix, nor Berlioz had the intellectual weight and fixity of
Diderot, or Condorcet, or David, or Gluck. The reason of the eighteenth
century was transformed into sentiment, its activity into reflection,
its repose into enthusiasm, its sobriety into passion.

Against this spirit the now anæmic idealism of pseudo-classical art
could not stand for long. If artists had taught the public to believe
that whatever tasted of real life was vulgar or barbaric, the public
must now be disabused of that notion. All life was claimed as the
province of the artist; he claimed also the right to draw it as he had
seen it. "There are no good subjects or bad subjects," said Victor
Hugo; "there are only good poets and bad poets." Expression--vital
expression, biting to the very heart of the theme--was now the
ideal; beauty, in the limited sense that had been given to it by the
false classics, was only a formula more or less platitudinous. "The
realisation of beauty by the expression of character" was the avowed
purpose of the Romanticists. M. Brunetière aptly contrasts with this
the classic theorem of Winckelmann, that the ideal beauty was "like
pure water, having no particular savour." "We must say it and repeat
it," cries Hugo in the preface of 1824 to the _Odes et Ballades_; "it
is not the need for novelty that torments our minds; it is the need
for truth--and that need is immense." Delacroix summed up the general
falsity of the conventional attitude towards art when he wrote: "In
order to make an ideal head of a negro, our teachers make him resemble
as far as possible the profile of Antinous, and then say, 'We have done
our utmost; if he is, nevertheless, not beautiful, we must abstain
altogether from this freak of nature, this squat nose and thick lips,
which are so unendurable to the eyes.'" A journalist of 1826 (cited
by M. Gustave Lanson in his admirable _Histoire de la Littérature
française_) cried, "Vive la nature _brute et sauvage_ qui revit si
bien dans les vers de M. de Vigny, Jules Lefèvre, Victor Hugo!" It was
not that they worshipped ugliness and violence in themselves, but that
they felt there are certain occasions when truth can be reached only
through the repellent and the extravagant, which, however, may be bent
by a wise eclecticism to the purposes of the ideal. There is scarcely
anything in the imagination of Berlioz that is not paralleled in the
imaginations of the contemporary poets and painters; there is no leap
of theirs towards freer verse or more expressive colour that was not
also taken by the musician. Only while they had at least some roots in
the past, not only in their own country but in England and Germany, and
while they were many and could support and purify each other by mutual
criticism, Berlioz stood by himself, without any musician, dead or
living, being of any practical value to him in the course he took.


Few literary and artistic movements have their social and physical
roots laid as clearly open to us as the Romantic. The most astonishing
thing in connection with this chain of causes and results is that there
should be only the solitary figure of Berlioz to represent the musical
side of it. One would have thought that the vast liberation of nervous
energy effected by the Revolution and the Napoleonic period would have
been too great to be confined to literature and the plastic arts--that
a really French school of music would have arisen, interwoven with the
past and the present of French history and social life, and as typical
of contemporary French culture in its own way as the poetry, drama,
and painting of the time were in theirs. That this did not happen was
in all probability due to the confirmed hold which the theatre had
upon music-lovers in France. To nine men out of ten there music was
synonymous with opera; and opera meant a spectacle in which only the
greatest pleasure of the greatest number had to be consulted. It was
an art-form in which compromise was carried to its highest points; the
audience was cosmopolitan and not too critical, and the composers,
whether native or foreign, had to think only in the second place of
art, and in the first place of speaking a musical language that would
be intelligible and acceptable to all. No independent, contemporary
expression of culture could be expected in opera, for no one, composer
or spectator, took it quite seriously enough for that.

On the other hand, there was no purely instrumental form existing that
could serve as a vehicle for such revolutionary modes of feeling as
found expression in the literature and painting of the day. Finally,
there was no public with sufficient musical training to demand a
new revelation in music, or to comprehend it if it came. The French
orchestras of the time, as we have seen, were almost uniformly
inefficient, incapable of playing great music with any intelligence. It
was impossible, then, for the public to be as alive, as up-to-date, in
music as it was in other things; and music, more than any other art, is
dependent upon collective as distinguished from individual patronage.
Perhaps, also, the language of French music was as yet not sufficiently
developed to fit it to answer the needs of the young generation of
Romanticists. It was not real enough, not close enough to actual life
to spur the energies of men either into approval or disgust. There
was no mistaking the angry flare of the new spirit in other fields.
The realism of Gros or of Delacroix was patent to every eye; the mere
change in the choice of subjects was a challenge and a provocation. So
again in poetry, one could not fail to be agitated by the incessant
whipping of the language to new feats of technique, the perpetual
evocation of new forms of expression, new vibrations of verbal colour.
All this was on very much the same plane as the everyday life of men.
It was something they could feel a fighting interest in. But no one
took music so seriously. It was long before it lost the grand manner,
the trick of wig and sword, of the eighteenth century; and when it did
there was nothing of equal grandeur to take its place. Where it was
great, and had the large stride and the flowing cloak, it breathed of
the psychology of the past; where it took part in the lives of the
men of its own day it attacked them only on their more sensuous, more
frankly epicurean side. It was a mistress, not a wife.

In Berlioz alone, then, the Romantic movement expended its musical
energies. He alone among French musicians of the time shows the same
characteristics of body and mind as went to the making of the art
or literature of his contemporaries. With him, as with them, the
physiological structure counts for very much. No doubt a good deal of
the motive-power came from the great awakening of the Napoleonic era.
The nation that had been wrestling for a generation with every country
in Europe necessarily touched life on more sides than it had ever
done before. The old formalities no longer sufficed; indeed, the mere
antiquity of any thought or any practice was no recommendation of it
in the eyes of this people, to whom the strange kaleidoscopic present
was a spectacle of ever-changing interest. It was this aspect of the
situation to which Stendhal gave expression when he compared his own
century with the eighteenth, the classic nutriment with the romantic.
"The classic pieces are like religions--the time for creating them has
gone by. They are like a clock that points to midday when it is four
in the afternoon. This kind of poetry was all right for the people
who, at Fontenoy, raised their hats and said to the English column,
'Gentlemen, be good enough to fire first.' And it is expected that this
poetry should satisfy a Frenchman who took part in the retreat from
Moscow!" When the Napoleonic empire had fallen, a new motive-power of
great literary value was discovered in the intense melancholy which,
according to Musset, seized upon the younger spirits at the sudden
limitation of the nation's activities. "A feeling of inexpressible
_malaise_ commenced to ferment in every young heart. Condemned to
inaction by the sovereigns of the world, given up to indolence, to
_ennui_, the young men ... experienced, at the foundation of their
souls, a misery that was insupportable."

The physiological causes, however, of this nervous irritability, this
dissatisfaction with existing things, which is as strongly marked in
Berlioz as in Musset or Delacroix, were probably more important than
the moral ones. The majority of the artists and literary men of this
epoch had a poor, neurotic physique. In almost all of them there was a
tendency to nervous derangement, or some weakness of the heart or lungs
that would predispose them to melancholy. Maxime du Camp bore strong
testimony to the physical lassitude that characterised this epoch. "The
artistic and literary generation that preceded me," he wrote, "that
to which I belonged, had a youth of artistic sadness, inherent in the
constitution of men or in the epoch." Again, speaking of the proclivity
to suicide among the young men of the time, he says, "It was not
merely a fashion, as one might believe; it was a kind of general
debility that made the heart sad and the mind gloomy, and caused death
to be looked upon as a deliverance."

This _défaillance générale_, this _tristesse sans cause comme sans
objet_, _tristesse abstraite_, must have had its roots in something
deeper than the mere psychological outlook of the youth of the period.
It seems probable that there was a general physical exhaustion, a
widespread undermining of physique. The children born about the
beginning of the century must have had for their parents, in many
cases, people who had lived in an atmosphere of intense social and
political excitement, and had probably undergone a considerable amount
of actual physical hardship. The Napoleonic wars can hardly have
failed to leave their mark upon the physiological constitution of the
French race. If it be true that the fine nervous quality of the Irish
comes in part from the centuries of troubled life through which the
race has passed, there must certainly have been some impression left
upon the physique of France by the lurid, swiftly changing episodes
of the Revolution and the Empire. The mere loss of young blood must
have counted for a good deal. De Musset, indeed, in his _Confession
d'un enfant du siècle_, bears testimony to the melancholy of the young
generation--"une génération ardente, pâle, nerveuse," "conceived
between two battles," and born of "les mères inquiètes."[6] Maxime Du
Camp too suggests this explanation of the morbidity of the time, and
adds to it another. "Often I have asked myself whether this depression
may not have been the outcome of physiological causes. The nation was
exhausted by the wars of the empire, and the children had inherited
their fathers' weakness. Besides, the system of medicine and hygiene
then prevalent was disastrous. Broussais was the leader of thought,
and doctors went everywhere lancet in hand. At school they bled us for
a headache. When I had typhoid fever I was bled three times in one
week, sixty leeches were applied, and I could only have recovered by a
miracle. The doctrines preached by Molière's Diafoiruses had lasted on
to our day, and resulted in the anæmic constitution so frequently met
with. Poverty of blood combined with the nervous temperament makes a
man melancholy and depressed."

One consequence of this flawed physique was that the young men of the
time not only had extravagant conceptions, but that they took these
and themselves with enormous seriousness. The majority of them posed
unconscionably at times. They could not be unhappy without playing
upon their own sensations for the benefit of an audience; there was
something of the actor in almost all of them. Each was a Werther in
his own eyes, a person towards whom the cosmos had behaved with a
special and quite unpardonable malevolence. Listen, for example, to
the declamation of Chateaubriand: "I have never been happy, I have
never attained happiness though I have pursued it with a perseverance
corresponding with the natural ardour of my soul; no one knows what
the happiness was that I sought, no one has fully known the depths of
my heart; the majority of my sentiments have remained immured there,
or have only appeared in my works as applied to imaginary beings.
To-day, when I still regret my chimæras without however pursuing
them, when, having reached the summit of life, I descend towards the
tomb, I wish, before dying, to revert to those precious years, _to
explain my inexplicable heart_, to see, in short, what I can say when
my pen abandons itself unconstrainedly to all my recollections."[7]
One detects a little note of insincerity in it all. The gentleman
doth protest too much; he is wearing his heart too visibly on his
coat-sleeve, trafficking in melancholy as a man traffics in cotton
or steel, simply because there is a market for that kind of thing.
We need to read Berlioz's letters with this suspicion always before
us if we are to take them at their real value. A fair summary of the
half-sincere, half-posing mood that was prevalent among the young
men of genius of the time is to be had in Géricault's portrait of
himself, in the Louvre, with the forced melodrama of the skull on the
shelf intruding itself upon the real earnestness of the picture as a
whole. We get plenty of this somewhat far-fetched and too conscious
_diablerie_ in some of the early work of Berlioz; and there is no need
to be more contemptuous of it there than when we meet with it in the
poets or the painters who were his contemporaries. To say nothing of
the grandiloquent Hugo and his youthful followers, even so strong and
philosophical a type as Flaubert was decoyed now and then into the same
kind of pose of exaggeration. His early letters have their full share
of sentimentality, of talk about man being as a frail skiff in the
tempest, and all the other formulas of the school,[8] although Flaubert
expressly dissociated himself from the more lymphatic specimens of
Romanticism. "Do you know," he wrote, "that the new generation of the
schools is extremely stupid; formerly it had more sense; it occupied
itself with women, sword-thrusts, orgies; now it apes Byron.... It is
who shall have the palest face and say in the best manner 'I am _blasé,
blasé_!' What a pity! _blasé_ at eighteen!"


If ever the physiological structure of a man had to be taken into
account in trying to explain the nature of his work, it is surely when
we are dealing with Berlioz. We have only to look at his portrait to
see how highly strung he was, how prone he must have been to disorders
of the nervous system. There is a passage in one of his letters that
seems to indicate an anxiety for his health on the part of his father,
who, being a doctor, would probably understand his son's bias towards
nervous troubles: "Je suis vos instructions quant au régime," writes
Hector; "je mange ordinairement peu et ne bois presque plus de thé."
His early life, after he left the paternal home, was certainly one of
great privation. He moreover seems to have been exceedingly careless
of his health, indulging in long walks without a proper supply of
food--presuming upon a nervous energy that to him no doubt seemed like
a solid physical constitution. Worse even than this was his occasional
deliberate resort to starvation, as one of his friends tells us, "pour
connaître les maux par lesquels le génie pouvait passer." The wonder
is not that he should always have been a prey to some trouble or other
of the nerves, or that in middle age he should have been attacked by
a frightful intestinal disorder, but that he should have lived as
long as he did, and found strength enough for such work as he has
bequeathed to us. "How unhappily I am put together," he once wrote to
his friend Ferrand--"a veritable barometer, now up, now down, always
susceptible to the changes of the atmosphere--bright or sombre--of my
consuming thoughts." As it was, the nerves plainly underwent a gradual
deterioration. There are the same general mental characteristics in his
later work as in his earlier, but the music of the last fifteen years
of his life will as a whole hardly bear comparison with that written
between the ages of twenty-five and forty. The fine bloom seemed to
have been rubbed off his spirit; even where the music still has the
nervous energy of former years it is almost entirely an external
thing--a mere tendency to break out into the unexpected because of
the impossibility of continuing for long on the one level path; while
too often there is a sheer dulness that evidently comes from the
long-continued stilling of his pains with opium. But until his system
wore itself out in this way through every kind of over-strain, it was
clearly one of extraordinary sensitivity, susceptible to a hundred
impressions that must have remained a sealed book to every other French
musician of the time.

This was the keynote to his mental life and to the world which he
tried to reproduce in art; and if we study his physical organisation
he becomes far more typical of the Romantic movement than the most
brilliant of his contemporaries. If their distinguishing mark was
the extraordinary seriousness with which they took their artistic
impressions, the strange convulsions produced in them by the sight of a
beautiful thing or by the mere rapturous act of composition, it must be
said that not one of them can compare with Berlioz in this respect. A
hundred passages, in his _Memoirs_, his letters, and his prose works,
reveal his temperament as perhaps the most extraordinarily volcanic
thing in the history of music. Musicians as a whole have an unenviable
notoriety for not being as other men are; they surpass even the poets
in the fineness of their nerves and the tendency of these to evade
the control of the higher centres. But surely, outside the history of
religious mania or the ecstasy of the mystics, there is nothing to
parallel the abnormal state into which Berlioz was thrown by music.
"When I hear certain pieces of music, my vital forces at first seem to
be doubled. I feel a delicious pleasure, in which reason has no part;
the habit of analysis comes afterwards to give birth to admiration;
the emotion, increasing in proportion to the energy or the grandeur
of the ideas of the composer, soon produces a strange agitation in
the circulation of the blood; tears, which generally indicate the
end of the paroxysm, often indicate only a progressive state of it,
leading to something still more intense. In this case I have spasmodic
contractions of the muscles, a trembling in all my limbs, a complete
torpor of the feet and the hands, a partial paralysis of the nerves
of sight and hearing; I no longer see, I scarcely hear: vertigo ...
a semi-swoon." Still more curious is the effect created on him by
music he does not like. "One can imagine," he says, "that sensations
carried to this degree of violence are rather rare, and that there
is a vigorous contrast to them, namely _the painful musical effect_,
producing the contrary of admiration and pleasure. No music acts
more strongly in this respect than that whose principal fault seems
to me to be platitude plus falsity of expression. Then I redden as if
with shame; a veritable anger takes possession of me; to look at me,
you would think I had just received an unpardonable insult; to get
rid of the impression I have received, there is a general upheaval of
my being, an effort of expulsion in the whole organism, analogous to
the effort of vomiting, when the stomach wishes to reject a nauseous
liquor. It is disgust and hatred carried to their extreme limit; this
music exasperates me, and I vomit it through all my pores."

This is not a piece of merely literary exaggeration, for time after
time in his letters we come across corroborative evidence that Berlioz
was really affected by music in this way. He thus surpasses in nervous
extravagance the most abnormal of the young poets and painters of his
time. And as with them the susceptibility of their physical organisms
led to a new sympathy with things, a new tenderness, a new pity, so did
the weakness of Berlioz lead him to the discovery of shades of emotion
that had never before found expression in music. Madame de Staël's
remark, that "la littérature romantique ... se sert de nos impressions
personnelles pour nous émouvoir," had a wider application than she
imagined. The French Romantic was a new type in art; in most cases a
nervous sufferer himself, he had glimpses of a whole world of human
pain and pathos that were denied his forerunners. The great figures of
the eighteenth century are for the most part objective, travelling
by the way of reason rather than that of emotion, philosophers rather
than artists, living in the central stream of things, and with a
broad, clear outlook on the actual affairs of their own day. Their
very sentiment is a different thing from the sentiment of the later
generation; it is more under control, has less heart and more brain
in it, is less suggestive of an overwhelming surge along the nerves.
Only now and again in the literature of the eighteenth century do we
catch a foreshadowing of that species of quivering emotion which found,
sometimes only too easily, expression in the Romantics. We have it in a
noteworthy passage of Diderot: "Le premier serment que se firent deux
êtres de chair, ce fut au pied d'un rocher qui tombait en poussière;
ils attestèrent de leur constance un ciel qui n'est pas un instant
le même; tout passait en eux, autour d'eux, et ils croyaient leurs
cœurs affranchis de vicissitudes. O enfants! toujours enfants!"
This, in the literature of its time, is like a lyric of Heine appearing
among the pages of Lessing, a song of Schumann in the middle of a
score of Gluck. We have something of the same tone again, a similar
adumbration of the romantic spirit, here and there in the _Rêveries_
of Rousseau. But it is in the Romantics that we first find the full
expression of that new tremor of feeling that comes from the sense of
the weakness of our poor flesh, the sense of the mortality of our clay,
our hourly nearness to corruption, our community with everything that
suffers and perishes.


Before coming to consider his music, let us complete the study of
Berlioz as an organism by examining his prose, where we shall find many
things that throw light on his structure. The assistance given to the
student of musical psychology by the prose writings of musicians is so
great, that one could almost wish that every composer of any note had
left the world a volume or two of criticism or of autobiography. They
would not necessarily have added very much to our positive knowledge
of life or art; but a book is such an unconscious revelation of its
writer, he shows himself in it so faithfully and so completely, no
matter how much he may desire to pose or deceive, that the psychologist
is able to reconstruct the man's mind from it as the scientist can
reconstruct in imagination the body of an animal from a few of its
bones. One does not lay much store, for example, by the actual contents
of the volumes of prose which Wagner was unkind enough to bequeath to
us; but after all one would not willingly let them die, for they are of
the utmost help to the study of Wagner, indirectly, if not directly,
throwing sidelights on him of which he was quite unconscious. The
prose of Berlioz has greater intrinsic interest. Deeply as he said he
loathed his journalistic work, he was after all a born journalist, a
fluent writer, a cynical wit, an accomplished story-teller in certain
_genres_, a master of polished and mordant irony. My present purpose,
however, is not to attempt an appreciation of Berlioz's prose as a
whole, but to call attention to certain curious elements in it that
have not, so far as I am aware, been pointed out before, and that
are extremely interesting to the student of so strange and complex a
personality as Berlioz.

Readers of Hennequin's fine, if not quite convincing, essay on
Flaubert in _Quelques Écrivains Français_, will remember the attempt
to exhibit the structure and functioning of the novelist's brain by
dissection of his prose. Flaubert, he shows, tends always to write
thus and thus; he has a vocabulary of such and such a kind, and he
tends to build up words in such and such a way. Proceeding from this
basis, Hennequin goes on to examine Flaubert's construction of his
sentences, then of his paragraphs, then of his chapters, then of his
novels, and thus to explain the final form of the books in terms of
a fundamental intellectual structure that has been conditioned by a
certain verbal faculty. Hennequin, I think, pushes his method rather
too far here, making blindly for his thesis regardless of all that
may be urged against it; but on the whole the essay is a novel and
valuable contribution to a neglected science--the study of a man's
brain through the medium of his forms of expression. Now any one who
reads critically through the prose works of Berlioz must be struck by
certain elements in the prose that seem to give the key to much that
is almost inexplicable in his music and his character. "Extravagant,"
"theatrical," "bizarre"--these are the terms that have always been
used of Berlioz. Sir Hubert Parry takes the easy course of attributing
his theatricalism to his being a Frenchman, oblivious of the fact that
the French disliked it and ridiculed it more than any other nation.
The early prose of Berlioz indicates that he was a man of a cerebral
structure that tended always to express itself extravagantly; a man who
did not see things upon the ordinary level of earth quite so clearly as
shapes in cloud and on mountain-top.

The big effects at which he aimed in music were, indeed, only one
form of manifestation of a curious faculty that was always leading
him to the grandiose. The ordinary orchestra, the ordinary chorus,
the ordinary concert-room would never do for him; everything must be
magnified, as it were, beyond life-size. Similarly in his prose, the
ordinary similes, the ordinary metaphors rarely occur to him; the
dilated brain can only express itself in a dilation of language. Thus
one adjective is rarely enough for Berlioz; there must generally be at
least three, and these of the most exaggerated kind. A thing is never
beautiful or ugly for Berlioz; it is either divine or horrible. A scene
in his early work, where Cleopatra reflects on the welcome to be given
her by the Pharaohs entombed in the pyramids, is "terrible, frightful."
His _Francs Juges_ overture in one place is described as "monstrous,
colossal, horrible." On another occasion he writes, "There is nothing
so terribly frightful as my overture.... It is a hymn to despair, but
the most despairing despair one can imagine--horrible and tender."
Everywhere there is the same tumefaction of language. When he ponders
over the memory of his first wife and her sufferings, he is overcome
by "an immense, frightful, incommensurable, infinite pity." Towards
the end of his life he is seized by "the furious desire for immense
affections." He can hardly speak of anything that has moved him without
this piling-up of the most tremendous adjectives in the language.

As might be expected, his imagery is of the same order; the very
largest things in the universe are impressed into the service of his
similes and metaphors. He speaks in one place of "those superhuman
adagios, where the genius of Beethoven soars aloft, immense and
solitary, like the colossal bird above the snowy summit of Chimborazo."
He had never seen the bird above the summit of Chimborazo, but his
brain reverts spontaneously to this conception in the effort to express
the sensation of immensity and solitude given him by Beethoven's
music. The pyramids, being conveniently large, frequently enter into
his similes. "It needs a very rare order of genius to create the
things that both artists and public can take to at once--things whose
simplicity is in direct proportion to their mass, like the pyramids
of Djizeh." "Yesterday," he writes after a certain performance of his
works, "I had a pyramidal success." When the pyramids fail him he
falls back on Ossian, or on Babylon and Nineveh. After having heard
6500 children's voices in St. Paul's, he writes, "It was, without
comparison, the most imposing, the most Babylonian ceremony I had
ever beheld." The "Tibi omnes" and the "Judex" of his _Te Deum_ are
"Babylonian, Ninivitish pieces." One night he hears the north wind
"lament, moan, and howl like several generations in agony. My chimney
resounds cavernously like a sixty-four feet organ-pipe. I have never
been able to resist these Ossianic noises."

Occasionally the heaping of Pelion on Ossa becomes necessary in order
to enable him to give the reader a faint impression of what he feels.
Beethoven is "a Titan, an Archangel, a Throne, a Domination." When he
is writing his hated feuilletons, "the lobes of my brain seem ready to
crack asunder. I seem to have burning cinders in my veins." The scene
of the benediction of the poniards in the _Huguenots_ is a terrible
piece, "written as it were in electric fluid by a gigantic Voltaic
pile; it seems to be accompanied by the bursting of thunderbolts and
sung by the tempests." A reminiscence of some incident in his career
brings out this ejaculation--"Destruction, fire and thunder, blood and
tears! my brain shrivels up in my skull as I think of these horrors!"
His second love, he tells us, "appeared to me with Shakespeare, in the
age of my virility, in the burning bush of a Sinai, in the midst of the
clouds, the thunders, the lightnings of a poetry that was new to me."

All his youthful conceptions and desires were of this extravagant
order. He writes in a letter of 1831, from Florence, "I should like to
have gone into Calabria or Sicily, and enlisted in the ranks of some
chief of _bravi_, even if I were to be no more than a mere brigand.
Then at least I should have seen magnificent crimes, robberies,
assassinations, rapes, conflagrations, instead of all these miserable
little crimes, these mean perfidies that make one sick at heart. Yes,
yes, that is the world for me: a volcano, rocks, rich spoils heaped up
in caverns, a concert of cries of horror accompanied by an orchestra
of pistols and carbines; blood and lacryma christi: a bed of lava
rocked by earthquakes; come now, that's life!"[9] In the same year
he has the idea of a colossal oratorio on the subject of "The Last
Day of the World." There are to be three or four soloists, choruses,
and two orchestras, one of sixty, the other of two or three hundred
executants. This is the plan of the work: "Mankind having reached the
ultimate degree of corruption, give themselves up to every kind of
infamy; a sort of Antichrist governs them despotically. A few just men,
directed by a prophet, are found amid the general depravation. The
despot tortures them, steals their virgins, insults their beliefs, and
commands their sacred books to be burnt in the midst of an orgy. The
prophet comes to reproach him for his crimes, and announces the end of
the world and the Last Judgment. The irritated despot has him thrown
into prison, and, delivering himself up again to his impious pleasures,
is surprised in the midst of a feast by the terrible trumpets of the
Resurrection; the dead come out of their graves, the doomed living
utter cries of horror, the worlds are shattered, the angels thunder in
the clouds--that is the end of this musical drama."

These examples will be sufficient to show the peculiarity of mind to
which I have referred. The early ideas of Berlioz seem to bear the same
relation to those of ordinary men as a gas does to a solid or a liquid;
the moment they are liberated they try to diffuse themselves through as
much space as they can. In this connection it is interesting to note
that from his earliest years he had a love for books of travel and
for pondering dreamily over maps of the world; he sought the remoter
conceptions that were not limited by any narrow boundary. One gets a
curious sensation, after reading much of his prose, that the things
of the world have lost their ordinary proportions and perspectives;
the adjectives are so big and so numerous that one begins to take this
inflated diction as the normal speech of men. Occasionally a truly
superb effect of vastness, of distance, is produced, an effect we also
get sometimes in Berlioz's music. It has always seemed to me, for
example, that the opening of his song "Reviens, reviens," gave the most
perfect suggestion of some one being recalled from a great distance;
the whole atmosphere seems to be attenuated, rarefied almost away; the
melancholy is the melancholy of a regret that sweeps the ocean to the
horizon and fails to find what the eyes hunger for.


It is time, however, to remind ourselves that the picture painted
so far does not represent the complete Berlioz. It is all the more
necessary to give ourselves this reminder because the only Berlioz
known to most people is this being of wild excitement and frenzied
exaggeration, with a dash in him here and there of pose. There is
a "legend" of each great composer--a kind of half-true, half-false
conception of him that gradually settles into people's minds and
prevents them, as a rule, from thinking out the man's character and
achievement for themselves. There is the Mozart legend, the Beethoven
legend, the Liszt legend, the authenticity of which not one amateur in
a thousand thinks of questioning. There is the Berlioz legend, too, the
causes of the growth of which, in this country especially, are not far
to seek. We really know very little of him over here. The _Carnaval
romain_ overture and the _Faust_ are heard occasionally; but the
average English amateur, when he thinks of Berlioz, has chiefly in mind
the _Symphonie fantastique_ and the _Harold en Italie_--particularly
the final movements with their orgies of brigands, witches, and what
not. Industrious compilers of biographies and of programme notes do
their best to keep this side of Berlioz uppermost in the public mind,
by always harping upon the eccentricities of his youth. One needs
to remember that Berlioz died in 1869, and that from, say, 1835 to
1869 he was a very different man, both in his music and in his prose,
from what he was between 1821 and 1835. His letters to the Princess
Sayn-Wittgenstein hardly suggest for a moment the Berlioz of the
earlier letters to Humbert Ferrand and others. And as for his music,
the British public that winks and leers knowingly at the mention of
his name, thinking all the time of the _Symphonie fantastique_ and the
_Harold en Italie_, would do well to reflect that it knows nothing, or
next to nothing, of the _Waverley_, _Francs Juges_, _Le Roi Lear_ and
other overtures, of _Lélio_, of the _Tristia_, of _Le Cinq Mai_, of
the _Messe des Morts_, of the operas--_Benvenuto Cellini_, _Béatrice
et Benedict_, _La Prise de Troie_, and _Les Troyens à Carthage_--of
the _Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_, of the _Roméo et Juliette_, of
_L'Enfance du Christ_, of the _Te Deum_, and of other works, to say
nothing of the score or so of songs. In the whole history of music,
there is probably no musician about whose merit the average man is so
sublimely confident on the basis of so sublime an ignorance of his work.


Bearing in mind, then, that the Berlioz whom we have hitherto been
discussing is mostly the youthful Berlioz--the writer of mad letters,
the actor of extravagant parts, the composer of the _Symphonie
fantastique_ (1829-1830), and _Lélio_ (1831-1832)--let us look for a
moment at his art as it was then, and afterwards trace it through its
later and more sober manifestations.

In trying to follow him historically we meet with this difficulty,
that it is impossible to say exactly when some of his conceptions
first saw the light. He was in the habit of using up an early piece of
material in a later work, especially if the early work was one that
had been tried and had failed. We know, as I have already said, that
the theme of the opening of the _Symphonie fantastique_ is taken from
a boyish composition. A phrase from another boyish work--a quintet--is
used again in the _Francs Juges_ overture. Parts of the early cantata
_La Mort d'Orphée_ become the _Chant d'amour_ and _La harpe éolienne_
in _Lélio_. The _Chœur d'ombres_ in _Lélio_ is a reproduction of an
aria in the scena _Cléopâtre_--one of his unsuccessful _Prix de Rome_
essays. Part of the _Messe solennelle_ (1824) goes into _Benvenuto
Cellini_ (1835-1837). The _Marche au supplice_ in the _Symphonie
fantastique_ is taken from his youthful opera _Les Francs Juges_.
The fantasia on _The Tempest_ goes into _Lélio_. I strongly suspect,
indeed, that more of his work dates from the first ten years of his
artistic life (1824-1834) than we have ever imagined. My theory is that
he was overflowing with ideas in his younger days, and that there was
a gradual failure of them in his latest years, owing to the terrible
physical tortures he endured, and the large quantities of morphia he
had to take to still his pangs. At first he turns out work after work
with great rapidity. Taking the larger ones alone, we have in 1826[10]
_La révolution grecque_, in 1827 or 1828 the _Waverley_ and _Francs
Juges_ overtures, in 1828-1829 the eight _Faust_ scenes, in 1829 the
_Irish Melodies_, in 1829-1830 the _Symphonie fantastique_, in 1830 the
_Sardanapalus_ and the _Tempête_, in 1831 the _Corsair_ and _Le Roi
Lear_ overtures, in 1831-1832 the _Rob Roy_ overture, _Le Cinq Mai_,
_Lélio_ and part of the _Tristia_, in 1832-1833 various songs, in 1834
the _Harold en Italie_, and the _Nuits d'Été_, in 1835-1837 _Benvenuto
Cellini_ and the _Messe des Morts_, in 1838 the _Roméo et Juliette_.
This is a good output for some twelve years of a busy and struggling
man's life, during the earlier part of which he was little more than an
apprentice in his art. Berlioz lived another thirty-one years, but in
that time did surprisingly little. Again keeping to the larger works,
we have in 1840 the _Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_, in 1843 the
_Carnaval romain_ overture, in 1844 the _Hymne à la France_, in 1846
the completion of _Faust_, in 1848 the remainder of the _Tristia_, in
1851 _La Menace des Francs_, in 1850-1854 the _Enfance du Christ_, in
1849-1854 the _Te Deum_, in 1855 _L'Impériale_, in 1860-1862 _Béatrice
et Benedict_, in 1856-1863 the double opera _La Prise de Troie_ and
_Les Troyens à Carthage_. Even allowing for the facts that in his
middle and later periods he spent a good deal of time in foreign tours
and in literary work, we shall still, I think, be forced to conclude
that his ideas flowed more slowly in his later days, while they were
certainly of an inferior quality at times. We must remember, too, that
some of his works were written long before their production, and that
there is sometimes reason to believe this to have been the case even
where we have no positive testimony on the point. The _idée fixe_ theme
of the _Symphonie fantastique_ first appeared in _Herminie_ (1828);
the "Harold" theme in the _Harold en Italie_ had already figured on
the _cor anglais_ in the _Rob Roy_ overture. It is probable that the
_Roméo et Juliette_ was not all written in 1838 as a consequence of
Paganini's gift, as every one was led to believe; Berlioz had the
idea of the work in 1829, and perhaps conceived some of the music
then.[11] The _Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_, produced in 1840, was
to a great extent written in 1835. The stirring phrases that are the
life and soul of the _Carnaval romain_ overture (1843) are taken from
_Benvenuto Cellini_ (1835-1837); while the theme of the love-episode
in the overture had already appeared in _Cléopâtre_ (1829). It is,
indeed, impossible to say how much of the music of what I have called
Berlioz's second epoch really dates from his first, thus still further
diminishing the quantity belonging to the years after 1838. I think, if
the truth were known, it would be found that one or two of the themes
of _Béatrice et Benedict_, ostensibly written between 1860 and 1862,
belong to 1828, when Berlioz first resolved to make an opera out of
Shakespeare's play. It is incontestable that the ten years from 1828
to 1838 were years of inexhaustible musical inspiration. At times, he
himself has told us, he thought his head would have burst under the
peremptory pressure of his ideas; so rapidly did they flow, indeed,
that he had to invent a kind of musical shorthand to help his pen to
keep pace with them. There was, I take it, very little of this in the
last two or three decades of his life. Make what allowances we will
for other demands upon his time, it seems undeniable that his brain
then worked less eagerly and less easily in musical things. Had the
ideas been there in full vigour they would have come out in spite of
all other occupations; and that they were not there as they were in his
youth can only be explained, I think, on physiological grounds.[12]

The latter aspect of the case, however, will be dealt with more fully
later on. Here we may just note that Berlioz's early life was in
every way calculated to produce both the inflation of the prose style
that we see in his letters and the eccentricity and exaggeration that
we see in some of his early music. His friend Daniel Bertrand tells
us that "in his youth he sometimes amused himself by deliberately
starving, in order to know what evils genius could surmount; later on
his stomach had to pay for these expensive fantasies." At the time of
his infatuation with Henrietta Smithson, he used to play the maddest
pranks with his already over-excited brain and body; he would take long
night-walks without food, and sink into the sleep of utter exhaustion
in the fields. His body, like his brain, could not be kept at rest;
he had a mania for tramping and climbing that invariably carried him
far beyond his powers of endurance.[13] In 1830 the veteran Rouget
de l'Isle, without having seen the youthful musician, diagnosed him
excellently from his correspondence--"Your head," he wrote, "seems to
be a volcano perpetually in eruption." We may smile at his antics all
through this epoch, especially in _l'affaire Smithson_. But though
there may have been a little conscious pose in it all, it is
unquestionable that in the bulk of it he was in deadly earnest. Twice
he tried to commit suicide--once at Genoa, and again in the presence
of Henrietta. Nor were they merely stage performances, mere efforts at
effect; it was not his fault that they did not turn out successfully.


Roughly speaking, it will be found that the Berlioz I have so
far depicted comes into view about 1827. It was about that date,
apparently, that youthful enthusiasm, combined with starvation and
folly, gave his system that lurid incandescence that people always
think of when they hear the name of Berlioz. It is about that date
that his letters begin to show the inflation of style to which I have
referred, and his music begins to acquire force and penetration and
expressiveness, together with a tincture of the abnormal. Previously
to 1827 he had presumably not written very much, or if he had it has
not survived. What has remained is now accessible to us in the new
complete edition of his works. There we can see some songs that,
whatever their precise date may be, clearly belong to his earliest
period. One of the very earliest--_Le Dépit de la Bergère_--shows a
quite inexperienced brain and hand. _Amitié, reprends ton empire_
is of much the same order; it looks, indeed, like a pot-boiler, an
attempt to meet the contemporary demand for this kind of thing. Nor
does the little cantata _La révolution grecque_ come to anything. But
negative and futile as much of this early work is, it shows one thing
quite clearly--that individuality of manner that accounts at once for
the successes and the failures of Berlioz. As I have already pointed
out, his type of melody is something peculiarly his own. The same may
be said of his harmony, which moves about in a way so different from
everything we are accustomed to that often we are quite unable to see
the _raison d'être_ of it. The popular judgment is that his melody is
ugly and his harmony shows a want of musical education. This, however,
is rather a hasty verdict. Nothing is more certain than that our first
impression of many a Berlioz melody is one of disgust--unless it be
that the second impression is one of pleasure. What Schumann noticed
long ago in connection with the _Waverley_ overture is still quite
true, that closer acquaintance with a Berlioz melody shows a beauty
in it that was unsuspected at first. I can answer for it in my own
experience, for some of the things that move me most deeply now were
simply inexpressive or repellent to me at one time; and I fancy every
one who will not be satisfied with the first impression of his palate,
but will work patiently at Berlioz, will have the same experience.
The truth seems to be that many of his conceptions were of an order
quite unlike anything else we meet with in music, and hence we have
some difficulty in putting ourselves at his point of view and seeing
the world as he saw it. And occasionally this individuality of thought
degenerates into sheer incomprehensibility. Some of his melodies,
play and sing them as often as we will, never come to mean anything
to us. It is not that they are ugly or commonplace, not that they are
cheap or platitudinous, but simply that they convey nothing; they
stand like something opaque between us and the emotion that prompted
them; instead of being the medium for the revelation of the composer's
thought they are a medium for the concealment of it. In cases like
these the explanation seems to be that his mental processes, always
rather different from ours, are here so very different that the chain
of communication snaps between us; what was a difference of degree now
becomes a difference of kind; he speaks another language than ours; the
thought, as it were, lives in a space of other dimensions than ours. We
may find a rough-and-ready analogy in a writer like Mallarmé, where the
general strangeness of thought and style becomes now and then downright
unintelligibility. In the one case as in the other, we are dealing with
a type of brain so far removed from the normal that the normal brain
occasionally finds it simply impossible to follow it.

So again with the harmony of Berlioz. Here the peculiarity of his style
has often been commented on, with its odd way of getting from one
chord to another, its curious trick of conceiving the harmony in solid
blocks, that succeed one another without flowing into one another--much
as in certain modern Dutch pictures the colours stand away from each
other as if a rigid line always lay between them and prevented their
being blended by the atmosphere. The general explanation of this
peculiarity of Berlioz's harmony is the easiest one--that it comes from
his imperfect technical education. There may be something in this,
but a little reflection will show that it is a long way from being
the complete explanation. In the first place, one needs scarcely any
"training" to avoid some of the progressions that Berlioz constantly
uses; the mere hearing of other music would be sufficient to establish
unconsciously the routine way of getting from one chord to another;
and if Berlioz always takes another way, it can only be because the
peculiarity of his diction has its root in a peculiarity of thought.
In the second place, the harmonic oddities are really not so numerous
in his earliest as in his later works. The melodies of the _Waverley_,
_Francs Juges_, and _King Lear_ overtures and of many of the earlier
songs are usually harmonised more in the ordinary manner than the
melodies of the works of his middle and last epochs; which seems to
show again that his harmonic style was rooted in his way of thinking,
and became more pronounced as he grew older and more individual. In the
third place, if the peculiarities of his harmony had been due to lack
of education, one would have expected him, when in more mature years
he revised an early work, to correct some of the so-called faults to
which a wider experience must have opened his eyes. But it is quite
clear that the matter never struck him in this way. In the new edition
of his works we have some instructive examples. In 1850, for example,
he revised one of his songs, _Adieu, Bessy_, which he had written in
1830. He has altered it in many ways, and made many improvements in the
melody, in the phrasing, and in the accompaniment; but the sometimes
odd harmonic sequences of the original version remain unchanged in the
later. It clearly never struck him that there was anything odd about
them; he had really seen his picture in that particular way; it was a
question not so much of mere technique as of fundamental conception. In
the fourth place, we must always remember that whatever Berlioz thought
he thought in terms of the orchestra. He neither played nor understood
the piano, and his writing is not piano writing. Now every one knows
that many effects that seem strange or ugly on the piano are perfectly
pleasurable on the orchestra, where they are set not in the one plane,
as it were, but in different planes and different focuses. I fancy
that when Berlioz imagined a melodic line or a harmonic combination he
saw it not merely as a melody or a harmony but as a piece of colour
as well; and the movement of the parts was not only a shifting of
lines but a weaving of colours. Many things of his that are ugly or
meaningless on the piano have a beauty of their own when heard, as he
conceived them, on the orchestra, set in different depths, as it were,
with the toning effect of atmosphere between them; not all standing in
the same line in the foreground, with the one white light of the piano
making confusion among their colour-values.

There is good reason for believing, then, that much of Berlioz's
peculiarity of style is far less the result of lack of education than
is generally believed, and that more of it must be attributed to a
peculiar constitution of brain that made him really see things just in
the way he has depicted them.

Among these early songs and other works there are some that show
great strength and charm and originality of expression, such as _Toi
qui l'aimas, verse des pleurs_, _La belle voyageuse_, _Le coucher
du soleil_, and _Le pêcheur_ (that was afterwards incorporated in
_Lélio_). His two youthful overtures, the _Waverley_ and the _Francs
Juges_, though relatively unsubtle in their working-out--for he had
little feeling for the symphonic form pure and simple--are yet very
individual, while parts of the _Francs Juges_ in particular are
exceedingly strong. Then the apprentice makes rapid strides on to
mastery. The year 1828 may be taken as the turning-point in his career.
His unsuccessful scena for the _Prix de Rome_--_Herminie_--exhibits
remarkable ardour of conception. There is much that is very youthful
in it; but it is decidedly individual, and above all it shows a
feeling for rhythm to which there had been no parallel in French
music up to that date. The next year saw another _Prix de Rome_
scena--_Cléopâtre_--of which the same description will mostly hold
good. The rhythmic scene is just as delicate, the melody is becoming
purer and stronger, and we have in the aria _Grands Pharaons_ a
really fine piece of dramatic writing. About the same time he wrote
the original eight scenes from _Faust_, containing such gems as the
chorus of sylphs, the song of the rat, the song of the flea, Margaret's
ballad of the King of Thule, her "Romance," and the serenade of
Mephistopheles. Berlioz's musical genius was now entering upon its
happiest phase; never, perhaps, did it work so easily and so joyously
as in 1829 and the next seven or eight years. It was about 1829, too,
that his orchestration began to be so distinctive; one can see him
reaching out to new effects in the _Cléopâtre_, the chorus of the
sylphs, the ballad of the King of Thule, the _Ballet des Ombres_ and
the fantasia on _The Tempest_.

This increasing mastery of his thoughts coincided with the epoch of
his most intense nervous excitement, in which Henrietta Smithson
played the part of the match to the gunpowder. So there came about the
typical Romantic Berlioz of the _Symphonie fantastique_ and _Lélio_,
moving about in the world with abnormally heightened senses, his brain
on fire, turning waking life into a nightmare, dreaming of blood and
fantastic horrors. He exploited this mad psychology to its fullest in
the last two movements of the symphony; after that the volcano lost
a good deal of its lurid grandeur, and in _Lélio_ we get rather less
molten lava and rather more ashes than we want. Some of the music of
_Lélio_--the ballad of the fisher, the _Chœur des ombres_, the _Chant
de bonheur_, the _Harpe éolienne_--is among the finest Berlioz ever
wrote; but the scheme as a whole, with its extraordinary prose tirades,
is surely the maddest thing ever projected by a musician. Here was
the young Romantic in all his imbecile, flamboyant glory, longing to
be a brigand, to indulge in orgies of blood and tears, to drink his
mistress' health out of the skull of his rival, and all the rest of
it. But after all there is very little of this in Berlioz's music. We
meet with it again in the "orgy of brigands" in the _Harold en Italie_;
and whether that really belongs to 1834 or was written two or three
years earlier, at the time when the hyperæmic brain was working at
its wildest in the _Symphonie fantastique_ and _Lélio_,[14] matters
comparatively little. In any case, the madness ends in 1834 with

And then, with almost startling suddenness, a new Berlioz comes into
view. We first see the change in the scena _Le Cinq Mai_--a song on
the death of the Emperor Napoleon, to words by Béranger--which is
dated 1834 by M. Adolphe Jullien and 1832 by Herr Weingartner and M.
Malherbe. The precise date is unimportant. The essential fact is that
Berlioz's brain was now acquiring what it had hitherto lacked--it
was beginning to be touched with a philosophic sense of the reality
of things. He had, of course, in much of his earlier work, written
seriously and beautifully; but _Le Cinq Mai_ has qualities beyond
these. His songs _La captive_ (1832) and _Sara la baigneuse_ (1833?)
carry on the line from the earlier songs and overtures; what we get
in addition, in _Le Cinq Mai_, is a gravity and ordered intensity of
conception that as a whole are absent from the earlier works. He is
becoming less of an egoist, more capable of voicing the thought of
humanity as a whole; the Romanticist is making way for the complete
human being. In the _Nuits d'Été_ (1834) there is a larger spirit than
in any of his previous songs. Between 1835 and 1838 we have three noble
works--_Benvenuto Cellini_, the _Requiem_, and _Roméo et Juliette_;
and to no previous work of Berlioz would the epithet "noble" be really
applicable. The change is not so much a musical as an intellectual--we
may almost say ethical--one. Look at him, for example, in the opening
of the _Requiem_. All the madness, the pose, the egoism of the
_Symphonie fantastique_ and its brethren have disappeared. Berlioz
now has an eye for something more in life than his own unshorn locks
and his sultry amours. He no longer thinks himself the centre of the
universe; he no longer believes in the Berliozcentric theory, and does
not write with one eye on the mirror half the time. In place of all
this we have a Berlioz who has sunk his aggressive subjectivity and
learned to regard life objectively. His spirit touched to finer issues,
he sings, not Berlioz, but humanity as a whole. He is now what every
great artist is instinctively--a philosopher as well as a singer;
by the _Requiem_ he earns his right to stand among the serious,
brooding spirits of the earth. So again in the final scene of _Roméo et
Juliette_, where he rises to loftier heights than he could ever have
attained while he was in the throes of his egoistic Romanticism. Here
again, as in the _Requiem_, he speaks with the authority of the seer
as well as the voice of the orator; there is the thrill of profound
conviction in the music, the note of inspired comprehension of men and
nature as a whole. In a word, the old Berlioz has gone; a new Berlioz
stands in his place, wiser than of old, purified and chastened by his
experiences, artist and thinker in one.


