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( viii )
(as Mr. Sharp wishes for them), one would be less affected. Hut to hear them for the first time is to be too suddenly attacked.
Will some one who knows about music tell me why it is that I wake every morning with the shadow of a tune in my head—the shadow, not the substance ; and perhaps it is wrong to say in my head, because it is just outside it really, beyond reach? By day, with the strongest desire to recapture an air, I cannot ; but I wake, morning after morning, with my hand almost on the elusive quarry. Can it be true that our dreams give us what life is always holding back ! Am I, who so long to make melody, and know not a note—am 1 a musician in my sleep? I awoke this morning fresh from " Mowing the Barley," but alas ! I have not approached it since. . . I wonder if others are like this.
What is it that has happened to English music? I asked myself as I listened. Where is England in English music to-day? We have English composers in plenty, but what has their country done for them, or they for their country? One may hear modern English music by the week and select no single phrase that has any native racial character in it. Yet how exquisite was the natural English music (before Germany came in) these old songs
prove. Will there be no genuine music again? . . . Well, even if there be none, we have a taste of the beautiful, tender, humorous, real thing in these old songs ; and may they be widely sung !
A word more as to one very curious thing that I noticed. Near me was sitting an old lady with a somewhat bitter cast of countenance. I had caught sight of her soon after I sat down, before the performance began, and I observed the rather testy way in which she shrugged into her cloak and resented a draught, real or fancied, and her general air of peevishness, and mentally decided that she was probably not good to live with. Then came the singing, and I forgot her absolutely ; forgot everything, in fact, except Merrie England ; but suddenly chancing to catch sight of her again, I noticed that her expression had become benign and sweet. Wordsworth's words sprang to my mind as I watched her :
And beauty, born of murmuring sound, Shall pass into her face.
Nowhere, I thought, is an additional reason for popularising these exquisite songs. Every note shall be a brooding dove. We will sing peace and happiness into Englishmen. —Reprinted from "The County Gentleman."