Ambrose Philips

 

 

[Thoughts upon Song-Writing]

 

                                                                                 Ne fortè pudori
                                                      Sit tibi Musa Lyræ solers & cantor Apollo.
           Hor.     

 

TWO Mornings ago a Gentleman came in to my Lady Lizards Tea-Table, who is distinguished in Town by the good Taste he is known to have in polite Writings, especially such as relate to Love and Gallantry. The Figure of the Man had something odd and grotesque in it, though his Air and Manner were genteel and easie, and his Wit agreeable. The Ladies, in Complaisance to him, turned the Discourse to Poetry. This soon gave him an Occasion of producing two new Songs to the Company; which, he said, he would venture to recommend as compleat Performances. The first, continued he, is by a Gentleman of an unrival'd Reputation in every Kind of Writing; and the second by a Lady, who does me the Honour to be in Love with me, because I am not handsome. Mrs. Annabella upon this (who never lets Slip an Occasion of doing sprightly things) gives a Twitch to the Paper with a Finger and a Thumb, and snatches it out of the Gentleman's Hands: Then casting her Eye over it with a seeming Impatience, she read us the Songs; and, in a very obliging manner, desired the Gentleman would let her have a Copy of them, together with his Judgment upon Songs in general; that I may be able, said she, to judge of Gallantries of this Nature, if ever it should be my Fortune to have a Poetical Lover. The Gentleman complied; and accordingly Mrs. Annabella the very next Morning, when she was at her Toilet, had the following Packet delivered to her by a spruce Valet de Chambre.

 

            The First SONG.

                    I.
ON Belvidera's Bosom lying,
Wishing, panting, sighing, dying,
The cold regardless Maid to move,
With unavailing Pray'rs I sue:
"You first have taught me how to love,
      Ah teach me to be happy too!"


                    II.
But she, alas! unkindly wise,
To all my Sighs and Tears replies,
   "'Tis every prudent Maid's Concern
        Her Lover's Fondness to improve:
     If to be happy you should learn,
        You quickly would forget to love"
.



            The Second SONG.

                    I.
BOast not, mistaken Swain, thy Art
   To please my partial Eyes;
The Charms that have subdued my Heart,
   Another may despise
.

                    II.
Thy Face is to my Humour made,
   Another it may fright:
Perhaps, by some fond Whim betray'd,
   In Oddness I delight
.

                    III.
Vain Youth, to your Confusion know,
   'Tis to my Love's Excess
You all your fancy'd Beauties owe,
   Which fade as that grows less
.

                    IV.
For your own Sake, if not for mine,
   You should preserve my Fire:
Since you, my Swain, no more will shine,
   When I no more admire
.

                    V.
By me, indeed, you are allow'd
   The Wonder of your Kind:
But be not of my Judgment proud,
   Whom Love has render'd blind
.

 

 

To Mrs. Annabella Lizard.

 

MADAM,
'TO let you see how absolute your Commands are over me, and to convince you of the Opinion I have of your good Sense, I shall, without any Preamble of Compliments, give you my Thoughts upon Song-Writing, in the same Order as they have occurred to me. Only allow me, in my own Defence, to say, that I do not remember ever to have met with any Piece of Criticism upon this Subject; so that if I err, or seem singular in my Opinions, you will be the more at Liberty to differ from them, since I do not pretend to support them by any Authority.

[2] 'In all Ages, and in every Nation, where Poetry has been in Fashion, the Tribe of Sonneteers have been very numerous. Every pert young Fellow that has a roving Fancy, and the least jingle of Verse in his Head, sets up for a Writer of Songs, and resolves to immortalize his Bottle or his Mistress. What a World of insipid Productions in this kind have we been pestered with since the Revolution, to go no higher? This, no doubt, proceeds in a great measure from not forming a right Judgment of the Nature of these little Compositions. It is true, they do not require an Elevation of Thought, nor any extraordinary Capacity, nor an extensive Knowledge; but then they demand great Regularity, and the utmost Nicety; and exact Purity of Stile, with the most easie and flowing Numbers; an elegant and unaffected Turn of Wit, with one uniform and simple Design. Greater Works cannot well be without some Inequalities and Oversights, and they are in them pardonable; but a Song loses all its Lustre if it be not polished with the greatest Accuracy. The smallest Blemish in it, like a Flaw in a Jewel, takes off the whole Value of it. A Song is, as it were, a little Image in Ennamel, that requires all the nice Touches of the Pencil, a Gloss and a Smoothness, with those delicate finishing Stroaks, which would be superfluous and thrown away upon larger Figures, where the Strength and Boldness of a Masterly Hand gives all the Grace.

