Imatges de pÓgina
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express its emotions.” To the first of these divisions of the services of the sanctuary belong the reading of the Scriptures, exposition, exhortations, and sermons. To the second belong prayer and singing. Though these divisions should be kept distinct, yet it very often happens, that exhortation or preaching occupies a large place in the prayers and hymns. * Modern hymns,” says the author referred to above,“ are not lyrical, but didactic. They only preach in rhyme; and thus they reach the head but not the heart. If, now, the sermon preaches, and the singing preaches, and the prayer preaches, the monotony of the service will occasion weariness; but if the sermon preaches, and the hymn sings, and the prayer prays, there will be a beautiful variety, to exercise and interest all the faculties of the soul.” One author of hymns has filled a large book with pieces, most of which were written as supplements to sermons, and seem to be little more than abstracts, expressed in rhyme, of the sentiments which had just been delivered. As such, they may be very good; but they can scarcely be considered as better adapted to musical effect, than a table of contents, or the synopsis of an argument. They may be set to music, so that each syllable shall correspond to a note of a tune, but they cannot be sung. This forcibly bringing syllables and notes into contact, and pronouncing them together, is not singing, any more than noise is music. Such hymns may contain excellent statements and discussions of Christian doctrines, expressed in an attractive form, and may be highly valuable to be read and treasured up in the memory; but they are in no degree adapted to musical effect. All truly lyrical poetry, of a religious character, has one of these two objects either to be a channel through which the full soul may pour forth its strong and holy emotions, or to bring before the mind objects which, in their nature and aspect, are adapted to awaken these elevated emotions ;-it is to express emotion, or to excite it.

2. The sentiments and imagery should be grave, dignified, and conformed to the taste and habits of the age. What would be suited to one nation or age, or to one state of society, might be wholly unsuited to another. When the feelings are addressed, no allowance can be made for difference of age, or nation, or habits, as there may be when the understanding is addressed. Whatever, then, is unscriptural, grovelling, minute in detail, light, fanciful, incongruous, or offensive to the taste and feelings, checks the flow of the soul, and detracts seriously from the effect, and should therefore be avoided. If the prevailing taste is opposed to the precepts and doctrines of the Bible, it should not, of course, be humored. But, so far as manner, imagery, and illustration are concerned, it should be regarded scrupulously. Much, in these respects, which would be appropriate and powerful in an oration, or a heroic poem, would be utterly unfit for the dignity and holy excitement which should always attend a hymn set to music.

All familiar and fondling epithets, or forms of expression, applied to either person of the Godhead, should be avoided, as bringing with them associations highly unfavorable to pure

devotional feeling. A similar remark should be made respecto ing all hymns that wear the aspect of condoling with the sinner, tending to divert his thoughts from his guilt to his calamity, and occasioning in him a high state of agreeable, sympathetic excitement. Scarcely any thing tends more directly and powerfully to destroy a deep conviction of guilt, or erects a more formidable barrier against the exercise of true contrition and humility. A large portion of those hymns which are technically called revival hymns, are of this character; and the very reason, probably, why they are so popular, is, that the use of them makes the sinner feel comfortably, when he ought to feel condemned and undone.

3. Hymns should possess unity. Not that only one subject should come before the mind in one hymn. This would be unnatural, and would weaken the effect. The impression made by any subject is often deepened by viewing it in its connection with others. The effect of a hymn expressive of penitence would be increased by, glancing at the mercy of God, the sufferings of Christ, and the free offer of pardon. Still, all the subjects brought into a hymn should be of such a character, and so connected, as to form one group, strike the mind at one view, and conspire to produce one effect.

4. Every line should be full of meaning. At every syllable, the mind should feel that it is making progress, taking some Dew view, or receiving some additional or deeper impression. The whole hymn should be the overflowing of a full soul, unable any longer to contain its emotion

An unmeaning line or word, thrown in to make out the rhyme or measure, is like a dead limb on a living body--a cumbrous deformity, better amputated than retained. A hymn in long metre generally possesses less vivacity, and is sung with less ease and spirit, than one in short metre, principally because the stanza in short metre expresses as much of thought and feeling in twenty-six syllables, as the stanza in long metre does in thirty-two. In many instances in this book, hymns in long metre have been changed into common or short metre, by merely disencumbering the lines of their lifeless members.

