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A nightingale, come from the neighbouring wood; (The sweet inhabitant of each glad tree,
harınless syren she)
There stood she list’ning, and did entertain
The music's soft report: and mould the same
In her own murmurs, that whatever mood
His curious fingers lent, her voice made good:
The man perceiv'd his rival and her art,
Dispos’d to give the light-foot lady sport
Awakes his lute, and 'gainst the fight to come
Informs it, in a sweet præludium
Of closer strains; and ere the war begin,
He lightly skirmishes on every string,
Charg'd with a flying touch : and straightway she
Carves out her dainty voice as readily,
Into a thousand sweet distinguish'd tones,
And reckons up in soft divisions,
Quick volumes of wild notes; to let him know
By that shrill taste, she could do something too.
His nimble hands' instinct then taught each string A cap'ring cheerfulness, and made them sing To their own dance ; now negligently rash He throws his arm, and with a long-drawn dash Blends all together; then distinctly trips From this to that; then quick returning skips And snatches this again, and pauses there. She measures every measure, everywhere Meets art with art; sometimes, as if in doubt, Not perfect yet, and fearing to be out, Trails her plain ditty in one long-spun note, Through the sleek passage of her open throat, A clear unwrinkled song; then doth she point it With tender accents, and severely joint it By short diminutives, that being rear'd In controverting warbles evenly shar'd, With her sweet self she wrangles. He amaz'd That from so small a channel should be rais'd The torrent of a voice, whose melody Could melt into such sweet variety, Strains higher yet, that tickled with rare art The tattling strings (each breathing in his part) Most kindly do fall out; the grumbling base In surly groans disdains the treble's grace :
Of streaming sweetness, which in state doth ride
On the wav'd back of every swelling strain,
Rising and falling in a pompous train.
And while she thus discharges a shrill peal
Of flashing airs, she qualifies their zeal
With the cool e pode of a graver note,
Thus high, thus low, as if her silver throat
Would reach the brazen voice of war's hoarse bird ;
Her little soul is ravish'd: and so pour'd
Into loose ecstasies, that she is plac'd
Above herself, music's enthusiast.
Shame now and anger mix'd a double strain
In the musician's face ; yet once again,
Mistress, I come ; now reach a strain, my lute,
Above her mock, or be forever mute.
But tune a song of victory to me;
As to thyseif, sing thine own obsequy ;
So said, his hands sprightly as fire he flings,
And with a quavering coyness tastes the strings,
The sweet-lip'd sisters musically frighted,
Singing their fears, are fearfully delighted.
Trembling as when Apollo's golden hairs
Are fann'd and frizzled in the wanton airs
Of his own breath: which, married to his lyre,
Doth tune the spheres, and make heaven's self look higher.
From this to that, from that to this he flies,
Feels music's pulse in all her arteries,
Caught in a net which there Apollo spreads,
His fingers struggle with the vocal threads,
Following those little rills, he sinks into
A sea of Helicon; his hand does go
Those parts of sweetness which with nectar drop,
Softer than that which pants in Hebe's cup.
The humourous strings expound his learned touch
By various glosses; now they seem to grutch,
And murmur in a buzzing din, then gingle
In shrill-tongu'd accents, striving to be single.
Every smooth turn, every delicious stroke
Gives life to some new grace; thus doth invoke
Sweetness by all her names ; thus, bravely thus
(Fraught with a fury so harmonious)
The lute's light genius now does proudly rise,
Heav'd on the surges of swoln rhapsodies,
Whose flourish (meteor-like) doth curl the air
With flash of high-born fancies; here and there
Dancing in lotty measures, and anon
Creeps on the soft touch of a tender tone :
Whose trembling murmurs melting in wild airs
Run to and fro, complaining his sweet cares;
Because those precious mysteries that dwell
In music's ravish'd soul he dares not tell,
But whisper to the world: thus do they vary,
Each string his note, as if they meant to carry
Their master's blest soul (snatch'd out at his ears
By a strong ecstasy) through all the spheres
Of music's heaven, and seat it there on high
In th' empyreum of pure harmony.
At length, (after so long, so loud a strife
Of all the strings, still breathing the best life
Of blest variety, attending on
His fingers' fairest revolution,
In many a sweet rise, many as sweet a fall)
A full-mouth'd diapason swallows all.
This done, he lists what she would say to this,
And she, although her breath's late exercise
Had dealt too roughly with her tender throat,
Yet summons all her sweet powers for a note.
Alas ! in vain ! for while (sweet soul) she tries
To measure all those wild diversities
Of chatt'ring strings, by the small size of one
Poor simple voice, rais'd in a natural tone;
She fails, and failing grieves, and grieving dies.
She dies: and leaves her life the victor's prize,
Falling upon his lute; O fit to have
(That liv'd so sweetly) dead, so sweet a grave !
This exquisite story has had another relator in Ford, the dramatist, and according to a great authority, a finer one.* The passage is very beautiful, certainly, especially in the outset about Greece; and if the story is to be taken
as a sentiment, it must be allowed to surpass the other ; but as an account of the Duel itself, it is assuredly as different as playing is from no playing. Sentiment, however, completes everything, and we hope our readers will enjoy with us the concluding from Ford :