In 1838, then, everything seemed of the happiest promise for his art.
But that promise, alas, was not fulfilled so amply as might have been
hoped for. Whatever the real cause may have been, Berlioz, as we have
seen, now slackened greatly in his musical production. It could not
have been wholly due to his _feuilleton_ writing, for he was never so
busy with this as in the seven years onward from 1833 (the year in
which he married Henrietta Smithson, and had to earn money in some way
or other). He complains to Humbert Ferrand that his journalism leaves
him little time to write music, but the facts are that he was really
keeping up a very good output. At the end of what I have called his
first epoch he received some large sums of money--4000 francs for the
_Requiem_ (1837), 20,000 francs from Paganini for _Harold en Italie_
(1838), and 10,000 francs for the _Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_
(1840)--enabling him to give up journalism and to travel. He was away
frequently between 1841 and 1855, but not enough to account for the
singularly small amount of music he wrote--an amount that becomes still
smaller in the later years.

We cannot, I think, resist the conclusion that even between 1840 and
1855 the seeds of his illness were in him and affecting his powers of
work. So far as can be ascertained from his letters, he became aware of
his malady about 1855, but there is no warrant for thinking it actually
began then; his father had suffered from the same complaint, and the
son was evidently a doomed man. It is about 1855 that his letters begin
to show what ravages his awful malady--a neuralgia of the intestines,
he calls it--was making in him. The atrocious pain weakened him through
and through; then the springs of energy within him were still further
relaxed by the quantities of opium he had to take. He lost, at times,
even his interest in art. In November 1856 he speaks to the Princess
Sayn-Wittgenstein of "the horrible moments of disgust with which my
illness inspires me," during which "I find everything I have written"
(he is working at _Les Troyens_) "cold, dull, stupid, tasteless; I have
a great mind to burn it all." A month later he writes that he has been
so ill that he could not go on with his score. Thus the melancholy
record continues in letter after letter: he is ill "in soul, in body,
in heart, in head;" an access of his "damned neuralgia" keeps him on
his back for sixteen hours; "I cannot walk, I only drag myself along;
I cannot think, I only ruminate;" "I live in an absolute isolation of
soul; I do nothing but suffer eight or nine hours a day, without hope
of any kind, wanting only to sleep, and appreciating the truth of the
Chinese proverb--it is better to be sitting than standing, lying than
sitting, asleep than awake, and dead than asleep;" "my neurosis grows
and has now settled in the head; sometimes I stagger like a drunken
man and dare not go out alone;" "these obstinate sufferings enervate
me, brutalise me; I become more and more like an animal, indifferent
to everything, or almost everything;" his doctors tell him he has "a
general inflammation of the nervous system," and that he must "live
like an oyster, without thought and without sensation;" some days he
has "attacks of hysteria like a young girl;" "Mon Dieu, que je suis
triste!"; "I suffer each day so terribly, from seven in the morning
till four in the afternoon, that during such crises my thoughts are
completely confused;" he takes so long over the writing of _Béatrice
et Benedict_ because, owing to his illness, his musical ideas come to
him with extreme slowness--while after he has written it he forgets
it, and when he hears it it sounds quite new to him. To his other
correspondents it is always the same pitiful story: "On certain days I
cannot write ten consecutive lines; it takes me sometimes four days to
finish an article."

It is impossible to believe that so serious a disorder began only
in 1855, when Berlioz first became fully conscious of it; it must
have been in him years before, and must even then have affected his
powers of work.[15] But such music as he did find energy to write
is eloquent of the new condition of his being. Not only bodily but
mentally Berlioz was a changed man--a point that should be insisted
on in view of the traditional misunderstanding of him. I have already
remarked upon the Berlioz "legend" that is generally accepted, a legend
founded solely on the Berlioz of twenty-five or thirty. Heine gave
perhaps the finest expression to this aspect of him in the passage in
which he speaks of him as "a colossal nightingale, a lark the size
of an eagle, such as once existed, they say, in the primitive world.
Yes, the music of Berlioz, in general, has for me something primitive,
almost antediluvian; it sets me dreaming of gigantic species of extinct
animals, of mammoths, of fabulous empires with fabulous sins, of all
kinds of impossibilities piled one on top of the other; these magic
accents recall to us Babylon, the hanging gardens of Semiramis, the
marvels of Nineveh, the audacious edifices of Mizraim, such as we see
them in the pictures of the English painter Martin." That is not a bad
description, in spite of its verbal fantasy, of the Berlioz of the last
two movements of the _Symphonie fantastique_, the orgy of brigands in
_Harold en Italie_, the ride to the abyss in _Faust_, and, let us even
say, the "Tuba mirum" of the _Requiem_. But it is only a quarter, a
tenth, of the real Berlioz. Yet the old legend still goes on; even so
careful a student as Mr. W. H. Hadow has just said, in his article in
the new "Grove's Dictionary," that "his imagination seems always at
white heat; his eloquence pours forth in a turbid, impetuous torrent
which levels all obstacles and overpowers all restraint. It is the
fashion to compare him with Victor Hugo, and on one side at any rate
the comparison is just. Both were artists of immense creative power,
both were endowed with an exceptional gift of oratory, both ranged
at will over the entire gamut of human passion. But here resemblance
ends. Beside the extravagance of Berlioz, Hugo is reticent; beside the
technical errors of the musician the verse of the poet is as faultless
as a Greek statue."

One really gets rather tired of this perpetual harping upon the
extravagance of Berlioz. The picture is pure caricature, not a
portrait; one or two features in the physiognomy are selected and
exaggerated, posed in the strongest light, and factitiously made
to appear as the essential points of the man. Yet a baby with any
knowledge of Berlioz could demonstrate the falsity of the picture.
Where is the "extravagance," the want of "reticence," in the _Waverley_
overture, the _Roi Lear_ overture, the first three movements of the
_Symphonie fantastique_, the twenty or thirty songs, the bulk of
_Faust_, the bulk of _Harold en Italie_, the bulk of _Lélio_, the three
fine pieces that make up the _Tristia_, the _Cinq Mai_, the bulk of
the _Requiem_, _Benvenuto Cellini_, _Roméo et Juliette_, the noble
_Symphonie funèbre et triomphale_, the _Carnaval romain_ overture, the
_Enfance du Christ_, _Béatrice et Benedict_, or _Les Troyens_? Out of
all these thousands of pages, how ridiculously few of them deserve
the epithet of "extravagance"; of how many of them is it true that
Berlioz's "eloquence pours forth in a turbid, impetuous torrent which
levels all obstacles and overpowers all restraint"?

The truth is that even in the youthful Berlioz there was considerable
"reticence," considerable power to sympathise with and express not
only the flamboyant but the tender, the pathetic, the delicate. We
have already seen that his intellectual and moral powers came to their
climax about 1838, at which time he was singing with enormous passion,
but also with perfect restraint and impressive nobility. Both the music
and the prose of his later years show how greatly his character was
altering; it is simply ludicrous to attempt to describe _this_ Berlioz
in the language that was applicable only to the worst of the Berlioz of
twenty years before. Physical and mental suffering, trials in private
and perpetual disappointment in public life, chastened the man's soul,
brought out the finer elements of it. He fought the powers of evil
calmly and steadily with that admirable weapon of irony of his. Once he
forgot himself, in the Wagner affair of 1861; but one can forgive, or
at any rate understand, the momentary wave of malevolence that surged
up in him then, if one thinks of the grievous illness that racked
the poor frame, and the unending insults that had been his own lot as
an opera composer. Apart from this episode, Berlioz always commands
our respect in his later years. Always the brain, the spirit, were
uppermost; where other men would have become abusive he only became
more mordantly witty; where the passion of defeat would have obscured
the eyes of other men he only saw the more clearly and penetratingly.
Look at him in his later portraits, with that fine intellectual mouth,
full of a strength that is not contradicted, but reinforced, by the
ironic humour that plays over it. Yes, he met the shocks of fortune
well, and they were many and rude. If we want a summary contrast
of the later and the earlier Berlioz, we have only to compare the
ebullient letters of his youth with the letters written to the Princess
Sayn-Wittgenstein between 1852 and 1867. The very style is altered; the
later letters read easily and beautifully, without any of those abrupt
distortions and exaggerations that pull us up with a shock in the
earlier ones. When he has to castigate, he does it like a gentleman,
with the rapier, not the bludgeon. And how perfectly does he maintain
the essential dignity of the artist against this well-meaning but
inquisitive and slightly vulgar aristocrat; with what fine breeding,
what exquisite use of the iron hand within the glove, does he repel
her interferences with matters that concern only himself, conveying
to her that there are precincts within his soul to which neither her
friendship nor her position give her the right of entry!

No, the cheap literary oleographs that do duty for the portraits of
Berlioz are ludicrously in suggestive of what Berlioz really was.
His fever had all died down even by 1846--supposing the ride to the
abyss in _Faust_ really to belong to that and not an earlier date;
and everything after then speaks of a vastly altered being. Had he
only kept his health up to this stage of his career, who knows to what
sunlit heights he might not have attained? In spirit, in experience
of life, in moral balance, in the technique of his art, he had now
enormously improved; but set against all this was that insidious
disease that so woefully hindered the free working of what had once
been so eager and keen a brain. It diminished the quantity of work he
could do; it spoiled some of it altogether--the cantata _L'Impériale_,
for example, where the unimpressive writing is throughout that of a
mentally exhausted man. Yet a sure instinct seems often to have guided
him even in this epoch of distress and frustration. He could write
only a few hours each week; but as a rule he seems to have chosen
happily his times for work, seizing the rare and fleeting moments when
the poor brain and body were held together in a temporary harmony.
The best of his later work need not fear comparison with the best of
his earlier periods. And how changed in mood and outlook it all is!
All his old Romanticism is gone, not only from his music but from the
basis of his music. Instead of the old violent literary themes, with
their clangorous rhetoric and their purple colouring, he now loves to
dwell among themes of classic purity of outline, and to lavish upon
them an infinite delicacy of treatment. His musical style becomes at
times extraordinarily beautiful and supple; without losing any of
the essential strength of his earlier manner, he confutes, by the
exquisite, pearly delicacy of _L'Enfance du Christ_ and _Béatrice et
Benedict_, the ignoramuses who then, as now, saw nothing in him but
a master of the _baroque_ and grotesque. His subjects are simple;
he draws and colours them, as in _Béatrice and Benedict_, with the
rarest and brightest grace,[16] or, as in _L'Enfance du Christ_, with
a curiously engaging simplicity of manner that suggests Puvis de
Chavannes or the _primitifs_. And his strength, where he chooses to let
it show, is now so finely controlled, so thoroughly and masterfully
bent to the creation of beauty. In the great _Te Deum_ we see his
style at something like its finest; all the coarseness and clumsiness
that clung to his earlier strength have gone; the muscle shows none
of the raw vigour of the early days, but plays easily and flexibly
under the velvet skin; while in his softer moments there is a new and
extraordinary sweetness, a honeying of the voice that yet sacrifices
none of its old virility. And for his last work he draws not upon any
of the Romantic contemporaries of his youth, not even upon that other
Romanticist--Shakespeare--to whom he was always so closely drawn,
but upon his beloved Virgil; it is with a classic subject, set with
classic sobriety of manner and amplitude of feeling, that he chooses
to end his career. What that work meant for him only those can realise
who study his letters during the seven years in which he was engaged
upon it. It was his refuge, his method of escape from the world; it
was for him that "tower of ivory" of which Flaubert speaks, into which
the artist can mount, there to dream of the ideal that is unrealisable
in life. He was a dying man all these years, and in much of the music
of _Les Troyens_ there are only too many signs of physical and mental
exhaustion. But it has its extraordinarily fine moments, and the
general conception is grander than anything Berlioz had attempted
since the _Requiem_. There is something strangely moving in this
reversion of the old musician, in his latest years, to the passions
and the ideals of his youth. Fiction could not invent anything more
touchingly beautiful than that final meeting with the Estelle he had
loved as a boy of ten or twelve, and the resurgence of all the old
romantic feeling for his _Stella montis_--that curious blinding of
the fleshly eye that permitted him to see in the woman of sixty-seven
only the winsome girl he had loved half-a-century before. In his art
there was a similar atavism; the old fighter puts away, with a sadly
ironic smile, the red flag under which he had once fought so fiercely,
and seeks companionship among the great calm figures of the past.
There may have been a deliberate intention of separating himself quite
pointedly from Wagner, which may account for something at least of his
later clinging to Gluck and the classics. But on the whole it seems
more probable that the reversion to these less fevered, more spacious
spirits was just the spontaneous sinking of the weary soul into the
arms that were most ready to receive it. He knew he was a beaten man;
he knew that during his lifetime at any rate his star was doomed to
suffer eclipse; whatever chance he might have had of fighting his way
through the clouds again, of overcoming the Parisian ignorance of and
prejudice against him, was shattered by the disease that broke him,
body and soul. So he retired into himself and waited, as calmly and
philosophically as might be, for the end.

To us his situation seems even more tragic than it must have seemed
to himself. Knowing what extraordinary promise he was giving in 1838,
we can only regard the last thirty years of his life as a failure to
redeem that promise, at all events in its entirety. In both fields--the
vocal and the instrumental--he seems to halt uncertainly, not quite
knowing how to carry on the work he had begun. The later music, as I
have tried to show, is generally beautiful enough; the fault does not
lie there. But Berlioz failed to beat out for himself the new forms
that might reasonably have been expected from him by those who had
followed his career from the first. All his life he longed ardently to
be an opera composer. But the failure of _Benvenuto Cellini_ in 1837,
combined with the intrigues of his enemies, shuts him out of the Opera
for twenty-five years; in 1846, again, the failure of _Faust_ gives
him another crushing blow. When he resumes his operatic writing, the
capacity and the desire to strike out new forms seem to have gone; he
is content to work within the limits of the frame that Gluck bequeathed
to him. All this time he practically neglects purely instrumental
music, thus failing to work out the conclusions towards which he seemed
to have been feeling his way in his earlier works. Nothing in him comes
to its full fruition; each branch is lopped off almost as soon as it
leaves the trunk. He is a pathetic monument of incompleteness; his
disease and the ignorant public between them slew his art. But the work
he actually did seems on this account only the more wonderful. He was a
genius of the first rank; and there is little doubt that the better his
music is known the more respectful and the more sympathetic will be the
tone of criticism towards him.


[1] The reader who is interested in the matter may turn to letters
to Liszt of 1852. Here he speaks slightingly of Berlioz's _Cellini_,
and alludes to "the platitudes of his Faust _Symphony_(!)" The last
phrase alone is sufficient to show that Wagner was completely ignorant
of the work he had the impertinence to decry--for every one knows
that Berlioz's _Faust_ is not a symphony. In a recent article in _The
Speaker_ on "The Relations of Wagner and Berlioz," I have, I think,
shown that Wagner could not have known a note either of the _Faust_
or the _Cellini_; the dates of performance and of publication put
any such knowledge on his part out of the question. It is necessary,
however, to warn the reader that in both the English translation of the
Wagner-Liszt letters (by Dr. Hueffer, revised by Mr. Ashton Ellis),
and the big Glasenapp-Ellis _Life of Wagner_, the real facts are kept
from the English public. The incriminating phrase, "Faust Symphony," is
quietly abbreviated to "Faust," so that there is nothing to rouse the
reader's suspicions and make him look further into the matter. In the
big _Life_, again, now in course of publication, Mr. Ellis, though he
has thousands of pages at his disposal--though, indeed, he can devote a
whole volume of five hundred pages to two years of Wagner's life--still
cannot find room for the brief line or two from the 1852 letter that
would put the real facts before the reader; discreet and silent dots
take their place. The British public is apparently to be treated like a
child, and told only so much of the truth about Wagner as is thought to
be good for it--or at any rate good for Wagner.

[2] This is an error; he arrived in Paris in 1821.

[3] See Julien Tiersot's _Hector Berlioz et la société de son temps_
(1904)--an excellent book that is indispensable to every student of

[4] It is interesting to note that Alfred de Musset anticipated Arthur
Rimbaud and the modern symbolists in having coloured audition. He once
maintained that the note F was yellow, G red, a soprano voice blond, a
contralto voice brown. See Arvède Barine's _Alfred de Musset_ (in _Les
Grands Écrivains Français_), p. 115.

[5] Hoffmann was, of course, a musician as well; but he is more truly
the novelist who wrote about music than the musician who wrote fiction.

[6] Buckle (note 316 to Chap. VII. of the _History of Civilisation_)
remarks that "All great revolutions have a direct tendency to increase
insanity, as long as they last, and probably for some time afterwards;
but in this as in other respects the French Revolution stands alone in
the number of its victims." See the references he gives, bearing upon
"the horrible but curious subject of madness caused by the excitement
of the events which occurred in France late in the eighteenth century."
Buckle speaks only of the Revolution, but of course the subsequent wars
must have operated in much the same way.

[7] Chateaubriand, _Souvenirs d'enfance et de jeunesse_, p. 2.

[8] In his letter of March 18, 1839, he gives Ernest Chevalier the plan
of a work that is curiously like that of Berlioz mentioned on page 38,
in its preposterous fantasies and its over-emphasis of form and colour.

[9] He puts the same rhodomontade into the mouth of his Lélio.

[10] One or two of these dates can only be looked upon as
approximative, but if wrong at all, they are so only to the extent of a
year or two, which does not affect the question.

[11] It appears from the Sayn-Wittgenstein letters that the beautiful
theme of the love-scene in _Roméo et Juliette_ was inspired by the
youthful love for Estelle that also produced the opening theme of the
_Symphonie fantastique_. It must, therefore, have been quite a boyish
invention, though no doubt its development and general treatment really
belong to 1838.

[12] M. Julien Tiersot, in his admirable _Berlioz et la société de son
temps_, divides the life of Berlioz into five epochs--1803-1827 (his
childhood, youth, and apprenticeship), 1827-1842 (the epoch of his
greatest activity), 1843-1854 (in which he does little except _Faust_,
which in reality, perhaps, dates from an earlier time), 1854-1865
(the epoch of _L'Enfance du Christ_, _Béatrice et Benedict_, and _Les
Troyens_), and 1865-1869 (barren of works). The discussion in the text
will make it clear why I have substituted my own classification for
that of M. Tiersot, and will, I hope, be convincing. One other point
deserves noting. Towards the end of his _Mémoires_ Berlioz tells us
that he had dreamed a symphony one night, but deliberately refrained
from writing it because of the expense of producing and printing it.
Such a reason may have weighed a little with him; but no one who knows
anything of artistic psychology can regard it as the total explanation.
If the dream-work had really sunk into Berlioz's soul and he had felt
that he had full command of it, he could not have rested until he had
it down on paper, if only for his own gratification. It is far more
probable that he felt himself unequal to the mental strain of thinking
out his vision and forcing the stubborn material into a plastic piece
of art. There was, I take it, a lassitude of tissue in him at this time
that made protracted musical thinking a burden to him.

[13] On the whole question see the chapter on "Le Tempérament" in
Edmond Hippeau's _Berlioz Intime_.

[14] The date of _Lélio_ is 1831-1832, but the most absurd thing in it,
the _Chanson de brigands_, was written in January 1830--at the same
epoch, therefore, as the _Symphonie fantastique_. It is fairly clear
that 1829-1830 marked the climax of Berlioz's eccentricity, and that
his passion for Henrietta Smithson had much to do with it.

[15] Jullien (p. 241) says "it was about this time that the neuralgia
_to which he had always been subject_ settled in the intestines...."

[16] He himself describes it as "a caprice written with the point of a
needle, and demanding excessive delicacy of execution." Yet this is the
man for whom the world can find only the one epithet of "extravagant"!



The musical settings of _Faust_, in one form or another, now number, I
believe, something like thirty or thirty-five. It is perhaps the most
popular of all subjects with musicians, far outdistancing in favour
the Hamlets and Othellos and Romeo-and-Juliets and all the other
lay figures which composers are fond of using to show off their own
garments. It cannot be said that they have added very much, on the
whole, to our comprehension of the drama; indeed, with half-a-dozen
exceptions the Faust-symphonies and Faust-operas and Faust-scenes have
quite failed to justify their existence. One of the main difficulties
in the way of the musician--even supposing him to have the brain
capacity to rise to the height of the psychology of the thing--is the
enormous range and wealth of material of the drama itself. The First
Part of Goethe's work alone, or the Second Part, is quite sufficient
to tax the constructive powers of any composer to the uttermost; but
to reshape the whole of _Faust_ in music is a desperate undertaking.
Since Goethe's day we are bound to see the Faust picture through _his_
eyes; any harking back to earlier forms of it is quite out of the
question. And Goethe, while he has enormously extended and deepened
the spiritual elements of the story, has by this very means set the
musician a problem of discouraging difficulty. No musical version
of the play, in the first place, can be adequate unless it embraces
Goethe's Second Part as well as the First. Due opportunity, again, must
be given for the exposition of all the essential, the seminal "motives"
of the drama, and they are many indeed. The composer is thus on the
horns of a dilemma. If he wants his work to stand in the same gallery
with Goethe's, he has to run a line through Faust's soul long enough
and sinuous enough to touch upon all its secret places; but any one who
tries to do this soon perceives how hard it is to focus so vast a scene
and to keep the picture within one frame of reasonable size. An opera
or a symphony that should attempt to cover all the psychological ground
of the drama would take at least ten or twelve hours in performance.
Apparently the only rational course for the future composer who may
think of setting the Faust subject is to take two or three evenings
over it, after the manner of Wagner's _Ring of the Nibelung_; and until
this is done we shall have to rest satisfied with the more or less
inadequate versions we have at present.

The cosmic quality of the subject, one would think, should have
attracted more of the first-rank men, considering how many of the
second and third rank it has tempted to self-destruction. One wonders,
for example, why it should have fallen to the lot of Gounod to give so
many honest but uninstructed people their first, perhaps their only,
idea of _Faust_--an experience something like getting one's first
notions of _Hamlet_ from the country booth. We can understand their
taking the thing seriously, for I fancy we all took it seriously at
one time--in the callow stage of our musical culture--and many quite
respectable musicians do so still. Yet we have only to come back to
it one day, after dropping acquaintance with it for many years, to
see what a laughter-moving monstrosity the thing is. The book gets
as near the inane at times as anything founded on Goethe could do,
though the music has its good points, of course. In the overture and
opening scene there really is some suggestion of the gravity and
the spirituality of the problems of Faust's soul; but from the time
Margaret and Mephistopheles appear upon the scene the thing becomes for
the most part mere opera, and Faust just the ordinary amorist--_l'homme
moyen sensuel_. The melodrama, _quâ_ melodrama, is sometimes good of
its kind; the Valentine scenes generally ring true, and now and then
they become really impressive. There is plenty of lovely music, too,
in the opera, which may suffice you if you are not very critical as
to the poetic basis--if you do not attempt, that is, to get below the
ear-tickling sounds and to see the characters as Goethe has drawn them.
But once you begin to think of these matters you can only smile at
Gounod and his fellow-criminals who concocted the libretto.

Look at the Gounod overture, for example. For a couple of minutes it
is worthy of almost the loftiest subject or of the best man who has
taken up the _Faust_ theme; and then how woefully it fizzles out,
drifting back into its native habitat of banality, where the air is
more congenial to it--for all the world like a man who goes to an Ibsen
play, sternly resolved to be a serious moralist for one evening at
least, but at the end of the first act makes for the nearest music-hall
or _café chantant_. One can see where it is all tending; Faust the
philosopher has already, at this early stage of his career, become
Faust the _boulevardier_. So with the opening scene, wherein we just
catch the accent of Goethe for a breath or two, but never longer. And
then that absurd devil Mephistopheles, with his stage strut, his stage
idiom, his stage brain! "Are you afraid?" he asks Faust at his first
red-fire appearance, when "Are you amused?" would be more appropriate.
There is a touch of the genuine sardonic quality in his serenade;
but on the whole he suggests not so much the spirit of denial as the
spirit of the pantomime rally. Nor, till you quietly think about the
structure of the libretto, do you realise how exceedingly funny it all
is. In the drinking-scene it is Wagner who gets up to sing the song of
the rat; Wagner! who by no process of shuffling of names can be got
out of our heads as the pupil and companion of Faust. It is true he
does not go very far with the ballad, Mephistopheles interrupting him
after the first line or two--for which Gounod, remembering that Berlioz
had set the same song once for all--was no doubt duly grateful to the
devil. Then Mephistopheles sings his fatuous air about the Calf of
Gold, and quarrels with Valentine--who, oddly enough, is also of the
party--about his sister. So the opera goes on--very charming where it
has least to do with the subject, but merely feeble or ludicrous when
it comes near enough to Goethe to suggest a comparison. For Gounod,
whose own religion was merely Catholicism _sucré_, not only lacked the
brain to grasp the austere philosophy of a subject of this kind; his
musical faculty was not deep enough nor strong enough to save him from
aiming perpetually at drama and achieving only melodrama. Watch him,
for example, in the scenes where he is trying to carry on a dramatic
dialogue, and see to what straits he is put in the effort to make the
orchestra do something expressive in between the actors' speeches. See
the catchpenny trade he drives in those stale operatic formulas for
whose poetic equivalent we have to go to the country booth; see him
capering about with his fussy little runs and twiddles, and striking
all kinds of pompous musical poses, that really signify nothing at all,
and only remind us of the conventional up-down-right-left-cut-thrust
of stage-fencing. And this banal thing, this cheap vulgarisation of
Goethe, this blend of the pantomime, the novelette and the Christmas
card, still represents _Faust_ in the minds of nine musical amateurs
out of ten! It is no more the real Faust than Sardou's _Robespierre_,
for example, is the real Robespierre; in each case a portentous name
has simply been tacked on to a piece of very ordinary melodrama. The
most pleasing elements in Gounod's work--the really lovely, if not
always profound, love-music--are precisely those that withdraw it
furthest from Goethe; for here it is clearly not Faust speaking to
Margaret, but any man to any woman, any Edwin to any Angelina. Gounod's
Margaret alone suggests dimly the drama of Goethe; but that is because
she is the easiest of all the characters to represent in music. In
most of the settings of _Faust_, indeed, the portrait of Margaret
carries a kind of conviction even when the other two characters have
nothing more in common with Faust and Mephistopheles than the names.
He must be a very inferior musician who could fail here. The essence
of Margaret's character is simplicity, innocence, the absence of all
complicating elements; and accordingly we find that all the settings
of her have a strong family resemblance to each other. Schumann's
Margaret is very German, Liszt's very German but at the same time quite
cosmopolitan, Berlioz's curiously _moyen-âge_, Gounod's decidedly
modern and town-bred, but all have the same fundamental qualities; none
does violence to our conception of the real Margaret. Faust, however,
has to be something more than the seducer of Margaret; we want to see
some traces in his music of the weariness of life, the disgust with
knowledge, that distinguish him at the beginning of the drama; we
want to see him growing at once stronger and weaker as he develops,
his character being purged of its dross, his soul's insight into the
world of real things becoming prophetically clear just as he is bidden
to leave it. Unless some elements at least of this picture are given
us, the composer has no right to attach to his painting the title of

One wonders, again, why a musician like Boïto should ever have thought
himself fit company for Marlowe and Goethe. Here is a poet--one
can cheerfully pay a tribute to his general culture if not to his
musicianship--with a semi-musical gift that rarely rises above the
mediocre and generally dips a point or two below it, who not only
fancies he can throw new light on Faust's soul through his music, but
serenely undertakes a reconstruction of the drama that Goethe gave him.
Boïto made such a really good libretto for Verdi out of _Othello_ that
it is rather surprising what an abject mess he has made of _Faust_.
His hash of the great drama is really deplorable. His superior culture
and his finer literary palate put him above the commonplace Gounod
conception of the play as a melodramatic story of a man, a maid, and
a devil. He knows there is a "problem," a "world-view," in it that
really makes it what it is. But as soon as he begins to set the play
to music he seems to forget what the problem is, where it begins and
where it ends. The result is that he is not content to write a piece of
plain, straightforward music of the ordinary operatic type, but must
needs drag in just enough of Goethe's great plan to make the whole
thing preposterous. I say nothing of his musical deficiencies--of his
incurable old-Italian-opera tricks of style, his lame, blind, and
halt melody, the monotonous tenuity of his harmony, the odd jumble
of Wagner and Rossini in his idiom, his notion that the terrible is
adequately expressed in five-finger exercises, and the horrible by a
reproduction of the noises made when the bow is drawn across all four
strings of the violin at once. These are mere details, as is also the
fact that his powers of dramatic characterisation are very limited,
or that his choruses of angels would be more suitable to _contadini_,
or that his Mephistopheles is transported bodily and mentally from
the _buffo_ stage. What is most awesome in Boïto's opera is the
pseudo-philosophical scheme of the libretto. He begins with a Prologue
in Heaven that is almost entirely superfluous, not one-fifth of it
being concerned with Faust. The first half of the first Act might also
be dispensed with entirely, for all it has to do with the problem
of Faust's soul. The second half of this Act, and the first half of
the next, are, in the main, essential to the drama, though there is
no need for musical composers to retain, in the garden scene, the
episodes between Mephistopheles and Martha, that are right enough in
the play, but mar the more ideal atmosphere of music. The descent into
the _buffo_ is perilously easy here; and it is much better to omit all
this, as Schumann does, and concentrate the whole of the light on Faust
and Margaret.

Boïto's next scene, however--the Walpurgis night--is pure waste of
time and space; there is a great deal too much of Mephistopheles and
the chorus, and not half enough of Faust to let us grasp the bearing
of the scene upon the evolution of his soul. The whole of the third
Act helps to carry on the story; but the fourth Act--the Classical
Walpurgis Night--becomes pure nonsense in Boïto's handling of it.
Whatever meaning there may be in the Helena episode in Goethe's long
allegory, there can be no sense at all in simply pushing her on the
operatic stage in order to sing a duet with Faust, the pair having
incontinently fallen in love at first sight--presumably behind the
scenes. Finally, the Epilogue--the Death of Faust--ends the work only
in an operatic, not a spiritual, sense; there being no spiritual
connection between the earlier and the later Faust, no reason why he
should die just then, no hint of the bearing of his death upon his
life. And why in the name of common sense should Boïto have permitted
himself to rewrite the final Act, the crowning pinnacle of the whole
mighty structure that Goethe has so slowly, so painfully reared? In
place of the great motives and profoundly moving scenes of the poetic
drama--Faust's schemes for human happiness, the poor old couple and
their little house on the shore, the conversation with the four gray
women, the blinding and death of Faust, the coming of Mephistopheles
with the Lemures to dig the grave, the pathetic death-scene, the
transportation of the purified Faust into that diviner air where
he meets the purified Margaret--instead of all this we have Faust
back again in the old laboratory of the first Act, Mephistopheles
holding out banal operatic temptations to him, after the manner
of Gounod, and Faust clinging for salvation to the Bible and going
straight off to heaven on his knees, all in the most approved fashion
of the Stratford-on-Avon novelette.[17] Yet, bad as it is, Boïto's
_Mefistofele_ is not the worst that might be done with the drama. His
musical faculties may be of the kind that move us to more laughter
than is good for us; but he certainly had some understanding of the
inner spirit as well as of the external action of Goethe's poem; and
the very extent of his failure serves to show how difficult it is to
mould the play to musical requirements. The difficulty lies not so
much in finding appropriate musical episodes as in dealing with such a
multiplicity of them as there is. The drama, indeed, is amazingly rich
in musical "stuff"--as Wagner would have put it--of the first order;
as Berlioz expressed it in connection with Gounod's _Faust_, "the
librettists have passed over some admirably musical situations that it
would have been necessary to invent if Goethe had not already done so."

There is a vast quantity of the poem, of course, that is as alien to
the spirit of music as it is to that of literature. But there is a
certain irreducible minimum that _must_ be dealt with, if the musical
setting is to aim at reproducing the spiritual problem of Goethe with
anything like completeness. The Prelude and the Prologue in Heaven may,
in case of need, be dispensed with; but almost all the First Part ought
to be utilised, not following Goethe word for word, of course, but
taking the pith of each scene. Here and there we come across sections
that either defy musical treatment or are comparatively unimportant
episodes in the poem. But the main psychological moments must all be
dealt with; and the omission of any one of these cuts a piece out of
the intellectual interest, breaks the subtle line of development,
and makes all that comes after it seem insufficiently led up to. The
First Part of Goethe's _Faust_, in fact, is in itself a masterpiece of
construction, holding the balance most carefully and skilfully between
dramatic action and philosophical reflection. Omit any of the steps by
which the characters have been brought to the dramatic completeness in
which we see them at the end of the First Part, and you break the spell
that makes them real to us.

There is, then, in the First Part alone, more than enough to constitute
the poetical material of at least two operas. Many composers have
chosen to end their labours here, with the death of Margaret and the
flight of Mephistopheles with Faust; and from the purely operatic point
of view there is much to be said for such a course. The First Part does
at least run on the lines that are common to a philosophical drama and
an opera; whereas the Second Part deliberately flouts the musical sense
at point after point. In the First Part the poetry marches hand-in-hand
with the ethical conception; in the Second Part the poetry has often
to be dug out of the jungle of prosaic diffuseness in which Goethe has
hidden it. Nevertheless one great purpose runs like a fine, continuous
thread through all the seemingly unrelated incidents of the drama; and
this line at least must be followed by the musician, though he may
disregard the excursions from its direct course which Goethe so often
permits himself. The poet's purpose, of course, was not complete,
could not possibly be complete, without the Second Part. From the
very beginning we feel that the vast issues must end, full-orbed, in
something like the remote, non-earthly atmosphere of the opening; and
we keep in our memory the words of the Prologue in Heaven--

  "A good man, through obscurest aspiration,
  Has still an instinct of the one true way"--

waiting for the ultimate gleam that shall make the darkness of Faust's
first perplexed flight quite clear to us. Plainly one-half only of the
problem had been stated in the First Part; and though comparatively
few people read the Second Part, and few of those who have read it
once read it twice, it is really the rounding-off of the philosophical
conception here that gives the First Part its proper meaning. The
human striving of the earlier poem demanded the later episodes, both
as poetical completion and ethical solution. Without the Second Part,
the First Part is a broken cadence, a discord only half resolved.
Goethe himself, we are told, "compared the Prologue in Heaven to the
overture to Mozart's _Don Giovanni_, in which a certain musical phrase
occurs which is not repeated until the finale." A musical setting can
be adequate only if it really deals with the central spiritual forces
of _Faust_, not only as they affect the protagonist up to the death of
Margaret, but in the crowded after-years. Life was wider than art to
Goethe; and the vastness and unwieldiness of the scheme of the play
are mostly due to his attempt to embrace so much of life in it. The
trouble with the average musical setting is that it fails to rise to
the level of Goethe's own lofty humanism. The theatrical is there in
plenty; but there is little that brings home to us the grave philosophy
of the drama, little that speaks of that great, moving, human figure of
the Second Part, beating his way painfully through the darkness to the
light. Above all, one cannot spare the ethical elevation of that final
scene, with its supremely pathetic picture of the man's defeat in the
very moment of victory, and its mystical suggestion of this material
defeat being in reality a spiritual triumph. Goethe, in fact, made the
subject an essentially modern one--put into it the fever and the fret,
the finer joys and finer despairs, the deepened philosophy and the more
impassioned spiritual aspirations, of the generations that succeeded
the great upheaval of the eighteenth century. In Marlowe's _Faustus_ we
feel that, powerful as the wings of the poet are, there still clings to
them something of the grossness of the Middle Ages, and the grossness,
only more superficially refined, of the Renaissance. The thick breath
of materiality hangs like a cloud over Marlowe's drama. Faustus himself
has in him much of the coarseness of tissue of the Elizabethan age.
On the purely human side, especially in the later scenes, he does
indeed touch and move us; but in the mainsprings of his being, in the
limitations of his desire--

  "Sweet Mephistopheles, thou pleasest me;
  Whilst I am here on earth, let me be cloyed
  With all things that delight the heart of man.
  My four-and-twenty years of liberty
  I'll spend in pleasure and in dalliance,
  That Faustus' name, whilst this bright frame doth stand,
  May be admired through the furthest land"--

how immeasurably does he fall short of the philosophic Faust of Goethe--

  "Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,
  And each withdraws from, and repels, its brother.
  One with tenacious organs holds in love
  And clinging lust the world in its embraces;
  The other strongly sweeps, this dust above,
  Into the high ancestral spaces."

The mere magic-working Mephistopheles of Marlowe, again, takes on, in
the modern poet, something of the terrifying grandeur of one of the
essential forces of the universe. How subtle is Goethe's insight into
him, and how one longs to get something of that subtlety in his music--

          "Part of that Power, not always understood,
  Which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good."
  "Part of the Part am I, once all, in primal Night--
  Part of the Darkness which brought forth the Light,
  The haughty Light, which now disputes the space,
  And claims of Mother Night her ancient place."

He is the element of destruction that is the other half of being; not
a mere tempting devil, the crude beguiler of the theological fancy,
but simply the evil side of Faust becoming self-conscious. See, for
example, in the eleventh scene of the First Part, and again in the
fourteenth scene, how he probes to the very depth of Faust's soul,
dragging into the light the true motives that sway him, which Faust
himself is incompetent to analyse. His taunt in the seventeenth scene,
again, "Thou, full of sensual, super-sensual desire," is a stroke of
which Marlowe was incapable.

There are one or two scenes in the Second Part which lend themselves
to music, but have been curiously neglected--it being strange, for
example, that no musician of the first rank has set the scene of
Faust's discovery of ideal beauty (Act i., Scene 7). But on the whole
the Second Part is uncongenial to music, until we come to the gravely
passionate human element at the end. Even to poetry Goethe's plan
is somewhat unpropitious, as Schiller pointed out to him. "A source
of anxiety to me," he wrote in 1797, "is that _Faust_, according to
your design, seems to require such a great amount of material, if
the idea is finally to appear complete; and I find no poetical hoop
which can encircle such a cumulative mass.... For example, Faust must
necessarily, to my thinking, be conducted into the active life of the
world, and whatever part of it you may choose out of the great whole,
the very nature of it seems to require too much particularity and
diffuseness." If the "poetical hoop" was so hard to find, a musical
hoop to contain such wildly-mixed material is beyond the power of man
to cast. All the musician can do is to make sure of the final scenes
(from Act vii. Scene 4 onwards); though even then--and this is the
perpetual dilemma--one feels the need of some connecting link between
the Faust whose life is drawing so near to the end, and the Faust
whom we saw being torn away by Mephistopheles from Margaret and the
prison. As Schiller said, Faust must go "into the active life of the
world" before that stupendous cadence can have its true significance;
yet most of the intermediate scenes into which Goethe has put him can
never be caught up into the being of music. As one looks at the poem
itself, one admits despairingly that it would be impossible to build
the first four Acts into any operatic structure. But one broad purpose
of spiritual development runs through even this desert of apparently
endless aridity; and surely this might be treated by the musician, if
not in operatic, at least in symphonic form. That is, between the stage
of Faust's life that ends with the death of Margaret and the awakening
of Faust to a new joy in earth and a resolution to seek the highest
good, and the stage where his own death puts the seal on the drama, we
might have a symphonic interlude that would make the transition less
abrupt for us. The comparative vagueness of the music in this form
would match the increased indefiniteness of the poetical handling;
while the more positive operatic form could be resumed in the Fifth
Act, where the closeness of the association with actual life demands
the continuous use of words. It is not an ideal device, perhaps, but it
is the only adequate one. Only in some such manner as this can we hope
to get the real _Faust_ translated into music. As it is, the composers
who have grasped the philosophy of the work have been restricted to a
canvas far too small for the whole subject, while those who have not
laid stress on the philosophy have simply not dealt with the Faust
drama at all.

Men like Wagner and Rubinstein, again, who have really had the
thinker's appreciation of the deeper currents of the theme, and have
tried to express these in the single-movement form, have been woefully
hampered by the limited space in which they have been compelled
to work. Wagner, of course, never meant his _Faust Overture_ to be
a complete treatment of the subject; it was intended merely as one
section of a large Faust Symphony. The general excellence and the one
defect of the work inspire us with regret that the scheme as a whole
was never carried out. Its one shortcoming is that it deals only with
the melancholy, brooding, world-weary Faust of the opening of Goethe's
poem, the egoistic Faust on whom the larger world-issues have not yet
dawned. We should like to have had Wagner's treatment of the final and
complete Faust, taken out of himself, touched with sublimer sorrows
and compassions, pouring out his soul upon the greater interests of
humanity. As it is, however, we have in the _Faust Overture_ the
veritable Faust of the opening of Goethe's poem. No attempt is made
at the portraiture of Margaret--the beautiful theme in the middle
section simply representing the "ever-womanly" floating before Faust's
eye in vague suggestion--nor is there any Mephistopheles in the work.
But in regard to the special task Wagner seems to have set himself,
the translation into music of the first scene of Goethe's First Part,
nothing more perfect could well be imagined. There are few more
convincing pieces of musical portraiture than this great grey head,
with the look of the weary Titan in the eyes, that looms out in heroic
proportions from Wagner's score.

One of the least known of the settings of _Faust_--or at any rate of
the fine settings of it--is that of Henri Hugo Pierson.[18] Though
he was an Englishman, his music is practically unknown in England,
for which his residence in Germany is no doubt mainly responsible.
It is a pity such a man could not have found in his own country the
conditions under which his talents could thrive and expand; for when
one realises how much strength and originality there is in his music,
one feels that had he worked in England he might have helped to found
a native school, and so brought our musical Renaissance to birth at
any rate a generation earlier than it has come. His music is always
that of a musician who is at the same time poet and thinker. The very
plan of his _Faust_ is original. As its title indicates, it deals only
with the Second Part of Goethe's play. This in itself is a slight
fault, for it brings before us that tremendous drama of regeneration
without having prepared us for it by the previous drama of struggle and
error. Starting with Ariel and the Chorus of Fairies singing round the
sleeping Faust, Pierson takes us through the scene in the Emperor's
Castle, the calling up of the apparitions of Paris and Helena, and the
attempt of Faust to seize the Grecian beauty--all from Act i. From
the second Act we have Wagner and the birth of the Homunculus, and
 the journey of Faust, Mephistopheles, and the Homunculus through
the air. From the third Act we have the scene before the Palace of
Menelaus (Helen and the Chorus of captive Trojan women), the coming of
Faust as a knight of the Middle Ages, his dialogue with Helena, the
appearance and death of Euphorion; from the fourth Act, the battle
between the Emperor and his enemies; from the fifth Act, the song of
Lynceus the warder, the entry of the four Grey Women--Want, Guilt,
Care, and Need--and the blinding of Faust; the digging of the grave by
the Lemures, the death of Faust, the choruses of the spirits and the
anchorites, the chorus of the younger seraphs and angels ascending with
the spirit of Faust, the scene in the empyrean, and the final "Chorus
Mysticus"--_Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein Gleichniss_.

The scheme, it will be seen at once, is not an ideal one. It achieves
comprehensiveness at the expense of organic unity. It keeps too
strictly to the letter and the order of Goethe's scenes; episodes like
the battle, that are of the very slightest significance, are needlessly
included; other and more essential episodes are so lightly dwelt upon
that their full value can hardly be brought out; and others are omitted
altogether. As a mere piece of architecture the thing is extremely
imperfect. Too much use, again, is made of the melodrama--_i.e._ the
union of the reciting voice with the orchestra--one of the least
justifiable and most trying forms of art ever invented. But with all
its faults of structure it is a notable work; the music redeems
all its errors. The opening scene, with Ariel and the spirits, is
exquisitely fresh and sunny; the death of Euphorion and the death of
Faust are both very moving, and there are some fine choruses in the
work, notably the "Heilige Poesie." Pierson re-creates for us the
philosophic atmosphere of the Second Part of _Faust_, and gives us
the same impression of the largeness of the issues at work; which is
no small achievement. It is a pity one of our Festival Committees
could not be prevailed upon to let us hear the score, or at any rate a
portion of it.

Unduly neglected, again, is Henry Litolff's setting of certain scenes
from Goethe (op. 103). Like Pierson, he adopts occasionally the
unpleasant form of declamation with orchestral accompaniment. This
spoils an otherwise fine treatment of the first scene (in Faust's
study). It is really a symphonic poem with a vocal element here
and there; and paradoxically enough, though Faust is restricted to
declamation, the Earth-Spirit sings his part to a melodic and very
expressive _quasi recitativo_. The movement has the prevailing fault
of all Litolff's writing--a certain slackness and want of resource in
the development; but the ideas themselves are often most striking.
The first scene concludes with a fine setting of the Easter Hymn. The
second scene, before the City Gate, is exceedingly fresh and charming;
while the seventh, the scene in the Cathedral (No. 20 of Goethe's First
Part) is a masterly piece of work--finer even, perhaps, than Schumann's
version of the same scene. If Goethe's drama has moved many of the
second-rate musicians only to show how very second-rate they are, it
has at all events stimulated others to efforts that at times put them
very nearly in the ranks of the first-rate.