Under the head of STRUCTURE, the following characteristics are mentioned as being essential to good lyric poetry:

1. Plain style. All inversions and artificial arrangement of the words, all parenthetical, involved, or otherwise intricate clauses, together with all long sentences, and ambiguous and obscure words, are to be avoided. Even those arrangements of words and clauses, and those full periods, which would be perfectly intelligible, and might give beauty and strength to a composition which is to be read or spoken, may be wearisome, unin. telligible, and, of course, destitute of all lyrical effect, when sung. For the purpose of conveying his meaning, and giving force to what he uiters, the speaker may avail himself freely of tones, inflections, pauses, and an otherwise varied enunciation; and a single performer, or a well-disciplined and careful choir, may accomplish something in the same way, in singing; hut singers generally must, from the nature of the case, be very

much cramped in these respects. A simple, uninvolved stylo is the natural one for impassioned poetry as well as for oratory.

2. Every sentence should be constructed so as to express emotion. Every thing in the form of reasoning, logical statement or inference, explanation or discussion, requires a state of mind wholly inconsistent with that holy and devout excitement implied in sacred music.

3. Sentences and clauses should contain, as far as is practicable without occasioning a stiff and tedious uniformity, complete sense in themselves. A succession of clauses bound together by weak connectives, exhausts the performer, by allowing no opportunity for pausing ;. while, by multiplying unmeaning words, and keeping the mind too long on the same course, it also wearies the hearer. It contributes greatly to the spirit and force of the hymn, as well as to the ease of the performer, to throw off rapidly, in a concise form, one thought after another, each complete in itself, and with each beginning a new rhetorical clause.

4. The structure of each stanza should be such that the mind shall perceive the meaning immediately. All hypothetical clauses, placed at the beginning, or other clauses containing positions or arguments having reference to some conclusion which is to follow, are to be avoided. They contain no meaning in themselves, and bring nothing before the mind expressive or productive of feeling, till the performer reaches the important words the close of perhaps the second or fourth line. The only method of wading through such lines, set to music, is for the performer to suspend all thought and feeling, and struggle hard and patiently, till he shall come to the light The first word should, if possible, express something in itself, and every word should add to it. But, from a spirited clause at the beginning, the mind may derive an impulse which shall carry it through a heavy one that may follow. Clauses, however, which follow the main one, to qualify it, connected by a relative, are always heavy and injurious.

5. The words should be easy of enunciation, and capable of being dwelt upon, without seeming harsh or unnatural. Difficult and unpleasant combinations of consonants; all successions of words and syllables in which the same sound frequently occurs; long words, where all thought and feeling must stand still, like spectators, while four or five syllables are drawn out to aś many minims or semibreves ; and all slender syllables, on which the voice cannot dwell without distorting them, especially if two or three of them occur together, or in an important part of the line,-are great defects in a hymn, if they do not entirely destroy its vigor. To express the whole thought in one syllable is, of course, much more forcible than to express it in many. The best orators and the best poets abound in monosyllables.

6. The pauses should be arranged with reference to effect. There should be a pause at the end of each line. The music is generally adapted to more or less of a cadence at that point, and, as his own ease requires it, the performer will naturally make one there. If, therefore, the nominative comes at the

end of one line, and the verb at the beginning of the next, the lines, when sung, must make nonsense. If the performer altempts to run the lines together, and preserve the connection, the measure of the line, the returning rhyme, the length of the sentence, and the cadence of the music, all demanding a pause, but being violated together, will render the performance unnatural, and produce a harshness worse, perhaps, than nonsense. If long pauses are introduced within the line, they should be at or before the middle; and never, unless to secure some peculiar expression, near the end. Even the short

pause following an address, which may occur any where else, should not be admitted there.

