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A COLLECTION OF
PSALMS AND HYMNS,
FROM DR. WATTS AND OTHER AUTHORS.
PUBLISHED BY T. R. MARVIN.
THE NEW DB
ASTOP, LENOX AND
Entered according to Act of Congress, in tho pieår 1852 by PEIKLOS AND Marvin, in the Clerk's ošice of tho District Court of Massachusetts
IN presenting to the public such a work as this, it is obviously proper that something shot be said of the object and expectation of its compilers. These nay be stated in a few words. It has been their aim and hope to make a selection of psalms and hymns of a highly lyrical character, in respect to sentiment, imagery, language, and structure ; possessing sufficient elevation and dignity to render them specially adapted to public worship on the Sabbath, and possessing, at the same time, such a variety of subjects and me
tres, and such a degree of simplicity, warmth, and animatica, 1 shouhl render them suitable for 80 in all social religiofis meetings, and in families. They hases aimell, as, to render the selection particularly copious in those classes of honns which ace specially adapted to this period bf vevival and of religious benevolent inski. tutions and labors, and to various important occasions.
The two things to be regard in syntne tor, rse inspirblic wor. ship, and by which their lyrics character is ta te tested are their Matter and their Structure. 'n both these respects they niay be faulty. Some remarks on the requisites of good lyric poetry will be made under each of these beads,
As to the Matter proper for lyrié podtry.
1. The aim of all lyric poetry should be express criation, and the sentiments should be such as'ałe adapted to this end. This is the original and natural office of all poetry; and it is more espe. cially the natural office of all poetry which is designed to be used in connection with music. Poetry itself is the language of emotion; and that only is good lyric poetry, which requires the aid of music to produce its full effect. A kindred office of lyric poetry is to excite or increase emotion in the hearer or performer. Sacred lyric poetry may express every class of emotions which it is proper for man to express in acts of worship; but especially such as are implied in ascriptions of praise. It should generally be addressed directly to God, or else should consist of rehearsals of truths and events, or exhortations and appeals to the hearts of men, which are directly adapted to turn the thoughts to God, and fill the soul with emotions towards him.
A judicions German writer, treating on the character of lyric poetry, remarks that " The church secures human sanctification by two mears-teaching or preaching, and the worship of God. In both these exercises the intellect and heart are employed, and act together, brt not equally. Preaching is chiefly designed to enlighten the anderstanding, while the principal aim of worship is to warm and purify the heart, and 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 of preaching occupies a large place in the prayers and bymns
Modera bymny," says the author referred to abova, "aše Dont lyrical, but didactic. They only preach in rhyme; and thus they reach the head, bu mt the heart. If, now, the sermon preaches, and the singing preaches, and the prayer preaches, the monotony of the service will occasion weariuess; 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 ju 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 syilable 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 de gree adapted to musical effect. All truly lyrical poetry, of a religious character, has one of these we chects-cither to be a channel through which the full soul gay pour for strong and holy emoutions, or to bring
before the mi a objects w5ich, in their nature and aspect, are adapiêu to awaken whese elevated emotions ;-it is to ex. press en ntion or to excite it.
2. The sendiments and imagesy, should be grave, dignified, and conformed to the case and hadits-of the age. What would be suited tootle natiorf or age, or to one state of society, might be wholly unsuited to anottier. When the feelings are addressed, no allowince onn be made for difference of age, or nation, or habits, as here.mty bo when the understanding is addressed. Whatever, then, is uncriptural, guxelweg, ninute in detail, light, fanciful, incongruou, or offenetve to the taste and feelings, checks the flow of the soul, and detracts servusly frozor 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 respecting all hymns that wear the aspect of condoling with the singer, 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 iha sincer feel comfortably, when he ought to feel condemned and undone.
3. Hymus should possess unity. Not that only one subject should come before the mind in one hyin. 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 wonld 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 new 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 emotions. 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 bymn 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 bave been changed into common or short metre, by merely disen. cumbering 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, ail parenthetical, involved, or otherwise intricate clauses, together wiih 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, unintelligible, and, of course, destitute of all lyrical effect, when sung. For the purpose of conveying his meaning, and giving force to what he utters, the speaker may avail himself freely of tones. infections, 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 ; but singers generally must, from the nature of the case, be yery much cramped in these respects. A simple, uninvolved style is the natural one for impa sioned 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 incon. sistent 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, ope thought after another, each coniplete in itself, and with each be ginning a new rhetorical clause.
4. The structure of each stanza sbould 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 at the close of perhaps the second or fourth live. The