Rubinstein's orchestral poem _Faust_--which the composer styles
simply "Ein musikalisches Charakterbild"--is not altogether easy to
understand, in its literary intentions, in the absence of a guide.
It is in one movement only, and contains apparently no allusion to
Mephistopheles, nor, as far as can be gathered beyond doubt from the
music itself, to Margaret--for the suave melodies that are interposed
as a contrast to the more passionate and more reflective utterances of
Faust are not distinctively feminine in nature. They may have nothing
at all to do with Margaret, or they may represent Faust's attempt to
resolve his philosophic doubts by a contemplation of the simpler and
more constant elements of human nature--just as Wagner, in his _Faust
Overture_, does not so much limn an actual Margaret as suggest the
consolation which the thought of womanly love can bring to the soul
of Faust. Rubinstein's work, though not quite on the same plane as
Wagner's, is yet exceedingly sincere. What it lacks is sufficient
definiteness to make us refer it to Faust and to Faust only. It is
clearly a strenuous picture of a lofty and noble soul, striving in
its own way to read "the riddle of the painful earth," and mournfully
acknowledging, at the last, that its only portion is defeat and
disillusion. But this is a psychological frame that might be made to
fit a score of pictures; and one misses, in Rubinstein's piece, the
conclusive sense of congruence with Faust as we know him in Goethe's
poem. There is nothing in it to clash with the poet's conception; the
emotional atmosphere is the same in both; but in spite of the title
the musician has put upon his work, it is less a study of individual
character than a description of a type. Rubinstein's Faust is the least
definite and the most symbolical of them all.

Rubinstein's tone-poem and every other purely orchestral setting of
the subject, however, pale before the magnificence of Liszt's _Faust
Symphony_. Liszt writes three movements--entitled respectively "Faust,"
"Margaret," "Mephistopheles"--and then sums up the whole work in a
choral setting of Goethe's final lines, "Alles Vergängliche ist nur ein
Gleichniss," etc. Here the larger scale on which the picture is painted
permits Liszt both a breadth and an intimacy of psychology which are
impossible in the one-movement overtures. In the long first movement
(taking about twenty-five minutes in performance), we really do feel
that Faust is being analysed with something of the same elaboration
and the same insight as in Goethe's poem. The handling is a trifle
loose here and there, owing to Liszt repeating his material from time
to time in obedience to literary rather than to musical necessities;
but apart from this the "Faust" movement is extraordinarily fine
character-drawing, and certainly the only instrumental Faust study
that strikes one as being complete. In the "Margaret" movement he
incorporates very suggestively a reference here and there to the
phrases of the "Faust," thus not only sketching Margaret herself but
giving the love-scenes in a form of the highest concentration. This
section is surpassingly beautiful throughout; in face of this divine
piece of music alone the present neglect of Liszt's work in England
is something inexplicable. Almost the whole Margaret is there, with
her curious blend of sweetness, timidity, and passion; while Faust's
interpositions are exceedingly noble. All that one misses in Liszt,
I think, is the tragic Margaret of the scene in the Cathedral and
the prayer to the Mater Dolorosa. The "Mephistopheles" section is
particularly ingenious. It consists, for the most part, of a kind of
burlesque upon the subjects of the "Faust," which are here passed, as
it were, through a continuous fire of irony and ridicule. This is a far
more effective way of depicting "the spirit of denial" than making him
mouth a farrago of pantomime bombast, in the manner of Boïto. The being
who exists, for the purposes of the drama, only in antagonism to Faust,
whose main activity consists only in endeavouring to frustrate every
good impulse of Faust's soul, is really best dealt with, in music,
not as a positive individuality, but as the embodiment of negation--a
malicious, saturnine parody of all the good that has gone to the making
of Faust. The "Mephistopheles" is not only a piece of diabolically
clever music, but the best picture we have of a character that in the
hands of the average musician becomes either stupid, or vulgar, or
both. As we listen to Liszt's music, we feel that we really have the
Mephistopheles of Goethe's drama.

The Mephistopheles of Berlioz's _Faust_ is interesting in another way.
Berlioz, of course, played fast and loose in the most serene way with
the drama as a whole, accepting, rejecting, or altering it just as it
suited his musical scheme. He blandly avows, for example, that he takes
Faust, in one scene, into Hungary, simply because he wants to insert
in the score his arrangement of a celebrated Hungarian march! Moral
criticism would be wasted on one so naked and unashamed as this--though
perhaps after all it is only pedantry that would regard most of
Berlioz's alterations of Goethe's drama as very serious perversions of
the main Faust legend. So long as the central problems of the character
are seen and stated, it matters very little through what incidents the
composer chooses to bring them home to us. And Berlioz really has a
very strong grip upon the inner meaning of the legend. His success,
indeed, is somewhat surprising when we consider how he approached
the work. He had been greatly impressed, in his youth, by Gérard de
Nerval's translation of Goethe's poem; but instead of attempting a
continuous setting of the work at this time (1829), he aimed only at
setting eight disconnected scenes. These were (1) "The Easter Scene";
(2) "The Peasants' Dance"; (3) "The Chorus of Sylphs"; (4) "The Song
of the Rat"; (5) "The Song of the Flea"; (6) "The Ballad of the King
of Thule"; (7) "Margaret's Romance and the Soldiers' Chorus"; (8)
"Mephistopheles' Serenade." Faust, therefore, had practically no part
in this selection; and it was not till seventeen years later that
Berlioz brought out his complete "dramatic legend." It looks as if his
early interest in the work were more pictorial than philosophical, for
the two songs of Margaret alone suggest the deeper emotional currents
of the drama. Mephistopheles, however, seems to have captivated his
young Romantic imagination from the first, and, in the ironic serenade
to Margaret, the character as he conceived it is already fully
sketched. Berlioz's devil is, perhaps, the only operatic Mephistopheles
that carries anything like conviction; he never, even for a moment,
suggests the inanely grotesque figure of the pantomime. Of malicious,
saturnine devilry there is plenty in him; no one, except Liszt, could
compete with Berlioz on this ground. But there is more than this in the
character. In such scenes as that on the banks of the Elbe, where he
lulls Faust to sleep, there is a real suggestion of power, of dominion
over ordinary things, that takes Mephistopheles out of the category of
the merely theatrical and puts him in that of the philosophical.

Nor, in sheer character-drawing, can any other operatic Faust and
Margaret compare with the figures of Berlioz; and when we consider the
piecemeal manner in which the work was built up, it is astonishing
how just, how sure, how incisive this portraiture is. It may not be
precisely Goethe; but it is a magnificent translation of Goethe into
French. Faust, of course, is the Romantic Faust, with his passionate
intimacy with nature. We miss in Berlioz what we get in Schumann, for
example--the close following of Goethe's philosophical plan. Berlioz
is not greatly interested in Faust's schemes for the regeneration of
mankind; his own culture had not brought him into contact with Louis
Blanc and Proudhon and Saint-Simon. But of its kind it is all amazingly
fine. No other Margaret, except Liszt's and perhaps Schumann's, can
compare with Berlioz's for pure pathos--the sensuous simplicity of soul
that wrings the heart with compassion. Altogether, though the opera of
Berlioz deals only with the more primordial passions of the drama, and
ends in a manner rather too suggestive of a Christmas card conceived in
a nightmare, it is more subtle, more profound, than almost any other
work of the same order.

Only one setting surpasses it--that of Schumann; not because it
achieves a finer individual portraiture than Berlioz's work, but
because, on the whole, it stirs us more deeply in precisely the way we
are stirred by Goethe's poem. Schumann's plan is peculiar and original.
Whereas most other composers who have employed the operatic or cantata
form have drawn largely on Goethe's First Part and almost ignored
the Second, it is from the Second Part that two-thirds of Schumann's
work are taken. Out of the First Part we have only the garden scene,
Margaret before the image of the Mater Dolorosa, and the scene in the
cathedral. Faust, therefore, does not so far appear at all, except
in the tiny garden scene; and the sole structural fault of the work
is that something of the earlier Faust should have been shown to us,
before he appears, in the next section, as the refined and vigorous
humanist of Goethe's Second Part. Setting this defect aside, however,
the remainder of the work gives us the quintessence of Goethe's drama.
We have first the scene, at the opening of Goethe's Second Part, where
Ariel and his fellow-spirits sing round the sleeping Faust; then
Faust's return to mental health and energy, and his resolve to devote
himself henceforth to the highest activities of human life. Upon this
scene there follows the visit of the four grey-haired women--Want,
Guilt, Need, and Care--the blinding of Faust by the breath of Care,
the last outburst of his passionate zeal for life and freedom, and
his death. The remainder of the work is devoted to a textual setting,
line for line, of the final scene of Goethe's poem--the hermits, the
choruses of angels, the three women, the penitent (formerly Margaret),
the Mater Gloriosa, and the "Chorus Mysticus."

Schumann's scheme is thus in the highest degree philosophical. It
austerely disregards the conventional elements that enter into the
usual operatic _Faust_, and concentrates itself on the essential
spiritual factors of the poem. Mephistopheles appears only for a moment
in the garden duet, and again in Faust's death-scene, so that there
is no attempt at full portraiture of him. Schumann's Margaret really
suggests the Margaret of Goethe. The same mediæval atmosphere seems to
environ her, both in the garden and in the cathedral. She is naïve in
the scene with Faust as Goethe's Margaret is naïve; and in the scene
where she bends before the Mater Dolorosa, and again when the evil
spirit, in the cathedral, harries her with his taunts, everything is
set in the right key and the right colour. In the portrait of Faust
it is the thinker, the philosopher, that is uppermost throughout.
All through Schumann's Second Part, indeed, we feel this constant
pre-occupation of the musician with the great human elements of the
drama; while in the exquisite, subtilised mysticism of the Third
Part these elements glow with a purer and rarer light. The work is
uneven in its musical inspiration; but on the whole we can say that
Schumann's is the real _German_ Faust, the Faust of Goethe. Writing in
his eightieth year, the old poet pointed out one of the main reasons
for the enduring interest in his work: "The commendation which the work
has received, far and near, may perhaps be owing to this quality--that
it permanently preserves the period of a development of a human soul,
which is tormented by all that afflicts mankind, shaken also by all
that disturbs it, repelled by all that it finds repellent, and made
happy by all that which it desires. The author is at present far
removed from such conditions: the world, likewise, has to some extent
other struggles to undergo: nevertheless, the state of men, in joy and
sorrow, remains very much the same; and the latest born will still
find cause to acquaint himself with what has been enjoyed and suffered
before him, in order to adapt himself to that which awaits him." It is
this grave note, this width of outlook upon man and the world, that we
have in Schumann's work in fuller quantity and richer quality than in
any other setting of _Faust_. His is really the spirit of the _Faust_
conceived by the great poet--full of a passionate reflection upon life,
an uplifted, philosophical sense of tragedy, a mellow sympathy with and
pity for the troubled heart of man. From first to last he has made his
emotions out of the deeper, not out of the more superficial, passions
of the play.


[17] The reader may need to be reminded that the published score of
_Mefistofele_ is an abbreviation of the opera as it was originally
given. The opening scene of the first Act and the Walpurgis Night
scene in the second have been cut down (see Mazzucato's article on
Boïto in "Grove's Dictionary"). "The grand scene at the Emperor's
Palace," says Signor Mazzucato, is "entirely abandoned." "A strikingly
original _intermezzo sinfonico_ ... stood between the fourth and fifth
Acts; it was meant to illustrate the battle of the Emperor against
the pseudo-Emperor, supported by the infernal legions led by Faust
and Mephistopheles--the incident which in Goethe's poem leads to the
last period of Faust's life. The three themes--that is, the _Fanfare_
of the Emperor, the _Fanfare_ of the pseudo-Emperor, and the _Fanfare
infernale_--were beautiful in conception and interwoven in a masterly
manner, and the scene was brought to a close by Mephistopheles leading
off with 'Te Deum laudamus' after the victory." As to the beautiful
conception and the masterly interweaving I am inclined to be sceptical;
but in any case the inclusion of this scene simply puts Boïto in
a worse light than ever. The whole episode is practically without
significance as far as regards Faust's spiritual evolution. So far as
music is concerned, it merely gives the opportunity for a clap-trap

[18] Henry Hugh Pearson was born at Oxford in 1815. He settled in
Germany, where he found a more congenial musical atmosphere than was to
be had at that time in England. After writing for a little while under
the pseudonym of "Edgar Mansfeldt," he reverted to his own name, but
metamorphosed it into Henri Hugo Pierson. His "Music to the Second Part
of Goethe's _Faust_" was brought out at Hamburg in 1854. Pierson died
in 1873.

                        _To GRANVILLE BANTOCK_

                            PROGRAMME MUSIC


There are three stages in the history of every new truth. Take, as
an example, the Darwinian theory. First of all it is assailed with
tooth and claw by a thousand people who know nothing about it and
have never given ten minutes' consecutive thought to it, but who hate
it simply because it disturbs their long mental inertia. Then, when
its truth becomes more and more evident, and too many clear-headed
people believe in it for it to be laughed down, and too many strong
people adopt it for it to be howled down, the partisans of the older
school become obnoxiously polite to it; they no longer call it a mass
of error, but they graciously permit it to take rank, after their
own particular theory, as a secondary and imperfect kind of truth.
Finally, it is universally accepted, purged of its admixture of error,
and both it and its predecessors are then seen to be just inevitable
stages in the development of the human mind, the second having no more
title than the first to be considered the end of the story. At first
Darwin's theory of development is thought to be crushed by the mere
flinging at it of citations from the Bible; then the professional
theologians try to impress it into their own service; finally its
victory over misunderstanding and ignorance and prejudice is complete,
but by this time it is no longer the ultimate theory of things, but
only a stepping-stone to other theories. Something of the same kind
has happened, or is in process of happening, with programme music.
Formerly the dear old virginal academics shuddered if the foul word
polluted their chaste ears; now they condescend to discuss it, more
or less temperately, but always with the idea that it is merely an
inferior branch of the great music-family--a kind of poor relation of
absolute music; in a little while the rationality of the thing will be
beyond question, but by that time it will probably be making way for
something still newer than itself--though what that may be we have at
present no means of knowing. Just now we are in the second stage of
the controversy upon the subject. The advocate of programme music, it
should be said at once, is not necessarily a hater of absolute music,
nor is the lover of absolute music necessarily an enemy of programme
music. One can like Wagner and Strauss and Liszt and Berlioz and still
appreciate to the full the Bach fugue or the Mozart or Beethoven or
Brahms symphony. Still it is an unfortunate fact that too often a
liking for the one kind of art goes along with an abhorrence of the
other. Any narrowness of this kind is to be regretted on either side;
but if one partisan exhibits more of it than the other, I should say
it is the absolutist, who is usually much less fair towards programme
music, and less open to conviction, than the programmist is to absolute
music. And since the contest between the two schools is very strenuous
just now, and as one of the services of the critic is to give an art
room to breathe and grow by clearing away dead traditions from around
it, some good may be done to the creative musician, as well as to the
ordinary concert-goer, by a review of the field of dispute between the


Just as the average programmist is, on the whole, more generous in
his appreciations than the average absolutist, so he has done more
to clear up the darkness that envelops too much of the subject. From
this side there has come some good æsthetic discussion; from the
other side there has come little but dogged and tiresome repetition
of old catch-words, without any serious attempt to grapple with the
psychology of the question as a whole. In the latest edition of Grove's
Dictionary of Music, Mr. Fuller Maitland gives us an example of this
method of "killing Kruger with your mouth." "It is only natural," he
says, "that programme music should for the time being be more popular
with the masses than absolute music, since the majority of people
like having something else to think of while they are listening to
music." The last clause I take to be purely random assertion; there
are millions of people--even among the masses--who prefer abstract
ear-tickling that saves them the trouble of thinking of anything else
while they are listening. Nay, one of the complaints of the untutored
amateur against programme music is that it is so hard to follow--that
he cannot sit quietly in his seat and just listen to the music as it
comes, but must needs first read and pre-digest a long story out of
the analytical programme. Minds of this kind--and I have met with many
of them--protest simply because they _have_ to think of something
else while the notes are being poured into their ears. This rather
lame device is one way of disparaging programme music--the device
of implying that it is most popular with the "masses," with people,
that is, of limited musical culture--which is of course not true. The
other way of denigrating it is the time-honoured one of an appeal
to the past; it is the æsthetic equivalent of the frequent appeal
to the Agnostic to remember what he "learned at his mother's knee."
"In the great line of the classic composers," Mr. Maitland tells us,
"programme music holds the very slightest place; an occasional _jeu
d'esprit_, like Bach's _Capriccio on the Departure of a Brother_,
or Haydn's 'Farewell' Symphony, may occur in their works, but we
cannot imagine these men, or the others of the great line, seriously
undertaking, as the business of their lives, the composition of works
intended to illustrate a definite programme. Beethoven is sometimes
quoted as the great introducer of illustrative music, in virtue of
the Pastoral Symphony, and of a few other specimens of what, by a
stretch of terms, may be called programme music. But the value he
set upon it as compared with absolute music may be fairly gauged by
seeing what relation his 'illustrative' works bear to the others. Of
the nine symphonies, only one has anything like a programme; and the
master is careful to guard against misconceptions even here, since
he superscribes the whole symphony, 'More the expression of feeling
than painting.' Of the pianoforte sonatas, op. 90 alone has a definite
programme; and in the 'Muss es sein?' of the string quartet, op. 135,
the natural inflections of the speaking voice, in question and reply,
have obviously given purely musical suggestions which are carried out
on purely musical lines."

To all this there are a good many objections to be raised. (1) In
Bach's time programme music, as we understand it, simply could _not_ be
written. There was not the modern orchestra with the modern orchestral
technique; you could no more delineate _Francesca da Rimini_ with the
instruments of Bach's time than you could adequately suggest a rainbow
with a piece of paper and a lead pencil. Further, for the expression
of a number of things that we now express in music, there were needed
(_a_) the modern enlargement of the musical vocabulary, and (_b_)
the "fertilisation of music by poetry," on which Wagner rightly laid
such stress. But in any case Bach's neglect of programme music is no
argument against the form. We might as well say that the fact that he
wrote no operas is a proof of the natural and perpetual inferiority of
opera. (2) Mr. Maitland passes over the fact that, imperfect as their
means of utterance were, many old composers _were_ frequently obsessed
by the desire to write something else than absolute music. He says
nothing of the attempts of Muffat, of the composers represented in the
Fitzwilliam Virginal Book, of Jannequin, of Buxtehude, of Frescobaldi,
of Hermann, of Gombert, of Carlo Farino, of Frohberger, of Kuhnau,
of Couperin, of Rameau, of Dittersdorf, and others, of some of whom
I shall speak shortly.[19] There has always been a strong desire
to write "illustrative" music, but for a long time it was checked
by the imperfection of the media through which it had to work. (3)
He ignores Haydn's excursions into "illustrative" music in the
_Creation_ and the _Seasons_--the representation of chaos, of the
passage from winter to spring, of the dawn, of the peasants' joyful
feelings at the rich harvest, of the thick clouds at the commencement
of winter; he says nothing of the "illustrative" symphonies or parts
of symphonies and other works of Haydn--"the morning," "midday,"
"the evening," "the tempest," "the hunt," "the philosopher," "the
hen," "the bear," and so on. (4) He says nothing of the manner in
which the overture, both operatic and non-operatic, became more and
more "illustrative" at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of
the nineteenth century; he does not refer to the works of Beethoven
in which the "illustrative" function is very apparent, such as the
_Battle of_ _Vittoria_, the _Leonora_ overtures, the _Egmont_, the
_Coriolan_, the _Ruins of Athens_, the _King Stephen_, and so on. (5)
He blindly accepts Beethoven's nonsensical remark about the Pastoral
Symphony being "more the expression of feeling than painting." The
imitations of the nightingale, the cuckoo, and the quail may or may
not be a Beethoven joke; but if they are not specimens of "painting"
in music it is difficult to say what deserves that epithet. If the
peasants' merrymaking, again, the brawl, the falling of the raindrops,
the rushing of the wind, the storm, the flow of the brook--if these
are not "painting" but merely the "expression of feeling," well, so is
the hanging of Till Eulenspiegel, the death-shudder of Don Juan, and
the battle in _Ein Heldenleben_. (6) Even supposing that Beethoven's
words could be taken literally, even supposing that in his music he
had not given them contradiction after contradiction, still this would
not settle the matter. Music did not end with Beethoven, and he might
have detested "illustrative" music to his heart's content without that
fact being an argument against the writing of it by other people. It
is curious that the men who always tell admiringly the stories of
Beethoven breaking through the fetters in which his contemporaries
would have bound him, should try to use the same Beethoven as a barrier
against all future innovations. _He_ was great because he refused to
write in any way but his own; _we_ are to be great by submitting our
convictions to those of a hundred years ago. With all respect, and
without any irreverent desire to pluck the beards of our fathers, we
are unable to regard the question as finally settled by what Beethoven
said. He himself would surely have been the last man to play the
ineffective Canute, and dictate to the art the exact spot on the beach
to which its flood might rise. There is no evidence that he meant his
words to be a judicial condemnation of anybody or anything; there is no
evidence that he had ever given much critical thought to the question;
and it is quite certain that no matter how much he had thought about it
he could not have seen in it all that we, with our later experience,
can see.


One fact alone should make opponents of programme music think seriously
of their position. The most significant feature of the problem is the
way in which the practical musicians have dealt with it. Whereas most
of the older orchestral music of any value was absolute music, most
of the later orchestral music of any value is programme music; and
the momentum of the latter species seems to be increasing every year.
It will not do to pooh-pooh a phenomenon of this kind, nor to seek to
fasten upon it the explanation that some of the new men write music
depending upon literary or pictorial subjects because they cannot
write music of the other kind. This is like saying that Shakespeare
pusillanimously wrote dramas because he could not write epics--which
is probably a true saying, but quite irrelevant. The point is, why
should Shakespeare, with a gift for good drama, force himself to write
bad epics? And if a man's musical ideas spring from quite another way
of apprehending life than that of the absolute musician, why should
he abjure his own native form of speech in order to mouth and maul
unintelligently the phrases and the forms of another musician whose
mental world is wholly foreign to his? In any case, while some of the
critics have been paternally warning young composers against falling
into the toils of programme music, and recommending them to keep to
the lines of structure as they were laid down by Haydn, Mozart, and
Beethoven, the musicians themselves have been flinging programme music
right and left to the world. One has only to take up a catalogue
of the Russian, French, German, Belgian, American, or even English
music published during the last twenty years to see how enormously
this form of art has grown, and how the really big men all display
a marked liking for it. You may regret, if you like, that so many
modern musicians should prefer programme music to absolute music;
but you cannot settle the big æsthetic problem involved by shrugging
your shoulders and invoking Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, nor by
airily flinging out a formula or two of moribund æsthetic. And as bad
æsthetic, bad argumentation, are accountable for most of the confusion
upon the subject, let us try to analyse it more closely down to its

Programme music--by which we mean purely instrumental (_i.e._
non-vocal) music that has its _raison d'être_ in a definite literary or
pictorial scheme--is not an ideal term for this kind of art; but since
all names which we can give it are open to objections of some kind, we
may as well use this as any other. It must be remembered, too, that
though programme or representative music is indeed differentiable from
abstract or self-contained music, it is not absolutely differentiable.
All programme music must indeed be representative, but it must also
be, in part, self-contained; that is, a given phrase must not only
be appropriate to the character of Hamlet or Dante, or suggestive of
a certain external phenomenon such as the wind, or the fire, or the
water, but it must also be interesting _as music_.[20] On the other
hand, in thousands of works that have been written without a formal
programme, the expression--it may be throughout the work, or only in
parts of it--is so vivid, so strenuous, so suggestive of something more
than an abstract delight in making a beautiful tone-pattern, that it
spontaneously evokes in us images of definite scenes or characters or
actions. Surely no one can listen to the C minor symphony, for example,
and feel that Beethoven's only concern was with the invention and
interweaving of abstract musical themes; here at any rate we feel
that there is much truth in Wagner's contention, that behind the mere
tones a kind of informal drama is going on. The expression comes, at
times, as close to the suggestion of definite thought and definite
action as any symphonic poem could do. Thus some of the qualities of
programme music are found in absolute music, and _vice versâ_; there
is no hard-and-fast line of division between the two. Even in the
most mathematical music that ever pedant misconceived, a human accent
will sometimes make itself heard; and even the most human music--the
music that has its fount and origin and its final justification in the
veracious expression of definite human feeling--must be bound together
by some mathematical principle of form. But we all understand what we
mean by the broad distinction of absolute and poetic music.[21] In the
latter we have a definite literary or pictorial scheme controlling
(_a_) the shape and colour of the phrases, (_b_) the order in which
they appear, (_c_) the way in which they are played off against each
other, (_d_) their relative positions at the end. This it is, roughly
speaking, that distinguishes it from absolute music, where the manner
in which the themes are handled depends upon no conception, external to
the themes themselves, that could be phrased in words.

Now we are often told that when music takes upon itself to represent or
narrate, as in programme music, it is "stepping beyond its legitimate
boundaries." We are told that it is "passing out of its own sphere;"
that it is abdicating the purely musical function, and trying to do
what it is the function of literature or of painting to do; that a
piece of music ought to be comprehensible from its music alone; that
its whole message should be written plainly on the music, without the
necessity of calling in the aid of a programme. If there is anything in
this thesis it will dispose of programme music at once. But I shall try
to show that there is nothing whatever in it--that it is not argument,
but pure assertion. I shall try to show in the first place that so far
from being a passing disease of the present generation, the desire to
write programme music is rooted in humanity from the very beginning;
and in the second place that the argument just outlined could be made
to dispose not only of programme music, but also of the song and the


The late Sidney Lanier, a critic of unusual sanity and freshness
of vision, contended that so far from being a late and excrescent
growth, programme music is "the very earliest, most familiar, and most
spontaneous form of musical composition." We need not go quite so far
as this, for it seems to me that it is impossible to date either
kind of music first in order of time. Just as one early man placed
straight and curved lines in such relations that they pleased the
eye by their mere formal harmony, while another placed them in such
relations that they pleased by suggesting some aspect of man or nature,
so did early music spring with one musician from the mere pleasure
in the successions and combinations of tones, with another from the
desire to convey in sound a suggestion of the thoughts aroused in him
by his intercourse and his struggles with his fellow-men and with the
world. Lanier's statement is evidently a slight exaggeration; but I
think he has invincible reason with him when he goes on to ask, "What
is any song but programme music developed to its furthest extent? A
song is ... a double performance; a certain instrument--the human
voice--produces a number of tones, none of which have any intellectual
value in themselves; but, simultaneously with the production of the
tones, words are uttered, each in a physical association with a tone,
so as to produce upon the hearer at once the effect of conventional
and of unconventional sounds.[22] ... Certainly, if programme music
is absurd, all songs are nonsense." This, I think, is the key to the
problem. Let us look at it a little more closely.

Let us imagine two primitive men, each with the capacity for expressing
feeling in musical sound. One of them manages to find a phrase of a
few notes that gives him pleasure. Because it gives him pleasure he
repeats it. Having repeated it a number of times he finds the mere
repetition of it becoming monotonous; so next time he repeats it in
a slightly different way. He now experiences, without understanding
why, a subtler form of pleasure. If you told him he was making a very
practical demonstration of the law that a great deal of æsthetic
delight consists in realising unity in variety, he would not grasp
your meaning; but all the same that is what he is doing. He still
has his old pleasure in the agreeable succession of tones; but this
pleasure is intensified, subtilised, by another--the pleasure of
detecting the theme in the disguises it assumes. This primitive man
has made the first step towards sonata form; he is assisting at the
birth of absolute music. From this root there grows up all our pure
delight in agreeable tunes for their own sake, in the embroidery of
them, in the juggling with them; in a word, all our delight in absolute
music.[23] Now take the other man. He starts along another line. When
he begins to trace his rude melodic curve, it is not primarily because
he finds an all-absorbing delight in the curve itself. He begins
because some definite experience has moved him emotionally, and the
emotional disturbance must find an outlet in tone; his melodic curve
must suggest the experience. Let us say it is the death of a friend.
Here is a much more definite impulse than was acting upon the other
man; and it accordingly leads to a more definite expression. The curve
the melody takes is now determined not merely by the musical pleasure
it gives by going this way or that, but primarily by the need to make
the melody representative of a definite feeling, or suggestive of the
being or the event that aroused the feeling. _This_ man is at the turn
of the road that leads to poetical music--to the song, the opera, and
the symphonic poem. (I do not allege, let me say again, that there
is an absolute line of demarcation between absolute music and poetic
music, or between the states of mind from which they flow; the two
are always crossing and re-crossing into each other's territory. I am
simply throwing into high relief the element in each that gives it its
peculiar significance.) In absolute music, as Wagner pointed out, the
essential thing is "the arousing of pleasure in beautiful forms." In
poetic music the essential thing is the veracious rendering in tone
of an emotion that is as definite as the other is indefinite. Take
two concrete examples. The opening phrase of Beethoven's 8th Symphony
refers to nothing at all external to itself; it is what Herbert Spencer
has called the music of pure exhilaration; to appreciate it you have to
think of nothing but itself; the pleasure lies primarily in the way
the notes are put together.[24] But the sinister motive that announces
the coming of Hunding, in the first act of the _Valkyrie_, appeals to
you in a different way. Here your pleasure is only partially due to
the particular way the notes go; the other part of it is due to the
_veracity_ of the theme, its congruence with the character it is meant
to represent. And, to go back to our two primitive men, the first of
them was in the mood that would ultimately give birth to the opening of
the 8th Symphony, while the second of them was in the mood that would
ultimately give birth to the Hunding motive.

Any one who takes the trouble to analyse the phrases of an ordinary
symphony and those of a modern song will perceive a broad difference
between the kinds of ideas evoked by them. In the old symphony or
sonata a succession of notes, pleasing in itself but not having
specific reference to actual life--not attempting, that is, to get
at very close quarters with strong emotional or dramatic expression,
but influencing and affecting us mainly by reason of its purely
formal relations and by the purely physical pleasure inherent in it
as sound--was stated, varied, worked out and combined with other
themes of the same order. Take a thousand of these themes--from Haydn,
Mozart, and the early Beethoven, for example--and while they affect
you musically you will yet be unable to say that they have taken their
rise from any _particular_ emotion, or that they embody any special
reflection upon life. It is the peculiarity of music that while on the
one hand it may speak almost as definitely as poetry, and refer to
things that are cognised intellectually, as in poetry, on the other
hand it may make an impression on us, purely as sound, to which the
words of poetry, purely as words, can offer no parallel effect. A verse
of Tennyson with the words so transposed as to have no intellectual
meaning would make no impression when read aloud; no pleasure, that
is, would be obtainable merely from the sound of the words themselves.
But play the diatonic scale on the piano, or strike a random chord
here and there, and though the thing means nothing, the ear is bound
to take some pleasure in it. Musical sound gives us pleasure in and by
and for itself, independently of our finding even the remotest mental
connection between its parts. This connection may be great, or small,
or practically non-existent; and the greater it is, of course, the
more complicated becomes our pleasure; but it is not essential to our
taking physiological delight in music considered purely as sound. Now
it is quite possible to construct a lengthy piece of music that shall
have absolutely no emotional expression, in the sense of suggesting
a reference to human experience--that shall be purely and simply a
succession and combination of pleasurable sounds. In the nature of
the case, it is clear that not much of the actual music that is
written could be of this order throughout. Emotion of some quality and
degree is sure to intrude itself here and there into even the most
"mathematical" music; but it is quite unquestionable that while some
music is alive with suggestions of human interest, of actual man and
life, there is an enormous quantity of very pleasant music from which
the interest of actuality is wholly absent, that reaches us through
physiological rather than through psychological channels, or at any
rate, if this is putting it unscientifically, through quite other
psychological channels.

Compare with music of this kind the phrases of a highly expressive
modern song, or of such a piece as Wagner's _Faust Overture_, or of
one of Liszt's or César Franck's symphonic poems. Here the inspiration
comes direct from some aspect of external nature or from some actual
human experience; and the musical phrase becomes correspondingly
modified. While there still remain (1) the physiological pleasure in
the theme as sound, and (2) the formal pleasure in the structure,
balance, and development of the theme, there is now superadded a third
element of interest--the recognition of the veracity of the theme, its
appropriateness as an expression of some positive, definite emotion,
something seen, some actual experience of men. And music with a
content of this kind, it is important to note, can depart widely from
the manner of expression and of development of absolute music, and
still be interesting. The proof of this is to be had in recitative.
Here there is a very wide departure from the more formal music in
every quality--melodic, rhythmic, and harmonic. Attempt to play an
ordinary piece of recitative as pure music, without the voice and
without a knowledge of the words, and its divergence from music of the
self-sufficing order generally becomes obvious. The justification of
recitative is to be sought not in its compliance with the laws that
govern pure non-dramatic instrumental music, but in its congruence
with a definite literary idea that is seeking expression through the
medium of tone; and our tolerance of it and appreciation of it are
due to this supplementing of the somewhat inferior physical pleasure
by the superior mental pleasure given by the sense of dramatic truth
and fitness. So again in the song. Let any one try to imagine how
little the ending of Schubert's _Erl-King_ would suggest to him if he
were totally ignorant of the words or the subject of the song, and he
will realise how the literary element at once modifies and supports
music of this kind. As a piece of absolute music, the final phrase of
the _Erl-King_ means nothing at all; it only acquires significance
when taken in conjunction with the words; and the justification of
its relinquishment of the mode of expression of pure self-sufficing
music is precisely its congruence with the literary idea. To go a step
further, the phrases typical of Mazeppa in Liszt's symphonic poem,
both in themselves and in their development, would probably puzzle us
if we met with them in a symphony pure and simple; they only become
such marvels of poignant and veracious expression when associated
in the mind with Mazeppa. And, to go still further, and to show not
from the structure of a theme but from the treatment of it the change
that may be induced by a "programme," I may instance the repetitions
in the last movement of Tchaikovski's "Pathetic" Symphony, which,
though unwarrantable in a symphony of the older pattern, seem to many
of us surcharged with the most direct psychological significance.
Right through, from recitative to the symphonic poem or the programme
symphony, we see that the fusion of the literary or pictorial with the
musical interest necessarily leads to a modification of the tissue of
the musical theme and of the musical development. You could not, if
you would, express the story of Mazeppa in such phrases as those of
the "Jupiter." So that, while we thus have an _a priori_ justification
of the programme phrase, we begin to understand the difficulties that
attend programme development, and some reasons for its many failures
in the past. Much of the work that had been done by the older men in
consolidating and elaborating the form of the symphony was found to
be of little help to the new school. A new type of phrase had to be
evolved, and with it a new method of development.

No one, I think, will dispute the broad truth of the principles here
laid down. That absolute music _per se_ and vocal or programme music
_per se_ have marked psychological differences between them, and that,
while the older bent was towards the one, the modern men show a marked
preference for the other--these are fairly obvious facts. Hence the
necessity of urging it upon the classicists that it will not do to
apply the formal rules of the old music to the new _en bloc_, as if
they were equally valid in both _genres_. If the modern men reject
the classical forms, and try to produce new ones of their own, it can
only be because their ideas are not the classical ideas, and must find
the investiture most natural and most propitious to them. When Wagner
rejected the current opera-form, and strove to attain congruence of the
poetical and the musical schemes at all points of his work, the pedants
told him that he avoided the long-sanctioned forms because he could
not write in them. They did not see that it would have been much less
trouble for him, as a mere musician, to shelter himself behind the old
forms than to evolve a consistent new one, and that he aimed at a new
structure simply because he had something quite new to say. Similarly,
when the pedants lay it down that the programmists choose the programme
form because it is an easier one to work in than the absolute form,
they fail to see how much originality of mind is needed to get veracity
of expression in the song or the symphonic poem, where the work,
besides having to satisfy our musical sense, will be tested by the
standard of the literary utterance or the literary idea with which it


Without making too wide a digression into the æsthetics of music, we
can see that the tendency to write the one kind of music is as deeply
rooted in us as the tendency to write the other kind. Some musicians,
by constitutional bias, take the one route, some the other; but neither
party has the right to assume that the kind of music it prefers is the
only kind. Hence it is an error to say that music is stepping out of
her own province when she becomes programme music. Her real province
includes both absolute and programme music; the one is as inherent in
us as the other.

But for reasons that will become apparent later, the absolute branch of
the art developed more rapidly than the poetical branch. Even by the
time absolute music had come to its magnificent climax in Beethoven,
programme music had really done nothing at all of any permanent value.
Many composers seemed to have a vague idea that purely instrumental
music _could_ be made to convey suggestions of real life just as poetry
does, and just as the song does; but they had not yet learned where to
begin and where to end, what was worth doing in this line and what was
not worth doing. Their attempts at programme music were mostly crude
imitations of external things, in a language not yet rich enough to
express what they wanted to say; they contain, for our ears, rather
too much programme and rather too little music. In the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries the minds of the men who tried to write
poetic music for instruments alone, ran in two main directions. They
either wrote pieces musically interesting in themselves, and gave them
fanciful titles, such as "Diana in the wood," "The virtuous coquette,"
"Juno, or the jealous woman," and so on, or they frankly began with
the intention of representing appearances and events in music. Thus in
the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book we have pieces with the titles, "Faire
wether," "Calm wether," "Lightening," "Thunder," and "A clear day."
These things were not confined to one country; they are met with all
over Europe. Occasionally the programme writers worked through vocal
as well as instrumental forms. Muffat wrote pieces of the "Diana in
the wood" order. Jannequin described the battle of Malegnano in music,
Hermann the battle of Pavia. In the seventeenth century Carlo Farina
wrote orchestral pieces in which the voices of animals were imitated.
Buxtehude wrote seven klavier-suites, describing in music the nature
and quality of the seven planets. Frescobaldi did a battle capriccio.
Frohberger wrote a suite showing the Emperor Ferdinand IV. making
his way up into heaven along Jacob's ladder. Frohberger, indeed, was
realistic beyond the average. He not only painted nature, for example,
but indicated the locality as accurately as a geography or a guide-book
could do; and it was not merely humanity in general that moved about
among his scenes, but the Count this or the Prince that. In some
suites, that are unfortunately lost to an admiring world, he painted a
storm on the Dover-Calais route, and gave a series of pictures of what
befell the Count von Thurn in a perilous journey down the Rhine.[25]

All this seems very crude now, but the very prevalence of the practice
points to a widespread feeling in those times that music _could_ be
made to serve as an art of representation. Indeed, a much earlier
example of this tendency can be quoted, showing that even the ancient
Greeks had their programme-music writers. There is a passage in the
Geography of Strabo, in which he describes what he heard at Delphi.
Here, he says, they had a musical contest "of players on the cithara,
who executed a pæan in honour of Apollo. The players on the cithara
were accompanied by players on the flute, and by citharists, who
performed without singing. They performed a melos (strain) called
the Pythian mood. It consisted of five parts--the anacrusis, the
ampeira, cataceleusmus, iambics and dactyls, and pipes. Timosthenes,
the commander of the fleet of the second Ptolemy, and who was the
author of a work in ten books on Harbours, composed a melos. His
object was to celebrate in this melos the contest of Apollo with the
serpent Python. The anacrusis was intended to express the prelude;
the ampeira, the first onset of the contest; the cataceleusmus, the
contest itself; the iambics and dactyls denoted the triumphal strain
on obtaining the victory, together with musical measures of which the
dactyl is peculiarly appropriated to praise and the iambics to insult
and reproach; the syrinxes and pipes described the death, the players
imitating the hissings of the expiring monster."[26] The unsympathetic
may say it is to be hoped that the gentleman was a better admiral than
he seems to have been a musician.

But to get back to modern Europe again. These crude imitations of
birds and beasts and the rolling of the waves are not programme music;
they are the rawest part of the raw material out of which programme
music is made. The difficulty is to make the piece interesting both
as music, and as a representation of what it purports to describe.
A composer may fling a phrase before us and tell us this represents
Hamlet, or Othello, or a death-rattle, or the Israelites crossing
the Red Sea, or anything else he likes; but unless the phrase has an
interest of its own, and unless he can satisfy our musical as well as
our literary sense by the way he handles and combines and transforms
it in the sequel, he will not arrest our attention. The great problem,
indeed, of both the modern symphonic poem and the modern opera is to
tell a story adequately and at the same time to satisfy our desire for
interesting musical development. If the composer fixes his attention
too exclusively on the literary part of his subject, his work will
lack organic _musical_ unity; if he is too intent on achieving this,
he will probably fail in dramatic definiteness. This, I shall soon try
to show, is really the crux both of opera and of programme music; and
if _we_ rarely succeed in solving so knotty a problem, it is not to be
wondered at that the solution did not come to the men of the sixteenth
or seventeenth or eighteenth century.

As a matter of fact, however, one old composer _did_ try to effect a
union of the programme purpose with some real sense of musical form.
This was Johann Kuhnau (1660?-1722), who, in his six Bible Sonatas,
describes "the fight between David and Goliath," "the melancholy of
Saul being dissipated by music," "the marriage of Jacob," and so on.
Kuhnau was a really remarkable man. He was a good musician who could
write interesting clavier-pieces apart from any programme scheme. He
was moreover a keen-witted man who tried to think out seriously the
problem of the union of musical expression and poetical purpose, so
far as any man in those days could do so. In the preface to the Bible
Sonatas he points out that the musician, like the poet, prose-writer,
and painter, often wants to turn his hearers thoughts in a particular
direction. If he wants to express in his music not merely sadness
but the sadness of this or that individual--to distinguish, as he
says, a sad Hezekiah from a weeping Peter or a lamenting Jeremiah--he
must employ words in order to make the emotion definite. But not
necessarily, be it observed, by writing the music _to_ the words, as
in a song. His own plan is to illustrate his subject in music, and make
his poetic purpose clear to us by giving a detailed verbal account
of it. Thus he prefaces each of his Bible Sonatas with an elaborate
account of the event it deals with, and then summarises the main
motives. This, for example, is the summary of the first Sonata, after a
long general introduction. The Sonata expresses, he says--

 1. The stamping and bravado of Goliath.

 2. The trembling of the Israelites, and their prayer to God at sight
    of their awful enemy.

 3. The courage of David, his desire to break the proud spirit of the
    giant, and his childlike trust in God's help.

 4. The contest of words between David and Goliath, and the contest
    itself, in which Goliath is wounded in the forehead by the stone,
    falls down, and is slain.

 5. The flight of the Philistines, and how they are pursued by the
    Israelites, and slaughtered with the sword.

 6. The jubilation of the Israelites over the victory.

 7. The chorus of the women in praise of David.

 8. And, finally, the general joy, finding vent in vigorous dancing and

It will be seen at once that the programme here is of a different
kind from those of some of Kuhnau's predecessors and contemporaries.
It does indeed aim at representing some external things--such as the
stamping of Goliath, the impact of the stone against his head, and so
on--but they are not inherently absurd or impossible; while he gives a
great deal of his space to the really emotional moments of the story.
Throughout the sonatas, however, it is the poetic purpose that directs
the music, determining both expression, sequence, and form. Every
episode that occurs in the story has to be represented in the music;
and Kuhnau is careful to print, in his score, the verbal indication at
the precise point where the music follows it. He tells us the exact bar
at which the stone is aimed at Goliath, and the bar in which the giant
falls down; where Laban begins to practise his deceit on Jacob, where
Jacob is "amorous and contented," and where "his heart warns him that
something is wrong"; and so on--thereby setting an example to composers
like Strauss, who foolishly give the purchaser of such a score as _Till
Eulenspiegel_ no guide to the various adventures of the hero. Some of
Kuhnau's devices provoke a smile, as in the Fifth Sonata--"Gideon,
the Saviour of the People of Israel." The sign to Gideon was that the
fleece was to be wet with dew, but the ground dry; the next night the
ground was to be wet and the fleece dry. Kuhnau naïvely expresses the
second sign by giving the theme of the first sign in contrary motion.
But all _naïvetés_ apart, a great deal of the music of the Sonatas
is very fine; and it is noteworthy that Kuhnau points out, in his
general preface, that the writer of programme music must be allowed
more liberty than the absolutist to break a traditional "law" when the
expression demands it.[27] Kuhnau, indeed, was on the right path. He
was a man born before his due time; had he lived in our days, and had
at his command all the resources of modern expression and our enormous
orchestras, he might have taken up very much the same position towards
music as the modern programmists.

John Sebastian Bach, who succeeded Kuhnau at the Thomas Church in
Leipzig, made one, and only one, experiment in the same line. This
was the "Capriccio on the departure of my dearly beloved brother."
The first movement, he says, depicts "The cajoleries of friends,
trying to induce him to give up the idea of the journey"; the second
is "a representation of the various things that may happen to him in
foreign lands"; the third gives utterance to a "general lament of his
friends as they say good-bye to him"; and the finale is a fugue on the
postillion's signal.

Bach, however, made no further attempt to develop along these lines.
The work _he_ had been sent into the world to do was of another order.

About the same time Couperin, in France, was cultivating the programme
_genre_ with some success. He not only wrote harmless little things
with titles like "La Galante," but also connected pieces of musical
delineation, such as "The Pilgrims." Like Kuhnau, he justified his
principles in a preface. "In the composition of my pieces," he says,
"I have always a definite object or matter before my eyes. The titles
of my pieces correspond to these occasions. Each piece is a kind of

In Rameau again, we get such things as "Sighs," "Tender Plaints,"
"The Joyous Girl," "The Cyclops," etc.; and at a slightly later date
Dittersdorf (1739-1799) wrote twelve programme symphonies, illustrating
Ovid's "Metamorphoses" and "The War of Human Passions."

Mozart's father wrote a musical description of a sledge-journey, in
which the ladies are represented shivering with the cold; but Mozart
himself avoided the programme form as positively as Bach. Haydn,
however, dabbled in it more extensively, as I have already pointed out.