'Since you may have recourse to the French and English Translations, you will not accuse me of Pedantry, when I tell you that Sappho, Anacreon, and Horace in some of his shorter Lyricks, are the compleatest Models for little Odes or Sonnets. You will find them generally pursuing a single Thought in their Songs, which is driven to a Point, without those Interruptions and Deviations so frequent in the Modern Writers of this Order. To do Justice to the French, there is no living Language that abounds so much in good Songs. The Genius of the People, and the Idiom of their Tongue, seems adapted to Compositions of this sort. Our Writers generally crowd into one Song Materials enough for several; and so they starve every Thought, by endeavouring to nurse up more than one at a time. They give you a String of imperfect Sonnets, instead of one finished Piece, which is a fault Mr. Waller (whose Beauties cannot be too much admired) sometimes falls into. But, of all our Countrymen, none are more defective in their Songs, through a Redundancy of Wit, than Dr. Donne, and Mr. Cowley. In them one Point of Wit flashes so fast upon another, that the Reader's Attention is dazled by the continual sparkling of their Imagination; you find a new Design started almost in every Line, and you come to the end without the Satisfaction of seeing any one of them executed.

'A Song should be conducted like an Epigram; and the only Difference between them is, that the one does not require the Lyrick Numbers, and is usually employed upon Satyrical Occasions, whereas the Business of the other, for the most part, is to express (as my Lord Roscommon translates it from Horace)

Love's pleasing Cares, and the free Joys of Wine.

'I shall conclude what I have to say upon this Subject, by observing that the French do very often confound the Song and the Epigram, and take the one reciprocally for the other. An Instance of which I shall give you in a remarkable Epigram which passes current abroad for an excellent Song.

Tu parles mal par tout de moi,
Je dis du bien par tout de toi;
Quel malheur est le nôtre?
L'on ne croit ni l'un, ni l'autre!

'For the Satisfaction of such of your Friends as may not understand the Original, I shall venture to translate it after my Fashion, so as to keep strictly to the Turn of Thought, at the expence of losing something in the Poetry and Versification.

Thou speakest always ill of me,
I speak always well of thee:
But spight of all our Noise and Pother,
The World believes nor one nor t'other
.

'Thus, Madam, I have endeavoured to comply with your Commands; not out of any Vanity of erecting my self into a Critick, but out of an earnest Desire of being thought, upon all Occasions,'

                                                Your most Obedient Servant.

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Guardian.
1713, Nr. 16, 30. März, 2 S. (unpag.).
[ProQuest: British Periodicals: The Englishman]

Ungezeichnet.

Für die Zuschreibung (Ambrose Philips) vgl. The Guardian. Edited with an introduction and notes by John Calhoun Stephens. Lexington, Ky 1982, S. 620: "evidence for his authorship is strong".

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien); Korrekturen nach "ERRATA in Yesterday's Paper" (Nr. 17, 31. März; unpag.).

 

 

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Literatur

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Philips, Ambrose: Pastorals, Epistles, Odes, and Other Original Poems. With Translations from Pindar, Anacreon, and Sappho. London: J. and R. Tonson and S. Draper 1748.
URL: https://archive.org/details/pastoralsepistl00philgoog
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/011821925

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Spacks, Patricia M.: Reading Eighteenth-Century Poetry. Malden, MA 2009.

Varney, Andrew: Art. Ambrose Philips. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edn, Oct 2007.

 

 

Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer