Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/68

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58
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

race in all times; so much so that we wonder how life could ever have been passed without it. In the earlier stages it was united with poetry, and the poetical element was of equal power with the musical accompaniment, if not of greater. As the ethical instructors of mankind have always disavowed the pursuit of pleasure as such, and allowed it only as subsidiary to morality and social duty, the question with legislators has been what form of music is best calculated to educe the moral virtues and the nobler characteristics of the mind. It was this view that entered into the speculative social constructions of Plato and Aristotle. Now, undoubtedly the various modes of music operate very differently on the mind: every one knows the extremes of martial and ecclesiastical music; and fancy can insert many intermediate grades.[1]

For the moment, a musical strain exerts immense power over the mind, to animate, to encourage, to soothe, and to console. But the facts do not bear us out in attributing to it any permanent moral influence; nothing is more fugitive than the excitement of a musical performance. Excepting its value as a substantive contribution to the enjoyment of life, I am not able to affirm that it has any influence on education, whether moral or intellectual. Certainly, if it has any effect in the moral sphere, it has none that I can trace in the sphere of intellect. As a recreative variety in the midst of toil, it deserves every encomium. In those exercises that are half recreative, half educational, as drill and gymnastic, the accompaniment of a band is most stimulating. In the Kindergarten it is well brought in, as the wind-up to the morning's work. But music during ordinary lessons, or any sort of intellectual work, is mere distraction, as every one knows from the experience of street bands and organs.

Excess in the pleasures of music, like every other excess, is unfavorable to mental culture. But some of the most intellectual men that ever lived have been devotees of music. In the case of Luther it seems to have been incorporated with his whole being; Milton invoked it as an aid in poetic inspiration. These were men whose genius largely involved their emotions. But the musical enthusiasm of Jeremy Bentham could have no bearing on his work, further than as so much enjoyment.

Poetry is music and a great deal more. Its bearings are more numerous and complicated. In the ruder stages of music, when it accompanied poetry, the main effects lay in the poetry. The poetic form—the rhythm and the metre—impresses the ear, and is an aid to mem-

  1. Plato, in the "Republic," wishing to train a vigorous and hardy race, interdicted not simply the unfavorable musical strains, but the instruments most adapted to these. He permits only the lyre and the harp, with the Pan's pipe for shepherds attending their flocks; forbidding both the flute and all complicated stringed instruments. Disallowing the lugubrious, passionate, soft, and convivial modes of music, he tolerates none but the Dorian and the Phrygian, suitable to a sober, resolute, courageous frame of mind; to which also the rhythm and movement of the body are to be adapted (Grote's "Plato," iii., 196).