Beethoven's position in the history of programme music is somewhat
peculiar. Just about that time, when the Napoleonic wars had
familiarised every one with the pomp of armies, there was a perfect
deluge of battle pieces. There was probably not a battle of any
importance in those days that had not a fantasia written upon it, each
differing from the others in little else but its title. In a weak
moment Beethoven succumbed to the general temptation and wrote his
"Battle of Vittoria," which is not only one of the least significant
of his works, but one of the least significant works in the history
of programme music. Beethoven's real contributions to this form of
art were indirect rather than direct. He told one of his friends that
he had always a picture in his mind when composing; and if this could
be taken quite literally, it would seem as if we were on the trail of
programme music pure and simple. But we shall probably never know the
extent to which Beethoven relied on poetic suggestions for his musical
inspiration; and if we look at the internal evidence of his music, we
shall see that although it often deals with poetic subjects, it treats
them from the standpoint of the old forms rather than from that of
the new. So far as their intellectual origin is concerned, the superb
_Leonora_, _Egmont_, and _Coriolan_ overtures are poetic music; that
is, they aim, in a musical texture, at sketching a character or telling
a story. But so far as the form is concerned in which the composer
has chosen to work, the procedure is determined almost entirely by
the laws of absolute music. Wagner has drawn attention to this in
a well-known passage in his essay on "Liszt's Symphonic Poems." He
shows what the formal laws of the old symphony were, and how necessary
they were to give logical coherence to abstract music. But, he says,
when these laws were applied uncompromisingly to a different kind of
art-work--the overture--a disturbance occurred at once between the aims
of the overture and the demands of the symphonic form. All that the
latter was concerned with was _change_--the constant representation
of themes in new lights. The overture had, in addition to this, to
concern itself with dramatic development. "Now it will be obvious," he
says, "that, in the conflict of a dramatic idea with this form, the
necessity must at once arise either to sacrifice the development (the
idea) to the alternation (the form), or the latter to the former."
He goes on to praise Gluck's _Iphigenia in Aulis_ overture for the
skilful way it keeps the dramatic development from being spoiled by
compliance with extraneous laws of form. Then, he says, Beethoven,
working on a bigger scale and with a more stupendous imagination than
Gluck, nevertheless came to grief on the rock Gluck managed to escape.
"He who has eyes," says Wagner, "may see precisely by this overture
(_i.e._ the great _Leonora No. 3_), how detrimental to the master the
maintenance of the traditional form was bound to be. For who, at all
capable of understanding such a work, will not agree with me when I
assert that the repetition of the first part, after the middle section,
is a weakness which distorts the idea of the work almost past all
understanding; and that the more, as everywhere else, and particularly
in the coda, the master is obviously governed by nothing but the
dramatic development. But whoso has brains and lack of prejudice enough
to see this, will have to admit that the evil could only have been
avoided by entirely giving up that repetition; an abandonment, however,
which would have done away with the overture-form--_i.e._ the original,
merely suggestive, symphonic dance-form--and have constituted the
departure-point for creating a new form."

Wagner is undoubtedly right. Beethoven hovered uncertainly at times
between the demands of poetic expression and the demands of absolute
form. To write poetic music pure and simple, of course, was not his
mission in the world. That was reserved for other men. One side of his
powerful genius was to be taken up by Wagner and pushed to its logical
conclusion in the music-drama. Another side, cultivated by Berlioz,
Liszt, and Richard Strauss, comes to its logical end in the symphonic
poem; and just as Wagner criticised the Beethoven overture from the
standpoint of music-drama, I propose, shortly, to criticise Wagner
from the standpoint of the symphonic poem. I shall try to show that
so far from the Wagnerian opera representing, as Wagner thought, the
ideal after which the music of Beethoven was striving, it is really
only a transitional form; and that the symphonic poem is the completely
satisfactory, completely logical form, to which the Wagnerian opera
stands in the same relation as the _Leonora_ overture does to _Tristan
and Isolde_.


Before embarking on this æsthetic argument, however, let us briefly
conclude our historical view of the development of programme music.
It was with the Romantic movement that the infusion of poetry into
music became complete, and at the same time the vocabulary and the
colour-range of music became adequate to express all kinds of literary
and pictorial ideas. The older musicians could not, if they had tried,
have written the modern symphonic poem or the modern song. And this for
several reasons. In the first place, they were pretty fully occupied
with making music the language it now is; they had to form a vocabulary
and think out principles of architecture; and the last thing they
could have done was to leave the safe and formal lines of their own
art--safe because they were precise and formal--and plunge into a mode
of expression that would have seemed to them to offer no coherence, no
guiding principle. In the second place, they lacked one of the main
stimuli to the development of modern programme music, the suggestion
of a vivid, living, modern, highly emotional and picturesque poetry. A
Schumann, a Brahms, a Franz could not have written such songs as they
have done in any century but this; for the mainspring of their songs
has been the emotional possibilities contained in the words. It was
only when composers really felt the deepest artistic interest in the
words they were setting, instead of regarding them as merely a frame
for musical embroidery, that they attained the modern veracity and
directness of phrase. You cannot do much more with words like those
of the older song or opera than set them with a view to their purely
musical rather than their musico-poetical possibilities; and if you
persist, out of deference to a foolish tradition, in setting to music
the words of a foreign and relatively unfamiliar language, you will
perforce become more and more conventional in your phrases and in your
general structure. It was the peculiar advantage of the modern German
song-writers that they could set lyrics of their own language, alive
with every suggestion that could lend itself to musical treatment.
The emotion was intense, the form concentrated and direct, the idea
definite and concise; and the musicians, having by this time a fully
developed language for their use, set themselves to reproduce these
qualities of the poem in their music. Hence the new spirit that came
into music with the Romantic movement, and that reacted on opera, on
piano music, and on the symphonic poem.

Another great difference between the pre-Romantic and the post-Romantic
composers was that the latter were, on the whole, much more cultured
men than the former. This was due, of course, not to any particular
merit of their own, but to the changed social circumstances of the
musician. The system of patronage in the eighteenth century, while it
undoubtedly helped the musician to develop _as_ a musician, must have
retarded his development in other ways. Under that system, where he was
often little better than the servant of some aristocrat, he must often
have been debarred from studying the world at first-hand, meeting it
face to face, looking at it through his own eyes. Neither Haydn[28]
nor Mozart, for example, stood on the level of the best culture of
the time. The great German historian of music, Ambros, has pointed out
how, in Mozart's letters from Italy, the talk is all of the singers
and dancers; "he scarcely seems to have noticed the Coliseum and the
Vatican, with all that these contain." And Ambros goes on to say that
the modern musician reads his Shakespeare and his Sophocles in the
original, and knows them almost by heart. He reads Humboldt's Cosmos
and the histories of Niebuhr and Ranke; he studies the dialectic of
Hegel as well as, or perhaps more than, the art of fugue; and if he
goes to Italy he does not trouble himself about the opera, but occupies
himself with nature and the remains of classic art. He is, in fact,
says Ambros, "Herr Microcosmos."[29]

For a fair picture of the ordinary life of a musician in the house
of his patron in the eighteenth century we have only to turn to the
Autobiography of Dittersdorf. Among them all, indeed, Gluck and Handel
seem to be the only musicians who possessed much culture,[30] and who
strike us as being, apart from music, the intellectual equal of the
great men of the time--of Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, Diderot,
Lessing, and the rest. There is no evidence that Beethoven was either
a man of wide culture, or a respectable thinker outside his own art.
It is, indeed, probable that the enormous musical power of many of
these men, and the centuries of progress through which they rushed
music in comparatively a few years, was due to their being nothing
else but musicians, to the concentration of all their faculties, all
their experiences, upon the problem of making sound a complete, living,
flexible medium of expression. But the later musicians were of another
order. The Romantic movement bred a new type of musician. He no longer
sat in the music-room of an aristocrat, clothed in the aristocrat's
livery, and spun music out of his own inner consciousness. He moved
about in the world and saw and learned a good deal. He associated
with poets; he frequented the studios of painters. We get men like
Hoffmann, at once novelist, painter, musician, and critic; like Liszt,
pianist, composer, author; like Schumann, musician and musical critic;
like Wagner, ranging greedily over the whole field of human knowledge,
and mixing himself up--in more senses than one--with every possible
and impossible subject under the sun. I am not using the term in any
offensive or disparaging sense when I say that the average modern
musician, in matters outside music, is a much better educated and more
all-round man than his predecessor; he knows more, sees more, reads
more, thinks more. Men like Wagner, Brahms, Richard Strauss, Hugo
Wolf, and Bruneau, stand much closer to the general intellectual life
of their day than any of the older musicians did to the intellectual
life of _his_ day. I am not for a moment contending that they are any
greater _musicians_ merely on this account; I simply state it as a
psychological factor in their work, as something that determines, to a
great extent, the quality of that work, and certainly determines their
choice of subjects.

The way it does this is by making them anxious to express in their
music all the impressions they have gathered from the world and from
their culture. But in order that they might do this, two things were
necessary, as we have already seen. The vocabulary of music--its range
of melody and harmony--had to be increased, and the capacity of the
orchestra had to be enormously developed. It is folly to laugh at the
men of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for not getting on
further with poetical music. They had not the means at their disposal
to do so. Sonata-form grew up to a great extent on the piano and the
violin; and the nature of these instruments largely determined what
could and should be uttered upon them. It was not till harmony got
richer and deeper and fuller, and men had learned to extract all kinds
of expression from the orchestra, that programme music in the true
sense of the word became possible.

The broad historical facts, then, are that the stimulus to poetic
music in the nineteenth century came from the wider education of the
musician, the great development of the means of musical expression, and
the incessant stimulation of the musician by poetry and literature in
general.[31] As we know, the new spirit broke out in three forms--in
the highly emotional song of Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Franz, and the
others; in the poetical music-drama of Wagner; and in the symphonic
poems or programme symphonies of Berlioz, Liszt, Tchaikovski, Raff, and
a dozen others, leading up to Richard Strauss. Even the men who did
not actually dabble much in the last-named form helped the cause of
instrumental poetic music in other ways. Schumann, for example, with
his poetic little piano pieces, his delicate sketches of character in
the _Carneval_ and _Papillons_ and elsewhere, was really following
up the same trail as led to Liszt's _Mazeppa_, Berlioz's _Harold en
Italie_, and Strauss's _Till Eulenspiegel_.


On two lines of inquiry, then, we have found the case for programme
music somewhat stronger than its hasty opponents have imagined. On the
one hand, we have seen that when the nature and origin of music are
psychologically analysed, there are two mental attitudes, two orders
of expression, and two types of phrase, from one of which has arisen
absolute, from the other, programme music. On the other hand, we have
seen that, from a variety of reasons, programme music could not have
been cultivated by the great masters of the eighteenth century who
beat out the form of the classical symphony; while its fascination for
the modern men is due to its being the only medium of expression for a
certain order of modern ideas. It is quite time, then, that not only
critics but composers realised that when the brains are out the form
will die; that you cannot write a symphony in the form of Mozart or
Beethoven unless your mental world is something like theirs, and that
if the literary, or pictorial, or dramatic suggestion is all-potent
with a composer, it is folly for him to throw it aside, and try, by
using a form that is uncongenial to him, to get back into an emotional
atmosphere it would be impossible for him to breathe.

The change that came over music about the beginning of the nineteenth
century, and that first came to full fruition in Wagner's operas, is
best described in the oft-quoted words of Wagner himself, as "the
fertilisation of music by poetry." He felt that there was considerable
evidence of the action of poetry upon music in Beethoven, though, as
can be seen from the passages on the _Leonora_ overture already quoted,
in Beethoven the reins are still too tightly clutched by absolute
music. He always, no matter what the origin of his conceptions may
have been, worked them out within the limits of symphonic form.
Berlioz, roughly speaking, went the other way, always keeping his eye
fixed intently on the lines of his poetic scheme. Wagner's criticism
upon this practice of Berlioz is interesting, even if not final. In
listening to music of this kind, he says, "it always happened that I
so completely lost the musical thread that by no manner of exertion
could I re-find and knit it up again." His point was this, to put it
in words of our own: if he was listening to a Berlioz work, he could
not get complete pleasure out of the music, _as_ mere music, because
it was not developed along purely musical lines; the chief theme, let
us say, gave him pleasure on its first announcement, but he could not
see the _rationale_ of its future treatment, as one can always see
the _rationale_ of the return of the themes in a symphony. This was
because the course of the music was determined not by abstract musical
intentions, but by poetic intentions which were not made clear to
him; and the result was, as it were, that he fell between two stools.
"I discovered," he says, "that while I had lost the musical thread
(_i.e._ the logical and lucid play of definite motives), I now had to
hold on to scenic motives not present before my eye, nor even so much
as indicated in the programme. Indisputably these motives existed in
Shakespeare's famous balcony scene" (Wagner is speaking of Berlioz's
_Romeo and Juliet_); "but in that they had all been faithfully
retained, and in the exact order given them by the dramatist, lay
the great mistake of the composer." And Wagner's contention was this,
that when a composer wants to reproduce in music a certain scene from
a drama, he must not take the thing as it stands and move on from
point to point in exactly the same way as the poet did. What was
right for the poet would be wrong for the musician. _He_ must tell
his story or paint his scene according to the laws and capacities of
music, not those of poetry; and Wagner goes on to praise Liszt for
having, by superior artistic instinct, avoided the pitfall that nearly
proved fatal to Berlioz. Liszt, instead of trying to tell us in music
precisely what the poet had already told us in verse, rethinks in music
what the poet has said, and gives it out to us as something born of
musical feeling itself.

Now we need not go into the question of how far Wagner is right in
what he says of Berlioz. This, at all events, is certain, from his
own words in praise of Liszt, that Wagner had no _à priori_ objection
to the symphonic poem, but only to the symphonic poem when it went
on what he took to be the wrong lines. All that is needed is for the
proper compromise to be agreed upon between the poetic purpose and the
musical form. This, I think, Richard Strauss has effected, and it would
be interesting to have had Wagner's criticism of Strauss. But since we
cannot get that, _we_ may criticise Wagner from the standpoint of the
symphonic poem.


Before doing this, however, let us briefly touch upon one or two other
main issues.

The first point I lay stress on is this, that "form" in programme
music cannot mean the same thing as form in absolute music; and for
this reason. So long as you work in one medium alone, the form is
controlled simply by the necessities and potentialities of that medium.
In a symphony or a fugue you have to consider nothing but the nature
of absolute music; in the drama, you have to worry about no problems
except those that lie in the nature of drama. But as soon as you begin
to work in a form that is a blend of the two, each of them wants to
pull the other along its own road, and a compromise has to be arrived
at. This is why it is easier to satisfy our sense of form in a drama
or a symphony than in an opera or a symphonic poem. We see the same
thing in prose literature. If you are going to write a pure romance,
concerned with nothing but romance, your course is fairly easy. If
you are going to write a treatise on society, again, you are bound by
no laws but those pertaining to this kind of work. But if you want
to combine the two--if you want to write a novel that shall not only
depict character but also enforce a sociological lesson, as in Zola's
novels or some of the stories of the American Frank Norris, then
there is a wrench between the two tendencies. The sociology is apt to
spoil the fiction, and the fiction the sociology. So it is in poetic
music; the poetry wants the music to go _its_ way, the music insists
on the poetry going _its_ way. In the case of the sociological novel,
what really happens is this. We admit that Zola's _Débâcle_ is not so
artistic a piece of work as, say, R. L. Stevenson's _Prince Otto_; but
we make allowances; we give up a little purely æsthetic pleasure in
consideration of getting a great deal of another kind of pleasure--that
of seeing a bigger picture of a more real life put on the canvas. If we
can only get the larger human quality in fiction by giving up a little
of the æsthetic gratification that comes from perfect form--well, being
reasonable creatures, there are times when we will cheerfully accept
the situation and make the compromise.

And so it is in poetic music. Wagner's _Tannhäuser_ overture and the
_Tristan_ prelude are not so satisfactory, from the point of view
of pure form, as a movement from a Beethoven symphony. We get the
repetitions of the themes determined by poetic rather than musical
necessities. Push the principle a little further, and you will get
almost no musical continuity at all, but a continuity of picture only.
If we examine the prelude to the _Dream of Gerontius_, we see that the
order of the themes follows a poetic or scenic purpose rather than
a musical purpose. This is legitimate so long as it does not go too
far, so long as we are not made to feel that the musical continuity is
absolutely thrown overboard to secure didactic or literary continuity.
But the broad principle is, that a piece of musical development, like
the _Tristan_ or _Gerontius_ prelude, that would not be altogether
satisfactory in absolute music, is quite satisfactory in poetic music.
It tells the literary story well enough, and yet does not starve our
musical sense.


This brings us to a second point. We are often told that programme
music is all right if it is so conceived and so handled that it
suffices _as pure music_, whether we know the programme or not.
And as this seems to many people like a fair compromise, and as
programme-musicians have been ill-treated so long that some of them are
positively thrilled with gratitude now for _not_ being kicked, there is
a tendency to accept this quasi-solution of the problem as something
like the final one. The programmist is willing to admit that a number
of themes, no matter how agreeable, do not constitute symphonic music
unless they have some emotional connection and some logical musical
development; while the absolutist graciously allows that a concrete
subject may be the basis of a symphony, if only the music is of such a
kind that it will appeal to the hearer just as much, although he may
not know what the subject is.

It is precisely against this compromise that I think we ought to
protest, for it seems to me to be based on a complete misunderstanding
of the natures of absolute and of programme music. Not only does it
ignore the difference in intellectual origin between a phrase such
as that which opens the finale of the _Jupiter_ symphony, and such a
one as that which symbolises _Till Eulenspiegel_, but it overlooks
the fact that along with this difference in the thing expressed there
must necessarily go a difference in the manner of expressing it. It
is impossible to subscribe to the insidious compromise that programme
music ought to "speak for itself," without a knowledge of the programme
being necessary.[32] We not only need the programme--the statement of
the literary or pictorial subject of the composition--but this is at
once answerable for half our pleasure and a justification of certain
peculiarities of form which the music may now safely assume. If the
shape and colour of the themes of a piece of music, the order of
their occurrence, and the variations they undergo, are all determined
by the composer having a certain picture in his mind, it is surely
necessary for us to be told what that picture is. If it was necessary
for him when he was composing, it is necessary for us if we are to
listen to the music as he meant us to listen to it. To put a symphonic
poem before us without telling us all the composer's intentions in
it, is as foolish as to make us listen to the music of a song or an
opera without hearing the words. In the opera and the song, things
go this way or that because the poetic purpose requires it, and the
justification of them is precisely their appropriateness to the poetic
purpose. Similarly, things go this way or that in the symphonic poem
because the poetic purpose requires it; and here also we require to
know what that poetic purpose was before we can justify or condemn what
the musician has done. Let us examine a simple case, say the _Romeo and
Juliet_ overture of Tchaikovski, and see whether this particular work
could be equally understood and appreciated, as pure music, by the man
who knows and the man who does not know the programme.

There is not the slightest doubt that the _Romeo and Juliet_ would
give intense pleasure to any one who simply walked unpremeditatedly
into a concert room and heard the overture without knowing that it
had a poetical basis--who listened to it, that is, as a piece of
music pure and simple in sonata form. But I emphatically deny that
this hearer would receive as much pleasure from the work as I do, for
example, knowing the poetic story to which it is written. He might
think the passage for muted strings, for example, extremely beautiful,
but he would not get from it such delight as I, who not only feel
all the _musical_ loveliness of the melody and the harmonies and the
tone colour, but see the lovers on the balcony and breathe the very
atmosphere of Shakespeare's scene. I am richer than my fellow by two
or three emotions in a case of this kind. My nature is stirred on two
or three sides instead of only one. I would go further, and say that
not only does the auditor I have supposed get less pleasure from the
work than I, but he really does not hear Tchaikovski's work at all. If
the musician writes music to a play and invents phrases to symbolise
the characters and to picture the events of the play, we are simply
not listening to _his_ work at all if we listen to it in ignorance of
his poetical scheme. We may hear the music, but it is not the music
he meant us to hear, or at all events not heard as he intended us to
hear it. If melody, harmony, colour and development are all shaped and
directed by certain pictures in the musician's mind, we get no further
than the mere outside of the music, unless we also are familiar with
those pictures. Let us take another example. The reader will remember
that the overture opens with a _religioso_ theme, in the clarinets and
bassoons, that is intended to suggest Friar Lawrence. In the ensuing
scenes of conflict between the two opposing factions, this theme
appears every now and then in the brass, sometimes in a particularly
forceful and assertive manner. The casual hearer whom I have supposed
would probably look upon this simply as a matter of counterpoint;
Tchaikovski has invented two themes, he would say, and is now simply
combining them. But here again he would be wrong. These passages
certainly give us musical pleasure, and are as certainly meant to do
so, but they are intended also to do something more. The reappearance
of the "Friar Lawrence" theme has a dramatic as well as a musical
significance. Taken as it is from the placid wood-wind and given to the
commanding brass, and made to stand out like a warning voice through
the mad riot that is going on all round it, it tells its own tale at
once to any one with a knowledge of the subject of the overture. So
again with the mournful transformation of the love motive at the end
of the overture. Tchaikovski does not alter the melody and the harmony
in this way for merely musical reasons. He has something more in his
mind than an appeal to the abstract musical faculty; and I repeat that
the hearer who is ignorant of this something more not only gets less
than the full amount of pleasure from the work, but really does not
hear the work as Tchaikovski conceived and wrote it, and intended it
to be heard. The same argument holds good of the song. Imagine one
of the most highly and subtly expressive of modern songs--say the "O
wüsst' ich doch" or the _Feldeinsamkeit_ of Brahms--sung to you at a
concert without your having the slightest knowledge of the words. Some
pleasure, of course, you could not help feeling in the music; but it
would be nothing compared with the sensations you would have if you
knew the words or could follow them in a programme. Then you would find
not only that certain passages that seemed to you the least interesting
before, as mere music, are poignantly expressive, but these apparent
peculiarities are justified, and indeed necessitated, by the poetry.
Now imagine that you hear the same song three months later. You have
forgotten the actual words point by point; but you still retain the
recollection of the emotional moods they suggested; and so you are
still responsive to each _nuance_ of expression in the music. Listening
to a song under these conditions is precisely the same as listening
to a symphonic poem. In _Die Ideale_, for example, Liszt divides
Schiller's poem into sections of different intensity or different
_timbre_ of feeling, and places each of these in the score before the
section of the music that illustrates it. _Die Ideale_ is, in fact, an
extension of the song-form, in which the words are not sung but are
either suggested to us or supposed to be known to us. But it is folly
to suppose that either in the Brahms song or _Die Ideale_ the man who
does not know the literary basis can get the same pleasure as the man
who does.

We have only to treat all other symphonic poems in the same way as we
have just treated Tchaikovski's _Romeo and Juliet_--to ask ourselves
what the composer meant us to hear, and how much of it we really _do_
hear if we do not know his poetical scheme--to see the folly of holding
up absolute music as the standard to which programme music ought to
conform. Occasionally, however, the objection is put in the inverse
way, and we are told that programme music is absurd because it does
not speak intelligibly to us, does not carry its story written upon it
so plainly that no one can mistake it. The charge of absurdity must be
really laid at the door of the composer. The plain truth is that a
composer has no right to put before us a symphonic poem without giving
us the fullest guide to his literary plans. It would be ridiculous of
Wagner or Schubert to think their business was ended when they had
simply given their music the title of, say, _The Ring of the Nibelung_
or _The Erl-king_; it is equally ridiculous of Strauss to call a work
_Till Eulenspiegel_ or _Don Juan_, and leave us to discover the rest
for ourselves. If Strauss, for example, put together the Don Juan theme
(the one on the four horns) in that particular order not merely because
he liked the sequence of sounds, but because they accurately limned
the picture of Don Juan which he had in his eye at that moment, it is
folly of him to throw it before _us_ as a mere self-existent sequence
of sounds, and not to tell us what aspect of Don Juan it is meant to

As for "the inherent stupidity of programme music"--to which opinion
one critic was led by having, in the innocence of his heart, thought
the motive just mentioned signified one thing, while, he afterwards
discovered, it signified quite another--I would put it to him that he
is never likely to go wrong again over this phrase, and that each time
he hears _Don Juan_ he will, to this extent, be nearer seeing what the
composer meant him to see than he ever was before. And if he had an
equal certainty of the meaning of all the other subjects in _Don Juan_,
would he not then be able to recreate the whole thing in accordance
with Strauss' own ideas? And would not all difficulty then vanish,
and the "inherent stupidity" seem to be in those who cursed the form
because they had not the key to the idea? Let any one listen to _Till
Eulenspiegel_ with no more knowledge of the composer's intentions than
is given in the title, and I can understand him failing to make head or
tail of it. But let him learn by heart the admirable German or English
analyses that can now be had in almost any programme-book, and if all
does not then become as clear to him as crystal, if then he cannot
follow all the gradations of that magical piece of story-telling--well,
one can only say that nature has deprived him of the symphonic-poem
faculty, just as she makes some people insensitive to Botticelli
or Maeterlinck. He does but throw an interesting light on his own
psychology; the value of the musical form remains unassailed.

Now why does not Strauss, or any other composer of programme music,
spare himself and us all this trouble by showing us, once for all, the
main psychological lines upon which he has built his work? The composer
himself, in fact, is the cause of all the misunderstanding and all the
æsthetic confusion. Nothing could be clearer than the symbolism of the
music in Strauss' _Don Quixote_, when you know the precise intention
of each variation; but the fact that Strauss should give the clue to
these in the piano duet and omit it all from the full score shows how
absurdly lax and inconsistent the practice of these gentlemen is.
_Also sprach Zarathustra_, again, is quite clear, because indications
are given here and there of the precise part of Nietzsche's book
with which the musician is dealing; while _Ein Heldenleben_, in the
absence of an official "Guide," simply worries us by prompting futile
conjectures as to the meaning of this or that phrase. Wagner would not
have dreamt of throwing a long work before us, and simply telling us
that the subject of it was _Parsifal_. Why, then, should the writer
of symphonic poems expect us to fathom all his intentions when he has
merely printed the title of his work? If the words of the opera are
necessary for me to understand what was in Wagner's mind when he wrote
this or that motive, surely words--not accompanying the music, but
prefixed to it--are needful to tell me what was in Strauss' mind when
he shaped the violin solo in _Ein Heldenleben_. If it is absurd to
play to me a song without giving me a copy of the words, expecting me
to understand the music that has been born of a poetical idea as if it
had been written independently of any verbal suggestion, it is equally
absurd to put before me, as pure music, an orchestral piece that was
never conceived as pure music. If the poem or the picture was necessary
to the composer's imagination, it is necessary to mine; if it is not
necessary to either of us, he has no right to affix the title of it to
his work.

It is curious, again, that people who can defend Wagner as against the
absolutists cannot also see that they are implicitly justifying Strauss
and his fellows. Thus another critic writes that "Wagner saw that the
intellectual idea could not be conveyed by music alone; that together
with the colour--the music--must go the spoken word to make clear
what was meant." So far, good. But then he quarrels with Strauss for
trying to make _his_ themes expressive of something more than music
pure and simple, and giving us a programme to help us. Why, where in
the name of lucidity is the difference between singing to a phrase of
music the words that prompted it, and printing these words alongside
the phrase or at the beginning of the score? Does it matter whether
the composer writes a love-scene and has the actual words _sung_ by a
tenor and a soprano, or merely puts the whole thing on an orchestra,
and _tells_ us that this is a scene between two lovers, and that their
love is of such and such a quality? For the life of me I cannot see
why the one proceeding is right and the other wrong. And once more, if
it is essential that we should not be left in the slightest doubt in
the case of the opera as to who the protagonists are and what is the
nature of their sentiments, it is equally essential, in the case of the
symphonic poem, that we should not be left in ignorance of any of the
points that have gone to make the structure of the music what it is. No
symphonic poem ought to be published or performed without the fullest
analysis of it by the composer himself, just as he would never think of
publishing the music of his song or his opera without the words. There
is no compromise possible. If the song and the opera are legitimate
blends of literary ideas and musical expression, so is the symphonic
poem, and if the literary basis has to be given us in full in the case
of the opera, we equally need it in the other case as completely as it
can be set before us. The great trouble is that composers like Strauss
so often do neither the one thing nor the other; they neither put their
work before us as music pure and simple, nor give us sufficient clue to
what the representative music is intended to represent.

And now let me try to show briefly that Wagner misunderstood the
meaning of his own reforms, and that the ideal poetic art-form after
which he was striving was not the opera but the symphonic poem.


To make the following argument clearer I will state its conclusion
at once; I am going to try to show that Wagner's own analysis of the
natures of poetry, music and drama conclusively proves that if there
can be said to be such a thing as the ideal form of art, it is not the
opera but the symphonic poem. I am not going to criticise Wagner's
theory, except for a moment here and there. I am going to accept it
broadly just as it stands, assume it to be perfectly founded on facts
and perfectly logical in the bulk of its exposition, and prove from it
that he stopped short at the final conclusion--that had he been quite
consistent to the end he would have seen, all through his own argument,
the finger of demonstration beckoning him on to a point further
than that of opera, to a point still higher up the road, where the
symphonic poem was awaiting him. And to draw this conclusion I think we
do not need to call in the aid of anything but his own words.

In _A Study of Wagner_ (1899) I contended that, owing to the structure
of his mind, Wagner was to a large degree insensitive to the charms
of poetry purely as poetry and of music purely as music. He did not,
that is, and could not, get from poetry or from abstract music the
precise sensations, completely satisfactory in themselves, that a
lover of poetry or a lover of abstract music would get. Poetry to him
had something unsatisfactory, imperfect, incomplete in it, unless it
reached out a hand to music; music was similarly defective unless it
was born of a poetic stimulus. To dispute this is to be blind to the
plain evidence of Wagner's prose works; the mere assertion to the
contrary of his more uncritical admirers counts for simply nothing
against the numerous passages that can be brought up in proof. Remarks
such as this, "What is not worth the being sung, neither is it worth
the poet's pain of telling," or this, "that work of the poet's must
rank as the most excellent, which in its final consummation should
become entirely music," or this, "A need in music which poetry alone
can still," or this, "If the work of the sheer word-poet appears as a
non-realised poetic aim, on the other hand, the work of the absolute
musician is only to be described as altogether bare of such an aim; for
the Feeling may well have been entirely aroused by the purely-musical
expression, but it could not be _directed_,"[33]--remarks such as
these are not to be explained away. Nay, Wagner's very notion of an
art-work that should embrace all the arts was a sure proof of there
being a specific something in each art to which he was impervious.

This, then, is the prime fact in Wagner's artistic psychology. When
a poetical idea occurred to him, it was one that cried out for the
emotional colour of music to complete it; when a musical idea occurred
to him, it was one controlled and directed from the start by a poetic
concept. Hence not only his dramatic work but his theoretical work is
simply the expression of this psychological bias. His opponents did him
an injustice when they said he worked out certain theories and then
wrote operas to illustrate and justify them. The fact was that the
theories and the operas were only two branches from the same trunk--not
cause and effect, but two effects of the same cause. In the operas
and the prose works alike he was simply seeking self-expression. But
muddled thinker as I hold Wagner to have been upon most of the subjects
his busy brain took up, he was perfectly clear as to what he wanted
to do in opera, and what he wanted to say in explanation of it. Even
the distressing opacity of his style, that makes the reading of him so
severe a trial to one's literary sense, cannot prevent the big outlines
of his system standing out in perfect clearness. In that system he
thought he had demonstrated three things--(1) that at a certain stage
of its evolution poetry has to call in the aid of music in order
fully to realise its desires, (2) that music for the same reason has
at a certain stage to call in the aid of poetry, and (3) that in the
musical drama we get the best powers of music and of poetry exerted to
the fullest, and combined in a harmonious whole. (He also held that
the scene-painting, the stage-setting, and the gestures of the actors
gratified adequately our other æsthetic senses; but we need not concern
ourselves with this aspect of his theory here.)

Let me first make it quite clear that Wagner wished to get an ideal
musical-poetic art-form by shearing off from music all that did not
tend towards poetry, and from poetry all that did not tend towards
music. "Unity of artistic Form," he says in _Opera and Drama_, "is
only thinkable as the emanation of a united Content: a united Content,
however, we can only recognise by its being couched in an artistic
expression through which it can announce itself _entirely_ to the
Feeling. A Content which should prescribe a twofold expression,
_i.e._ an expression which obliged the messenger to address himself
alternately to the Understanding and the Feeling--such a Content
could only be itself a dual, a discordant one. Every artistic aim
makes primarily for a united Shape.... Since it is the instinctive
Will of every artistic Aim to impart itself to the Feeling, it
follows that the cloven Expression is incompetent to entirely arouse
the Feeling...." "This," he goes on to say, "This entire arousing
of the Feeling was impossible to the sheer Word-poet, through _his_
expressional organ; therefore what he could not impart through that
to Feeling, he was obliged to announce to Understanding, so as to
compass the full utterance of the content of his Aim: he must hand
over to Understanding, to be thought out, what he could not give to be
perceived by Feeling." Thus poetry falls to the ground, as it were,
between two stools; the poet wants to make a direct appeal to Feeling,
but he is partly defeated by having to make this appeal through the
medium of words, which are more the organ of Understanding than of
Feeling. The one thing to be done, then, is to supply this deficiency
of Feeling by a resort to music, whose appeal _par excellence_ is to
the Feeling.

But _per contra_, music itself, as abstract music, is incomplete;
because, although it does indeed move us, it leaves us in doubt as
to the cause and purpose of the emotion. "If the work of the sheer
Word-poet," says Wagner, "appears as a non-realised poetic Aim, on the
other hand the work of the absolute Musician is only to be described
as altogether bare of such an Aim; for the Feeling may well have been
entirely aroused by the purely-musical expression, but it could not be
_directed_." Or, as he phrases it in another place, instrumental music
had worked away at its regular sound-patterns until it "had won itself
an idiomatic speech--a speech which in any higher artistic sense,
however, was arbitrary and incapable of expressing the purely-human,
so long as the longing for a clear and intelligible portrayal of
definite, individual human feelings did not become its only necessary
measure for the shaping of those melodic particles."

So much, then, is clear; according to the Wagnerian theory, mere
poetry needs music to help it to make its direct appeal to Feeling;
mere music needs the concrete suggestions of poetry to give it order
and direction. Even in the later works of Beethoven the pendulum
shifts from absolute, abstract musical tone-weaving to the effort to
say more definite things; there awoke in him, says Wagner, "a longing
for distinct expression of specific, characteristically individual
emotions," and he "began to care less and less about merely making
music." The climax of this impulse to blend musical feeling and poetic
purpose in the one art-work was, of course, to be the Wagnerian opera
or music-drama.

This line of argumentation leads to two other propositions:--

(1) In the first place, given that music and poetry are to co-operate
to make one product, and given that the most perfect art-form is that
which makes a single, undivided, undistracting appeal to us, it follows
that the more intimately the two factors are blended the better the
result will be. There must be no little bit of music that hangs out,
as it were, and declines to meet the poetry on equal terms; there must
be no little bit of poetry that refuses to be amenable to musical
expression. The compromise must be perfect; there must be just so much
poetic purpose as is necessary to keep the musical utterance definite
and unmistakable, and just so much musical outpouring as is necessary
to lift _all_ the poetry into the ideal realm of Feeling; just so much
in each case and no more. There must be a complete "emotionalisation
of the intellect"; or, to use yet another of Wagner's phrases, we must
have "a truly unitarian" form. And in answer to the question, "Has
the poet to _restrict_ himself in presence of the musician, and the
musician in presence of the poet?" he says that they must not restrict
each other, "but rouse each other's powers into highest might, by
love...." " ... If the _poet's aim_--as such--is still at hand and
visible, then it has not as yet gone under into the Musical Expression;
but if the _Musician's Expression_--as such--is still apparent, then
it, in turn, has not yet been inspired by the Poetic Aim." In the
_Zukunftsmusik_ he puts the same idea in other words: the ideal text
can be achieved only by "that poet who is fully alive to Music's
tendency and exhaustless faculty of expression, and therefore drafts
his poem in such a fashion that it may penetrate the finest fibres of
the musical tissue, and the spoken _thought_ entirely dissolve into the

(2) In the second place, the new circumstances must sanction a new
form. What was quite right in the symphony, having regard to its
peculiar purpose, will be quite wrong in the music-drama, where the
purpose is altogether different. Nowhere, perhaps, is Wagner on
safer ground, or more illuminative in his reasoning, than he is
here. He shows how the symphony--like all purely abstract musical
utterances--must adopt certain definite formal methods of procedure
if it is to hang together at all. The growth of sonata-form in the
eighteenth century was determined not by the arbitrary desires of
individuals here and there, but by a deep underlying logic--a logic of
the emotions--that ran unconsciously through them and through their
hearers. It was this obscure, intuitive logic that made the need felt
for a second subject in contrast with the first, for an exposition
of these two subjects, for their working out, and for their final
recapitulation; it was this logic that determined the contrast of
character between the different movements. The kaleidoscope had to be
perpetually bringing the picture before us in new aspects; the essence
of dramatic working is _development_; the essence of "all forms arisen
from the March or Dance" is _change_. Thus the new form for dramatic
music must be sought in the nature of that _genre_, not in the nature
of a quite alien _genre_. In the essay _On Franz Liszt's Symphonic
Poems_, Wagner points out, as we have seen, how the laws of drama and
the laws of symphony are at variance. Let me quote the gist of his
remarks again. "It will be obvious that, in the conflict of a dramatic
idea with this (symphonic) form, the necessity must at once arise to
either sacrifice the development (the idea) to the alternation (the
form), or the latter to the former"; whereupon follows the criticism of
the _Leonora_ overture which I have already quoted. When he reaches
the point that a new form would have been necessary to allow free and
consistent play to Beethoven's ideas in the _Leonora_, he asks, "What,
now, would that form be?" and replies, "Of necessity a form dictated by
the subject of portrayal and its logical development."

Having briefly sketched out the two leading principles of Wagner's
theory, let us now leave the second, which is perfectly clear in itself
and in all its implications, and return to the first, the implications
of which are perhaps not quite so clear. Wagner himself held that as he
grew in artistic wisdom, his opera-poems came closer and closer to the
ideal form, in which there should be just as much music as the poetry
required, and just as much poetry as the music required. He admitted
that the poems of _Rienzi_, _The Flying Dutchman_, _Tannhäuser_, and
_Lohengrin_ were not quite all they should be; they were simply stages
in his evolution. But he was willing to submit the poem of _Tristan_
to the severest possible test of conformity with his ideal. "Upon that
work," he says, "I consent to your making the severest claims deducible
from my theoretic premisses: not because I formed it on any system,
for every theory was clean forgotten by me; but since here I moved
with fullest freedom and the most utter disregard of every theoretic

What now is the great advantage, according to Wagner's theory, that
the musical dramatist has over the poet or the novelist? Simply this,
that he can discard all the more or less uninspired matter that they
require in order to make their purpose clear, and plunge at once into
the heart of his subject. Take, as an example, this very poem of
_Tristan and Isolde_. The poet or the novelist, before he can begin to
move you, must descend to a relatively unemotional plane in order to
acquaint your understanding with certain positive facts it is essential
it should know. He must tell you who Tristan and Isolde were, when and
where they lived, what was their relation to the other people of the
drama, and a score of other things that can hardly be made emotional in
themselves. A long poem or drama is bound, by the nature of the case,
to have a certain amount of dross scattered about among its gold; the
beautiful appeals to Feeling are only made into a coherent story or
picture by the use of this less emotional tissue. From this difficulty
the musical dramatist escapes; in music he has a powerful engine that
enables him to dispense with all these mere wrappings of his Feeling,
and reach directly and immediately to the Feeling itself. He avoids
the arbitrary, and takes up his stand at once in the centre of the
"purely human." Thus Wagner needs no preliminary fumbling about for
_his_ tragedy; the first bar of the overture transports you at once
into the world and the mood to which the poet must drag you through
twenty explanatory pages. "All that detailed description and exhibition
of the historico-conventional which is requisite for making us clearly
understand the events of a given, remote historical epoch, and which
the historical novelist or dramatist of our times has therefore to
set forth at such exhaustive length--all this I could pass over." He
concerns himself not with historical subjects but with the simple myth
or legend, for "the legend, in whatever age or nation it occurs, has
the merit of seeing nothing but the purely human content of that age
and nation, and of giving forth that Content in a form peculiar to
itself, of sharpest outline, and therefore swiftly understandable."
The musician, in fact, must discard everything but the purely human;
he must take a poetical subject of which this is the core, and then
kindle it into incandescence by means of music. In _Tristan_, says
Wagner, "I plunged into the inner depth of soul-events, and from out
this inmost centre of the world I fearlessly built up its outward form.
A glance at the volume of this poem will show you at once that the
exhaustive detail-work which an historical poet is obliged to devote
to clearing up the outward bearings of his plot, to the detriment of a
lucid exposition of its inner motives, I now trusted myself to apply
to these latter alone. Life and death, the whole import and existence
of the outer world, here hang on nothing but the inner movements of
the soul." The object, of course, was--to recur to a previous order of
imagery--to reduce the amount of dross in the work and to increase the
amount of pure gold; all the available space ought to be devoted not to
demonstrations or recitals of fact but to the evocation of feelings,
to "exhibiting the inner springs of action, those inner soul-motives
which are finally and alone to stamp the Action as a _necessary_ one."

So much, then, is clear. Without questioning one of Wagner's
contentions--accepting his theory as true, without disagreeing with his
data or his reasoning--we come to these positions:--

 a. Poetry without music is lacking in expression, in appeal to
    Feeling: music without poetry is lacking in the power to give a
    definite direction to Feeling.

 b. An art-form therefore must be sought that will be an amalgam of
    the two, with the advantages of each and the defects of neither.

 c. In proportion as the advantages are retained and the defects
    eliminated will the new art-form approach ideal perfection.

 d. The musical defect to be guarded against is the attempt to
    subject dramatic music to the laws of symphonic music: this is
    easily overcome, and there only remains the poetic defect to be
    avoided, _i.e._

 e. All poetic or verbal material that cannot be "musicalised,"
    or caught up into the spirit of music, is superfluous and harmful;
    therefore in proportion as the music-drama is perfected will this
    kind of material tend to disappear.

So far, so good. The point remaining to be considered is this: can
we _ever_ totally eliminate this non-musical material from opera?
Let us say, for example, in terms of the Wagnerian æsthetic, that a
good opera on the subject of Romeo and Juliet will be nearer artistic
perfection than Shakespeare's play, because it will dispense with
all the poet's clumsy methods of reaching the Feeling through the
viscous waters of the Understanding--that it will concern itself only
with the "purely human," with the "inner springs of action" of the
souls of the characters, and that it will raise these--to use a term
borrowed from electrical science--to the highest potential, the highest
incandescence. Granting all this, let us then press our question a
point further still. There will, let us admit, be less non-emotional
matter in the opera than in the drama, less hard, incalcitrant material
that cannot be emotionalised, but that has to be there because without
it the structure cannot hang together. Admitting that there will be
less of it, will any one venture to say that there will be _none_ of
it in the opera? I think not. _Â priori_ considerations apart, an
appeal to practical experience will soon disillusionise us. Of all
the thousands of operas that have been written since opera began,
not one, outside the works of Wagner, will pass successfully through
the ordeal. Of Wagner's operas, _Rienzi_, _The Flying Dutchman_,
_Tannhäuser_, and _Lohengrin_ are, by his own admission, as I have
already shown, put out of court. _The Ring_ will certainly not stand
the test; _Parsifal_ certainly will not; _The Mastersingers_ certainly
will not. There only remains _Tristan_, of the form and substance of
which he himself was justly proud. It will pass the judges with a
lighter sentence than any of the others; but will it be dismissed
without a stain on its character? By no means. Even in the pure,
dazzling, magnificent metal of _Tristan_ itself we find embedded, here
and there, a refractory piece of alien ore, of raw material not yet put
through the subtle alchemy that must divinise it. If then this last
straw fails us, where shall we look for salvation? The only answer can
be that _salvation on these lines is impossible_. Reduce the coarser,
explanatory, unemotional matter of opera--the merely utilitarian stuff,
the paste that binds the more precious things together--reduce this
as you will, _some_ of it you are still bound to retain in opera, for
without it opera cannot have enough intellectual, dramatic consistency
to ensure our getting hold of it. And if (1) granting the premisses,
the reasoning by which the Wagnerian theorem is supported has been
flawless, and (2) the brain that strove to embody that theorem in
practical art was an organ mightier than anything the sons of men are
likely to see for a very long time to come--then, I take it, there
is only one conclusion possible, that the failure occurs through
attempting to realise the theory in the wrong medium. To phrase it
differently, the logic of the case is not rigorously enough applied at
the last stage, when it comes to be pushed to its ultimate conclusion.
Always bearing in mind that, according to Wagner, the strong point of
the musical drama, as compared with any other poetic art-form, is that
the non-emotional matter in it can be reduced to a minimum, let us ask
ourselves whether a form cannot be found in which even this minimum can
be dispensed with. The answer will be that the necessary conditions
are united in the symphonic poem, which is therefore the true heir
of Wagner's theory, and has been too long kept out of its lawful

Two points now fall to be considered: (1) Can the affiliation of the
symphonic poem to the Wagnerian theory be properly established, and the
superiority of its rights of succession over those of its half-brother
opera be fully demonstrated; and (2) are there no defects, suggested by
Wagner himself, that unfit the symphonic poem to hold sway over opera?

The first point need not detain us long; least of all can the
thorough-going Wagnerian here have much right to protest. If Wagner's
reasoning is right his conclusion must be accepted--namely, that the
less waste matter you have in your poetic music the better. Now he
himself attributed the failure to "musicalise" the poetic subject
completely to this cause, that instead of addressing the Feeling we
were too prone to address the Understanding. He tells us, too, that
_words_ are the channel through which the Understanding operates.
In all cases, then, where words are employed, there is a strong
probability of their carrying us with them further along the path of
mere Understanding than the ideal art requires; and diminish this
feature as much as you can, some of it is still bound to persist. So
that your only resort is to find a form that shall make use of all the
advantages of poetic music and keep clear of this one defect. This form
is unquestionably the symphonic poem. It _does_ eliminate the defects
that attend the use of words, for it dispenses with words; it meets
Wagner's demand that music shall not sing merely for its own sake, but
for a poetic purpose; it can order its structure upon the same lines
as opera, _i.e._ the themes are conceived at once in terms of musical
beauty and in terms of poetic appropriateness, and they suggest, by the
modifications they undergo, the changing aspect of the personages and
scenes of the drama. A symphonic poem is the concentrated essence of
opera; it is to the opera as Bovril is to the ox.