7. The accented parts of the stanza should correspond with the accented

notes of the tune. The want of this is a defect of me more frequent occurrence in hymns than any other. Articles or conjunctions, or the lightest syllables in important words, are often so placed, that, in the regular movement of the tune, they are pronounced on the longest and most accented notes while the more important words and syllables, by their side, fall on the weakest and most unaccented notes. The judicious singer, in such cases, may be able, to some extent, to accommodate the music to the words; but ordinary choirs will entirely destroy the meaning and force of the poetry. Such a misplacing of the accent, such a swelling upon the unimportant syllables, and such a depression of the important ones, is as unfavorable to all beauty and force, and as utterly nonsensical, in singing, as in reading or speaking.

8. T'he several stanzas of a hymn should possess a good degree of uniformity, as to measure, accent, and pauses. If each stanza were to be sung to a tune made specially for it, their structure might be ever so diverse without inconvenience; but, as they are all to be sung to the same tune, it is obvious that all the stanzas should be similar to each other, and regularly conformed to the measure adopted.

9. Each stanza, and the whole hymn, should be so consiructed, that the importance of the sentiments, the force of expression, the emotion, and the general effect of the piece, shall be increasing through to the end. A sinking, retrograde movement is worse, if possible, in lyric poetry, than in oratory.

It is not claimed for the psalms and hymns, in this collection, that they are entirely free from the faults that have now been referred to. Perhaps no hymn could be found in the English language, in which some of these faults might not be detected. The writers of sacred devotional poetry seem to have thought very little of adapting it to musical purposes. Had they felt the importance of this, and turned their thought to it, much the larger part of all the irregularities now found in their hymns might very easily have been avoided. Now, many of them cannot be removed, without rendering the pieces disagreeably stiff, or breaking down their whole fabric.' In compiling this book, the principles just laid down have been kept constantly in view, and, in innumerable instances, such faults as have here been noticed have been corrected. The fact that some imper

fections, of various kinds, must remain, is no reason why they should not be rendered as few as possible.

In noticing the sources from which the materials for this book have been drawn, it may be stated that, besides the version of the psalms by Dr. Watts, and those versions that preceded his, and those of some authors of less note, made since his time, use has been made of two nearly entire versions, and one very extensive collection, recently published in England, Versions of many single psalms have been found scattered through the several collections of hymns which have been examined. In selecting the hymns, in addition to the hymnbooks used by the various denominations of Christians in the United States, the compilers have examined eight or ten extensive general collections of hymns, besides a large number of smaller collections published in England, and which have never been republished, or for sale, in this country. In these and other works, they suppose that they have examined nearly all the good lyric poetry in the English language.

The number of metrical pieces of the psalms is 454, and the number of the hymns 731, making 1185 in all. Of these, 421 are from Dr. Watts, who has, undoubtedly, written more good psalms and hymns, of a highly lyrical character, than any other author, and to whom the church is indebted, probably, for nearly half of all the valuable lyric poetry in the language. The names of the several authors, when known, or the collections from which the pieces have been taken, are given in the index to the first lines.

In selecting and arranging these materials, the compilers have aimed to make a hymn-book of a thoroughly evangelical character, in doctrine and spirit, and as highly lyrical as the materials, with such labor as could be bestowed upon them, would permit. They have, accordingly, rejected a large amount of religious poetry, excellent in itself, so far as the sentiments and language are concerned, and aimed to select only such pieces as are adapted to be sung. As the same piece was often found with important variations, in different books, they have aimed to select that copy which seemed best suited to the design of this work, without inquiring how the author originally wrote it. They have treated the hymns which have come before them as public property, which they had a right to modify and use up according to their own judgment. Omissions, abridgments, alterations, and changes in he arrangement of the stanzas have, therefore, been made with freedom, whenever it appeared that the piece could thereby be improv: ed. These alterations have been made principally to avoid prosaic and unimpassioned passages; low or otherwise unsuitable imagery or expression; abrupt transitions ; unmeaning and cumbrous words and clauses ; long, complicated, and obscure sentences; feeble connectives; long words, and harsh and slender syllables; a wrong position of the accent and pauses ; the anticlimactic structure, and a disagreement in the form and rhythm of the several stanzas.

A considerable number of pieces, possessing less of a lyrical character than is desirable, have been retained; partly because

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