Home Life Works Articles Contact

Anna Jane Vardill

The Progress of Music

In ancient days, when Taste was young,
The dulcet virginal she strung,
When stiff in carkanet and caul,
The spinster of the good old hall,
In pagan shapes erected high
The outworks of the vast goose-pye,
While chines of ox and flanks of deer
Smoked her carousing Sire to cheer:
Then in her lattic’d bow’r content,
O’er lawn or tapestry she bent,
Or stroll’d through alleys straight and dim,
’Midst shaven yews and statues grim;
And if no giant folio told
Of dwarfs and dames and barons old,
The soft low-whisp’ring virginal
Came last her drowsy eye to lull.
 In coif and bib the grandam yet
Remembers her long-lost spinnet,
Where first in hoop and flounce array’d,
Thrice ruffled sleeve and bright brocade,
Erect she sat,—’till bows and smiles
Repaid the wondrous gavot’s toils,
While fresh in pompadour and love,
Lac’d hat, wir’d coat, and gold-fring’d glove,
Her squire, with strange delight amaz’d,
Alike her tune and tent-stitch prais’d.
 Rejected harpsichord!—with thee
I celebrate my jubilee;
Full fifty years thy sturdy frame
Has been in heart and speech the same;
Concise and sharp, but bold and clear
As ancient wit and speech sincere,
Bland emblem too of joy and grief,
As keen, as varied, and as brief!
How many years in childhood shed
Have fall’n forgotten on thy head!
How oft returning Pleasure’s ray
Those April drops exhal’d away!
True type of time!—of joys or cares
Thy polish’d brow no record bears;
Yet thou art lov’d, for thou alone
Art here when youth and mirth are gone;
And tho’ ungrateful Fashion’s doom
Consigns thee to a garret’s gloom,
Like me, with worn-out tongue and quill—
Rare servant!—thou shalt serve me still:
Thy coat the poet’s hearth shall cheer,
And deck his solitary bier.
 Now Taste is older, and the reign
Of mighty Music comes again,
As when in bold Arion’s day
She taught strange fish a roundelay—
Made tigers waltz, and breath’d soft airs
To dying swans and dancing bears:
But bland in pow’r, the “heav’nly maid”
Gives to her noblest rival aid;
Expell’d from rout, “at home,” and ball,
Permitted scarce a morning call,
To Music’s feast, with joyful hums,
The exile Conversation comes;
When gas and ladies’ eyes illume
The glories of the concert-room—
“How exquisite that trill!—but when
From Paris comes the Duke again?
Where is my mantle?—let my aunt know
I’m coming—in Rob Roy’s portmanteau—
Is it Beethoven?—No, Mozart—
We found Childe Harold’s second part—
So much carbonic fume!—My dear,
Why don’t they burn a Davy here?—
I saw the bridal tunic—Brava!
Made by a pattern sent from Java—
Divine Sinfonia!—crape rouleau
Looped up with pearls—No, sir, they go
Quite round Spitzbergen;—at what price
Will Escudier sell polar ice?
Professor F. said—very full
To-night!—I hate those plaits of tulle—
Clothing to nature is, you know,
What language is to thought, and so
Should all the beauty in it show.”
’Tis done—the final crash astounds—
The thund’ring orchestra resounds,
Triumphant Music rends the spheres,
And conquers all but—tongues and ears.
 In Education’s vast Bazaars,
What harps, pianos, and guitars,
Croud the gay booths by Fashion made
The trinket-shops of every trade!
Imperial on the motley mound
Of toys and tools, sits Music crown’d,
Midst cobbling, chalking, hydrostatics,
Pas-seuls, poetics, and pneumatics,
From card-racks, oyster-shells, and awls,
The nymphs of Fashion’s school she calls,
Such nymphs as once on Thracian ground
Whirl’d frighted Orpheus round and round,
Then laugh’d to see the minstrel stare,
Who ne’er before saw Waltzing there,
 Still triumph, Music!—still renew
Thy ancient spells and empire due;
Teach brutes the graces, and create
A soul in things inanimate.
As sprigs and stones and wood-nymphs danc’d
When Orpheus with his lute advanc’d,
Now senseless stones in quiet leave,
But nobler miracles achieve;
Bid waltzing nymphs stand still, and then
Change bowing sprigs to Englishmen.


The European Magazine, Vol. 73, April 1818, pp. 343-344