But Wagner himself, it may be said, expressly warned us against
programme music as being an artistic error. That is quite true.
Wagner's argumentation here, however, is exceptionally weak. It is
clear that he had no properly thought-out principles to guide him at
this point. To begin with, his differentiation of programme music
from the symphonic poem is thoroughly fallacious. If programme music
is music based upon a programme--_i.e._ upon a literary subject--then
every symphonic poem, nay, every opera, necessarily belongs to that
category. The truth probably is that Wagner clung to this false
distinction because he thought it would help him out of an embarrassing
situation. He found himself compelled to say something publicly upon
Liszt's symphonic poems; and I am afraid his essay on that subject
is hardly a model of the ingenuous. To condemn Liszt was, of course,
impossible for many reasons. At all costs he had to be commended; but
if we critically examine the essay of eighteen pages, we shall find
that surprisingly little of it really deals with Liszt's work. There
is much declamation, and much æsthetic theorizing--most of it very
good; but surprisingly little rational criticism of Liszt's symphonic
poems. Practically all that Wagner does is (1) to admit the _â priori_
proposition that it is just as sensible to write a symphonic poem as
a symphony--he asks "whether March or Dance ... can supply a worthier
motive of form than, for instance, a mental picture of the ...
characteristic features in the deeds and sufferings of an Orpheus, a
Prometheus, and so forth," and whether it is not nobler for music to
take its Form "from an imagined Orpheus or Prometheus motive, than from
an imagined march or dance motive"; and (2) to contrast disparagingly
the procedure of Berlioz with that of Liszt. But the final impression
the essay leaves on me is that it was a duty which Wagner performed
rather unwillingly. He did not want to say too much for Liszt's music;
so on the one hand he argued that at any rate the symphonic poem was
permissible, and on the other hand that it was preferable to the
programme music of Berlioz.

Here his distinctions and his reasoning will not hold. He objected in
Berlioz, as we have seen, to the way in which the musician followed the
literary clues of his subject, without recasting these so as to fit
them in with a scheme that was _musically_ logical. Now it is absurd to
condemn programme music _en masse_ because a particular man blunders in
it; Berlioz may quite well be wrong[34] and programme music still be
right. But take Wagner's criticism as it stands, and correlate it with
the previous arguments of this paper, and what is the conclusion to be
drawn? Just this, that if Wagner could not, as he says, "hold on to
scenic motives not present" before his eye, he was not listening to the
music in the proper way. It is _not_ necessary, for most of us, to have
a poetic scene put visibly before us; we can easily reconstruct it in
imagination; and what the symphonic poem does is to give us the musical
feeling the opera aims at giving us, and to tell us to _imagine_ the
occasion of it all, instead of putting this occasion on a stage before
us. The prelude and finale of _Tristan_ constitute a rudimentary
symphonic poem, in the hearing of which we never ask to hear a word
or see an actor. A more explicit symphonic poem does the same thing
on a larger scale. We can, if we like, make a three-act opera out of
_Romeo and Juliet_, but on Wagner's own principles the essence of the
thing is contained in Tchaikovski's concert overture. And if I am
told that this theme is to be associated with the lovers, this with
Friar Lawrence, and so on, then during the playing of the overture the
whole drama is acted in my brain, and is quite as real for me as if I
beheld artificial men and women acting artificially in an artificial
stage-setting. So with _Ein Heldenleben_. Nothing would be easier than
to make an opera out of this subject; but who wants the opera, with
its eking out of the parts that really do matter with a number of
parts that really do not matter, with all its stage absurdities, its
posturing actors? We have the diffuse emotions of three or four hours
concentrated into the rich emotions of forty minutes. We have the whole
life of the hero just as we would get it in the opera; but the small
basket of strawberries has fewer pieces of grit in it than the bigger

I hope I shall not be taken to mean that the opera is a false and
useless form, and that composers should henceforth all work frenziedly
at the manufacture of symphonic poems. My position is that for certain
purposes we _must_ have opera; by it alone can certain needs of our
soul be satisfied, just as--though Wagner did not know it--for the
satisfaction of other needs we must resort to pure poetry and pure
music. But for certain other satisfactions we must have recourse to the
symphonic poem; and this form, I contend, is the only form that can be
deduced logically from Wagner's own æsthetic theory. As I have tried
to show, in the symphonic poem alone can you get music fertilised by
a poetic purpose, and yet, by eliminating the actual words, avoid the
intrusion even of the minimum of non-emotional substance. In _The Ring
and the Book_, Browning describes how the artificer has to fashion a
gold ring. In order to make his material workable, he has to blend an
alloy with the gold; but when the circle is complete he drives out
the alloy with a spirt of acid, leaving the pure metal only. That
is the symphonic poem; the opera is the ring with the alloy left in
it. If perfection of form is what we want--the consummate, intimate
transfusion of matter and form, the "truly unitarian" form to which
Wagner aspired--then it is in the symphonic poem that we must look for
it, not in the opera.

Only one objection that Wagner might urge against this has, I believe,
not yet been considered. He expressly laid it down, it may be pointed
out, that it is _not_ sufficient for us to carry the external, moving,
concrete features of the drama in our heads; they must be set before
us, in the fulness of real life, on the stage. "Not a Programme," he
says in _Zukunftsmusik_, "which rather prompts the troublous question
'Why'?[36] than stills it--not a Programme, then, can speak the meaning
of the symphony; no, nothing but a stage performance of the Dramatic
Action itself."

This was an opinion he always maintained; but after all is it anything
more than a mere _obiter dictum_? Wagner had a passion for seeing
anything and everything upon the stage--a passion that at times becomes
rather childish, for he was quite unconscious of a number of the
absurdities of his characters and his situations that are painfully
evident to the audience. Truth to tell, his notions of the stage were
just a little crude at times; in any case he did not see that even
the best acting in opera is _per se_ bound to be inferior to the best
acting in drama--people cannot sing and at the same time be wholly
natural in demeanour. I take it, then, that his predilection for
stage-settings was a purely personal one; it has no logical relation to
his general æsthetic theory; and we can refuse to be bound by it. We
all like opera, and we tolerate its absurdities and its intellectual
deficiencies because we know these are inseparable from it; but once
more it has to be said that from these stage absurdities the symphonic
poem is free. Mr. Arthur Symons has recently pointed out the strain
that is put on our sense of the ridiculous when what should be merely
a symbol is thrust visibly before our eyes. The Stranger in Ibsen's
_Lady from the Sea_ is very impressive as a symbol of the call of the
sea to the blood of Ellida Wangel; but when an ordinary human being
in a tourist suit comes on the stage and purports to be the symbol
incarnate, our sense of the poetry of the thing is severely tried. So
with the scene where Wotan attempts to bar Siegfried's progress with
his spear, and Siegfried shatters it with his sword. This is all
very fine as a symbol of "the last ineffectual stand of constituted
authority against the young, untrammelled individuality of the future";
but what the candid eye sees on the stage is a young man chopping in
two a piece of stick held by an old man, who picks up the pieces,
walks off with them, and says, "Advance! I cannot stop thee!" What is
very impressive, merely conceived imaginatively as a symbol, becomes
unimpressive when narrowed down to ordinary men with legs and arms,
holding "property" swords and spears.

Opera, indeed, has no lack of absurdities, and this will always prevent
it taking rank as the highest form of dramatic art; and Wagner, as I
have said, must be held to have taken some of his own stage absurdities
and puerilities with quite abnormal seriousness. It stands to reason,
too, that the symphonic poem suffers from no such disabilities. If
Wagner's theory be correct, then a symphonic poem on a given subject
can follow, as regards its musical form, the lines laid down for it
by the poetic impulse, just as efficiently as an opera on the subject
could do; while it avoids the "padding" that is inseparable from
opera by simply giving us, in our programme, an outline of the poetic
subject, instead of daubing the subject over, from head to foot, with
pseudo-poetry that rarely rises above the level of rhymed or rhythmic
prose. As for the inability to follow the poetic motives of the subject
from the programme--well, I fancy we are not all so imperfectly endowed
with imagination as Wagner seems to have been here. I quite admit that
there are minds like his in this respect, to which poetic music conveys
little or nothing without speech and action--that are unable, while
they listen, say to _Ein Heldenleben_, to keep all the details of the
story moving at equal pace with the music; but the sufficient answer to
such people is that other people _can_ do this. To sum it all up, the
symphonic poem is theoretically deducible from Wagner's own æsthetic;
while in practice, if we miss in it some of the elements that make
opera interesting, we are compensated by the absence of other elements
that make opera tedious and absurd.


One point still remains to be discussed, though we need only touch on
it very briefly. How far can music represent external things--ought
it, indeed, to try to represent external things at all? It was
Schopenhauer, I think, who said that music was not a representative
but a presentative art. But that was very superficial psychologising
even in his day, and it is still more superficial in ours. The whole
problem is exceedingly simple if people, in their anxiety to prove
that music cannot "imitate," would not confuse it unnecessarily.
Heaven only knows how much bastard æsthetic has been born of that
unfortunate remark of Beethoven's about the Pastoral Symphony, which
we have already had occasion to examine. As a specimen, look at this
quotation from Victor Cousin, intended to demonstrate, in its own
way, that music must not be "painting," but only an "expression of
emotion." "Give the wisest symphonist a tempest to render. Nothing is
easier than to imitate the whistling of the winds and the noise of the
thunder. But by what combination of ordered sounds could he present
to our sight the lightning flashes which suddenly rend the veil of
night, and that which is the most terrific aspect of the tempest, the
alternate movement of the waves, now rising mountain high, now sinking
and seeming to fall headlong into bottomless abysses? If the hearer
has not been told beforehand what the subject is, he will never divine
it, and I defy him to distinguish a tempest from a battle. In spite
of scientific skill and genius, sounds cannot represent forms. Music,
rightly advised, will refuse to enter upon a hopeless contest; it will
not undertake to express the rise and fall of the waves and other like
phenomena; it will do better; with sounds it will produce in our soul
the feelings which successively arise in us during the various scenes
of the tempest. It is thus that Haydn will become the rival, even the
conqueror of the painter, because it has been given to music to move
and sway the soul even more profoundly than painting."[37]

The point is, be it observed, that unless you were told beforehand, you
could not say whether a given orchestral piece was meant to represent
a tempest or a battle; the composer is therefore advised not to try
to paint a tempest, but to "produce in our soul the feelings which
successively arise in us during the various scenes of the tempest."
Why, how in the name of all æsthetic innocence does this help us? How
are we, in the absence of a verbal indication, to distinguish "the
feelings which successively arise in us during the various scenes of
the tempest" from the feelings which would arise in us during the
various scenes of a battle? We only hear, that is, a certain mass of
sound; how are we to know, from the mere "feeling" this arouses in us,
that it refers to a battle or a tempest or anything else? What man, for
example, listening to solemn music, can possibly know whether it is
meant to describe the death of Napoleon, the funeral of Mr. Gladstone,
the poetic contemplation of nature, the opening of the St. Louis
Exhibition, the life-work of John Stuart Mill, or anything else under
the sun? The "feelings" are perfectly incompetent to pierce through
the indefinite tone to the definite scene that inspired it. What the
composer has to do is to tell us what this definite scene is; nobody,
for example, would have guessed that the fourth movement of Schumann's
_Rhenish_ symphony had its origin in the installation of the Archbishop
of Geissel as Archbishop of Cologne, if the composer himself had not
told us so. Nobody would have known that a certain part of the Pastoral
Symphony represents a peasant's gratitude after a storm, if Beethoven
had not said so himself. The "feelings" are no more reliable guides in
cases of this kind than the "painting" is. And if the composer has to
give us a verbal clue in order to let us know definitely what feelings
he is representing, he has only to give us a verbal clue to make it
quite clear to us what his painting is intended to represent; and there
is no more odium in needing the verbal clue in the latter case than
there is in the former.

No one in his senses has ever pretended that music alone could depict
external things so accurately that we could recognise them infallibly
at once, without any assistance from the sight, as in opera, or from
a verbal accompaniment. As M. Alfred Ernst has put it: "It is not a
question of painting an object--music could not succeed in doing that;
nor is it a question of reproducing exactly the sounds of nature,
such as the murmur of flowing water, the rumbling of thunder, the
song of birds; but, when these phenomena are in the subject that is
being treated, of recalling them to the mind by means of tone.... Thus
conceived, music does not materialise itself in becoming descriptive;
it would be more accurate to say that it spiritualises the phenomena of
nature...." And he shows how Mozart, for example, employs description.
"In his _Don Juan_ he has more than once translated the gesture, the
mimic, of his personages. We may cite, for instance, the ascending
scales in the orchestra in the duel between the Commandant and Don
Juan. The figures in the bass refer to the old man, those above to
Juan; each time that one of the two adversaries steps towards the other
and attacks, this figure comes out, strident, quick as the thrust of a
sword, and at the moment when Don Juan presses the Commandant, lunges
at him time after time, strikes him and kills him, the violin scales
succeed each other without giving the auditor time to breathe....
At the beginning of the sextet, when Leporello tries to slip away,
fearing to be taken for Don Juan, the orchestra reproduces his stealthy
movements; we see the unhappy wretch creeping along cautiously, his
back bent, feeling round for a way out."[38] Nor does one need to be
reminded of the numerous pieces of "description," of "imitation," in
Wagner--of the water-music, the fire-music, the swish of Klingsor's
spear, the voices of the forest, and so on. Every dramatic, or, indeed,
vocal writer is full of passages of this kind; it simply cannot be
avoided in music that aims at something beyond abstract note-spinning.

But in every case, as we can see, the music is not left to tell its
story alone; we are not compelled to guess the subject represented
merely from the tones themselves. The subject is told us in some way
or other--we see Don Juan thrusting at the Commandant, or the spear
flying at Parsifal's head, or the fire licking the couch of Brynhilde;
or else there is, in the words of the song or opera, some suggestion
of the external thing that is being illustrated in the music. And in
the symphonic poem, all that we require in order that everything may
be perfectly clear is a statement, in the programme, of the picture
upon which the music is based. I am not expected to know, merely from
the tones alone, what the "giant" motive in the _Rheingold_ is meant
to represent; but when I am told that it relates to the giants, I
can take delight in the expressiveness of its lumbering, unwieldy
movements. Similarly I must be told that the opening pages of _Also
sprach Zarathustra_ are meant as a representation of the majesty and
spaciousness of Nature. And--again to draw upon the argument of the
foregoing pages--there is nothing that can be done in this line in
the song or the opera that cannot be done quite as effectually in
the symphonic poem, if composers would only give their hearers the
same full insight into their literary intentions as the song or opera
writer does, and if hearers would only take the trouble to master
these intentions before they listen to the music that is based upon
them. If they would do this, their pleasure in the symphonic poem
would be enormously increased; everything in it would be alive to
them. For myself, at any rate, to listen to _Till Eulenspiegel_ or
_Ein Heldenleben_ or _Don Quixote_ is not only to enjoy the music but
to see the whole action as clearly as if I were reading it in a book
or watching it on the stage. I get none of the boredom, none of the
unfortunate provocations to laughter, that are inseparable from that
artificial, stagey form of art, the opera. I miss, of course, some of
the factors that make opera so glorious--the inexpressible thrill
communicated by the human voice, the quickening of the pulse that is
given by the movements of the actors and the catastrophes of the stage;
but on the other hand I am spared a great many things, and I have the
satisfaction of knowing that my sense of form is receiving the purest,
most undiluted pleasure it is possible for it to receive in poetic
music. The case for programme music is quite as strong as the case for
opera or for the symphony. That many stupid things have been done in
its name, that many fools and weaklings have fought under its banner,
counts for nothing; how many symphonies, how many operas, are there
that the world would willingly let die! The rightness of the form is
not affected by the wrongness of the people who choose to work in it;
and that the form itself is essentially right, I have, I hope, given
adequate proof. Finally, to the question of how far music is justified
in trying to suggest external things, we can only say that it is better
not to be too dogmatic. Things that would have seemed impossible a
hundred years ago are done with ease to-day. Who would believe that a
windmill could be represented in music? Yet Strauss's windmill in _Don
Quixote_ is really extraordinarily clever and satisfying; he suggests
wonderfully, too, the caracoling of the horse as the knight puts him
through his paces. His pictorial faculty, indeed, is something unique
in the history of music; Wagner's is only an imperfect instrument by
the side of it. The representative power of music is growing day by
day. The only æsthetic fact we can be sure of is this, that no piece
of representation will be tolerated unless it is at the same time
_music_. That is the ultimate test; the imitative passages that make us
smile are the passages that are merely imitative, without sufficient
musical charm to keep them alive for us. But here, of course, we simply
get back to the position already advanced in this article--that in all
poetic music there must be as thorough a satisfaction as possible not
only of the literary or the pictorial but of the musical sense.


[19] See an interesting article by Max Vancsa--_Zur Geschichte der
Programm-Musik_--in Nos. 23 and 24 of _Die Musik_ (1903).

[20] The reader will of course not take this to mean that a piece of
programme music should sound just as well when played as absolute
music, _i.e._ should be as interesting to the man who does not know the
programme as to the man who does. Against that current fallacy I argue
further on.

[21] The term "poetic" is used as a kind of verbal shorthand. A piece
of music may be suggested by a drama, a novel, a historical event, a
poem, a philosophical treatise (like _Also sprach Zarathustra_), or
anything else. The one phrase "poetic music" will conveniently cover
the æsthetic facts involved in all these modes of suggestion.

[22] That is, sound _quâ_ sound (music), _plus_ sound congealed into
definite symbols (words).

[23] I am not, of course, putting this forward as the way in which
music actually and historically developed. I am simply disengaging from
the historical facts, in order to throw it into stronger relief, the
psychological element underlying them; just as in economics we try to
understand what has actually been the course of events by isolating
from the other factors of human nature the factors that concern the
desire of gain, and arguing deductively from these.

[24] There is emotion, of course, at the back of the notes; the reader
will not take me to mean that the pleasure is merely physical, like
a taste or an odour. But the emotive wave is relatively small and
very vague; it neither comes directly from nor suggests any external

[25] I take some of these historical facts from the article of Max
Vancsa, already cited.

[26] See Strabo's _Geography_, Bohn edition, vol. ii. p. 120.

[27] The Bible Sonatas, together with Kuhnau's other piano works and
his prose writings, may be had in vol. iv. of the _Denkmäler Deutscher
Tonkunst_, carefully edited by Karl Päsler. Mr. Shedlock, in his book
on _The Pianoforte Sonata_, gives a pretty full account of Kuhnau; but
it is a pity he could not have found space for a complete translation
of the preface to the Bible Sonatas.

[28] "He was and remained," says Wagner, "a prince's musical officer,
with the duty of catering for the entertainment of his pomp-struck
master.... Docile and devout, the peace of his kind and cheerful temper
stayed unruffled till advanced old age; only the eye, that looks upon
us from his portrait, is suffused with a gentle melancholy."

[29] See Ambros: _Die Grenzen der Musik und Poesie_ (1885), iv. v.

[30] It is significant that even the sturdy, independent Gluck too
fell a victim to princely patronage in the very middle of his career.
After striking out for himself in _Telemacco_ (1749) and _La Clemenza
di Tito_ (1750), and apparently being well on the way to the reform of
the opera, he became, in 1754, Kapellmeister at Vienna. From that date
to 1762, when _Orfeo_ was produced, he wrote, not like Gluck, but like
a court servant. See a pithy paragraph on the subject in Mr. Hadow's
book, _The Viennese Period_ (vol. v. of the Oxford History of Music),
p. 90.

[31] The development of the opera, too, was an important factor. It was
not till men had mastered dramatic musical expression in association
with words that they could properly aim at the same kind of expression
without words.

[32] Even Berlioz, in a weak moment, said he hoped that the music of
the _Symphonie fantastique_ would itself "have a musical interest,
independent of the dramatic intention," though he insisted on the
title, at any rate, of each movement being given to the audience. See
his Preface to the Symphony.

[33] Here, and elsewhere in this article, I venture to make my
quotations from Mr. W. Ashton Ellis's translation of Wagner's prose

[34] I am not, of course, agreeing with Wagner's criticism of Berlioz;
it seems to me quite superficial and unilluminative, but to discuss it
would be foreign to our present purpose.

[35] The reader will understand that I am not founding my case on the
actual musical value of _Ein Heldenleben_; I am only using that work
as an illustration of an æsthetic theory. In the actual _Heldenleben_
there is rather more grit than I like; but there is no real need for it
to have been put there. In the article on Strauss in the present volume
I have tried to show how he has needlessly weakened his scheme by not
keeping to the one piece of portraiture throughout.

[36] _i.e._ the troublous question as to what the music "means"

[37] _Du Vrai, du Beau, et du Bien._ I make the quotation from Mr.
Basil Worsfold's little book on _Judgment in Literature_.

[38] _L'Œuvre dramatique de Berlioz_, pp. 30-34, etc.

                         _To ALFRED WILLIAMS_



It is now nearly fifty years since Spencer first published his
celebrated essay on "The Origin and Function of Music." That essay has
been elaborately assailed from many quarters; it has been objected to
as insufficient from the standpoint of æsthetic psychology, and as at
variance with some of the known facts of musical history. Nevertheless
Spencer, in accordance with his general intellectual habit, always
clung tenaciously to his theory, and, without modifying it at all,
returned to the subject in later years only in order to re-asseverate
his doctrine and to repel the critical assaults that were made upon it.
He had no difficulty in dealing with the counter-theory of Darwin--that
music sprang from the amorous rivalry of the males in the presence of
the females of certain species--for Darwin's brief excursion into the
alien field of musical æsthetic was as humorous and unprofitable as a
discussion of bimetallism by Tchaikovski would have been. Then Spencer
dealt with the redoubtable objections of the late Edmund Gurney and
those of Dr. Wallaschek, undoubtedly scoring at times against them when
they had needlessly overstated their own case, though not, it seems
to me, removing the impression that they had successfully attacked
the central point of his theory. Towards the very end of his days he
returned yet again to the subject, in his _Facts and Comments_, and
did me the honour to combat the brief criticism of his theory which I
had put forward in my _Study of Wagner_, asserting that I exhibited a
"confusion between the origin of a thing and the thing which originates
from it," and that some of my criticisms "went far towards conceding"
what I denied. I can only say that while I considered that Spencer
passed over in silence certain of the stronger points I had urged
against him, aiming at a merely dialectical victory here and there by
interpreting my words in a different sense from that intended by me,
I was still quite unconvinced, even by his later arguments, of the
truth of his original theory. I shall try to show that that theory
rests on a misunderstanding of the real nature of music, and on too
ready an assumption of a causal connection between phenomena that
are really only similar, and that it is helped out by unintentional
misstatements as to some of the main factors of the problem. The
question has an interest above and beyond Spencer's connection with
it. The speech-theory of the origin of music has here and there been
adopted as an established æsthetic fact, and æsthetic deductions have
been made from it that must affect our views of current developments
of the art. Wagner--working of course on lines of his own--contended
that song is "just speech aroused to highest passion," and admiring
commentators innumerable have followed him in his error. It is worth
while therefore, as a contribution to a rather obscure point in musical
æsthetic, to try to demonstrate the falsity of the speech-theory, and
at the same time to place over against it a theory of the origin and
nature of music that squares better with the facts of history and
psychology; and this is best done by examining the speech-theory in the
hands of its strongest advocate.

Briefly, Spencer's theory is this: "Variations of voice are the
physiological results of variations of feeling," since "all feelings
... have this common characteristic, that they are muscular stimuli."
Thus according to the intensity and the quality of the feeling, the
tones in which it is expressed will vary in loudness, in _timbre_,
in pitch, in width of intervals, and in rapidity. "These vocal
peculiarities, which indicate excited feeling, are those which
especially distinguish song from ordinary speech." In other words,
excited speech merges into recitative, and recitative in its turn
merges into song; and song "originally diverged from emotional speech
in a gradual, unobtrusive manner." Against this view I argued, in
my _Study of Wagner_, that "it errs in supposing that, because song
exhibits some of the characteristics of speech, the one has necessarily
taken its rise from the other. The resemblances between the external
characteristics of speech and those of song are only what might be
expected, seeing that both are phenomena of sound, and sound can only
vary in the ways indicated by Spencer.... The mere resemblance of song
and speech in their most external characteristics is not a proof that
one is the outcome of the other, but simply that they have certain
causal phenomena in common; while the internal differences between them
are greater than their resemblances." The careful reader will observe,
in fact, that Spencer unconsciously sophisticates his argument from the
very commencement. It is quite true that "variations of voice are the
physiological results of variations of feeling"; it is also quite true
that the "vocal peculiarities which indicate excited feeling"--such
as loudness, high pitch, increased resonance, and so on--are more
pronounced in song than in ordinary speech. But it does not at all
follow from this that _song took these peculiarities from speech_--that
speech got them first, then developed them into recitative, and then
still further into song. To make a symmetrical but artificial chain
of this kind is to beg the question at the outset. Spencer never put
before himself the obvious alternative--"Could not, and would not,
song have had all these peculiarities even if speech had never been
invented? Given, that is, the capacity of men to feel emotion in
varying degrees, would not a strong emotion naturally express itself in
louder, more varied, more resonant tones than a weak emotion--and this
even if man had as yet no language?" Spencer, in fact, simply details
the characteristics of _tone_ as the expression of feeling, and then
illegitimately appropriates them, in the first place, to one order of
tone, namely speech. No one would dream of disputing the physiological
facts which he established in his essay with his usual patient and
scrupulous accuracy. It is unquestionable that, on the whole, a loud
tone in speaking and a loud tone in singing both indicate heightened
feeling; and that in all the other respects enumerated by him, song
and speech exhibit precisely the same characteristics. But this does
not authorise us, in any way, to assert that song has "grown out of"
speech. Spencer argued too hastily from a mere analogy to a cause.
We are prepared to admit--to state the foregoing argument in another
way--that in moments of emotional excitement the ordinary speech of
men becomes more rhythmical, acquires a more pronounced _timbre_, and
generally varies in the ways Spencer has enumerated. What we are _not_
prepared to admit is that this is either a lower form of music or the
stuff out of which music has grown. Our contention is that while the
difference between speech and excited speech is one of degree only,
_the difference between speech and music is one not merely of degree,
but of kind_--we are dealing with similar physiological but widely
separated psychological phenomena; and that this is true not only of
modern music, as Spencer seems to admit, but of that primitive music
out of which our complex modern art has grown.

Moreover, Spencer ignored the new light which modern
physio-psychological research has thrown upon the question, some of
which I referred to in the _Study of Wagner_. Stricker, in his _Du
Langage et de la Musique_ (1885), has, among a lot of statements and
conclusions that need to be taken with caution, at all events made out
a good case for believing that the organs of speech and the organs
of song are controlled by different cerebral spheres. Wallaschek's
conclusions, again, are too important to be passed over in silence by
any advocate of the speech-theory. I venture to quote in full from
my _Wagner_ the passage in which I condensed Wallaschek's argument:
"Further, it is now not only placed beyond dispute that the faculty of
articulate speech has its distinct cerebral centre, but it has been
localised in the third frontal convolution of the left hemisphere
of the brain;" and Dr. Wallaschek, in a brilliant paper, has striven
to show that there must be another centre that controls musical
thought and speech.[39] Without going into Dr. Wallaschek's theory
in detail, it may be sufficient here to note some of his facts and
conclusions: (_a_) "the forming of concepts goes on in a different part
of the brain, and the concepts travel along other channels, than the
expression of the feelings and the merely automatic processes;"[40]
(_b_) children with aphasia (_i.e._ destruction or disturbance of the
faculty of articulate speech) are yet able to sing;[41] (_c_) patients
with aphasia, who cannot speak connectedly upon ordinary occasions, can
sometimes articulate the words when singing a song--the words being
brought up into consciousness by association with the melody;[42] (_d_)
the third left frontal convolution (which controls articulate speech)
is very small in idiots and lower races, who yet are highly susceptible
to music;[43] (_e_) the faculty of musical memory may be destroyed
without disturbing the other mental faculties;[44] (_f_) consequently
"we express ourselves and hear in quite a different manner when we sing
and when we speak."[45] All this evidence Spencer ignored to the last.

Nor does it ever seem to have occurred to him to analyse the state of
mind of a musician at the moment of composition, and to utilise the
result thus obtained in order to throw light on the origin of music.
Had he done this he would have seen the force--which his criticism
of me showed he had _not_ seen--of M. Combarieu's remark that "Mr.
Spencer neglects or ignores everything that gives to the art he is
studying its special and unique character; he does not appear to have
realised what a musical composition is, what are the rules it obeys,
what is the nature of the charm and the beauty we find in it. In
short, we can bring against him a fundamental fact, in comparison with
which everything else has only a quite secondary value: that is, the
existence of a musical manner of thinking (_une pensée musicale_). The
musician thinks with sounds, as the literary man thinks with words."[46]

Here, indeed, is the crux of the disagreement between Spencer and those
who reject the speech-theory as an absolutely inadequate explanation of
the origin of music. What was his criticism of this criticism? "Here,"
he says, "we have a striking example of the way in which an hypothesis
is made to appear untenable by representing it as being something
which it does not profess to be. I gave an account of the _origin_
of music, and now I am blamed because my conception of the origin of
music does not include a conception of music as fully developed. What
is every process of evolution but the gradual assumption of traits
which were not originally possessed?" It will be seen, I think, that
Spencer quite missed the true point of M. Combarieu's objection. We do
not expect that from a theory of the origin of music among primitive
men one should be able to forecast all the later _forms_ into which
music has branched; but we do expect that, since evolution is a
continuous process, the theory of the earlier music should not be at
variance with all the main psychological features of the later music.
We say to Spencer, "Take your theory, and we are unable to work it
out in detail. You assert that the expression of musical thought and
emotion has taken three successive forms--excited speech, recitative,
and music. Well, we find it impossible to leap to this conclusion,
as you have done, merely because there are certain resemblances, due
to physiological causes, between speech and song. We cannot trace
such a process historically--for your own sketch of the supposed
historical process is demonstrably inaccurate in evidence and hasty
in inference--nor can we even _imagine_ the process psychologically.
To us, there is a great psychological and æsthetic gulf fixed between
excited speech and song--_not only between the speech and the song of
to-day, but between the ruder speech and ruder song of primitive man_.
On the other hand, we have a theory that imposes no such strain, either
historical or psychological, upon us. That theory is, that music arises
from a peculiar set of stimuli and peculiar organs of expression of
its own, with which speech not only has nothing whatever to do now,
but never had anything to do, as _fons et origo_. Allowing for all the
differences between our music and that of the savage who blows his reed
and thumps his tam-tam, and for all the differences of general mental
structure between him and us, we can still see that the same causes
which incite us to music incited him. Now no one will for a moment
contend that there is any but an infinitesimal resemblance between a
Bach fugue or a Strauss symphonic poem and excited speech; neither
can we perceive that there was ever any but the faintest resemblance
between the causes that provoked the savage to excited speech and
those that impelled him to his rude kind of music. But _your_ theory,
while it disregards the plain fact that no demonstration could deduce
a Bach fugue from excited speech, and overlooks the mental elements in
primitive man from which the Bach fugue _could_ develop step by step,
invites us to believe that music grew out of something with which we
are unable to correlate it either now or in the most primitive times."

"But," it may be objected, "all this is pure assertion. You simply take
music as it is written to-day, attribute this to something which you
call a 'musical faculty,' or a 'musical manner of thinking,' and then,
having invented this convenient faculty, blandly assume that it is from
a similar faculty that the rude music of primitive man originated. What
you have to do is to prove the existence of this musical faculty, this
specifically musical way of conceiving and expressing things, that, on
your assumption, is innate in the human mind, and needs no help from
speech even in the earliest days of the race." Well, no one, I think,
will question the existence in us, at the present day, of something
that may well be called, in general terms, the musical faculty. For
the musician as we now know him--and, indeed, have known him for some
centuries--music is a means of emotional expression that can function
without the aid of poetry or even of speech. It takes its rise from
its own order of feelings; it has its own self-sufficient manner of
expressing them; it tells its own story to the mind of the hearer; and
neither the feeling, nor its manner of expression, nor its effect on
the auditor, suggests any dependence on speech. The musician, in order
to begin composition, has not to receive a preliminary stimulus either
from poetry, or from any concept or sentiment that could for a moment
be expressed in words. (He may, of course, set poetry to music; but on
the other hand he may not; and it is the self-existing order of music
we are now discussing.) The musician, under the influence of an inward
stimulus of some very obscure kind, may take three or four tones--say
those of the opening subject of a sonata or a fugue--and build with
them a structure ordered and controlled by certain laws purely its
own, having for its object the susciting in our minds of a series of
feelings from which all thought of speech is absent. The musician joys
in building tones together in this way; we in our turn joy both in the
process of building and in the finished edifice itself.

"So far, so good," the opponent may say; "this is what music now is, as
the result of a long course of evolution from its original germ. But
will you assert that primitive man was impelled to _his_ rude music
by the workings of some similar faculty--that, without any reliance,
even in the earliest days, upon speech, and without any intermediate
stage of recitative, he _produced music_, bearing the same relation
to his emotions as the music of Bach and Beethoven did to theirs?"
Well, this is precisely what we do assert; nor do I see any difficulty
in the way of the theory that primitive man came to utter himself in
his rude music by the same psychological processes by which we utter
ourselves in ours to-day. Speech had no more to do with the impulse
to his music than it has with the impulse to ours. Spencer's theory
would have it that first man spoke, then he advanced to excited
speech, that this became more rhythmical and more definite and thus
expanded into recitative, and that from this there emerged song "in
a gradual, unobtrusive manner"--so gradual and so unobtrusive, I am
afraid, that we can neither trace it emerging nor imagine it doing so.
Is it not more reasonable to believe that music first came into the
world when the savage took delight in any tones--those of the human
voice, of a reed, or of a drum--purely _as_ tone, and began to take a
further simple delight in the relations between tones? Need we concern
ourselves at all with speech, excited or torpid? Can we not begin with
mere feeling venting itself in mere sound--as we know it must have
done at first--and draw a line from this straight through all the
music of all the world? Why should we assume that for man to express
his feelings in tone he must first have invented speech, and then have
developed the emotional side of this until it was able to cut itself
loose and commence life on its own account, by some process that is
really unimaginable? We know that feeling vents itself in sound, and
that waves of feeling vent themselves in waves of sound, as may be
observed in the vague crooning of an infant over its toys, or the
moaning of a man in pain. This is one fundamental fact in the origin of
music. Another is the indisputable fact that men, whether civilised or
savage--that many animals, indeed--are susceptible to tone _purely as
tone_; and a further fact is that the primitive organism takes pleasure
in the relations between tones, as may be seen in the boy who keeps
on thumping two tin cans that happen to give out different sounds.
There is surely no need to insist upon the point that both tones and
the relations between tones _in themselves_ interest and charm, in a
minor degree, the savage as they do us. It is from this phenomenon, I
should imagine, not from excited speech, that music took its rise; and
the evidence from the music of primitive tribes, upon which Spencer
drew in support of his theory, does nothing to invalidate mine. In
his original essay he quoted, from his own _Descriptive Sociology_, a
number of passages relating to the song-customs of various undeveloped
races. I cannot, among all these quotations, see one that suggests
that the music of these people was simply a hyper-excited form of
speech. On the contrary, it is clear from his own citations that their
delight was in music purely as music; that their feelings spontaneously
flowed, as ours do, into a system of tones and relations between tones
that existed in and by and for itself, with only the same kind of
dependence upon the words that is exhibited in a song by Brahms or a
chorus by Handel.[47] No doubt the general course of the words controls
the general course of music in some degree, as it does in our own
song-writing; but there is nothing whatever to contradict the view that
savage music, even as our own, springs spontaneously from a non-verbal
emotion, and seeks an expression either absolutely independent of
speech or only remotely influenced by it. The East African, says
Spencer, "in singing, contents himself with improvising a few words
without sense or rhythm, and repeats them till they nauseate." If this
does not betoken a state of mind fundamentally analogous to that of
the absolute musician, it is hard to say what the words mean. Plainly,
what sets the East African singing, what determines that one note
shall follow another, what makes him so indifferent to the sense or
nonsense of the words, is simply the delight in tone _as_ tone, in
the relations of tones _as_ relations of tones, simply the need for
what he feels to vent itself in precisely that way and no other--in a
word, the primitive _pensée musicale_, the primitive "musical manner of
thinking."[48] Abundant evidence can be had to corroborate this, and I
quoted some of it in my _Wagner_. "Speaking of the Iroquois, Dr. Morgan
says that their war-songs are in a dead language, or, at all events,
they are unable to interpret them.... Mr. Baker, too, observed the
meaninglessness of the Indian song."[49] There is not much trace here
of excited speech first becoming recitative and then musical song.[50]

Dr. Wallaschek's conclusions, again, as to the music of savages are as

(1) "In primitive times vocal music is not at all a union of poetry and
music. We find, on the contrary, vocal music among tribes which, owing
to the insufficient development of language, cannot possibly have any
kind of poetry. Thus the position of vocal music is quite independent
of any other art. (2) It is impossible that in these cases music arose
as a direct imitation of the natural accents ready made in speech.
(3) Because these texts are neither themselves a language, nor could
the melody _alone_ have been taken from a developed language, for
in such case the words would have been borrowed together with the
music. Entirely meaningless words simply serve to facilitate the
vocalisation." Further, "another striking feature of these savage
songs is _the liberty with which the composer treats the grammatical
structure of the sentence and the logical order of words_. Thus in
many of the Andamanese songs the words in their poetic form are so
mutilated to suit the metre as to be hardly recognisable.... If negroes
sing they keep strict time, and do not allow themselves to be hindered
by any obstacle in the use of the words." Other evidence of the same
kind might be adduced, from which it is quite clear that we are face
to face with a phenomenon on which Spencer's theory throws no light at
all. There seems to be no doubt that there is in the savage, though
of course in a relatively undeveloped form, the same musical sense
as in ourselves, something that has always flown directly, for its
expression, to a mode of utterance of its own, compounded of tones,
relations of tones, and rhythm, which is the natural language of this
sense, and which never needed to pass through the intermediate stage of
imitation or exaggeration of the accents of speech.[51]

Look for a moment at the two theories and their implications side by
side. We know that primitive man, like the animal,[52] is susceptible
to tone, sequences of tone, colour of tone, and rhythm; and that, from
purely physiological causes, a number of his feelings tend to express
themselves in vocal sounds. Now these are all the elements we require
in order to construct modern music. The composer feels strongly, and
is impelled to find an outlet for his emotions in tone. According to
the line of his emotion, so to speak, is the line of his music--the
pure feeling takes hold of the sounds through which alone it can
utter itself, and shapes them, in form, in colour, in sequence, in
intensity, after its own image. We have in primitive man, in a rude
and undeveloped stage, all these elements out of which the modern
music-maker builds his gorgeous palaces. According to the intensity of
the emotion of the savage will be the width of the intervals of his
voice, the resonance, the colour of it; according to the shade of his
feeling will be the shade of his rude melody; and from the _ensemble_
of the qualities of the sounds in which he is uttering himself will
his hearers be able to guess what mood it was that animated his song.
Here, then, are all the elements out of which music _could_ grow,
even if man had never learned to speak three connected words. Yet we
are asked by Spencer to believe that these elements, _sufficient in
themselves to give birth to music_, remained dormant in the human
breast for untold centuries, until man had evolved a fairly elaborate
system of speech--for it must be remembered that Spencer's theory
presupposes not the rude and merely utilitarian speech of the man
only one remove from the beast, but a comparatively highly organised
language, capable of expressing connectedly a savage's thoughts about
something more than his daily physical wants. Some such abstract,
æsthetic, reflective form of speech we are compelled to postulate if we
are to grant the probability of music arising, as Spencer says it did,
from the excited speech of man. Then, when man has slowly and painfully
learned to speak, and had plenty of practice in speaking excitedly, we
are invited to believe that by some mysterious process _music_ arose,
the expression of feeling in organised tone, the delight in tone _quâ_
tone, in sequences and relations _quâ_ sequences and relations. And
all this time the elements out of which this organised system of sound
_could_ grow, which were innate in man from the very first, by reason
of the fact that he had nerves, muscles, and vocal organs, have been
doing absolutely nothing! Though they required only the stimulus of
feeling to call them into being, and though they were receiving this
stimulus day by day, hour by hour, they had to deny themselves for
centuries upon centuries, until they could receive precisely the same
kind of stimulus _after_ man had learned to speak! Is this credible?


If Spencer's theory is æsthetically and psychologically inconceivable,
he is hardly happier in the pseudo-historical evidence by which he
seeks to support it. His notion seems to be that all ancient music, and
the Oriental and savage music of the present day, represent the art
at the second or recitative stage of development--a kind of half-way
house between excited speech and full-blown song. Thus the Chinese
and Hindoos "seem never to have advanced" beyond recitative. "The
dance-chants of savage tribes are very monotonous, and in virtue of
their monotony are more nearly allied to ordinary speech than are the
_songs_[53] of civilised races"--which is surely a quite illegitimate
comparison. Again, "hence it follows that the primitive (Greek)
recitative was simpler than our modern recitative, and, as such, much
less remote from common speech than our own singing is." These typical
quotations will serve to show how blandly Spencer assumes the very
thing he has to prove. The dance-chants of savages are not as highly
organised as our European songs; but does this indicate that there
is not the same psychological difference between the song and the
speech of the savage as there is between the song and the speech of
the European? The ancient Greek music was not so complex as ours; but
will Spencer be bold enough to say that a man of Athens, listening to
contemporary music, did not feel under it precisely the same kind of
æsthetic pleasure as we feel when we listen to a song by Brahms or a
symphony by Beethoven--a kind of pleasure different in essence and
in temperature from any that can be given by speech? Did the Greek,
that is, listening to Greek music, feel as I do when I listen to an
eloquent preacher or an intoning Quaker, or as I do when I listen to
_music_ in the real sense of the term? Surely there can be no doubt
in the matter. Setting aside the difference due to the enormous
development of our art on the formal and technical side, there can be
no question that the Greek took pleasure in his music _quâ_ music, not
_quâ_ "recitative."[54] And as with the Greeks, so with Orientals and
savages. How Spencer can imagine that Oriental music as a whole, and
particularly that of China and India, has for the most part remained
stationary at recitative, is a mystery to me, in face of the mass of
evidence that may be had from any history of music or any collection
of travels. There is, indeed, in much Oriental music, that dubiety of
scale (according to our notions) which has misled unwary travellers
into the belief that the native singing cannot be real music, because
it is so different from ours. But nothing can be better established
than the fact that melodies pure and simple, tunes written and sung
merely to express that _pensée musicale_ to which I have already
referred, are common in the music of all Oriental nations. Spencer's
statement "that the music of Eastern races is not only without harmony,
but has more the character of recitative than of melody," and that "the
chant of the early Greek poet was a recitative with accompaniment in
unison on his four-stringed lyre," is a fair sample of the uncritical
way in which he has assumed anything that would be likely to bear out
his theory. His confusion of two or three distinct things by dubbing
them all "recitative" is one of the main sources of his errors on this

As for his attempt to limit harmonic music to modern Europe, I will
only say, with Naumann, that wherever we have, as in the old Egyptian
paintings, a representation of a concert with many instruments of
various shapes and sizes, it is incredible that the performers should
all have been playing the same notes. The result, of course, could
not have been harmony in our acceptation of the word, for this is to
a large extent dependent upon theory for its development; but it was
conceivably one of the roots from which harmony could grow. And as
Spencer admitted that his theory contained no explanation of harmony,
that theory is obviously weakened by any fact indicating that the
desire for harmony is innate in the human breast, like the love of
tones, sequences of tones, and relations between tones. We must dismiss
from our minds all the misleading connotations of the term "harmony,"
as we must with the term "recitative"; and when we do this there is
ample evidence to show that the harmonic sense--the joy in hearing
two tones sounded together--is as innate, and as independent of the
stimulus of speech, as the melodic sense. The mere sweeping of the
harp-strings during singing is not what _we_ would call harmony; but if
it does not point to a rudimentary feeling that tones in combination
are more pleasurable than single tones, it is difficult to say what
it does indicate. Everywhere, in truth, we come down to the really
fundamental fact, that there is even in primitive man a real _musical
sense_, independent of speech in origin, and, as far as we can see,
much earlier than speech in the order of time, for man certainly
expressed his feelings in pure indefinite sound long before he had
learned to agree with his fellows to attach certain meanings to certain
stereotyped sounds.


