“With thundering noise the azure vault they tear,
And rend, with savage roar, the echoing air:
The sounds terrific he with horror hears;
His fiddle throws aside — and stops his ears.”
We have seen displayed the distress of a poet; in this the artist has exhibited the rage of a musician. Our poor bard bore his misfortunes with patience, and, rich in his Muse, did not much repine at his poverty. Not so this master of harmony, of heavenly harmony! To the evils of poverty he is now a stranger; his adagios and cantabiles have procured him the protection of nobles; and, contrary to the poor shirtless mendicant of the Muses that we left in a garret, he is arrayed in a coat decorated with frogs, a bag-wig, solitaire, and ruffled shirt. Waiting in the chamber of a man of fashion, whom he instructs in the divine science of music, having first tuned his instrument, he opens his crotchet-book, shoulders his violin, flourishes his fiddle-stick, and,
Softly sweet, in Lydian measure,
Soon he soothes his soul to pleasure.
Rapt in Elysium at the divine symphony, he is awakened from his beatific vision, by noises that distract him.
————— An universal hubbub wild,
Of stunning sounds, and voices all confus’d,
Assails his ears with loudest vehemence.
Confounded with the din, and enraged by the interruption, our modern Terpander starts from his seat, and opens the window. This operates as air to a kindling fire; and such a combination of noises burst upon the auricular nerve, that he is compelled to stop his ears — but to stop the torrent is impossible!
A louder yet, and yet a louder strain,
Break his bands of thought asunder!
And rouse him, like a rattling peal of thunder;
At the horrible sound
He has rais’d up his head,
As awak’d from the dead,
And amazed he stares all around.
In this situation he is delineated; and those who for a moment contemplate the figures before him, cannot wonder at his rage.
A crew of hell-hounds never ceasing bark,
With wide Cerberean mouth, full loud, and ring
A hideous peal.
Of the dramatis personæ who perform the vocal parts, the first is a fellow, in a tone that would rend hell’s concave, bawling, “Dust, ho! dust, ho! dust!” Next to him, an amphibious animal, who nightly pillows his head on the sedgy bosom of old Thames, in a voice that emulates the rush of many waters, or the roaring of a cataract, is bellowing “Flounda,a,a,ars!” A daughter of May-day, who dispenses what in London is called milk, and is consequently a milk-maid, in a note pitched at the very top of her voice, is crying, “Be-louw!” While a ballad-singer dolefully drawls out The Ladie’s Fall, an infant in her arms joins its treble pipe in chorus with the screaming parrot, which is on a lamp-iron over her head. On the roof of an opposite house are two cats, performing what an amateur of music might perhaps call a bravura duet; near them appears
A sweep, shrill twittering on the chimney-top.
A little French drummer, singing to his rub-a-dub, and the agreeable yell of a dog, complete the vocal performers.
Of the instrumental, a fellow blowing a horn, with a violence that would have almost shaken down the walls of Jericho, claims the first notice; next to him, the dustman rattles his bell with ceaseless clangour, until the air reverberates the sound.
The intervals are filled up by a paviour, who, to every stroke of his rammer, adds a loud, distinct, and echoing, Haugh! The pedestrian cutler is grinding a butcher’s cleaver with such earnestness and force, that it elicits sparks of fire. This, added to the agonizing howls of his unfortunate dog, must afford a perfect specimen of the ancient chromatic. The poor animal, between a man and a monkey, piping harsh discords upon a hautboy, the girl whirling her crepitaculum, or rattle, and the boy beating his drum, conclude the catalogue of this harmonious band.
This delineation originated in a story which was told to Hogarth by the late Mr. John Festin, who is the hero of the print. He was eminent for his skill in playing upon the German flute and hautboy, and much employed as a teacher of music. To each of his scholars he devoted one hour each day. “At nine o’clock in the morning,” said he, “I once waited upon my lord Spencer, but his lordship being out of town, from him I went to Mr. V——n. It was so early that he was not arisen. I went into his chamber, and, opening a shutter, sat down in the window-seat. Before the rails was a fellow playing upon the hautboy. A man with a barrow full of onions offered the piper an onion if he would play him a tune. That ended, he offered a second onion for a second tune; the same for a third, and was going on: but this was too much; I could not bear it; it angered my very soul —‘Zounds!’ said I, ‘stop here! This fellow is ridiculing my profession; he is playing on the hautboy for onions!’”
The whole of this bravura scene is admirably represented. A person quaintly enough observed, that it deafens one to look at it.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55