Song Lore of Ireland, The, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 12

Song Lore of Ireland, The, Volume 1, Issue 1, Page 12
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periodical Publisher
The Baker & Taylor Co., New York, 1911
periodical Editor
periodical Title
Song Lore of Ireland, The
volume Number
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1 2 THE SONG LORE OF IRELANDTHE BEGINNINGS 13Here each of the three kinds of music is associatedwith a particular string. Are we to accept the ideaof a three-stringed harp literally? Or were therethree different registers, one of strings of iron, an-other of silver, a third of bronze? It is easy to as-sociate silver with the sweet music of slumber andiron with woe. Nor is it inconceivable that bronzemay have the ring of light-heartedness. But unlessthe strings were stopped by the fingers into differ-ent lengths so as to produce different notes, afterthe manner of the violin, we should only have a sin-gle note for each kind of music.We can only hope that literary or archaeologicalstore as yet unrevealed will give us the key to themystery. An old sculpture at Ullard, dating backto the ninth century, shows us that in those days theIrish were familiar with the idea of a harp withouta forepost, and OCurry hoped that the bogswhichat once conceal and preserve so much of Irelandspastwill deliver up one of the antique instruments.Meanwhile these ancient stories of the harp andthe makers of music are proof incontestable of thepossession by the ancient Irish, centuries beforeSaxon or Norman set foot in the land, of a musicalaesthetic to parallel which we must turn to the an-cient Greeks. In the story of Cull and the harp theattitude of the Celt is that of the natural philoso-pher; he is scientific, rationalist, experimental. Inthe tale of the Dagda, on the other hand, he looksupon the phenomena of music through the windows ofthe soul. The harp will give up its secret to nonesave the Dagda alone, and he is the possessor of su-pernatural powers. The realm of the supernaturalwas not so remote from the ancient Celts as it is fromus. Even within the last two hundred years, we findthe people attributing the beauty of the music madeby certain harpers to a fairy mistress, who dweltwithin the instrument and whispered to her lover. Inthe allegory of Boarid and Ilaithne, music is givenhuman form, with a fairy woman for mother and har-mony incarnate for sire. Melody, the element ofmusic in which the highest creative genius expressesitself, is given a supernatural origin; while harmony,the part of music into which calculation most enters,is credited to man. Music is thus defined as a humanart, with an added quality borrowed from the super-natural.Nor is this idea only to be met with in the poemsof learned bards. It finds expression in the termFairy music, a phrase coined by the people todescribe certain melodies of a haunting sublety, suchas the famous Song of the Pretty Girl Milking HerCow. So rich is the folk-lore of this phase of thesubject that the songs of faerie and the spirit worldwill claim treatment apart.The belief that music is the result of the minglingof the human and the supernatural is the deepestword of the Celts on the philosophy of the art. Per-haps it is the deepest word ever uttered; for what haveGrecian sublety, Roman order, or German transcen-dentalism said which carries us further?
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Mason, Redfern
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The Song Lore of Ireland

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