The music of savage tribes is, however, the last stronghold of Spencer;
and if his theory fails to find proper support in that quarter, it can
hardly resist all the weight of evidence that may be brought against
it from others. Here, he says, he has Sir Hubert Parry on his side,
"who adopts the view I have here re-explained and defended," and who
"has in his chapter on Folk-Music exemplified the early stages of
musical evolution, up from the howling chants of savages--Australians,
Caribs, Polynesian cannibals, etc.--to the rude melodies of our own
ancestors. I do not see how any unbiassed reader, after examining the
evidence placed by him in its natural order, can refuse assent to the
conclusion drawn." Well, the final refutation of Spencer can be had out
of the mouth of Sir Hubert Parry himself. What Sir Hubert's own theory
of the origin of music may be I do not know; but certainly neither
the facts nor the arguments he has adduced in his _Art of Music_ give
any colour to the theory that music first arose as a modification of
the attributes of emotional speech. Let us examine Sir Hubert Parry's

We begin at the beginning with the descending chromatic howl of the
Carib which he quotes on page 49 of his book--the "howling chant" to
which Spencer refers; and if, as the philosopher will have it, this
represents "the early stages of musical evolution," his case has gone
by the board at once. There could be no more conclusive testimony to
the fact that music has its origin not in speech, but in the venting
of mere vague emotion in mere vague sound; for where Spencer sees
the previous influence of speech in this howl of the Carib I cannot
imagine. He might as well suppose that speech antedates the howl of a
dog or the roar of a lion. On what grounds does he find support for
his theory here? Simply that a howl of this kind, like the song of the
Omaha Indians, is distinguished by indefiniteness of intervals! "Now
this," he says, "is just one of the traits to be expected if vocal
music is developed out of emotional speech; since the intervals of
speech, also, are indefinite." Was there ever a more palpable _non
sequitur_? Because A has one of the characteristics of B, therefore
A must have grown out of B! Here is a complete justification of my
previous remark that Spencer has converted a mere likeness into a
cause. The real reason for music exhibiting some of the traits of
speech is that, music and speech being the expression of allied orders
of feeling, and both finding voice through the same muscular apparatus,
they simply cannot help having a great many features in common. But
we really require something more than a demonstration that the
intonations of music, being affected by the same physical organs, point
to very much the same mental and physical phenomena as the intonations
of speech, in order to convince us that music _had its origin_ in

Take now the further examples given by Sir Hubert Parry, and discover
in them, if you can, any evidence that does not go to show that they
are born directly of a primitive _pensée musicale_, without any sign
of the previous intervention of speech. Written over them all, indeed,
is conclusive proof that when primitive man sings, or even croons, to
himself, he is unconsciously guided by a rudimentary musical sense.
Savages contrive, says Sir Hubert, "little fragmentary figures of two
or three notes, which they reiterate incessantly over and over again.
Sometimes a single figure suffices. When they are clever enough to
devise two they alternate them, but [naturally] without much sense or
orderliness"; and he shows, later on, how even among savages there is a
continuous growth in this primitive sense of design. Now all this is in
accordance with the theory of the origin of music already advanced in
this essay; and these phenomena of savage music will easily account for
all the most complex modern developments of the art, which Spencer half
admits his theory will _not_ account for. Savage man, merely because
he is a physical organism, expresses himself in sound. Again, merely
because he is a physical and psychical organism, he takes pleasure in
sounds, in successions of sounds, and in the co-relations of sounds;
and, to complete the list of the elements necessary to constitute all
the music that has ever been written in the world, Sir Hubert Parry
shows that, even in the savage whose rude attempt at song is little
more than a howl, there is a rudimentary sense of form, of balance, of
design. "When little fragments of melody[55] become stereotyped," says
Sir Hubert, "as they do in every savage community sufficiently advanced
to perceive and remember, attempts are made to alternate and contrast
them in some way; and the excitement of sympathy with an expressive cry
is merged in a crudely artistic pleasure derived from the contemplation
of something of the nature of a pattern." Is there any support for the
speech-theory here? Is it not, indeed, an interloper pure and simple,
obscuring a trail that is perfectly clear and open if left alone?

The one fact upon which Spencer always seems to rely is that the
intervals of speech and the intervals of the most primitive chant
are both indefinite. Even here, however, Sir Hubert Parry's book is
unpropitious to him, for Sir Hubert insists on the obvious fact that
indefiniteness of intervals in early music is entirely a matter of
lack of instruments by which to fix the various notes of a scale. "It
is extremely difficult to make sure what intervals savages intend to
utter, as they are very uncertain about hitting anything like exact
notes till they have advanced enough to have instruments with regular
relations of notes more or less indicated upon them." To pass from
an indefinite howl to a definite series of notes, when an instrument
has been invented that guides the voice and fixes its tones, may be
the work of a day. Wherein then comes the function of speech and
recitative, which are supposed to occupy the intermediate stages of
evolution between the howl and the song--for I suppose Spencer would
hardly contend that man learned to speak _before_ he learned to howl?
And at what stage appears this elementary feeling for musical design
which the savage exhibits? Can this be conceived to grow out of the
habit of speech? If not, if it is independent of speech, if it is
something that concerns itself with pure sound alone, what was it
doing in all the ages when man was making sounds, but had not yet
made himself a language? "The crudest efforts of savages," says Sir
Hubert Parry, "throw light upon the true nature of musical design,
and upon the manner in which human beings endeavoured to grapple with
it." Again, "the savage state indicates a taste for design, but an
incapacity for making the designs consistent and logical; in the lowest
intelligent stage, the capacity for disposing short contrasting figures
in an orderly and intelligent way is shown." Once more, can speech
be logically conceived as playing the leading part in this long but
continuous drama of evolution?

Finally, in Sir Hubert Parry's own pages Spencer could have found
evidence of yet another element of pure musical enjoyment in the
savage mind--none other than an incipient desire for harmony. Speaking
of the rise of harmony in the Middle Ages, and of the curious device
of making two wholly different tunes go together by the process of
"easing off the corners and adapting the points where the cacophony
was too intolerable to be endured," Sir Hubert shows the existence of
this same practice among savages. "This," he says, "may seem a very
surprising and even laughable way of obtaining an artistic effect, but
in reality the actual practice of combining several tunes together is
by no means uncommon. Several savage and semi-civilised races adopt
the practice, as, for instance, the Bushmen at the lower end of the
human scale, and the Javese, Siamese, Burmese, and Moors about the
middle. In these cases the process usually consists of simultaneously
singing or playing short and simple musical figures, such as savages
habitually reiterate, with the addition in some cases of a long sort of
indefinite wailing tune which goes on independently of all the rest of
the performance. The Javese carry such devices to extremes, producing
a kind of reckless, incoherent, instrumental counterpoint, very much
like a number of people playing various tunes at once, with just
sufficient feeling for some definite central principle to accommodate
the jarring elements. The practice of combining tunes seems to have
become universal quite suddenly, and it led very quickly to fresh
developments. And it is worth noting that one of these developments was
precisely the same in principle as that adopted by the Bushmen and the
Javese, and other semi-savage experimenters in such things; which was
to accompany the main combination of two melodies by a short musical
figure which could be incessantly reiterated as an accompaniment."
Phenomena like these undermine the crude and hasty inference that
Orientals and savages have no notion of harmony; they prove that, as
low down in the human scale as our investigations will carry us, man
tries to make harmony because it pleases his musical sense. How far he
succeeds depends upon other things than his mere desire.

So that, to sum up, we can dismiss speech altogether from our
hypothesis of the origin of music, seeing that, while no man can
represent to us either the psychological or historical processes
by which music has grown or could grow out of speech, we find
innate in the human organism every element out of which music _can_
grow, independently of speech--the delight in tone, the delight in
successions of tones, the delight in combinations of tones, the delight
in rhythm, the delight in design. Even Spencer himself, in the chapter
on "Developed Music" in his _Facts and Comments_, sees that these
elements are sufficient to account for certain kinds of music, though
his total analysis, particularly in the distinction between merely
symmetrical music and poetical music, is æsthetically incomplete and _à
priori_. To Spencer's oft-reiterated question, "If my theory does not
explain the origin of music, how else can its genesis be explained?"
we may reply that his theory really explains nothing; it only asserts.
It points to certain resemblances between speech and song, and then
dogmatically lays it down, without an atom of proof, that the one has
arisen from the other. _Per contra_, an analysis of primitive music
shows us that in the rudest savage we have, in embryo, every element
that goes to make the most complicated music of modern times--some of
these elements, indeed, appearing even in animals. If we are to believe
that these in themselves could not develop into music, we must have a
reason why; and if we are to believe that an imitation of the accents
of speech was necessary before primitive man could express what he felt
in mere indefinite sound, we must have not only some proof that it
ever occurred, but some demonstration of how the process is possible;
for to me, at least, it is psychologically inconceivable. When Spencer
says that "song emerged from speech," he is, I contend, merely using a
verbal formula that conveys nothing representable to us; it is of the
family of those "pseudo-ideas" upon which he himself has emptied the
vials of his scorn in _First Principles_.


[39] _Ueber die Bedeutung der Aphasia für den musikalischen Ausdruck_
(Vierteljahrsschr für Mus-Wiss., September 1891).

[40] Article cited, p. 57.

[41] _Ibid._, p. 60.

[42] For example: "One patient, from the beginning of his disease
to his death, could say nothing but _Yes_ and _No_.... One morning
a patient began to sing 'I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls.' The
speechless patient joined in and sang the first verse with the
other, and then the second verse alone, articulating every word
correctly."--_Ibid._, p. 61.

[43] Article cited, p. 53, _note_: "Many idiots, who are scarcely
capable of other impressions, are extraordinarily susceptible to music,
and can remember a song which they have once heard."

[44] "A peasant, who as the result of a heavy blow on the head lay
unconscious for three days, found, when he came to himself, that he
had forgotten all the music he ever knew, though he had lost nothing
else."--_Ibid._, p. 64 (quoted from Carpenter, _Mental Physiology_, 4th
edit., p. 443).

[45] _Ibid._, p. 65.

[46] See Jules Combarieu, _Les rapports de la musique et de la poésie,
considerées au point de vue de l'expression_ (1894), wherein there is
an elaborate and searching examination of Spencer's theory.

[47] To say nothing of the savage music which is either purely
non-verbal, or linked to an almost meaningless refrain.

[48] No importance, I take it, need be attached to such sentences as
that the Malays "rehearse in a kind of recitative at their _bimbangs_
or feasts." The word recitative here affords no support for Spencer's
theory. Travellers who have written of the music of primitive races
have always been prone to use the term too loosely. Accustomed as they
are to the highly developed music of Europe, with its fixity of scale
and its wide range of instrumental tone, they use the term recitative
as the easiest one to indicate, in a rough-and-ready way, a kind of
music much less developed than our own in these respects. But such a
use of the term is quite unscientific. There is no reason to believe
that what we call their recitative is not really their music.

[49] Wallaschek, _Primitive Music_, pp. 173, 174.

[50] Of course Spencer might have rejoined that the songs in their
present state represent the fully developed tree, which had to pass, in
remoter times, through the previous stages he mentions. Apart from the
general objections I have already urged against this theory, however,
it is evident that Spencer cannot have the music of savage races under
two categories--song _and_ recitative--using the one or the other as
suits the purpose of his argument at the time. It will be seen later
that his theory rests, to a very large extent, on the supposition that
the music of savages and of Orientals represents only the second or
recitative stage of the development from speech.

[51] As Berlioz expressed it in the _Grotesques de la musique_,
"Music exists by itself; it has no need of poetry, and if every human
language were to perish, it would be none the less the most poetic, the
grandest, and the freest of all the arts."

[52] See the chapters entitled "Orpheus at the Zoo," in Mr. Cornish's
_Life at the Zoo_. Every one who has kept dogs or snakes must have
noticed how vivid their musical perceptions are. My own dog has a
decided musical faculty in him. He is exceedingly susceptible to the
mezzo-soprano voice in the upper part of its middle register. Tones
produced there--but no others in that or any other voice--he will try
to imitate. It is not a howl, but a real attempt to hit the right pitch
and to shape the sound with his mouth. "Excited speech" has nothing to
do with _his_ musical perceptions. The excited speech usually comes
later, from the singer whom he is favouring with this sincerest form of

[53] Italics mine.

[54] It seems quite clear that the Greeks had distinct tunes like
our melodies, that were passed about from one singer or player to
another. "In later times," says Müller, "there existed tunes written by
Terpander, of the kind called _nomes_.... These nomes of Terpander were
arranged for singing and playing on the cithara." They were, he goes
on to say, "finished compositions, in which a certain musical idea was
systematically worked out, as is proved by the different parts which
belonged to one of them." There were popular songs, and there were
certain tunes that were sung at festivals. Nor was the music invariably
associated with poetry; there was music that was purely instrumental.
Olympus (B.C. 660-620) seems to have been a musician only. "Olympus is
never, like Terpander, mentioned as a poet; he is simply a musician.
His nomes, indeed, seem to have been originally executed on the flute
alone, without singing." See K. O. Müller's _History of the Literature
of Ancient Greece_ (Eng. trans.), vol. i. chap. 12. For an expert
treatment of the whole subject, see Hugo Riemann's _Handbuch der
Musikgeschichte_, Erster Teil (1904), especially Book I., chap. I., §
3, § 4, § 5.

[55] It does not seem to have occurred to Spencer that if savages have
melodies, however tiny and primitive, it can hardly be true that they
are only in the recitative stage. The plain fact is that his use of
the term recitative was wholly unscientific. He never saw that there
is a vast æsthetic distinction between recitative in the sense of
more sonorous and more formal speech--as in the case of an orator or
a preacher--and recitative in the musical sense. In the latter case
the distinctively musical appetite comes into play; in the former it
does not. The one is an intensification of ordinary speech, but never
becomes more than speech; the other is music, even though restricted
music. They spring from different faculties and appeal to different
organs of enjoyment.

                          _To BERTRAM DOBELL_

                         MAETERLINCK AND MUSIC

One is always meeting with curious literary and artistic affinities
where one least expects them. The human mind, of course, is really
homogeneous throughout. We have all to build up our inner and outer
universe out of very much the same kind of brain and sense organs:
so that it is hardly surprising if here and there one feels that
the work of this or that musician or artist is the counterpart of
the work of this or that poet or prose writer, or _vice versâ_. One
sees, for example, a good deal of Weber and the German Romanticists
in the stories of Hoffmann; of Lessing and Diderot in the work of
Gluck; of Tourgeniev and Dostoievski in the music of Tchaikovski;
of Berlioz's music--as Heine suggested--in the pictures of Martin.
This phenomenon is so frequent as to excite little wonder. What is
rather more curious is to find, here and there, that one of the main
spiritual principles of a certain artist is implicit in the æsthetic
system of another artist who works in an entirely different medium,
and whose whole work, at first sight, seems to be of a diametrically
opposite order. Between Wagner and Maeterlinck, for instance, who
would say that there is a fundamental sympathy of soul and a community
of artistic outlook--between the musician of stupendous passion and
restless activity and the quiet mystic who seems to be serenely
poised far above all activity and all passion, placing, in his lofty
philosophising, so little store by all the things that appeared so
vital, so real, to the musician? Nevertheless there is, as I shall try
to show, a curious similarity between the æsthetic systems of the two
men.[56] They share something of the same excellencies; they break down
or find their limitations almost at the same point. Let us cursorily
examine the two systems.


If we did not possess Maeterlinck's own dramas, we might be able to
judge from his essays what his position towards the drama and fiction
would be. Here we have revealed to us a manner of apprehending life
and of looking out upon the world that could find expression only
in some such novel dramatic form as Maeterlinck has adopted. The
dramatist himself, however, has given us, in his exquisite chapters on
"The Tragical in Daily Life" and "The Awakening of the Soul," in _The
Treasure of the Humble_, a statement, at once explicit and impassioned,
of his creed. He advances the theory that the ordinary tragedy of
startling incident is, or ought to be, a thing of the past, a concept
of barbaric ages, when men could be thrilled by the secret under forces
of life only by reaching towards them through crude and violent action.
In a more refined and subtle age like this, we should be able to trace
the hand of destiny even when it does not work through media so coarse
and palpable. It is not the primitive sensation of seeing one man act
the murder of another that is the essence of tragedy. It is the sense
of spiritual enlightenment that comes to us; the feeling that, somehow
or other, the murder itself, the passion and the events that led up
to it, the consequences that flow from it, are all subtly interwoven
threads of the great indwelling laws of things. Most of the action,
indeed, that is associated with our current notion of tragedy is, from
a higher point of view, both æsthetically superfluous and an evidence
of our earthiness. We should be capable of being moved to pity, of
feeling the most refined tragic sorrow, by a play that eliminates the
coarser and more obvious facts, and relies on gentler and more intimate
suggestions of universal truth. Our present age, he thinks, is capable,
or is becoming capable, of this. "In former days," he says in his essay
on "The Awakening of the Soul," "if there was question, for a moment,
of a presentiment, of the strange impressions produced by a chance
meeting or a look, of a decision that the unknown side of human reason
had governed, of an intervention or a force, inexplicable and yet
understood, of the sacred laws of sympathy and antipathy, of elective
and instinctive affinities, of the overwhelming influence of the thing
that had not been spoken--in former days these problems would have
been carelessly passed by; and, besides, it was but seldom that they
obtruded themselves upon the serenity of the thinker. They seemed to
come about by the merest chance. That they are ever pressing upon life,
unceasingly and with prodigious force--this was unsuspected of all; and
the philosopher hastened back to familiar studies of passion, and of
incident that floated on the surface."

This is clearly part of a philosophy of life and art in which the
cruder nervous strands are put aside, as useless for that spiritual
illumination which the thinker desires. They are too thick to be
sensitive to the finer currents that pass through them; only the
more delicate nerve-tracts, alive to every wave of feeling, can
be stimulated to philosophic light and heat. The essence of all
Maeterlinck's work, of course, is this supersensitiveness. He is
endowed with other senses than ours, other modes of apprehending the
universe. He is a mystic, and by reason of being a mystic he is at
the same time out of touch with many things that the normal man calls
real, and delicately sensitive to many currents in the spiritual
atmosphere of the universe of whose very existence the normal man is
all his life unaware. We have to remember that this world is after
all only what our own senses and intellect make it for each of us.
The little we can see and feel must be as nothing compared with the
immensities that we can neither see nor feel, but that always attend
our thoughts, our footsteps, our very breathing, like silent, invisible
spectators. Even the world of the animal is not our world, for the
animal is alive to many things that never penetrate our consciousness;
and there are exceptionally constituted human beings on whose nerves
the universe seems to write different messages from those that are
communicated to the ordinary soul. The mystic catches vibrations
in life to which duller natures are, except in moments of abnormal
exaltation, for the most part insensitive. When we find fault with
him for the apparent weakness of his hold upon reality, we need to
remember that his realities are not always ours. He frequently has
difficulty in expressing himself in our ordinary speech, for the reason
that this is mainly the instrument of normal cerebration, not of the
sub-normal or the super-normal. Hence Maeterlinck's theorem--which is
not half such a paradox as it looks--that the profounder vibrations
of the soul are more easily communicated by silence than by speech.
We are beset by intuitions that can never find adequate expression in
words. "How strangely," he says, "do we diminish a thing as soon as
we try to express it in words!" Speech hardly seems necessary to him
as a means of carrying on his thoughts, which, as they lie in deeper,
more obscure places than language has ever visited, must seek a more
immediate way of passage from his own brain to that of another. "A time
will come, perhaps, when our souls will know of each other without
the intermediary of the senses.... A spiritual epoch is perhaps upon
us...." Thus the favourite means of communication between the soul
of the spiritual elect is not speech, but silence--silence, which is
far more eloquent, far more illuminative of the profoundest depths of
being, than language can ever be. "It is idle," he writes, "to think
that by means of words any real communication can ever pass from one
man to another.... It is only when life is sluggish within us that
we speak." And just as the mystic despises words as instruments of
communication, so he looks down upon facts as guides to illumination.
As the inner life is too subtle to be expressed in ordinary language,
so its interests are too refined to be spent upon crude facts. These
are "nothing but the laggards, the spies and camp followers, of the
great forces we cannot see."[57]


Here, then, is a philosophy of life which, in the hands of the artist,
aims at creating a new type of "static" drama, in which speech shall
give way, as far as possible, to suggestion, incident and action to the
immediate revelation of soul-states. Though the drama is to deal with
real life in a way that Maeterlinck would regard as most rigorously
real, there is to be a progressive withdrawal from most of the points
that the average man regards as the essence of reality.

In the first place, naked facts and violent actions are to be passed
over, as not necessary for the communication to us of the essential
thing that the dramatist has to say; in the second place, mere words
are no longer to be looked upon as indispensable intermediaries between
the thought and the expression. Now all this, in its main features,
finds a very close parallel in the work and the arguments of Wagner.
Let us look for a moment at his theories as they figure in actual
practice, taken out of the wordy metaphysic in which he delighted to
obscure them.

The drama and the novel represent an attempt to fire the reader with a
certain emotion that has already flamed up in the writer. The tragedy
of _King Lear_, for example, aims at inspiring in us a sentiment of
pity for an old man who is shattered by filial ingratitude. _Othello_
aims at enlisting our sympathies for an affectionate man and wife whose
happiness is broken to pieces, partly by misunderstanding, partly by
diabolical machinations. There are innumerable other points in the
plays, but these are the great central forces. These are what moved
Shakespeare to the composition of the dramas. These are the ideas
from which he started; and these are the ideas that finally remain
with us when we have seen or read the plays. But owing to the clumsy,
intractable nature of the material in which he works, the dramatist can
stimulate this central idea or feeling in us only by a most roundabout
process. He cannot plunge at once into his subject. He must commence at
a point far distant from that to which he wishes to lead us, and then
work up to it gradually. He cannot adequately communicate an emotion
without unfolding before our eyes the long and complex scenes or set
of circumstances that give rise to this emotion. He cannot confine
himself to the characters and the events that make up the real drama;
he has to illustrate these--to draw sparks from them, as it were--by
the impact of minor incidents and persons. In a word, he has to fill us
with a multiplicity of more or less superfluous feelings before he can
communicate to us the feeling that is really essential.

In music all this is altered. (The reader will of course remember
that I am expounding Wagner.) There being no distinction between the
feeling and the expression, no bar between the emotion and the speech,
the musician can plunge at once into the very heart of his subject.
Further, he need never leave the heart of it; he can devote all his
energies to elucidating the really necessary factors; he has no need
to waste half his time in showing, from the description of extraneous
things, how such and such a situation has come about, or how a man
comes to feel in such and such a way. It takes half-an-hour's reading
of the Tristan legend, or any poem on the subject, before we feel
the atmosphere of tragedy closing round us, or know precisely why it
should come. In Wagner's opera, not only is the fact that there _is_
a tragedy suggested in the first bars of the music, but the very tint
and spiritual quality of the tragedy are painted for us at once. All
through the work, again, we live in the very centre of the metropolis
of that territory of emotion--love, grief, and pity--to which the
legend and the poets have to guide us by devious and frequently
uninteresting paths. We see Tristan and Isolde in the first bar and
in the last; we never leave them for a moment. Thus not only does
the musician draw us at once to the point he wishes us to reach, but
his independence of all the scaffolding necessary to the poet gives
him more freedom of development. He can wring from the souls of his
characters the last bitter juice of their emotions. Wagner himself was
fond of pointing out the gradual growth of his art in these respects.
In the _Flying Dutchman_ he tried "to keep the plot to its simplest
features; to exclude all useless detail, such as the intrigues one
borrows from common life." The plot of _Tannhäuser_ will be found
"far more markedly evolving from its inner motives"; while "the whole
interest of _Lohengrin_ consists in an inner working within the heart
of Elsa, involving every secret of the soul." Wagner's aim was to shake
himself clear of the wearisome mass of detail that, in the poetical
drama, is necessary to show the "whence and wherefore" of each feeling.
"I too, as I have told you," he writes, "felt driven to this 'whence
and wherefore'; and for long it banned me from the magic of my art. But
my time of penance taught me to overcome the question. All doubt at
last was taken from me, when I gave myself up to the _Tristan_. Here,
in perfect trustfulness, I plunged into the inner depth of soul-events,
and from out this inmost centre of the world I fearlessly built up
its outer form. A glance at the _volume_ of this poem will show you
at once that the exhaustive detail-work which an historical poet is
obliged to devote to clearing up the outward bearing of his plot, to
the detriment of a lucid exposition of its inner motives, I now trusted
myself to apply to these latter alone. Life and death, the whole import
and existence of the outer world, here hang on nothing but the inner
movements of the soul. The whole affecting Action comes about for the
reason only that the inmost soul demands it, and steps to light with
the very shape foretokened in the inner shrine."

Here the analogy with Maeterlinck's theory becomes evident. Both men
despise the cruder, external, historical, active facts on which the
drama has felt itself till now compelled to rely; both aim at a subtle
form of drama in which the soul-states shall be the first and last
thing. There is more in life, they say, than conscious reason; it is
the innermost processes of the soul that we desire to have laid bare
to us in drama. This reflection led Wagner to the choice of the myth
as the best material on which to work. "I therefore believed," he
writes, "I must term the 'mythos' the poet's ideal Stuff--that native
nameless poem of the Folk, which throughout the ages we ever meet new
handled by the great poets of periods of consummate culture; for in it
_there almost vanishes the conventional form_ _of man's relations,
merely explicable to abstract reason_, to show instead the eternally
intelligible, the purely human." This is not clarity itself, but what
Wagner means is that in music as he conceives it you come face to face
with the essential truth of things at once, without having to make a
wearisome journey through a mass of unimportant detail, as you have
to do in the novel and the poetical drama before you can get to the
heart of the emotion. And this is quite true, so far as it goes. If you
conceive life like the mystic or his soul's brother the musician, if
you prefer the general to the particular, the vague to the definite,
the suggested to the spoken, you will naturally seek a medium that
shall allow free passage to your emotion in its broadest form. Like
Wagner, you will not want to stop and explain for half-an-hour who
Tristan and Isolde were, who were the people round them, what the
causes were that led to their tragic end, and so on. You will want to
get to the centre of your subject at once; you abandon all attempts
at demonstration and plunge at once into expression. And if, with
Maeterlinck, it seems quite unimportant to know the names and histories
of two or three given men and women, the scenes in which they live,
the commonplace routine of their daily lives--if you only want to
know how destiny is dealing with them, what bitter-sweet emotion is
being distilled from their souls in some quiet hour that is pregnant
with vital meaning--then you will pass over, like the musician, every
detail that seems to you unimportant, and concentrate yourself on
that supremely fateful hour. You will not depict anything happening,
because it is not the event that is the essential thing, but the
soul-states that are born of the event. To Maeterlinck, as to Wagner,
the "purely human"--the whole man, the essential man--lies deeper than
what is "merely explicable to abstract reason." "A new, indescribable
power," he says, in speaking of Ibsen's _Master Builder_, "dominates
this somnambulistic drama. All that is said therein at once hides and
reveals the source of an unknown life. And if we are bewildered at
times, let us not forget that our soul often appears, to our feeble
eyes, to be but the maddest of forces, and that there are in man many
regions more fertile, more profound, and more interesting than those of
his reason or his intelligence."

For these obscure perceptions of the soul, words alone are plainly
an inadequate mode of expression. Hence both Wagner and Maeterlinck
feel that some more direct kind of utterance is required, some more
immediate means of communication between the feeling of the artist
and the feeling of the auditor. Wagner finds this in music, which
substitutes a direct appeal for the indirect appeal of the ordinary
poet. The dramatic poem must be drafted "in such a fashion that it
may penetrate the finest fibres of the musical tissue, and the spoken
_thought_ entirely dissolves into the _feeling_." Not that there is
to be any surrender of that grip upon the inner life that is the
essence of thoughtful drama. On the contrary, Wagner maintains, after
the manner of Maeterlinck, that it is only when the soul is set free
from the disturbing accidents of the temporary life that it can see
clearly into the movements of the universal life. Wagner holds that in
the Beethoven symphony, for example, a world-view is presented, quite
as philosophical, quite as logically connected, as any that can be put
together in words. "In this symphony, instruments speak a language
whereof the world at no previous time had any knowledge; for here,
with a hitherto unknown persistence, the purely musical expression
enchains the hearer in an inconceivably varied mesh of nuances; rouses
his inmost being to a degree unreachable by any other art; and in all
its changefulness reveals an ordering principle so free and bold that
we can deem it more forcible than any logic, yet without the laws of
logic entering into it in the slightest; nay, rather, the reasoning
march of thought, with its track of causes and effects, here finds no
sort of foothold. So that this symphony must positively appear to us a
revelation from another world; and in truth it opens out a scheme of
the world's phenomena quite different from the ordinary logical scheme,
and whereof one foremost thing is undeniable: that it thrusts home with
the most overwhelming conviction, and guides our feeling with such
a sureness that the logic-mongering reason is completely routed and
disarmed thereby."

Now set beside this view of the relations of the musical drama to the
poetical drama Maeterlinck's comparison of his own dramatic ideals with
those of the "active" poet. The latter passes unthinkingly over many
of the feelings that give to a tragic event its real significance.
Why should not these feelings, the essential core of the drama, be
given fuller play, and the mere incidents be looked upon as either
superfluous or purely ancillary? He too, like Wagner, wants to
show the heart of a tragic situation without the customary tedious
cataloguing of all its limbs. He wants the spiritual essence of drama,
and the essence alone, not the crude material facts from which this
essence has to be distilled. The whole of Maeterlinck's magnificent
passage must here be quoted: "The mysterious chant of the Infinite,
the ominous silence of the soul and of God, the murmur of Eternity on
the horizon, the destiny or fatality that we are conscious of within
us, though by what tokens none can tell--do not all these underlie
_King Lear_, _Macbeth_, _Hamlet_? And would it not be possible, by
some interchanging of the _rôles_, to bring them nearer to us, and
send the actor farther off? Is it beyond the mark to say that the
true tragic element, normal, deep-rooted, and universal--that the
true tragic element of life only begins at the moment when so-called
adventures, sorrows, and dangers have disappeared?... When we think
of it, is it not the tranquillity that is terrible, the tranquillity
watched by the stars? And is it in tumult or in silence that the
spirit of life quickens within us? Is it not when we are told, at the
end of the story, 'They were happy,' that the great disquiet should
intrude itself? What is taking place while they are happy? Are there
not elements of deeper gravity and stability in happiness, in a single
moment of repose, than in the whirlwind of passion? Is it not then
that we at last behold the march of time--ay, and of many another
on-stealing besides, more secret still--is it not then that the hours
rush forward? Are not deeper chords set vibrating by all these things
than by the dagger-stroke of conventional drama? Is it not at the very
moment when a man believes himself secure from bodily death that the
strange and silent tragedy of the being and the immensities does indeed
raise its curtain on the stage? Is it while I flee before a naked sword
that my existence touches its most interesting point? Is life always at
its sublimest in a kiss? Are there not other moments, when one hears
purer voices that do not fade away so soon? Does the soul flower only
on nights of storm? Hitherto, doubtless, this belief has prevailed.
It is only the life of violence, the life of bygone days, that is
perceived by nearly all our tragic writers; and truly may one say that
anachronism dominates the stage, and that dramatic art dates back as
many years as the art of sculpture."

He places the spiritual purposes of painting and music on a higher
plane; "for these," he says, "have learned to select and reproduce
those obscurer phases of daily life that are not the less deep-rooted
and amazing. They know that all that life has lost, as regards mere
superficial ornament, has been more than counterbalanced by the depth,
the intimate meaning, and the spiritual gravity it has acquired. The
true artist no longer chooses Marius triumphing over the Cimbrians,
or the assassination of the Duke of Guise, as a fit subject for his
art; for he is well aware that the psychology of victory or murder is
but elementary and exceptional, and that the solemn voice of men and
things, the voice that issues forth so timidly and hesitatingly, cannot
be heard amidst the idle uproar of acts of violence. And therefore
will he place on his canvas a house lost in the heart of the country,
an open door at the end of a passage, a face or hands at rest, and by
these simple images will add to our consciousness of life, which is a
possession that it is no longer possible to lose."


The excellence and the wisdom of these thoughts need no pointing out.
What is the defect in them--or, rather, wherein are they incomplete?

This may be seen, in the first place, by playing off Maeterlinck's
theory against that of Wagner. It is quite true, as Wagner says, that
his kind of music-drama has one great advantage over the poetical
drama: that by surrendering certain outlying interests it can
concentrate all its power on the central interest--giving full play,
as Wagner would express it, to the inner motives of the dramatic
action. But, on the other hand, music must, from its very nature, fail
to touch a score of ideas and passions that are within us, and for
whose expression we are compelled to go to poetry that is unhampered
by music. Thus there are certain mental states with which music can
have practically no communion. The girl can sing, as Ruskin has told
us, of her lost love, but the miser cannot sing of his lost money-bags.
For a study of the miser, then, and of all the shades of character
that resemble his, we must look, not to music, but to poetry or prose.
Again, any one who has seen Verdi's _Otello_ on the stage must have
been struck with the relative feebleness of the character-drawing
of Iago. A monster of this kind, made up entirely of cunning and
deception, is a concept almost entirely foreign to the art of music,
which does indeed give a heightened value to the primary emotions,
but, on the other hand, has difficulty in reaching beyond these. One
frequently finds it hard to believe that Wagner's Mime, who sings such
pleasant music, is really a hateful character, owing to the difficulty
music has in expressing the mean and despicable. It can render, mainly
by physical means, the horrible and the terrible, but the contemptible,
the abortive, are practically beyond its sphere.

Nor, again, even in the field where music and poetry meet, does
music so far cover the ground, as Wagner would contend, as to make
non-musical poetry a superfluity, a mere echo of what can be heard in
fuller tones in the drama that is a blend of poetry and music. For the
sheer emotional beauty of pity, for exquisite tenderness and complete
consolation, nothing, in any art, could surpass certain portions of
_Parsifal_. But it is essentially _emotion_ here, not thought; it
is wholly esoteric; it achieves its miracle by withdrawing into its
own lovely atmosphere the crude, hard facts of the world, and there
transforming them. If we want an expression of pity that shall bear
more closely on our real life, give us the emotional balm at the same
time that it allows free play to our philosophic thought, we must go to
poetry. Look at the colloquy of the pots in the Rubaiyat, in which the
humanist Omar empties the vials of his compassion upon the marred and
broken beings of this world:--

  "Said one among them--'Surely not in vain
  My substance of the common Earth was ta'en
    And to this Figure moulded, to be broke,
  Or trampled back to shapeless Earth again.'

  Then said a Second--'Ne'er a peevish Boy
  Would break the Bowl from which he drank in joy:
    And He that with His hand the Vessel made
  Will surely not in after Wrath destroy.'

  After a momentary silence spake
  Some Vessel of a more ungainly Make;
    'They sneer at me for leaning all awry:
  What! did the Hand then of the Potter shake?'"

There is not here the sensuous anodyne of Wagner's music, but there is
something equally precious; the thought is farther flung; it brings
more elements of reality back with it to be bathed and softened in
emotion; it stirs the more vital philosophic depths. As one reads
the verses, one thinks sadly of all the bruised and broken beings
of the world, the poor misshapen souls who carry within them, from
no fault of their own, the seeds of the things that are to blight or
slay them--the men afflicted with incurable vices of body or mind or
will, the criminals, often more sinned against than sinning, upon whom
society wreaks its legalised vengeance. We have not merely a warm wave
of pity passing through us, as in the case of _Parsifal_; the exquisite
art of the thing is strengthened by the closeness of its association
with innumerable problems of theology, of philosophy, and of social
science. So, again, with the line Maeterlinck himself places in the
mouth of old Arkel, after one of the most terrible scenes in _Pelleas
and Melisanda_: "If I were God, how I should pity the heart of men!"
Music, in its grave, wise speech after a dire catastrophe, may almost
compass some such wealth of ethical significance as this; but there
is in Maeterlinck's line a peculiar fulness of divination that can
be conveyed to us only in words. Numberless other instances might be
cited, all proving this existence of a philosophic sphere to which even
the greatest music can, by reason of its indefiniteness, never have
access. Matthew Arnold may have been a prejudiced witness, being a poet
himself; yet one feels that he has the right with him in that passage,
in his _Epilogue to Lessing's Laocöon_, in which he points out how the
painter and the musician excel respectively in expressing "the aspect
of the moment" and "the feeling of the moment," but that the poet deals
more philosophically with the total life and interlacement of things:--

        "He must life's movement tell!
  The thread which binds it all in one,
  And not its separate parts alone.
  The movement he must tell of life,
  Its pain and pleasure, rest and strife;
  His eye must travel down, at full,
  The long, unpausing spectacle;
  With faithful unrelaxing force
  Attend it from its primal source,
  From change to change and year to year,
  Attend it of its mid career,
  Attend it to the last repose,
  And solemn silence of its close."

Arnold's expression might perhaps have been a little more artistic,
but there is no controverting the general truth he voices--that poetry
looks before and after in a way that music cannot possibly do; is wider
in its philosophic sweep than music, clearer in its vision, making up
for its weaker idealism by its sympathetic evocation of a hundred notes
that are denied to music.


And just as we pass from music to poetry to reach certain emotions
that are not to be found in the more generalised art, so we pass
from Maeterlinck's æsthetic world to that of the cruder realist, in
the search for certain further artistic satisfactions. Mysticism has
this in common with music--that it gives voice to the broader, more
generalised feelings of mankind, and hesitates to come into contact
with the less ecstatic faculties that are exercised upon the harder
facts of life. Maeterlinck, like Wagner, tries to lay hold upon the
universal in art; but he does so simply because, again like Wagner,
he is comparatively insensitive to other stimuli. And as Wagner's
æsthetic holds good for the most part only of those who, like him,
apprehend the world through music, so Maeterlinck's theory of drama
is completely valid only for those who share his general attitude
toward life and knowledge. If it is really the mystics who have the
key to the knowledge of things; if, as Maeterlinck himself says in
his introduction to Ruysbroeck's _L'Ornement des Noces Spirituelles_,
"toute certitude est en eux seuls," and that "les vérités mystiques
ont sur les vérités ordinaires un privilège étrange--elles ne peuvent
ni vieillir ni mourir"; if in the hypnotic semi-swoon of the faculties
before the abyss of the universal we come closest to the real secret
of things, then is there nothing to be added to or taken from
Maeterlinck's statement of the essence of drama. If, on the other hand,
the evolution of the more acutely specialised perceptions in us points
to man's need of a mental system that shall embrace ever more and more
of the phenomena of the world, then must we have an art that can shape
these perceptions too into a beauty of their own. Did we all apprehend
the universe as Maeterlinck and the mystics do--through a kind of
sixth sense that is an instantaneous blend of the ordinary five; could
we all arrive at his serenely philosophical outlook, and be content
with so much understanding of the world as came to us in immediate
intuitions--we should then see in his kind of art a mode of expression
co-extensive with all that we could know or feel. But since we do not
all look at life with the semi-Oriental fatalism of Maeterlinck, in
whose soul the passive elements seem to outweigh the active, we have
to turn to other types of dramatic art for the satisfaction of our
cravings. "The poet," he says in one place, "adds to ordinary life
something--I know not what--which is the poet's secret: and there comes
to us a sudden revelation of life in its stupendous grandeur, in its
submissiveness to the unknown powers, in its endless affinities, in its
awe-inspiring misery." Well, for a great many of us there are moments
when "submissiveness to the unknown powers" does not express the be-all
and the end-all of life--more vivid moments of revolt, of struggle
with uncertainties, of passionate assertions of personality, that have
little kinship with the grey resignation of the mystic. If life is
ugly and bitter, there is an art that can interest us deeply in this
bitterness and ugliness, because it ministers to that deep-seated need
of ours to leave no corner of life and nature unexplored. This art of
the mercilessly real may not be so "philosophical" as Maeterlinck's;
it may not speak to us so clearly of the "mysterious chant of the
infinite, the ominous silence of the soul and of God, the murmur of
Eternity on the horizon," for these voices can make themselves heard
only in a wider, serener, less turbid space than ours. But just as the
poet foregoes some of the formal perfection of the musician, finding
his compensation in his power to touch a wider range of things, so the
realist finds in the bracing, ever-interesting contact with the cruder
facts of life something that compensates him for missing the broader
peace of the mystic--a sense of energetic personality, of struggle with
and dominion over inimical forces, that the languor of mysticism cannot
provide. "No human reason," says Maeterlinck, in our actions, "no human
reason; nothing but destiny." Well, thought and action, to the mystic,
may be only the children of illusion; but may there not be as much
illusion in passivity, in the ecstatic collapse of the intellect under
the pressure of an incomprehensible world? In the Maeterlinck drama,
beautiful as it is, we cannot all of us find complete satisfaction.
To quote the words that he himself has used in another context: "Here
we are no longer in the well-known valleys of human and psychic life.
We find ourselves at the door of the third enclosure--that of the
divine life of the mystics. We have to grope timidly, and make sure
of every footstep, as we cross the threshold." And when we _have_
crossed the threshold, we find ourselves hungering and thirsting for
the more troubled but at any rate broader life we have left behind us;
just as the Wagnerian drama, mighty as it is, brings home to us the
fact that there are needs of our nature that music cannot satisfy.
Formal perfection, absolute homogeneity, are obtainable in an art only
when we abstract it from outer incident and long reflection. Music
comes before poetry in this respect, poetry before the drama, the
drama before fiction. Take, from a master of reticence, an example of
apparent dissipation of artistic force that Wagner would have held
to prove his own theories. It is the scene in _Madame Bovary_ where
Léon, expecting to see Emma, is detained at dinner by Homais. "At two
o'clock they were still at table, opposite each other. The large room
was emptying; the stovepipe, in the shape of a palm tree, spread its
gilt leaves over the white ceiling, and near them, outside the window,
in the bright sunshine, a little fountain gurgled in a white basin,
where, in the midst of watercress and asparagus, three torpid lobsters
stretched across to some quails that lay heaped up in a pile on their
sides." "Watercress! asparagus! quails! three torpid lobsters!" Wagner
would have said, "what have these to do with art? Music's manner of
describing the impatience of two separated lovers is that of the mad
prelude to the duet in _Tristan_. Here we have all the essential
soul-states, without the admixture of crude external realities." Yet
there is something in Léon's impatience that music cannot express--the
dreary boredom inflicted by his companion, the helpless wandering of
the mind over the insignificant uglinesses of his surroundings. This
also is part of human psychology, and a part that can find expression
only in words. In consideration of the wider sweep of the artistic net,
we gladly abate our demands for perfection of quality in the yield;
for the phenomena of the extensive and the intensive are meant to be
compensatory, the one taking the burden upon itself where the strength
of the other fails. Wagner erred in thinking that the union of all
the arts in music-drama could render each separate art superfluous;
Maeterlinck errs in thinking that the mystic, in his withdrawal to the
centre of consciousness, can tell us all we desire to know of the outer


[56] I am compelled to draw attention to the words "æsthetic _systems_"
because, on the appearance of this article in _The Atlantic Monthly_,
a not unkindly reviewer took me to task for asserting, as he thought,
that the art-_work_ of Wagner was akin to that of Maeterlinck; he
pointed out, quite rightly, that César Franck's work lies closer to
Maeterlinck's than does Wagner's. But of course I had never asserted
that Wagner and Maeterlinck spoke to us in the same language or of the
same things. I was only concerned to prove that underlying the so very
different practice of the two men was a curious similarity of æsthetic

[57] Compare Amiel's saying--"Action is but coarsened thought."

[58] It is interesting to note that many things in Maeterlinck either
move us, by their very vagueness, just in the way that music does, or
else seem like a fragment from a libretto, needing to be set to music
before they can attain their full significance. Of the former class the
reader will remember such things as the conclusion of _Alladine and
Palomides_. To the latter class belong many of those curious scenes
in which the characters keep on reiterating apparently insignificant
words, to the intense annoyance of the Man in the Street, who cannot
see the meaning of it all. In _Aglavaine and Selysette_ there are
many passages that seem, without music, to be only the skeleton, the
scaffolding, of an emotional effect. There is a salient example of the
same thing in _Joyzelle_:

 _Joyzelle._ Je t'embrassais la nuit, quand j'embrassais mes rêves....

 _Lancéor._ Je n'ai pas eu de doute.... _Joyzelle._ Je n'ai pas eu de

 _Lancéor._ Et tout m'est accordé....

 _Joyzelle._ Et tout me rend heureuse!...

 _Lancéor._ Que tes yeux sont profonds et pleins de confiance!...

 _Joyzelle._ Et que les tiens sont purs et pleins de certitudes!...

 _Lancéor._ Comme je les reconnais!...

 _Joyzelle._ Et comme je les retrouve!...

 _Lancéor._ Tes mains sur mes épaules ont le geste qu'elles avaient
 quand je les attendais sans oser m'eveiller....

 _Joyzelle._ Et ton bras sur mon cou reprend la même place....

 _Lancéor._ C'est ainsi qu'autrefois tes paupières se fermaient au
 souffle de l'amour.

 _Joyzelle._ Et c'est de même aussi que les larmes montaient dans tes
 yeux qui s'ouvraient....

 _Lancéor._ Quand le bonheur est tel....

 _Joyzelle._ Le malheur ne vient pas tant que l'amour l'enchaine.

 _Lancéor._ Tu m'aimes?...

 _Joyzelle._ Oui....

It reads almost exactly like a libretto without its music.

                         _To SIR EDWARD ELGAR_



Two or three years ago Richard Strauss was practically unknown in this
country. A few people had heard works of his abroad; a few more had
bought his complex scores and worried through them as best they could,
mostly deriving from them only the impression that Strauss was getting
madder and madder every year. From other and happier climes, where the
demand for music is almost as great as the supply, there came weird
stories of this new art. One thing was universally admitted as being
beyond dispute--that Strauss was a master of orchestral effect such as
the world had never seen; but all the rest was pure legend. In 1897
_Also sprach Zarathustra_ was played at the Crystal Palace; old Sir
George Grove, in a private letter, expressed what was probably the
opinion of most of the people who sat it out: "What can have happened
to drag down music from the high level of beauty, interest, sense,
force, grace, coherence and any other good quality, which it rises to
in Beethoven and also (not so high) in Mendelssohn, down to the low
level of ugliness and want of interest that we had in Strauss's absurd
farrago ...? _Noise_ and _effect_ seems to be so much the aim now."
It was the old, old story. The man who listens to a new art and is
momentarily revolted by it never thinks that the deficiencies may be
not in the art but in himself; with sublime arrogance he disposes in
half-an-hour of a work that perhaps took a brain three times the weight
of his own half a decade to write. There was some excuse for Grove;
he was nearly eighty years old, and _Also sprach Zarathustra_ may
well have sounded to his venerable ears like chaos come again. Other
people had not the same excuse. In any case, an isolated performance
of so complex a work as this was hardly the way to educate the musical
masses up to the new evangel. The Strauss-flower languished decidedly
for some time after in England. It is true that one could occasionally
hear, either in London or in the provinces, _Till Eulenspiegel_, _Don
Juan_, _Tod und Verklärung_, and a song or two, but this was all. Now
and then there was a little wrangle in the press over the merits and
tendencies of Strauss. One courageous group of critics dared to say
that here was a composer likely to be the next big figure in musical
history after Wagner; another group, equally courageous, was steadily
occupied in laying up material for the laughter of future generations.
Some of these latter gentlemen had already firmly secured their place
in history by their opposition, two or three decades ago, to Wagner.
Now, with undiminished zeal and energy, anxious to achieve a plural
immortality, they industriously plied their mops against the oceanic
tide of Strauss. A third group followed the banner of the ingenious
gentleman who "hedged" by declaring that Strauss's music was still
_sub judice_--as if _all_ musicians were not continually _sub judice_.
But while it was very gratifying to behold this contest--all fighting
being a testimony to life--what was all the strife about? Merely, for
the most part over _Don Juan_, a comparatively early work of Strauss,
in no way representative of the possibilities of his methods or of the
stage of evolution at which he had even then arrived. The real Strauss
was to be seen not in _Don Juan_ but in _Don Quixote_, _Also sprach
Zarathustra_, and _Ein Heldenleben_. Yet the flower of the intelligence
of England was wrangling noisily over three works of the composer's
youth--_Till Eulenspiegel_, _Tod und Verklärung_, and _Don Juan_! It
was as if, in 1881, just before the production of _Parsifal_, the
English champions of the rival schools had been slaying each other over
the question as to whether Wagner had not gone a little too far in
_Tannhäuser_ and _Lohengrin_. Verily England was asleep.

Then Strauss himself came twice to the metropolis, first to conduct
some miscellaneous works, then to produce his latest tone-poem _Ein
Heldenleben_, for the first time in England. Now the interest, or at
any rate the curiosity, of London was stirred a little. An abstract,
disinterested passion for music itself, a cultivated desire for
new things as distinguished from the merely circus interest in new
performers, seems beyond the powers of all but a few souls in that vast
population. Organised discussion of a new composer only comes into
being when he himself happens to be in the city. As Sir Thomas Browne
has it, "Some believe the better for seeing Christs sepulchre; and
when they have seen the Red Sea, doubt not of the miracle." As it was,
it is questionable whether so large an audience would have flocked to
hear--or to see--Strauss on the _Heldenleben_ occasion, if that concert
had not also happened to be the first at which Mr. Henry Wood appeared
after a long illness. When, some six months later, a three days'
Strauss Festival was given at St. James's Hall, with the fine Amsterdam
orchestra that plays him so intelligently, and with Mengelberg and
Strauss himself as conductors, but this time without a convalescent Mr.
Wood, the general public showed disgracefully little interest in the
thing. However, the seed had been sown, and its growth has been fairly
rapid. We have not yet heard in England the latest work of Strauss--the
_Symphonia domestica_--and _Don Quixote_[59] has not been repeated
since it was given its solitary English performance at the Festival.
But _Ein Heldenleben_--the terrible _Ein Heldenleben_, the bugbear,
the bogey of a couple of years ago--has become astonishingly popular.
It is played quite frequently; young ladies barely out of their teens
study the score and discuss the love-music appreciatively. _Till
Eulenspiegel_, _Tod und Verklärung_, _Don Juan_,--these we hear so
often that one no longer gets a shock when one sees them on the bills;
even _Also sprach Zarathustra_ is occasionally given. _Aus Italien_
has had several performances, and the youthful Symphony in F minor
(op. 12) has been played once at least. The violin concerto, the violin
sonata, the 'cello sonata, and the piano quartet may all be heard
from time to time. So that at last the reproach of total ignorance of
Strauss is taken away from us, even if we do not hear so much of him,
especially of his very latest works, as we would like.

It is a pity we cannot get more performances of his bigger works,
for the amateur who does not hear him often on the orchestra, and
who tries to get a knowledge of him from the easier things that can
be played at home, is likely to get a very false impression of him.
He has passed through so many stages of artistic development that
we have only to pick up an early work of his here and there to be
capable of a dogmatism concerning him that is ludicrously wrong. I
can recall no example in musical history of a man with such native
strength and such pronounced individuality suggesting, in his youthful
works, so many other musicians of note who have gone before him. You
will find in the earlier Strauss abundant traces of Mozart, of Haydn,
of Beethoven, of Wagner, of Schumann, of Brahms, of Liszt. Yet the
curious thing is that nowhere do we feel that Strauss has been, even
for a little time, wholly under the influence of any one of these; he
is always himself, though he unaccountably lapses at times into the
most distinct reminiscences of the manner of other men. No one but
he could have penned the vigorous Piano Sonata (op. 5); in the first
movement, for example, not only the _mâle_ _tristesse_ of the mood,
but the firm and flexible handling is indubitably his. Yet in this
same movement, with its modern atmosphere, its modern force, and its
modern audacity, he must needs insert passages here and there that go
right back to the eighteenth century, in their form, their speech, and
their psychology. Something of the same phenomenon meets us again in
his Symphony in F minor (op. 12). The singular thing is that he has
never had a real Beethoven epoch, or a real Schumann epoch, or a real
Wagner epoch; but that he seemed to fall quite naturally, at times,
into bygone modes of feeling and utterance, like a man whose prose
style had an unaccountable tendency to lapse, every now and then, into
reminiscences of the authors he read most in his youth. The _Guntram_
(op. 25) may have looked very Wagnerian when it first appeared; but
as we read it now, in the light of Strauss's later work, it is clear
that Wagner does not enter into a twentieth part of the opera. People
could pick out the passages that resembled Wagner--particularly that
extraordinary reminiscence of _Tristan_ which Strauss seems to use
so unconsciously--and sum the whole opera up as the work of a mere
disciple of Wagner. It was hard in those days to grasp the significance
of the more individual parts of _Guntram_, or to frame to oneself
a connected scheme of what the composer's psychological processes
were. But we can see it all now, after _Also sprach Zarathustra_,
_Don Quixote_, _Enoch Arden_ and the songs; and it is evident that
_Guntram_ never owed its origin to Wagner, but to a mind of quite a
different type from his. It is not Wagner's texture, it is above all
not Wagner's world-view; it comes from a brain of a different outlook,
making its own terminology for itself as it goes along, and only
occasionally dropping into the idiom of Strauss's great forerunner. So
again with the much-cited influence of Liszt upon him. That the flower
of Strauss's achievement has grown up from the soil Liszt watered is
unquestionable. But no one work, no section of one work, can be quoted
that sounds as if it came direct from Liszt. With the exception of some
half-dozen of the juvenile writings, there is nothing of Strauss that
does not, in spite of its suggestions of this or that predecessor,
belong as completely to him as _Orfeo_ does to Gluck or _Lohengrin_ to
Wagner; while in the work of the last few years, the years of attained
maturity and full self-consciousness, he stands proudly, loftily alone,
unique among musicians long before he had reached his fortieth year.
Yet the tradition that he is merely an artificial blend of Wagner and
Liszt will probably hold the field for a long time to come.

So great, again, is the distance between his earlier and his later
work that one who only knows him from the efforts of his adolescence
is certain to misconceive him. The present Strauss commands respect
even from those who think he is merely using his great gifts to
achieve perversity and ugliness; but we may go through page after
page of his earliest work and yet hardly once come across anything
that would make us believe we were face to face with genius. Some of
it, like the _Fünf Klavierstücke_ (op. 3) and the _Stimmungsbilder_
(op. 9), is quite mediocre at times, commonplace in rhythm, weak in
structure, and decidedly cheap in melody. Even where his early work
was most excellent--and some of it was admirable--it was impossible to
say from it that the composer was one of the predestined spirits of
music, fated to remove landmarks, to explore undiscovered countries.
Clearly it was not a common talent; even in those days it was generally
vigorous, audacious, self-confident; but it rarely flamed up into
incandescence. In those years of apprenticeship Strauss was quietly
and almost unconsciously evolving a musical bias that was to re-mould
the æsthetics of music--doubtful yet as to whither his own ideals
were drawing him, and no doubt puzzled at times at his failure to
get precisely the picture he would have liked, but still remaining
autonomous, a new and vigorous force aiming at an idiom of its own.
We see now how hopelessly absurd it is to judge the composer of _Also
sprach Zarathustra_ by any of the standards of the past--that the
man's whole mind is unique, seeing things in music that no one ever
saw before, and taking the most direct, even if most perilous, path to
the expression of them. It took him a long time to learn that he had
no great faculty for abstract beauty, for weaving the impalpable stuff
of a vision into something that lives and shall be immortal, like the
sculptor's work, by virtue of the sheer harmony of every element of its
being. The great test of the existence of this order of beauty in a
musician is to be had in his slow movements. Mere vigour of rhythm and
intensity of colour here go for less than anywhere else: in this ideal,
abstracted world, where the soul listens darkling, brooding upon the
mystery of things like the dove upon the waters, the musician's sense
of sheer self-existent beauty must be at its finest; and the complete
absorption in pure tone that such a mood demands is the quality of the
absolute rather than of the poetic musician. I am not for a moment,
of course, denying that Strauss has written some slow passages which
are surcharged with emotional beauty--such as the "Redemption" theme
at the end of _Tod und Verklärung_, the noble _mit Andacht_ section at
the beginning of _Also sprach Zarathustra_, the pathetic death-music
in _Don Quixote_, or the end of _Ein Heldenleben_. What I mean is that
his is not the order of musical mind to which the extended formalism
of the symphony, with its intentness on architectonic effect, is the
most propitious. His genius is for the literary rather than for the
architectural or sculpturesque.

Look, for example, at his songs. If his gift were for sheer musical
beauty, the melody that sings from pure joy in itself, it would
certainly appear here if anywhere. Yet among all his songs I cannot
recall more than one or two that seem to be written out of the mere
heart of lyrism itself; while in all the really great ones the magic
and the power come not from pure melodic or harmonic loveliness, but
from the sense they give us of absolute emotional veracity--as it
were a man speaking upon a lofty subject very gravely and with intense
conviction, and so attaining, not the rapturous abandonment of poetry,
but an eloquent, impassioned, heart-searching prose.

Strauss is perhaps not a great melodist, if we restrict that term to
the meaning it has acquired in the absolute music of the past. Only
once, I think--in the slow movement of the Piano Quartet (op. 13)--does
he sing himself into that ideal world of ecstasy and enchantment in
which the older musicians spent their most golden hours. Here, indeed,
he loses sight of that real world of men and things which it has been
his glory to make musical for us in his later work; here, indeed, he
is content to sing in rapt absorption, content to pour out a flood of
tone that shall be all it is meant to be if it is divine, merely "a
wonder and a wild desire." This movement stands unique among Strauss's
work, both in its pure beauty and in its æsthetic purpose. For once in
his life, at all events, the great realist has had his honeyed hour
of idealism. But the very qualities of alertness, of quick interest
in life, which have gone to make Strauss, in his later music, the
symbol of a new era of æsthetics, have prevented him from falling
often into that ecstatic, clairvoyant swoon from which the music of
the great dreamers has been born. A melody, with him, is not something
irresponsibly beautiful, as sheer a delight to the ear as the flight
of a bird or the play of sunlight on the water are to the eye, but
a commentary upon a character or a situation, aiming at veracity
in the first place rather than at self-existent beauty. Hence that
impression of tortuous, huddled drawing which we get at times in a
work like _Guntram_, where his hand has not yet learned to follow the
inward vision with complete fidelity. Hence also the feeling given
us occasionally, by some of his melodies, that they are bordering
perilously on the commonplace or the obvious--as in the cadence of
the charming little folk-song with which _Till Eulenspiegel_ ends,
or in one or two portions of the finale of _Tod und Verklärung_. The
closer a musician comes to pure simplicity the more difficult is it to
achieve verisimilitude without dropping into bathos. If Strauss has now
and again made us feel that it is only a step from the sublime to the
ridiculous, it behoves us to remember also that no musician has ever
been so triumphant in his handling of the simplest material--as in some
passages of _Also sprach Zarathustra_, the ending of _Ein Heldenleben_,
the Sancho Panza music in _Don Quixote_, or the music of the children
in _Feuersnot_. If Tchaikovski brought the last new shudder into music,
Strauss has endowed it with a new simplicity. It is this, indeed, that
makes him Strauss; for paradoxical as it may seem, this builder of
colossal tone-poems, this wielder of the mightiest orchestral language
ever yet spoken, this Mad Mullah of harmony, is what he is because he
has dared to throw over almost all the conventions that have clustered
round the art in the last two hundred years. He is complex because he
is simple; he appears so wildly artificial because he is absolutely
natural; he is called sophisticated because he casts aside all artifice
and speaks like the natural musical man. To establish which position,
let us digress for a moment into a discussion of æsthetics.


Of all the arts, music is the one whose ideal of form is the loftiest,
the most exacting, the most imperative; the art in which we are least
willing to tolerate any defection from the highest we can conceive.
This, indeed, has been the cause both of the rapid development of music
in comparison with the other arts, and of the frenetic warfare of the
schools in one generation after another. The intensity of the great
musician's desire for ideal perfection in his art leads to his carrying
it, within a few years, over a curve of evolution that it takes a
century for the other arts to describe. This æsthetic concentration
gave us the Beethoven symphony and the Wagner music-drama--each the
most perfect thing of its kind, each the most perfect expression of
the musical needs of the generation that brought it into life. At the
same time this principle of evolution has caused the world, when it
discovered how absolutely complete was the musician's achievement of
the particular thing he had aimed at, to desire to rest permanently
in that form, to regard it as the final word in music. It was so with
the symphony according to Beethoven, and with the opera according to
Wagner. Now what we have to recognise in the case of Richard Strauss is
that he is the destroyer--or at any rate, the symbol of destruction--of
all previous values, as Nietzsche would say, and the creator at once of
a new expression and a new form.

Music could no more stop at Wagner than it could stop at Bach, Gluck,
or Beethoven. The expansion of manner which music underwent at the
hands of each of these men, be it noted, was the fruit of a correlative
expansion of the mental world of the musician--not the individual
musician, but the type. The great interest of Wagner for many of us is
that with him, for the first time, music aimed at becoming co-extensive
with human life. (So much, I think, may be broadly postulated without
entering on very contentious grounds, if we complete the proposition by
saying that Berlioz and Liszt--the Liszt of the twelve symphonic poems,
the _Dante_ symphony and the _Faust_ symphony--are to be understood
as subsumed under Wagner.) But the very element in his work that made
Wagner an unquestionable evolution from Beethoven--the clear perception
that in the symphony pure and simple you could never, do what you
would, advance entirely out of the decorative into the human, that to
concern herself more pointedly with man and the world, music must call
in the aid of poetry, with its wider and deeper associations with
human life--this was at the same time, curiously enough, the element
that marked the limits of the opera and foretold its ultimate passing
away. Opera, it is now evident, is _not_ the form of either the present
or the future. It was once the revolutionary form, and under its red
banner men imbrued their hands with the gore of their fellow-men; now
it is a classic, and in twenty years we shall have a school that quotes
its Wagner against the new troublers of our musical conventions as a
former school quoted Mozart and Beethoven against Wagner. And why is
the opera now beginning to be recognised as a limited form, instead of
the universal form which Wagner fondly hoped to make it? Simply because
it has now become clear to us that the admixture of the human voice
in music really limits the range of the art as much as the absence
of it formerly limited the symphony. What the old music needed was
fertilisation by speech, as Wagner never wearied of telling us; what
music at present needs is emancipation from the tyranny of speech. A
glance at the æsthetic of the art will make this seem less paradoxical
than it sounds at first.

As I have tried to show in another essay in this volume, the people
who despise programme music as a derogation from the high nature and
pure origin of the art are labouring under a delusion. Music, they say,
ought to be able to stand alone, in splendid isolation as it were;
and they regard it as a sign of musical weakness when a composer,
associating himself with the literary element of poetry, "calls in to
his aid a foreign art," as they express it. All this is based upon a
misunderstanding of the real essence of music, and a faulty analysis
of the psychological states from which it has sprung. From the very
infancy of the art, there have been two main impulses stimulating
the musician--the abstract and the human, the decorative and the
poetic. The fact that these two are almost always interblended, in
one proportion or another, in the actual music we know, does not in
any way upset the analysis. Broadly speaking, the revolution effected
by Wagner was precisely an infusion of a greater human pre-occupation
into an art that had previously been over-intent on the architectural
or decorative. He saw that it was impossible for a modern man to
say all he wanted to say in a form that attributed relatively too
much importance to the propriety of the pattern, and left too little
opportunity for the sleuth-like tracking of thoughts as fluid, as
complex, as evasive as life itself. On the one hand the transition
had to be made from inarticulate to articulate tone, from music as a
generalised expression to music as a particularised expression of life;
and this could only be done by conquering for her, by means of speech,
a new territory of human interests in which she was to be supreme.
On the other hand, there had to be a general break-up of the older
official form, and a general discarding of useless garments in order
that the limbs of this fresh young art might move more freely. What
Wagner's achievement was we know. Apart from his stupendous musical
gifts, he will live by the closeness of the bearing of his thought
upon actual life; for he was searchingly real, albeit in his own
semi-romantic way.

But the impetus given to music by Wagner could not end where he desired
it to end. Already, in his own lifetime, Berlioz and Liszt had hit upon
a form of symphonic poem, which, had it not been for the overwhelming
vogue of Wagner's operas, would probably have come to be recognised
as the pre-eminent form of the nineteenth century. It must always be
remembered that Liszt was no mere imitator of Wagner, but that they
worked separately for many years on much the same general æsthetic
lines--Liszt being, if anything, the one of the twain who saw first the
new possibilities of modern music. Now that Wagner's work is done and
become a thing of the past--the art-form which he perfected having died
with him, so far as we can see at present--the long-submerged trail of
Liszt is making its reappearance. Despised as a composer in his own
epoch, he is now having a posthumous and vicarious justification in
Richard Strauss. Like the river Arethusa, that was lost in one place
and came to light again in another, the peculiar psychology of the
symphonic poem according to Liszt re-emerges in _Tod und Verklärung_
and _Also sprach Zarathustra_, after having been hidden for half a
century by the more lyrical, less "representative" art of _Tristan_ and
the _Meistersinger_. The strong point of Strauss is just that he has
shown how often speech can with the greatest advantage be discarded
in music, because speech, while a fertilising element up to a certain
point, becomes a positive obstruction when once that point has been
passed. Where there are words there is necessarily a human voice, and
where there is a voice you are necessarily bound by the limitations
of the voice, and shut out from one-half of the circle of life. You
can, of course, accept these limitations as far as the voice itself
is concerned, and leave to the orchestra the portrayal of things that
are too vast, too mysterious, or too terrible to be sung--which was
the method of Wagner. But the success of this system depends upon the
quality of your subject; and when you come to the big modern material,
and desire to look through music at the life and the philosophy of your
own day, you will find that the voice is, as often as not, a hindrance.
A subject like _Also sprach Zarathustra_, for example, neither demands
nor would tolerate the human voice in a musical setting of it.
Nietzsche's book is not lyrical, not dramatic; it is--or purports to
be--a piece of philosophy, a reflection upon the cosmos as it appears
to a bitter, disillusioned modern man. In weaving music into a gigantic
scheme like this, the tiny egoistic tinkle of the human voice would be
a ludicrous descent into bathos.[60] We have only to look round at
the music of the past hundred years to see that, as its psychology
extended, it first of all required speech to gain it access to one
new territory, and then had to throw over speech in order to secure
entrance into a territory still more remote and more mysterious. This
is the environment towards which Strauss has had to feel his way
through one experiment after another.

Now just as Wagner's music, though more complex than the old art in
certain respects, was simpler than the old in that it substituted a
natural for a stilted form of operatic speech--a revolution similar to
that effected in English poetry by the lyrical writers of the end of
the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries--so Strauss
represents yet another movement towards naturalness, when compared
with contemporary music-makers like Brahms or even Tchaikovski. The
proof of this is writ large over almost all his music, from opus 5
onwards; it is visible everywhere, in his melodies, his rhythms,
his harmonies, his _facture_. Now and again, of course, there is
a lapse into the polite formalities which come so fatally easy to
the musician of all artists. But on the whole Strauss gives one the
impression of a singularly fresh and unconventional temperament, whose
new mode of vision spontaneously generates its own new manner of
utterance. The peculiar quality of his mature style is its absolute
_Selbstständigkeit_--its entire independence, throughout its whole
texture, of any laws but its own. I need not speak of his marvellous
orchestration, for his overlordship there is unquestionable. But
we need only look at his harmonies--those harmonies which are the
horror of a great many people who are by no means academics--to see
how supremely natural, how infinitely remote from the mere desire to
stagger humanity,[61] is the style of Strauss even in its most defiant
moments.[62] What was said of old of the harmonies of Wagner is now
being said of the harmonies of his successor. I will frankly admit
that there are certain things among them which are a cruel laceration
of our ears--things at which we can only cross ourselves piously, as
at the profanity of the natural man at the street corner, and hurry
on our way. These deviations from the normal are mostly to be seen in
his songs, where he permits himself a much broader license than in
any of his other works. For the rest, it will be found that, a few
eccentricities apart, our first prejudice against most of his novel
harmonies and progressions is due simply to their unexpectedness,
and that as soon as we have grown accustomed to them they seem quite
logical and inevitable. Undoubtedly our palate for harmony has been
cloyed by too much of the saccharine; the tonic, astringent quality of
the discord has not yet been sufficiently appreciated by any musician
but Strauss. Like all other superstitions, the harmonic superstition
cannot survive the bold experimenter. One's faith in the malign powers
that dog the footsteps of him who walks under a ladder, or spills
the salt at table, receives a rude shock when we find a man tempting
Providence in this way and coming to no particular harm; and many
things in music that we would _à priori_ pronounce impossible look
quite simple and natural when they are actually done. To end a big
orchestral work with reiterated successions of the chord of B natural
followed by the tonic of C natural seems like a device of Colney
Hatch; but it is strangely suggestive and hugely impressive in _Also
sprach Zarathustra_. Of course the invention and elaboration of a new
technique are very difficult matters; and it is only to be expected
that here and there Strauss should give us the impression of not
being quite at home even in his own territory. Nothing could be more
audacious, or, as a rule, more successful, than his bland persistence
in a certain figure or a certain sequence when the chances are all in
favour of the thing toppling down like a house of cards long before he
can reach the summit; there is something positively grim and eerie,
at times, in the _nonchalant_ way Strauss steers his bark through all
the dangers of the musical deep. In the lovely song _Ich schwebe_ (op.
48, No. 2), for example, one is alternately astonished and amused at
the freedom of the harmonic sequences; one hardly knows whether to be
angry at the cool unconventionality with which we are being treated,
or to chuckle with delight at the sheer impudence of the performance.
Strauss seems to think it a fallacy to look upon chords as being built
up from a certain base. In a way, his system is a reversion to the
view of the old contrapuntists, that music is a matter of a series of
horizontal lines, not of the vertical lines into which the thoughts of
the modern harmonist have come to flow. Substitute horizontal figures
or groups for horizontal lines, and we have the distinction between the
harmonic Strauss in his more daring moments, and, say, the harmonic
Tchaikovski. A certain sequence of chords has to be carried through,
willy-nilly, in one part of the piano or of the orchestra; another
and quite independent sequence has to be carried through, willy-nilly,
in another part. They are heard against each other at every point
of their career. If they blend, according to the current notions of
harmony, well and good; if they do not, equally well and good. You are
only shocked for the moment, says Strauss, because your ear has become
sophisticated, artificialised, by dwelling too long in the conventional
harmonic atmosphere that has been manufactured for you; you must learn
to breathe a new atmosphere, to take delight in a new type of musical
sequence, wherein opposing notes or opposing chords go each to its
own appointed end, regardless of isolated harmonic effects, or of
certain cramping formalities known as "resolutions." We have to learn
to think horizontally. In musical matters, however, it takes even the
most advanced of us a little time to readjust our point of view; and
whether it is that we are not yet quite worthy of the light of the
new dispensation, or whether the voice of the prophet fails him at
times and his speech becomes a little thick and his thought a trifle
incoherent, it is certain that Strauss now and again tries our patience
somewhat. Here and there in _Ein Heldenleben_ and some of the maddest
of the songs we feel that no amount of familiarity with the music will
ever make us like certain effects--or defects--of harmony; and even in
a great song like the _Traum durch die Dämmerung_ (op. 29, No. 1) we
have an uneasy feeling, at more than one point, that instead of Strauss
being the master he has become the servant of his material. There is
just a suspicion, here and there, that he is working his pre-ordained
sequence a shade too rigidly, and that he would have gained by relaxing
it a little. In any case, as I have already remarked, it is generally
in his songs--which, beautiful as they are, are not the most important
part of his work--that his harmonic system is most apt to take our
breath away; though I cannot agree with a recent writer that the
harmonies are merely "wild experimentation." In ninety-nine cases
out of a hundred they seem to me perfectly spontaneous, even when
they are most trying; I think Strauss writes precisely as he feels,
without any mere attempt, in cold blood, to achieve the unexpected
or the impossible. One frequent cause of the novelty of his harmonic
progressions is that he resolves the constituent tones of his chords
in any part of the gamut he chooses. This, of course, is only a
continuance of a tendency that has been going on in music for the last
hundred years; and Wagner and Liszt have made certain resolutions of
this kind so familiar to us that they now excite no comment. In another
half-century the majority of the new harmonies and new resolutions of
Strauss will probably be part of the common vocabulary of every musical

Whatever may be thought, however, of the sincerity or artificiality of
his harmonies, there can be no question that in his melodies and his
rhythms he is pre-eminently natural and unforced. Once he had got rid
of the suspicion of mediocrity that hung about him in his earlier
works, owing to his having momentarily taken up with the wrong artistic
company, he made rapid progress along a line that was peculiarly his
own. No one can listen to _Don Juan_, for example (op. 20), without
feeling how exquisitely fresh is the work, how absolutely adolescent
in the best sense. Here for the first time we have a revelation of
what the future Strauss was to be--the writer of a new music, in which
the expression and the technique shall follow the poetic idea with an
unquestioning, unswerving fidelity. He is now acquiring an instrument
of speech that, in its power to bite into the essentials of an object,
reminds us of the consummate style of Flaubert or Maupassant; the
realist Strauss is coming into view. All the previous works of any
importance--the Symphony in F minor (op. 12), the String Quartet (op.
13), the _Wanderers Sturmlied_ (op. 14), _Aus Italien_ (op. 16), and
the Violin Sonata (op. 18)--had been preliminary studies for this. In
these works we see Strauss finally emerging from the slough of polite
acquiescence in the manners of his forerunners which had been now and
then painfully evident in the _Fünf Klavierstücke_ (op. 3) and the
_Stimmungsbilder_ (op. 9), and even at times in the virile, breezy
Piano Sonata (op. 5). He gradually forms a musical style of his own,
in which the idiom is extraordinarily spontaneous and forceful. The
melody becomes more serpentiform, more flexibly articulated, more and
more independent, in its rhythm, of the four or eight-bar props upon
which composers generally find it so convenient to lean. I do not
refer so much to the mere crossing or interlocking of rhythms which
the _Wanderers Sturmlied_ and _Also sprach Zarathustra_ exhibit here
and there, for this is more or less an affair of merely conscious
technique, which may, as is frequently the case in Brahms, exist rather
on paper than in actuality, and make more impression on the eye than on
the ear. The rhythmical interest of the juvenile works of Strauss lies
rather in the growing sense of perfect freedom and naturalness in the
trajectory of the melodies. All the new qualities of the works that lie
between opus 12 and opus 18 come to their fine fruition in _Don Juan_,
which is the first work of Strauss that shows in something like its
entirety the true psychology, æsthetic and moral, of the man.


Upon some features of that psychology--its sincerity, its originality,
its artistic fearlessness--I have already touched. Strauss, however,
is an epoch-making man not only in virtue of his expression and his
technique, but in virtue of the range and the quality of his subjects.
He is the first complete realist in music. The Romantic movement came
to a somewhat belated head in Wagner, who had been the chief master
of the ceremonies at the prolonged funeral of the classical spirit.
The Romantic movement persisted longer in music than in any of the
other arts; and even in our own day it still makes an occasional
ineffectual effort to raise its old head, ludicrous now with its faded
garlands of flowers overhanging the wrinkled cheeks. But it has done
its work, and the future is with the men who live not in that old and
somewhat artificial world of gloomy forests, enchanted castles, men
that are like gods and gods that are like men, impossible maidens, and
superannuated professors of magic,[63] but in a world recognisably
similar to that in which we ourselves move from day to day. We like our
art to have a rather more acrid taste, and to come to closer quarters
with reality. Even the apparatus of the Wagnerian opera seems to us a
trifle _vieux-jeu_ in these days. Strauss has wisely recognised that
the operatic form, at its worst a ludicrous parody on life, is at its
best only a compromise, limited in its choice of subjects no less than
in its structure. Much greater freedom is to be had in the symphonic
poem, or in other purely instrumental modern forms, because here we
have at once a wider range of subjects open to us, and a medium of
expression into which the voice, with its limiting associations, does
not enter. Nothing but the freest, most expansive of forms could be
suited to the peculiar temperament of a realist like Strauss, and fine
as his own opera work is, bubbling over, as _Feuersnot_ is, with life
and humour, it is not there that we see the essential Strauss.

For it is as a realist that he is most remarkable. He is not a dreamer,
nor a philosopher, except in so far as philosophy--in Mr. Meredith's
sense of the term--is at the centre of every great artist's vision of
life. He is at his best in studies of character in action, as in _Till
Eulenspiegel_ and _Don Quixote_; and he follows his trail with the most
cheerful disregard as to whether his work is or is not formal music
in the older acceptations of the word. Further, his interest is in
human life as a whole, not in the one wearisome episode of the eternal
masculine and the eternal feminine. Strauss's is the cleanest, most
sexless, most athletic music I know. Just as it is the easiest thing
in the world to make love, so is the making of love-music the easiest
part of the musician's trade. It is one other sign of the death of the
Romantic spirit and the revival of realism in Strauss that he should
have thrown over almost all the old erotic tags of the musician--though
he can be passionate enough upon occasion--in order to tell the story,
in the true modern spirit, of other elements in human life that also
have their poetry and their pathos. One refreshing characteristic of
the earlier works--such as the Piano Sonata, the Violin Sonata, and
the Piano Quartet--was their unclouded virility, their total freedom
from those phantasms of sex that have been hovering over so much of
our music during the past century. The adolescent work of Strauss is
proud, vigorous, uncontaminated, Greek in quality. Even in the _Don
Juan_, it may be noted, his interest is in another aspect of the story
than the blatantly erotic; and the music itself is plainly not the work
of a Romanticist but of a realist and humanist. The love-themes in
_Don Juan_ are not sexual in the way that Wagner or Tchaikovski, for
example, would have made them. Even in his songs his love-making is
grave and philosophical, with none of the feline sex-element showing
through it that is so prominent in Wagner; Strauss is untroubled by the
_hysterica passio_ of the tiles. For this generation, at all events,
the last word in mere sex-music has been said in _Tristan and Isolde_;
and instead of imitating his weaker brethren, who occupy themselves
energetically in vending the spilth of Wagner's wine, Strauss has
turned his eyes upon other elements than the erotic in the human
composition. Hence the cosmic magnificence of conception of _Also
sprach Zarathustra_, the graphic humour of _Till Eulenspiegel_, and the
supreme humanity of his greatest work, _Don Quixote_.

I call this his greatest work, because it is the one in which his
qualities of realist and humanist come to their finest flower. It
has all the fervour of _Don Juan_, and all the humour of _Till
Eulenspiegel_, with a technique still more amazing than that of either
of these works, and that riper feeling that could only come to him
with the process of the years. I would rank the _Don Quixote_ higher
even than _Also sprach Zarathustra_, because of this sensation that
it gives us of the enormous fund of sincere emotion that underlies
all Strauss's audacity and cleverness, and that never leaves him
even in his moments of most reckless humour. Certainly _Also sprach
Zarathustra_ is a marvellous work; no such overwhelming picture of man
and the universe has ever before been unfolded to our eyes in music; it
almost makes the world-philosophy of Wagner seem, in comparison, like
the bleat of evangelical orthodoxy. But it is in the _Don Quixote_ that
Strauss is most really and truly himself and most thoroughly human.
It is here also that every trace of other men's style has definitely
disappeared, for even in _Also sprach Zarathustra_ we seem at times to
catch the voice of Liszt. The _Don Quixote_ marks the final rupture of
the realist and the romantic schools in music. I say nothing here of
its technique, though that alone is sufficient to make one ask oneself
whether it is possible for music to develop further than this. Nowhere,
outside the work of glorious old Bach, is there such a combination in
music of inexhaustible fertility of imagination and the most rigid
austerity in the choice of material. Description would avail nothing
for these aspects of _Don Quixote_; every student must revel in the
riches of the work on his own account. But when we consider its more
human qualities, the _Don Quixote_ must be pronounced an epoch-making
work, both in its form and its psychology. It is not a symphonic
poem, but a series of variations upon practically three themes--Don
Quixote, Sancho Panza, and Dulcinea; and for wit, humour, pathos,
and humanism there is nothing like it in the whole library of music.
Certainly to any one who knows Strauss's music of _Don Quixote_, the
story of Cervantes is henceforth inconceivable without it; the story
itself, indeed, has not half the humour and the profound sadness which
is infused into it by Strauss. What he has done in this work is to
inaugurate the period of the novel in music. We have had our immortal
lyrists, our sculptors, our dramatists, our builders of exquisite
temples; we now come to the writers of fiction, to our Flaubert and
Tourgeniev and Dostoievski. And here we see the subtle fitness of
things that has deprived Strauss of those purely lyrical qualities,
whose absence, as I have previously argued, makes it impossible for
him to be an absolute creator of shapes of pure self-sustained beauty.
His type of melody is now seen to be not a failing but a magnificent
gift. It is the prose of music--a grave, flexible, eloquent prose, the
one instrument in the world that is suitable for the prose fiction in
music that it is Strauss's destiny to develop. His style is nervous,
compact, sinuous, as good prose should be, which, as it is related,
through its subject-matter, more responsibly to life than is poetry,
must relinquish some of the fine abandonment of song, and find its
compensation in a perfect blend, a perfect compromise, of logic and
rapture, truth and ideality. "I can conceive," says Flaubert in one
of his letters, "a style which should be beautiful; which some one
will write one of these days, in ten years or in ten centuries; which
shall be rhythmical as verse, precise as the language of science, and
with undulations, modulations as of a violoncello, flashes of fire; a
style which would enter into the idea like the stroke of a stiletto; a
style on which our thoughts would sail over gleaming surfaces, as it
were, in a boat with a good wind aft. It must be said that prose is
born of yesterday; verse is the form _par excellence_ of the ancient
literatures. All the prosodic combinations have been made; but those of
prose are still to make."

No better description, it seems to me, could be had of the musical
style of Strauss, with its constant adaptation to the emotional and
intellectual atmosphere of the moment, and its appropriateness to the
realistic suggestion of character and _milieu_ which is his mission
in music. His qualities are homogeneous; he is not a Wagner _manqué_
nor an illegitimate son of Liszt, but the creator of a new order of
things in music, the founder of a new type of art. The only test of a
literature being alive is, as Dr. Georg Brandes says, whether it gives
rise to new problems, new questionings. Judged by this test, the art
of Strauss is the main sign of new and independent life in music since
Wagner; for it perpetually spurs us on to fresh problems of æsthetics,
of psychology, and of form.


It is not difficult to understand the attitude of musical purists
towards Strauss, and of many others who are not altogether purists.
There is something provocative, defiant, almost repellent, in the
power of the man's genius. He is so enormously strong, so proudly
self-confident, that he joys in flouting the world in the face as it
has never been flouted before. His whole career is a testimony to
how far courage and resource can carry a man. According to all known
precedents, he ought to have struggled for years, vainly endeavouring
to get a bare hearing; when he was actually performed he should have
been crushed under critical ridicule and poisoned with critical venom;
he should have had a ceaseless fight with singers, with players, with
opera-houses, with publishers, with concert-givers, and have perished
miserably, a martyr to an impossible ideal. For sheer indifference
to other people's opinion, for sheer determination to go his own way
without regard for all the time-honoured conventions, there is simply
nothing like him in the history of music. Yet his career has been one
of unbroken triumph. At the age of forty he is not only recognised as
the most astonishing of European musicians, but there is no demand
of his, no matter how imperious, that people do not gladly hasten to
fulfil. In _Zarathustra_ he apparently reaches the limits of what can
be demanded from a human orchestra; yet in _Don Quixote_, and again
in _Ein Heldenleben_, he strains their breaking sinews to a still
higher tension; while in the _Symphonia domestica_ he treats them and
us with a superb, tyrannic insolence. Never before has an orchestra
of sixty-two strings, two harps, a piccolo, three flutes, two oboes,
an oboe d'amore, a cor anglais, five clarinets, five bassoons, four
saxophones, eight horns, four trumpets, three trombones, a bass tuba,
four kettledrums, a triangle, a tambourine, a glockenspiel, cymbals,
and a big drum, been required to describe a day in the life of a baby;
never before have the energies of over a hundred able-bodied men been
bent to such a task. He tunes his strings below the normal limit just
as he likes; he employs obsolete instruments, and others that are
never used in concert-orchestras; he multiplies difficulties, and,
by reason of the many rehearsals required, makes performances of his
works enormously expensive affairs. Yet he does it all with sublime
impunity. An Oriental potentate riding his horse contemptuously over
the prostrate bodies of a half-adoring, half-resentful populace, is the
only image that will justly describe him in his forceful, irresistible
career. The gods have indeed smiled on Strauss. Much of his success,
or of his power to command success, may no doubt be due to financial
causes; he has never had to fight the world with an empty purse and
empty stomach. But still he is the most remarkable phenomenon the
musical world has ever seen; no composer ever insulted us one quarter
so much without having the life drubbed out of him.

He is evidently a man of enormous nervous energy. You can see it,
for one thing, in the style of his melodies. They are remarkable for
their huge leaps, the great arcs they traverse, the wide distances
between their parts--all pointing to great waves of nervous energy that
cannot be confined within the narrow bounds of the ordinary melody.
Occasionally it does him rather a disservice; it becomes his master
instead of his servant. There is really no need for this incessant
piling-up of more and more sound in the orchestra; its one sufficient
condemnation is that frequently no result comes out commensurate with
the huge means that have to be employed. Thousands of pages of our
modern music would be equally great, equally moving, with a vastly
smaller expenditure of effort. A man like Strauss takes an exuberant
joy, the joy of a healthy athlete doing difficult feats, in weaving
a musical texture that is a marvel of ingenious technique. It looks,
and really is, wonderful on paper; but there is no gainsaying that
precisely the same effect could often be achieved by much simpler
means. Now and again we find ourselves saying that line after line
might have been struck out of the score without any of the final effect
being lost. Nay, Strauss's absorption in the pure joy of scoring
occasionally leads him into errors of technique that a smaller man
would have escaped. In the dance in _Zarathustra_, for example, his
excessive subdivision of the strings merely results in the waltz-theme
coming out far too feebly. His own specification at the beginning
of the score is for sixteen first violins (to consider this section
alone). In the waltz he divides them into (1) first desk, (2) second,
third, fourth, and fifth desks. Then he divides the first desk again,
giving part of them an arpeggio figure, and the remainder a theme in
two parts, involving a further subdivision of this small remainder. The
result is that the melody is shorn of all its power. He has marked it
_forte_, but a _forte_ is impossible, even with the proper toning down
of the rest of the strings. There is no earthly need for such a page as
this. The whole strength of the strings is frittered away upon things
that do not come out, and would be quite unimportant if they did come
out; and the really important theme is shorn of all its impressiveness.
There is really no necessity for a great deal of the orchestral
complexity in which Strauss now and then delights. It is not essential
to the proper presentation of his ideas; it puts an unnecessary strain
on the time and the nerves of the orchestra; and it tempts young
admirers to go and do likewise, with results absolutely fatal to their
chance of getting a performance from any conductor.

It may be that we are only beating the air in calling Strauss's
attention to facts like these; it may be that without his defects we
should not have his qualities, that the turbulent flood of energy that
leads him into occasional extravagances of scoring is only part of the
greater flood that makes his inspiration the colossal, overwhelming
thing it is. All through the man's brain there is a touch of disorder,
a strain of something or other abnormal, that makes it hard for him
to work at anything for ten minutes without an irresistible desire
surging up in him to deface it. He works at the picture like the soul
of inspiration itself; then suddenly a saturnine whim shoots along
his nerves, and he makes a long erratic stroke with the brush that
comes perilously near to destroying the harmony of the whole thing.
An able critic once expressed it to me, after a performance of _Ein
Heldenleben_, that Strauss as a composer was something like Rubinstein
as a pianist--he cannot go through anything of any length without doing
at least one foolish thing in it. Roughly speaking he was right. Shall
we say that in every great musician there is a flaw in the mental
structure that has to show in one way or another, and that those are
lucky in whom it does not show in their music? So much folly, that
is, is given to each of them, and it has to come out somewhere. In
Wagner it came out in the prose works; they were a beneficent scheme
of Providence for sweeping the brain free of its cobwebs, and leaving
the purified instrument in all the better condition for its music.
Beethoven's madness came out in his private life, again leaving the
brain working in music in perfect ease and balance. Strauss does not
write prose works like Wagner, and does not, like Beethoven, pour
the water all over himself when he is washing his hands, or use a
lady's candle-snuffers as a tooth-pick. He is distressingly normal
in these respects; and lacking such safety valves for the little bit
of folly there is in him, it unfortunately comes out in his music. In
the earlier days he could give full rein to his humour, his power of
characterisation, with the minimum of desire to irritate his hearer
for the pure love of the thing; in _Till Eulenspiegel_, for example,
it is almost all pure delight, a flow of wit and humour that only
for a moment or two is interrupted by the antics of the mischievous
schoolboy. But after that the tendency grew seriously on Strauss to
mar his picture by some piece of malicious folly, to thrust his head
through the canvas and grin at the public, or to place his thumb to his
nose and extend his fingers at them in a derisive flourish.

It is in _Ein Heldenleben_ that this tendency is seen at its worst.
With all its great beauties and its titanic powers, it remains finally
less satisfactory than it easily might have been. It is not all bathed
in the one light; the picture has been seen disconnectedly; it is
an attempt at the marriage of contrarieties. The great question is,
What does _Ein Heldenleben_ purport to represent? Is it meant for a
purely objective painting of a hero--a representation, as it were, of
the hero, _per se_--or is it intended, in parts at least, to draw the
hearer's attention to the personality of Strauss himself? The official
explanation of the work--authorised, we are told, by the composer--is
that _Ein Heldenleben_ is meant as a kind of pendant to _Don Quixote_.
There he had sketched an individual figure, "whose vain search after
heroism leads to insanity." Here he was concerned to present "not a
single poetic or historical figure, but rather a more general and free
ideal of great and manly heroism"; and the idea that the hero of the
poem is anywhere Strauss himself is scouted vigorously.

Now, as regards the general handling of the music, it is, I think,
because Strauss has had this generalised picture in his mind that he
has here come to grief. _Don Quixote_ is such a masterpiece of humanism
precisely because Strauss has confined himself to a strictly human
figure. You can psychologise both broadly and minutely about a human
character, but it is extremely difficult to make a pure abstraction
interesting. At every step you are likely to fall into either the
bombastic or the commonplace. Especially in music should an abstraction
be treated as broadly as possible; the only hope of salvation lies in
avoiding an absurd contrast between the particular and the general.
This is precisely what Strauss, with all his genius, has not succeeded
in avoiding; and when we come to examine his scheme a little more
closely, we have every reason to be dissatisfied with the authorised
version of its purport. In the first place, this hero in the abstract,
this representative of "a more general and free ideal of great and
manly heroism," becomes less and less a generalised type as the work
goes on, and at last--in spite of what the inspired commentators may
say--strikes a great many of us as being nothing more nor less than a
musician--rather a singular narrowing, surely, of the conception of a
hero; and this musician has a curious resemblance to Strauss himself.
No official disclaimers can get rid of those twenty or twenty-five
quotations from Strauss's own earlier works which figure as "the
Hero's Works of Peace" in the authorised analysis. The ingenious
remark of the analyst, that "quoting salient features from his most
important works, he lets us see that the experiences of the hero have
also been his own," is really the idlest trifling. When a man sets
out to describe a typical hero, a "general and free ideal of great
and manly heroism," he does not, as a rule, give as samples of that
universal hero's activity a bunch of quotations from almost every work
he himself has already written. To have done this seriously would have
argued a ludicrous egoism in Strauss; and, in spite of the official
story, I prefer to believe that he was not quite so absurd as this.
We are here face to face with that curious muddling of the purpose,
that perverse desire to stick his own head through the canvas, that is
occasionally so characteristic of him. He cannot resist the impulse at
once to exhibit his marvellous technique, and to fling a pot of paint
in the public's face, as Ruskin said of Whistler; and the result is
this wonderfully clever but psychologically unjustifiable rhapsody
upon himself, inserted in the middle of what is meant to be a purely
objective portrait of a hero. It is not easy, again, to understand the
significance or see the appropriateness of the section entitled "The
Hero's Battlefield." If ever there was anything in music that could
be said to aim at suggesting, crudely and melodramatically, the horror
and the nervous excitement of a physical conflict between armed hosts,
it is this section, with its appalling and hideous racket, that sounds
like strenuous boiler-riveting. But _musicians_ do not fight battles
of this kind, surely; and a scheme that represents a hero whose "works
of peace" are purely intellectual becomes nonsense when it depicts
him fighting like a Hooligan among Hooligans, bludgeoning and being

It is all due, of course, to this muddling up of the two plans--that
of a very definite hero whom Strauss knows very well, and that of
a generalised and indefinite hero whom he finds himself compelled
to describe in the biggest superlatives. The two conceptions will
not equate, will not blend; the one is always trying to destroy the
other. All through the work one is dimly conscious of an absence of
homogeneity, of failure to make the general scheme as coherent and
convincing as it might be; though the man's genius is so titanic that
it almost kills our criticism while we are listening to the work. It is
a pity, too, that he should sacrifice for a moment the nobility of the
general scheme in order to turn aside for a trifling _jeu d'esprit_, in
the notorious section that treats of the hero's antagonists. There is
cleverness in the characterisation; Strauss is painting the portraits
of individual critics who have annoyed him, and those who have seen
him, at rehearsal, suggest to the eyes of the players the different
types he is satirising, must needs laugh even against their own will.
But the section as a whole is a monstrosity; and it is lamentable to
see a great genius turn aside from that mighty statue that he has just
begun to carve, in order to vent his personal feeling against his
personal antagonists. It is simply a crime against art.


