Music Of The Waters - online book

Sailors' Chanties, Songs Of The Sea, Boatmen's, Fishermen's,
Rowing Songs, & Water Legends with lyrics & sheet music

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Music of the Waters.              191
most extraordinary power ; the gondolier assisted his already too shrill voice, by holding his hand to one side of his mouth. From the description, which is rather too lengthy to quote entirely, I should gather that this expedition and its vocal experiences were not entirely such as to arouse the admiration of the poet and his friend, although some water-songs heard during the time he spent in Venice must have charmed Byron into writing,—
" There be none of Beauty's daughters With a magic like thee ; And like music on the waters Is thy sweet voice to me."
Although Tasso is no longer heard, there is yet much music on the canals, and strangers often think the songs are still verses of Tasso. In the days when these were popular, two boatmen sang the strophes in turn, sometimes at a great distance ; for instance, a gondolier would begin a strophe of "Ariosto" to Rousseau's melody, a second gondo­lier would then take it up, and so on. Sometimes the night, through many a weary hour of waiting, was thus spent by the Venetian boatmen. A writer in the " Curiosities of Literature," speaking of their singing, says : " The sleepy canals, the lofty buildings, the splendour of themoon, the deep shadows of the few gondolas that moved like spirits hither and thither, increased the striking peculiarity of the scene; and amidst all these circumstances it was easy to confess the character of this wonderful harmony." In this same book I read, that the fishermen's wives of the Lido spent their evenings sitting along the shore, while their husbands fished, singing stanzas from Tasso and other popular songs at the pitch of their voices, going on till each one could distinguish the responses of her own hus­band in the distance : a very pretty idea truly, but one I should fancy which would have to borrow all its enchant­ment, for the listener, from the necessary distance. It would scarcely prove a peaceful walk "by the sad sea

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