It is in _Ein Heldenleben_, more than anywhere else, that we have the
defects of Strauss's qualities. He is of the type that, masterly as
its self-control generally is, cannot refrain at times from becoming
defiantly extravagant. It all goes along with his enormous vital
energy, that energy which is met with in only one or two men in every
century, and that invariably prompts its possessor now and then to the
commission of something or other we would rather have had left undone.
There is in Strauss something of the _débordement_ of Rabelais, a lust
of existence and of apprehension too big to be kept within normal
bounds. There is something in him, too, of Hokusai--that colossal
genius whose eager spirit seemed to try to fill every corner, every
crevice, of the visible world; something of the Japanese artist's
interest in all forms of life, something too of the same occasional
corruption of the imagination--as in the unfinished series of prints
entitled _The Hundred Tales_, where the artist, out of the very excess
of his power and ardour, turns life into a hideous, terrifying mockery
of itself. Strauss is cosmic in his understanding and his sympathies,
but not as men like Goethe and Leonardo are, whose vision is always
clear, and whose energies are always held in check by another energy
higher than themselves; like Rabelais, like Hokusai, like Goya, there
come to him moments when the flood of life within him overflows, and
he is hardly master of the strange shapes that issue from his brain. A
positive artistic rage seizes him, and he embraces life with an ardour
that is cruel, brutal--a passion that has a touch of Sadism in it.

If this enormous sensitiveness to everything that goes on in the
world, and this quickness of reaction of the imagination upon it
all, are answerable for Strauss's occasional lapses from good taste,
they account also for the profounder and more vital qualities of his
art--his humour and his humanism, the qualities that make _Feuersnot_
so delightful and _Don Quixote_ so exceedingly great. London treated
the latter work unkindly at its solitary hearing of it; it is, indeed,
too vast, too many-sided, to be understood at first acquaintance.
One critic called it "ugly, laboured, and eccentric"; another wrote
that it "contains more sheer ugliness than any other score written
by any responsible person of whom we have ever heard, or whose work
we have ever studied.... Everything seems in _Don Quixote_ to be
discordant for the sheer sake of discord.... We condemn that work
from every musicianly point of view; the thing is an artistic
arrogance, an attempt to make the best out of the worst, ... utterly
and completely a failure; it has no recommendation of beauty, not
even the recommendation of fine construction; it is a hopeless piece
of exaggerated and intentional cleverness." Well, a significant
thing happened on the very night on which _Don Quixote_ created such
heartburning. This frightfully complex work, which was absolutely
unknown to more than perhaps ten people in the audience, and was
consequently misunderstood almost from first to last, was followed by
the much earlier _Tod und Verklärung_, a work which itself, a few years
ago, was looked upon as perilously near folly and ugliness. Anyone who
now thinks _Tod und Verklärung_ a tough nut to crack is looked upon as
a hopeless Conservative in music, so very quickly does the world move
in these matters. Even the _Times_ said that after _Don Quixote_ the
_Tod und Verklärung_ sounded quite sane and normal, or words to that
effect. We know how _Also sprach Zarathustra_ was received in 1897,
and how accustomed we have grown to it since then, on the strength of
some three or four performances; we know how many people who shied
nervously at the first performance of _Ein Heldenleben_ now take it as
easily as a cat laps milk. In the face of facts like these, is it not
somewhat hasty to bespatter the _Don Quixote_ with opprobrious epithets
on the strength of just one performance? People have blundered over
Strauss before, and been compelled to eat their words when they came
to know him better; they have run away from the ogre like frightened
children, only to discover long after that the supposed ogre was a
kindly and well-disposed person, of something more than ordinary human
build perhaps, but still on the plane of normal, not sub-normal nor
super-normal, humanity. I say with confidence that they will in time
admit that they have gone grievously astray over _Don Quixote_. It lies
on the mere surface of the matter that some parts of it are ravishingly
beautiful; you have only to play for yourself on the piano the death
music, or the Don's long eulogy of the knightly life, to feel the
very heart leap within you. If this is not surpassingly great music
there is no music in the world worthy of the name. Of other parts the
beauty will be perceived when the work is better known; and the _Don
Quixote_ will then be recognised to be in some ways the profoundest,
noblest thing Strauss has ever done. It is, of course, extraordinarily
realistic in its imitations at times, and I can imagine how the sheep
and the wind-machine jar on the nerves of ordinarily sensitive people.
But you must just laugh at these things and pass them by, take them
as a piece of deliberate musical impertinence, and laugh with the
composer, not at him. It is really a gratuitous assumption that Strauss
is a fool because he has given free wing to his _diablerie_ here and
there; he knows as well as any one the precise value of all this kind
of thing, but he apparently claims that once or twice in a lifetime
it is worth doing for the pure fun of it. We must first of all get
the right point of view if we are to understand _Don Quixote_. It is
all set in a strange, mad atmosphere; the folly that hovers round
it is part of the psychology of the piece; and it is the perfect
transmutation of the mental processes of Quixote into tone that makes
the work so wonderful, so unique. If a man is not smitten through and
through by the pathos of section after section of the piece, I can only
say, for my part, that he has not grasped the real significance of the
work. Frequent hearing of it will make the extraordinarily original
musical tissue quite familiar to men's ears, and when this has been
done there will be no bar to the comprehension of the profoundly human
psychology of a masterpiece that only Strauss could have written. The
score is a treasure-house of true and noble things, which only come
to you in full force when you have steeped yourself in its strange
atmosphere. Take, for example, the variation immediately preceding the
Finale, representing the weary homeward ride of Quixote and Sancho
after the Don's defeat by the Knight of the White Moon. In these long
descending wails of the orchestra you have all the anguish, all the
disillusionment of the poor knight painted with an expressiveness,
a fidelity, that sets one thinking of visual as well as auditory
things. He illustrates the scene as consummately as a pictorial artist
could do, and at the same time throws over it the melting melancholy
that music alone among the arts can express. You can see these poor
broken creatures, with bowed heads, pacing wearily along on steeds
no less sorry, no less bruised than themselves. The whole thing
breathes physical and mental fatigue and moral despair. The score of
_Don Quixote_ is full of a human quality that we rarely get to such
perfection anywhere else, even in Strauss; and London lost a golden
opportunity in not taking the work to its heart at once. As it was, the
more obvious bits of realism in it revolted a good many people, and
left them with insufficient patience to seek beneath the better kind
of humour for the pathos that underlies it; while the extraordinary
complexity of the musical tissue was all against a comprehension of the
work at a first hearing.

What makes the _Don Quixote_ so great a work is, in a word, the wise
and tender humanity of its humour. We can put aside, if we like, all
the wonderful witchery of its technique, its extraordinary graphic
power, its exhilarating and amusing imitations of reality--for there
is here a descriptive sense surpassing in its manifestations _Till
Eulenspiegel_ and _Ein Heldenleben_ at their best. The wise man, who
accepts with thankfulness all that music can give him, will not reject
all this with a sneer and a condescending remark about music "confining
itself to its proper province." The day has gone by for primitive
academic æsthetics of that kind. But I do not want to lay stress upon
this side of _Don Quixote_, simply because there is infinitely more in
the work than this. It represents musical character-sketching brought
to a finer point of perfection than can be met with anywhere outside
the magic world of Wagner. But it differs from Wagner's drawing in
that it is less opulent, more concise, more sharply conceived; it is
wholly appropriate to the sketching block upon which the characters are
drawn, just as Wagner's heroic figures depend upon and are justified
by the huge canvas and the gorgeous range of colour that he is able
to devote to them. The _Don Quixote_ puts us in mind of first-rate
book-illustration; we could hardly see the characters more distinctly,
both in themselves and in relation to their surroundings, if they were
set before us in black and white.

And how tender the drawing is, how exquisitely human is the feeling
for these two poor tragic-comic actors! It is this that finally makes
the work so precious--its unfailing pity, its intuitive avoidance of
anything that would make it simply unthinking comedy. Strauss's Sancho
is very humorous, but your laughter at him is always softened with
tears; while the portrait of Quixote has an added touch of pathos
in that it invariably suggests the spare, worn frame of the poor,
middle-aged knight. It is true in this as in every other respect. His
love-singing is that of a middle-aged man; the pitiful sorrow that
envelops the ride homeward after his defeat is that of middle-age; the
knight is broken, disillusioned, as only men can be whose physical as
well as mental forces have passed their prime. For my part, I can no
longer think of Cervantes's story without Strauss's music, just as I
cannot think of Goethe's _Erl King_ without the music of Schubert, or
of the _Lorelei_ without the music of Liszt.

"The German literary laugh," says Mr. Meredith, in his _Essay on
Comedy_, "like the timed awakenings of their Barbarossa in the hollows
of the Untersberg, is infrequent, and rather monstrous--never a laugh
of men and women in concert. It comes of unrefined abstract fancy,
grotesque or grim, or gross, like the peculiar humours of their
little earthmen. Spiritual laughter they have not yet attained to."
So much may be said, I think, of some of Strauss's laughter. Here and
there--in _Ein Heldenleben_, for example--it seems to come from the
dry and wizened throat of the "little earthman"; it is not yet broadly
and deeply human, not yet cosmopolitan in its appeal. His humour on
occasions like this is very like Jean Paul's; you hardly know whether
he is laughing with you or at you--perhaps he does not quite know
himself. But in _Don Quixote_ you have the philosophic laughter of
the great humanist. It is not to be found there only among Strauss's
works. It gave warmth and pathos to _Till Eulenspiegel_--for wonderful
humoresque as that is, its informing spirit is something much more
complex and much more pity-moving than the idly humorous. We have
assimilated only half of _Till Eulenspiegel_ if we see nothing but
_diablerie_ in it. But it is in _Don Quixote_ that the blending of
tears and laughter is most perfect; and I, for my part, would gladly
sacrifice _Ein Heldenleben_ for this, were I compelled to make the
choice, just as I would relinquish the epic and dramatic grandeur of
_Die Götterdämmerung_ if I might have left to me _Die Meistersinger_,
with its perpetual truth, its perpetual sanity, its perpetual appeal to
real men and women in a real world.


It will be seen from page 252 that the foregoing essay was set up
in type before the _Symphonia domestica_ was produced in London in
February last. That performance threw a new light on Strauss and his
art, and calls for some few words of comment. We need not here go very
deeply into the question of how much or how little programme there is
in the work. There is a strain of foolishness in Strauss that always
prompts him to go through the heavy farce of mystifying his hearers
at first. He tells them he prefers not to give them the clue to his
literary scheme, but wants them to accept the work as absolute music;
this was his tactic, for example, with _Till Eulenspiegel_. All the
while he gives one clue after another to his personal friends, till
at length sufficient information is gathered to reconstruct the story
that he had worked upon; this gradually gets into all the programme
books, and then we are able to listen to the work in the only way it
_can_ be listened to with any comprehension--with a full knowledge of
the programme. So it is now with the _Symphonia domestica_. He has
told us that "he wished the work to be judged as absolute music"; he
has also told us that "he had in his mind a very definite programme
when composing the symphony." Some of his admirers, with a canine
fidelity that is positively touching, have tried to reconcile these
contradictory positions by ingenious dialectic. That, however, is
taking Strauss's whimsies just a little too seriously; it suggests the
Shakespearologists of the George Dawson type, who used to tell us that
even "if there is anything you do not understand or which you think
is wrong in Shakespeare, you may safely conclude that he is right and
you are wrong." We need not discuss Strauss's self-contradictions as
if they were æsthetic antinomies that could be resolved by an Hegelian
dialectic in a more profound harmony; the real explanation is simply
that we are dealing with a man of erratic nerves, a musician not very
well used to consistent thinking, whose sense of humour sometimes
skittishly takes a turning along which it is hardly worth our while to
follow it. There is not the faintest doubt that the whole symphony is
founded on a very definite programme, and that we shall know it all one
of these days, as we now know the minutest details of the programmes of
_Till Eulenspiegel_ and _Ein Heldenleben_.

Then the question arises, is the programme of the _Symphonia domestica_
intrinsically interesting? It avowedly illustrates a day in the
composer's family life, "and we are told"--to quote Messrs. Pitt
and Kalisch, the authors of the admirable Queen's Hall analytical
book--"that it illustrates such everyday incidents as a Walk in the
Country, the Baby's Evening and Morning Bath, the Striking of the
Clock, the Yawns of the Parents when awakened by the Child, and so
on." They will have it, however, that there is more in the work than
this, and that underneath this "trivial subject" there is "one of far
deeper and wider import"--_i.e._ "not so much a day in the life of a
particular family as a realisation of the joys and griefs of motherhood
and paternity, the gradual growth of the child-soul, and the mutual
relationship of children and parents...." But this exalted theory
soon comes to grief. It is quite clear that the striking of seven in
the evening and again in the morning confines the time of the drama
within twelve hours; and on these lines indeed there is some sense in
the programme. That is, we see in the first section the parents and
child; in the second (the _scherzo_) the joys and diversions of the
group, the lullaby, the striking of 7 P.M., and the putting of the
child to bed; in the third (the _adagio_), the parents' love-scene
and the striking of 7 A.M.; in the fourth (the _finale_) the morning
wakening, and--in the double fugue--the dispute between the parents
as to the future of the child. This is not a very great scheme, but
it is at least comprehensible; mix Teutonic moonshine up with it and
it becomes nonsense. Thus Messrs. Pitt and Kalisch, trying to put the
best face possible on that stupid noise that is meant to illustrate
"the energetic protests of the child when it is first brought into
contact with the alien element of cold water" (by the way, _are_
babies usually dumped into cold water?) remark that "if the more
idealistic method of interpretation be adopted, it may be taken as a
very uncompromising musical picture of the earliest struggles of a
new-born soul." But this "idealistic method" will not work. The episode
in question occurs just before the clock strikes 7 P.M. It occurs
again just before the clock strikes 7 A.M. Are we to understand, then,
that the "new-born soul" is born once in the evening and again next
morning? This is being "born again" with a vengeance--quick work even
in these days of Welsh revivals and Torrey-Alexander missions! No, we
must reject the "idealistic method of interpretation," and just settle
down to the plain fact that Strauss is painting nothing more ideal than
the baby squalling in its bath (hot or cold), just as in other works
he has painted Till's death-rattle, the dying shudder of Don Juan,
the windmill and the sheep of Don Quixote, and the braying of Sancho
Panza's donkey--all frankly realistic things, which we do not attempt
to gild with idealistic interpretations.

I lay stress upon these trivial points because it is important that
we should know exactly what Strauss's intentions were, for only with
a knowledge of them can we judge his symphony as a work of art. It
is quite clear then that he has thought it worth while to put about
a hundred people to a great deal of trouble and expense in order to
suggest the imbecile spectacle of a baby shrieking in its bath; and
I think it is time the world protested against so much of its leisure
and its funds being taken up with sheer inanities of this kind. In
Strauss's previous works there are at most only two or three passages
of realism at which I would shy; they have generally been saved for
us by some touch of beauty, or humour, or technical cleverness. But
the baby episodes in the _Symphonia domestica_ are too great a demand
on our indulgence, and one is bound to say that there is something
physically wrong with a brain that can fall so low as this. I hold him
to be a man of enormous gifts, a magician, a wonder-worker of the first
rank. But he can do nothing now on a large scale without deliberately
spoiling it at some point or other out of pure freakishness--a
freakishness that has ceased to be humour, and is merely the temporary
lapse into silliness of a very clever man.

It goes without saying that if there is this degeneration--temporary
or permanent--of the artistic sense that I suppose to be now going on
in Strauss, it will show in other departments; and I think it shows
pretty evidently in the music of the symphony as a whole. To my mind
there is not a memorable theme in it; neither the theme of the husband,
of the wife, nor of the child has anything like the quality that will
entitle it to rank with the pregnant melodies of Strauss's other work.
Think of the countless felicities of _Ein Heldenleben_, and you will
realise at once the comparative poverty of the _Symphonia domestica_.
Further, he is getting too fond of working upon mere snippets of
phrases, instead of the great soaring, sweeping melodies of his earlier
days; these tiny figures will of course go contrapuntally with almost
anything--which is probably one reason for his using them--but for
that same reason their perpetual chattering in the orchestra becomes
in the end rather tiresome. I am not denying, of course, that at times
the music rises to great heights; the scene of the parents playing
with the child is exquisitely beautiful; there are fine moments in the
love-music; and the fugue simply picks one up and carries one away, so
broad and healthy is its heartiness. There is again much of that old
technical mastery that makes slaves of us even where our soul revolts
against the actual message of the composer. But on the whole I do not
see how the new work can stand comparison with _Ein Heldenleben_ in any
way. It looks far more impressive on paper than it actually sounds;
it is grossly overscored, a good third of the notes being perfectly
superfluous, as anyone can discover for himself by following it with
the score. The mania is growing on Strauss for filling the music-paper
with something or other, it matters not what; he has a lust for ink;
it positively afflicts him to see an empty bar for any instrument.
Master of orchestration as he is, there is page after page in the
_Symphonia domestica_ containing the grossest of miscalculations; time
after time we can see what his intention has been and how completely
it has been frustrated by his own extravagance. He wants to wear all
the clothes in his wardrobe at once. The same tendency is noticeable
in his thematic work. When he has a good theme now he cannot leave it
alone; he must fumble and fuss all round it till he has blurred its
outline and stifled half its expression; the pleasant little lullaby,
for example, would have been three times as effective without that
jerky counterpoint against it in the oboe d'amore, bassoon, and viola,
which simply gives the impression that somebody or other is always
coming in at the wrong place, and quite disturbs the atmosphere of the
lullaby itself. Altogether I am inclined to think that the new work as
a whole shows a decided falling-off. And the reason? Well, is it not
very likely that there has at last happened what some of us prophesied
some two or three years ago? No artist can put so great a physical and
mental strain upon himself as Strauss does and still keep his brain
at its best. With all his many duties and occupations, his conducting
and his constant travelling, it is a wonder he has any strength left
to compose. For years he has been wearing his sensitive nervous system
down to the very edge; and I should not be surprised to find that in
doing so he has injured a good deal the delicacy of its tissue. It is
said that he lives the busy life he does in order to make enough money
to give up all public work and devote himself entirely to composition;
but before that time comes he will probably, if he is not careful,
have lost more of the divine fire than he can ever replace. The
_Symphonia domestica_ I take to be the work of an enormously clever man
who was once a genius.


[59] It is put down for a performance in London this spring.

[60] It is worth noting how Berlioz justified his own setting of some
passages in _Roméo et Juliette_ orchestrally instead of vocally. "If,"
he says, "in the celebrated scenes of the garden and the cemetery, the
dialogue of the two lovers, the _a parte_ of Juliet and the passionate
outbursts of Romeo are not vocalised, if, in short, the duets of
love and despair are confided to the orchestra, the reasons for this
are numerous and easy to grasp. First, because we are dealing with a
symphony, not with an opera. Secondly, duets of this nature having been
treated vocally a thousand times, and by the greatest masters, there
was both prudence and curiosity in trying another mode of expression.
It is, moreover, because the very sublimity of this love made the
painting of it so dangerous for the musician, that he had to give his
imagination a latitude which the positive connotations of chanted
words would not have permitted him, by resorting to the instrumental
language--a language richer, more varied, less restricted, and by its
very indefiniteness incomparably more powerful in cases of this kind."

[61] The reader will, of course, remember that I am here speaking only
of the _tissue_ of Strauss's work. In the intellectual part of it,
as I shall show later, he sometimes does things with the deliberate
intention of startling us. See Section IV. of this essay.

[62] Perhaps I ought to except such things as the passage in _Ein
Heldenleben_ (page 50 of the full score), where the strings and oboe
run up in sevenths, instead of the sixths we expect--an agonising thing
that always sounds as if somebody in the orchestra had made a mistake.
Either Strauss wrote it so out of pure devilment, with his tongue in
his cheek all the time, or it may answer to some subtle harmony in his
brain that ours are incompetent to grasp. There can be no doubt that
his ear must be vastly more acute than the normal organ. As Mr. James
Huneker puts it in a brilliant article in his _Overtones_: "His is the
most marvellous agglomeration of cortical cells that science has ever
recorded. So acute are his powers of acoustical differentiation that he
must hear, not alone tones beyond the base and the top of the normal
scale unheard of by ordinary humans, but he must also hear, or rather
overhear, the vibratory waves from all individual sounds. His music
gives us the impression of new over-tones, of scales that violate the
well-tempered, of tonalities that approximate to the quarter-tones of
Oriental music."

[63] In _Feuersnot_, it may be said, Strauss himself goes back for
a moment to something like that old world. But he does not take it
seriously; the quaint mediæval story is only a background against
which he can display his passion, his humour, his irony. Wagner would
have made a portentous thing of the _Feuersnot_ subject; he would have
discovered the profoundest philosophy and ethic in it. Strauss behaves
towards it like a graceless, irreverent urchin in a cathedral.



The passage on page 6 seems to have roused the ire of Mr. Ashton Ellis,
who devotes some seven and a half strenuous pages of the fifth volume
of his "Life of Wagner" partly to childish personal abuse of myself,
partly to an attempt to discredit my arguments. Over Mr. Ellis's
mixture of clumsy rudeness and heavy Teutonic facetiousness we need
not linger; these things have no novelty for Wagner students who have
sojourned long in the Elysian fields of controversy. Nor need we turn
aside to follow Mr. Ellis in his wild attempt to make it appear that
I had relied solely on a passage in Tiersot's _Berlioz et la société
de son temps_, when my remarks on Hueffer's translation of Wagner's
word "Geschmacklosigkeiten," as applied to _Faust_, might have shown
him that I knew both Hueffer's volumes and the German original. These
things are entertaining but irrelevant. Let us rather get to the real
business--the guilt or innocence of Wagner.

Let me, for clearness' sake, summarise the main facts again.

(1) In 1848, Liszt, having become all-powerful at Weimar, began to
make valiant efforts on behalf of modern composers. He did much
for Wagner, especially by his performances of _Lohengrin_. He also
revived Berlioz's opera, _Benvenuto Cellini_. Wagner fully agreed
with _Lohengrin_ being given, but not so fully with the revival of
_Benvenuto Cellini_. He told Liszt he did not see what great good could
come from this, though all the time anxiously protesting that his
feeling towards Berlioz was of the kindest.

(2) Writing to Liszt on 8th September 1852, disparaging Berlioz's
_Cellini_ and his _Faust_, he speaks of the latter as the "Faust

(3) The use of the term "symphony" is _à priori_ evidence of Wagner's
ignorance of the work.

(4) No evidence can be brought to show that he knew either _Cellini_ or
_Faust_, while everything indicates that he could not know them. Wagner
was not in Paris in 1838 and 1846, when they were respectively given;
nor could he have known them from the scores, which were not published
till after 1852--the date of the letter to Liszt.

(5) In Hueffer's translation of the Wagner-Liszt correspondence, of
which the second edition is "revised and furnished with an index by W.
Ashton Ellis," the word "symphony" is deliberately omitted, thus hiding
from the reader the one word that might set him doubting whether Wagner
really knew the work he disparaged.

(6) In the third volume of Mr. Ellis's "Life of Wagner," which deals
with this correspondence of 1852, the whole sentence referring to the
"Faust Symphony" is omitted. Wagner is thus made to appear a perfect
angel of goodwill towards Berlioz, without any such qualification as
the letter as a whole suggests.

Mr. Ellis is first of all very angry with me for dragging him into the
matter at all. Then he gets more angry with me for failing to see what
is clear enough to him, that Wagner was invariably and inevitably right
in everything he did or said--as it were the "Archibald the All-right"
of music. Finally, he produces what he takes to be conclusive evidence
in Wagner's favour. Let us look into these matters in a calm and
friendly way.

(1) It cannot be disputed that Hueffer's omission of the word
"symphony" from his translation of Wagner's letter to Liszt of 8th
September 1852 was deliberate. Now in his preface to the volumes he
goes out of his way to plume himself on the perfect fidelity of his
translation to the original. "There are things in the letters," he
says, "which are of comparatively little interest to the English
reader." "There is no doubt that judicious omissions might have made
these pages more readable and more amusing." But the book "is almost
of a monumental character, and his deep respect for this character
has induced the translator to produce its every feature.... Not a
line has been omitted." And again: "To sum up, this translation of
the correspondence is intended to be an exact facsimile of the German
original." As we have seen, these statements are not true; Hueffer
suppressed a vital word. The only reason we can imagine for his doing
so was the knowledge that the inclusion of the word might make people
suspect that Wagner did not know the work he miscalled a "Faust

(2) A second edition of Hueffer's translation was brought out,
"revised, and furnished with an index, by W. Ashton Ellis." Mr. Ellis
now indignantly points out that in his preface he distinctly stated
that "in view of the admirable nature of Dr. Hueffer's work, revision
was unnecessary save in the case of a few misprinted words and
dates." Very good. Did Mr. Ellis compare Hueffer's translation with
the original? Then he should have detected and rectified Hueffer's
suppression of the word "symphony." Did he not compare the two? Then he
had no right to certify Hueffer's work as so "admirable" that "revision
was unnecessary." In this one point, at any rate, it was decidedly not
admirable; it evidently stood more in need of Mr. Ellis's revision than
Mr. Ellis's certificate.

(3) Mr. Ellis can say nothing better in defence of his own omission of
the whole passage from the third volume of his "Life" than that, as
he was writing a life not of Berlioz but of Wagner, he had no space
for "a dissertation on so entirely distinct a theme as the _Faust_ of
Berlioz." No one expected from him a dissertation on _Faust_. All he
was expected to do was to find space, in a voluminous biography that
takes about 1800 pages to tell the story of the first forty-two years
of Wagner's life, for five or six lines of a letter that threw an
important light on Wagner, especially as Mr. Ellis was actually quoting
from the letter in question.

Here is the passage in the original:--

"Glaub mir--ich liebe Berlioz, mag er sich auch misstrauisch
und eigensinnig von mir entfernt halten: er kennt mich nicht;
aber ich kenne ihn. Wenn ich mir von Einem etwas erwarte, so ist
dies von Berlioz: nicht aber auf dem Wege, auf dem er bis zu den
Geschmacklosigkeiten seiner Faust-symphonie gelangte--denn geht er dort
weiter, so kann er nur noch vollständig lächerlich werden. Gebraucht
ein Musiker den Dichter, so ist diess Berlioz, und sein Unglück ist,
dass er sich diesen Dichter immer nach seiner musikalischen Laune
zurechtlegt, bald Shakespeare, bald Goethe, sich nach seinem Belieben
zurichtet. Er braucht den Dichter, der ihn durch und durch erfüllt, der
ihn vor Entzücken zwingt, der ihm das ist, was der Mann dem Weibe ist."

Hueffer's translation of it as follows:--

"Believe me, I _love_ Berlioz, although he keeps apart from me in his
distrust and obstinacy; he does not know me, but I know him. If I have
expectations of any one it is of Berlioz, but not in the direction in
which he has arrived at the absurdities of his _Faust_. If he proceeds
further in that direction he must become perfectly ridiculous. If ever
a musician wanted the poet it is Berlioz, and his misfortune is that he
always prepares this poet for himself, according to his musical whim,
arbitrarily handling now Shakespeare, now Goethe. He wants a poet who
would completely penetrate him," &c.

Mr. Ellis, in his "Life" (vol. iii. pp. 336, 337), deals with the
passage thus:--

"Believe me,--I _love_ Berlioz, however mistrustfully and obstinately
he holds aloof from me; he does not know me,--but I know him. If there
is one man I expect something of, it is Berlioz.... But he needs a poet
who shall fill him through and through," &c.

Mr. Ellis, it will be observed, is not using Hueffer's translation;
and as the passage does not occur in Glasenapp's "Life of Wagner" at
all (which puts out of the question any translation from a mutilated
version), it is clear that Mr. Ellis has translated direct from the
German original. When he tells us that he had no design of concealment
in omitting the phrases about the "Faust Symphony" we are, of course,
bound to believe him. But it is unfortunate that in his sudden and most
unusual passion for economy of space he should stop just short of the
word that is so awkward for Wagner. And one would rather he had not
given a factitious air of sequence to the clauses of his quotation by
removing the "but" from its proper position (after "If there is one
man I expect something of, it is Berlioz"), endowing it with a capital
letter, and making it the commencement of a new sentence. The English
reader will see what has happened by looking at Hueffer's version:
everything from "not in the direction" to "now Goethe" has been
omitted, and the "but" carried down from its proper place after "it is
of Berlioz," and improperly made to begin another sentence. The German
reader will see that the "nicht aber" (not however) of the sentence
"nicht aber auf dem Wege, auf dem er bis zu den Geschmacklosigkeiten
seiner Faust-symphonie gelangte" has been shelved, and a fresh "Aber"
called from the void and made to preface the sentence "Er gebraucht den
Dichter," &c.

Let us now examine the _Benvenuto Cellini_ case. The passage in
Wagner's letters to Liszt of 13th April and 8th September 1852 run thus
(Hueffer's translation):--

"What is this you have heard about me in connection with your
performance of _Cellini_? You seem to suppose that I am hostile to it.
Of this error I want you to get rid.... In the consequences which, as I
am told, you expect from the performance of _Cellini_ I cannot believe,
that is all."--"B. (Bülow) has shewn quite correctly where the failure
of _Cellini_ lies, viz., in the poem and in the unnatural position in
which the musician was forcibly placed by being expected to disguise
by purely musical intentions a want which the poet alone could have
made good."

Unable to give a jot of evidence that Wagner could possibly have known
_Cellini_, Mr. Ellis guesses that he was condemning the work not on
the score of the music, but on the basis of "a libretto or second-hand
report." Even if this were so, it would not justify Wagner's remarks.
What would _he_ have said of any one who ran down _Tristan_ without
knowing any more of it than "a libretto or a second-hand report," and
on the strength of this threw cold water on a theatrical manager's
scheme for performing it? But there is no reason to believe that Wagner
had even so much as a libretto. Liszt's tone to Wagner throughout
the correspondence is that of a man fully acquainted with _Cellini_
at first hand to a man who is only repeating current tittle-tattle
about it. The reason Wagner gave for objecting to the revival of the
opera was that he had heard that Berlioz was "recasting" it, and that
it would become him much better to write a new work than to touch-up
an old one. On the 7th October 1852 Liszt, after agreeing that "the
weakness of Berlioz's mode of working" comes from his poem, goes on to
say, "but you have been erroneously _led to believe_ that Berlioz is
writing his _Cellini_. This is not the case; the question at issue is
simply as to a very considerable cut--nearly a whole tableau--which
I have proposed to Berlioz, and which he has approved of.... If it
interests you _I will send you the new libretto together with the old
one_, and I think you will approve of the change...." Is it not clear
that Liszt assumes as a matter of fact Wagner's complete ignorance
of the work? In an earlier letter, dated 23rd August, Liszt tells
him that in November he is expecting Berlioz, "whose _Cellini_ (with
a considerable cut) must not be shelved, for _in spite of all the
stupid things that have been set going about it_, '_Cellini_' is and
remains a remarkable and highly estimable work. _I am sure you would_
_like many things in it._" The latter of the two passages I have here
italicised shows once more that Liszt speaks to Wagner as to a man who
does not know the opera; and the former passage indicates that there
was a good deal of stupid and malevolent gossip afloat concerning
it among people who also were ignorant of it. Moreover, on the 31st
October 1853, Liszt again assumes Wagner's ignorance: "For this work
I retain my great predilection, which you will not think uncalled
for when you know it better." Mr. Ellis, indeed, practically admits
that all Wagner had to go upon was a report of Bülow's in the _Neue
Zeitschrift_ of April 1852. (See, above, Wagner's letter to Liszt of
8th September 1852: "B. (_i.e._ Bülow) has shewn quite correctly where
the failure of '_Cellini_' lies, viz., in the poem," &c. It will be
noticed that the letter in which Wagner first sniffs at _Cellini_ is
dated the 13th of this same month of April.) What would Mr. Ellis say
of any anti-Wagnerian who should criticise _Tristan_ not even from the
libretto, but from the second-hand idea of it derived from some one
else's article on it?

Mr. Ellis's plea that Wagner was talking of _Cellini_ not publicly, but
in a private letter, is irrelevant. A public article would have been
read by a few curious people and forgotten; in throwing cold water on
Liszt's revival of the opera, Wagner was in danger of doing Berlioz
a serious injury. For about fourteen years after its first failure
_Cellini_ had not had a performance anywhere. There was only one man in
Europe who combined the qualifications of knowing the opera, admiring
it, being able to conduct it, and having at his own disposal an opera
house where the work could be given. That man was Liszt; upon him, and
him alone, it depended whether Berlioz should have a chance of showing
that _Cellini_ had been unjustly condemned in 1838. Had Liszt been weak
enough to have been privately influenced by Wagner, Berlioz would have
undoubtedly suffered far more than he could have done from a public

Now for the _Faust_ affair. Wagner was not in Paris in 1846, when
_Faust_ received its two performances. Mr. Ellis, however, sagely
opines that "it is not absolutely impossible (!) that Wagner should
have heard fragments (!) either of the earlier _Huit Scènes_ (_i.e._
the eight numbers referred to on p. 95 of the present volume),
or the _Damnation_ itself." This invocation of the aid of the
"not-absolutely-impossible" does not help us very much, I am afraid.
"But for argument's sake," continues our intrepid apologist, "let us
say he had not; about the work he must have heard, or he could not
know of its existence." (Here, at any rate, Mr. Ellis's penetrating
intelligence has struck home. Even _I_ am compelled to admit that
Wagner must have heard about the work, or he could not have known
of its existence.) "And if about it, why should the general outline
of common artistic repute (Wagner still maintaining desultory
correspondence with old Paris friends of good art-judgment, as we know)
not be enough to furnish him with grounds for deploring its scheme in a
private letter?" I have already dealt with the contention that Wagner
was justified in running down works he did not know so long as the
running-down was done privately. For the rest, the argument is just our
old friend the "not-absolutely-impossible" again. It is not absolutely
impossible that Wagner should have known some one who heard the work in
Paris six years previously; it is not absolutely impossible that Wagner
should have corresponded with this friend on the subject of _Faust_;
it is not absolutely impossible that this friend should have been a
man "of good art-judgment." Such a string of "may-have-beens" may be
confidently left to its fate. But once more, if any one had disparaged
a work of Wagner's on the strength of such dubious information, what
would Wagner have said of him then, and what would Mr. Ellis say of him

But even Mr. Ellis, I imagine, does not take these phantom speculations
of his very seriously. From his own point of view, indeed, there was
never any need for him to indulge in them, so confident is he that in
his closing paragraph he has a piece of evidence, that is shattering
in its conclusiveness. He will not have it that to call _The Damnation
of Faust_ a symphony is to betray ignorance of it. Was not Berlioz's
_Romeo and Juliet_ a "dramatic symphony"? It was indeed; but in the
first place, Berlioz himself called _Romeo and Juliet_ a symphony,
whereas he never applied that title to _Faust_; and in the second
place, _Romeo and Juliet_ really _is_ a symphony, in the sense that
time after time the work is carried on by means of orchestral movements
pure and simple--while _Faust_ is not a symphony in any sense, and
could hardly have been called one by any one who knew it. Mr. Ellis
is "credibly informed" that it was called a symphony "in Paris at the
time." I take leave to doubt it; but in any case, Mr. Ellis's credible
informant might have given him some evidence that it was so called by
any one who had heard it. Adolphe Adam, for example, writing about
it to a friend on the morrow of its performance, calls it "a kind
of opera in four parts" (see J. G. Prodhomme's _Hector Berlioz_, p.
278). Berlioz himself, as Mr. Ellis notes, styled it a "Legend" or
"Dramatic Legend." Uninformed gossip no doubt gave it the title of
"symphony," in the years after 1846, from a vague idea that it must
necessarily have been of the same type of structure as _Romeo and
Juliet_. Gossip may have had something else to go upon too. In 1829
Berlioz had really thought (as we see from a letter to Humbert Ferrand
quoted in Adolphe Jullien's _Hector Berlioz_, p. 182) of writing a
"symphonie descriptive de _Faust_." Shortly before that he had tried
to get a commission from the Opera for a ballet on the same subject.
These facts may have lingered in the air for years, and in the general
vagueness upon the matter after 1846 it may well be that Berlioz's
name was often associated with a _Faust_ "symphony." It was apparently
this ill-informed gossip that Wagner was repeating. Fragments of
_Faust_, by the way, were given at some of Berlioz's Russian and German
concerts, and there was a complete performance of it at Berlin in 1847.
Wagner, of course, was in Dresden at that time. There is hardly the
slightest likelihood, again, that he had a score of the _Huit Scènes_,
a few copies of which Berlioz had rashly had engraved at his own
expense in 1829, and published at 30 francs; and even if Wagner _did_
know these eight fragments, that would not justify him in criticising
_The Damnation of Faust_ without knowing it. I repeat that the only
conclusion we can come to is that he called it a symphony because he
was ignorant of it.

But now Mr. Ellis's great discovery comes in. He quotes from a letter
of Liszt to Breitkopf and Härtel, the music publishers, of 30th
October 1852: "I am expecting M. Berlioz here ... and on the 21st the
symphonies of _Romeo and Juliet_ and _Faust_ will be performed, which I
proposed to you to publish." Here Mr. Ellis imagines me crying out, "It
is all that wretched Wagner's fault; he had put the word into Liszt's
innocent head six weeks before." "But Berlioz," Mr. Ellis goes on to
say, "arrives at Weimar, conducts les 2 premiers actes' of his _Faust_
at one concert with his _Romeo_, and behold--no longer innocent, Liszt
writes Professor Christian Lobe, editor of the _Fliegende Blätter für
Musik_, May 1st 1853: 'The German public is still unacquainted with
the greater part of Berlioz's works, and after many enquiries that
have been addressed me in the past few months, I believe a German
translation of the catalogue might have a good effect; perhaps with
division into categories, _e.g._ OVERTURES, _Francs Juges_, &c....
SYMPHONIES, (1) _Episode_, (2) _Harold_, (3) _Romeo and Juliet_, (4)
_Damnation of Faust_; VOCAL PIECES, &c. &c.'"

Alas! Mr. Ellis is no happier here than in his other attempts to get
out of the difficulty. It is not clear, to begin with, why he should
suppose that Liszt's or any one else's knowledge of _Faust_ should
prove Wagner to have known it. But putting that aside, what seems
to have shaped itself in Mr. Ellis's mind is some such ramshackle
syllogism as this: "If Liszt, who knew the _Faust_ so well, wrongly
calls it a symphony, the use of the erroneous title by Wagner makes it
possible that he too may have known it." It all looks promising enough;
but it has one fatal flaw, one point upon which Mr. Ellis, in his hurry
to whoop, forgot to make quite sure. His confident assumption that
Liszt _did_ know _Faust_ is unjustified.

My previous point that people who did not know the work had got into
the habit of calling it a symphony is proved by other letters of Liszt
in which he thus speaks of it. On the 4th September 1852, for example,
he writes to Cornelius: "On the 12th November I expect a visit from
Berlioz, who will spend a week at Weimar. Then we shall have _Cellini_,
the symphony of _Romeo and Juliet_, and some pieces from the _Faust_
symphony." Mr. Ellis may think this confirms his own theory. But it
is worth while looking again at the above-quoted letter of Liszt of
30th October 1852 to Breitkopf and Härtel, and the circumstances that
called it forth. On the 7th June Berlioz had written to Liszt that he
was going to give a concert in Paris, at which he would perform some
fragments of _Faust_. "_I am truly sorry_," he says, "_that you do not
know this work._ I cannot get a publisher to take it; they find it too
big to engrave (_trop riche de planches_). I must apply to Ricordi of
Milan.... In any case, if you were to find a daring German publisher
capable of undertaking this rash act, you can tell him that _Faust_ has
been well translated into German." It is evident that after receiving
this letter, Liszt wrote to Breitkopf and Härtel recommending them
to publish the work; this is the proposal he refers to in his letter
of 30th October 1852. So that the very letter of Liszt's which Mr.
Ellis quotes triumphantly for its use of the term "Faust Symphony" was
prompted by a letter from Berlioz, in which he distinctly says that
Liszt does not know the work!

Bearing this in mind, let us follow up the subsequent course of
events, and see whether Liszt knew it _after_ Berlioz's visit to
Weimar--whether, that is, he was not still in much the same state of
ignorance about it when he wrote the letter of 1st May 1853 to Lobe.
It can be shown that Liszt had nothing to do with the performance of
the first two acts of _Faust_ at Weimar; that Berlioz brought the score
and parts with him from Paris and took the rehearsals and the concert
himself, whereas Liszt himself took charge of _Cellini_. On the 10th
October 1852 Berlioz writes to Liszt in terms that once more place the
latter's complete ignorance of the work beyond dispute. Berlioz has
actually to tell him the number and quality of soloists to engage. "I
will leave here for Weimar on the 12th November, certain. I will arrive
on the 15th, and can stay in your neighbourhood eight days, but no
more.... Now tell me by the next post if it is necessary for me to send
you the vocal parts of _Faust_, or if it will suffice that I should
bring them with me. The soloists and chorus would in that case have to
learn in four or five days the fragments to be given at the concert.
Only a tenor and a bass (_soli_) are needed for these fragments of
_Faust_, Marguerite appearing only in the last two acts." Berlioz would
not tell an elementary fact like that to a man who already knew the

Then, on the 6th November, he writes: "I send you to-day the parcel
containing the _Faust_ vocal parts, the choruses, the rôles, and a
German libretto ... and the vocal score (for sixty-three people). The
orchestral parcel is too large; I will bring it myself. It would be of
no use to you before my arrival." Clearly Liszt was not even going to
conduct the rehearsals, which would not be begun until Berlioz arrived
at Weimar. (The _Faust_ fragments were evidently rehearsed hurriedly;
there is a letter of Frau Pohl's extant describing the success of the
performances, and saying how amazing it was that so much should have
been accomplished in so short a time.) Berlioz's further remarks once
more show that he assumes Liszt's complete ignorance of the work:
"It is not difficult; only the chorus and the principal parts are
dangerous. We will announce for the concert the first two parts only,
for which no Marguerite is required. You will need a tenor (Faust),
a deep bass (Mephisto), and another bass (Brander). It will last an
hour." All this, pointing conclusively to Liszt's total ignorance of
the work, is in the identical letter which Mr. Ellis actually cites in
another connection!

Even after the Weimar concert, which took place about the 20th November
1852, Liszt knew no more of _Faust_ than what he had heard there. It is
clear from a letter of his to Radecke of 9th December 1852, and one of
27th February 1853 to Schmidt, that the parcel containing the score and
the parts was sent on to Berlioz in Paris a few days after the concert.
Liszt, in fact, though he looked after _Cellini_ and the other works,
had practically nothing to do with _Faust_. Berlioz brought the score
and parts with him, conducted the rehearsals, conducted the concert,
and then on his departure left the parcel with Liszt, to be forwarded
to him in Paris. Moreover, we may be pretty sure that all he took with
him was the score of the first two parts--all that were given at the
concert. The bulky manuscript score, now in the Conservatoire library
at Paris, is bound up in three (or four) volumes--I forget which at
the moment. If any one should conjecture that Berlioz might have taken
with him the score of the whole work to show to Liszt, that supposition
is disposed of by a letter of Berlioz, dated Dresden, 22nd April 1854.
The complete _Faust_ had just been given there. Berlioz wishes Liszt
had been present: "I regret that you could not have heard the last two
acts, _which you do not know_." Everything points to the fact that
even Liszt's knowledge of _Faust_ was limited to a hearing of the
first two acts at the Weimar concert. There is plenty of subsequent
correspondence with Berlioz, but it is all about _Cellini_, which
Liszt had produced and knew thoroughly. In after years people used to
write to him--people who were compiling books on Berlioz, or trying to
get hold of his correspondence, or investigating the history of the
Weimar theatre--and ask Liszt to tell them something of his relations
with Berlioz. Liszt's reply is always the same; he is proud of having
refloated _Cellini_, but he does not mention _Faust_. Even when he
tells the Grand Duke Carl Alexander that Berlioz gave three concerts
in Weimar, there is still no mention of the _Faust_ fragments, which
apparently had been no affair of his.

In 1853 and 1854 he calls the work a symphony, knowing no better,
having neither seen the score nor heard a complete performance of
it. But in 1854 the score is published, and a copy sent to Liszt. In
December of that year he writes two letters on the same day. In one
of them, to Mason, the old habit is still too strong for him, and he
speaks of the "dramatic symphony of _Faust_";[64] in the other, to
Wasielewski, he refers to it as _Faust_ only. Thereafter, so far as I
can discover, he never speaks of it as a symphony. See, for example,
his letters of 9th February 1856 to Edward Liszt, 19th February 1856 to
Brendel, 3rd January 1857 to Turanyi, 16th September 1861 to Brendel,
March 1883 to Vicomte Henri Delaborde, 12th September 1884 to Pohl, 1st
January 1855 ("Do you know the score of his _Damnation de Faust_?"),
and 24th December 1855 to Wagner.

So much for the question of Liszt and _Faust_, which Mr. Ellis dragged
in so gleefully to help his own case and Wagner's. In the absence of
any new facts, I contend that it is abundantly clear that Liszt too
called _Faust_ a symphony only because he did not know it. If Wagner
is to be whitewashed at all, it must be by a less brittle brush than
this. As regards his disparagement of both _Cellini_ and _Faust_, the
defence seems to me to have broken down completely; he knew nothing of
either of them.
                                                               E. N.

                                THE END


[64] It should be borne in mind that Liszt himself was writing a "Faust
Symphony" during the period covered by this controversy. He speaks of
having finished it, in fact, in the letter to Wasielewski of this very
date, 14th December. His constant use of the term to describe his own
work might easily account for his transferring it unconsciously to that
of Berlioz.

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                         TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES:

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Obvious punctuation and other printing errors have been corrected.

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