CHAPTER IV.

PRINCIPALITY, SUBORDINATION, AND COMPLEMENT OR BALANCE IN POETRY AND MUSIC

Principality in the Arts of Sound involves something kept constantly before the Mind—

Principality of Theme in an epic—

In a drama—

Of Form in the blank Verse of Long Poems—

Of Short Poems, as in the chorus—

In the French Forms, Rondel. Triolet, Kyrielle—

In the General movement as representing the general thought—

Illustrations—

Principality as Illustrated by Musical variations

And in other Longer and Shorter Compositions—

Subordination or complement or balance in poetic themes—

In Poetic form—

In pairs of lines in verse—

Correspondence between poetry and music in this regard—

Balance in Poetic Feet and pairs of words—

The same method in musical themes and phrases—

Illustrations of its applications; of its non-application—

Complement between the different phases and chords and Measures.

 

The facts stated in the last chapter can be brought out more clearly as we go on to apply what was said there to the separate arts.  Poetry and music are made up of sounds moving along, one after another.  These sounds may be varied almost infinitely in their details, yet if a composition is to be in the highest sense artistic, conveying to us that impression of unity which is essential to the manifestation of form, it must not be equally plaintive and gay, hostile and sympathetic, funereal and festive.  One of these tendencies must have principality.  At the same time it is evident that, amid sounds constantly moving, any effect of such a nature as to cause the whole to

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 052]


produce a single dominant impression must be connected with something kept constantly before the mind.  In other words, the principal feature, so far as it pertains to the thought, must be suggested by constant references to the thought; so far as to the form, by constant recurrences of it.

In an epic the principal thought may be some grand event of historic or religious importance, to which all the other events that are mentioned are subordinate, mainly serving, by way of comparison or contrast, to give it greater prominence. Notice how the keynote of the whole of Homer's "Odyssey" is struck and foreshadowed in its opening sentence:

 

Tell me, O muse, of that sagacious man

Who, having overthrown the sacred town

Of Illum, wandered far and visited

The capitals of many nations, learned

The customs of their dwellers, and endured

Great sufferings on the deep; his life was oft

In peril, as he labored to bring back

His comrades to their homes.

                        —Bryant’s Trans.

 

The same method, as exemplified in the beginnings of both Homer's “Iliad” and Virgil's “Aenead,” will recur to most of us.  Here too is Milton's first sentence in the “Paradise Lost”:

 

Of man's first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste

Brought death into the world and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater man

Restore us and regain the blissful seat,

Sing, Heavenly Muse.

 

Equally effective, for a similar reason, is the opening of the “Sigurd the Volsung” of William Morris:

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 053]


There was a dwelling of kings ere the world was waxen old;

Dukes were the door-wards there, and the roofs were thatched with gold;

Earls were the wrights, that wrought it, and silver nailed its doors;

Earls' wives were the weaving women, queens' daughters strewed its floors,

And the masters of its song-craft were the mightiest men that cast

The souls of the storm of battle adown the bickering blast.

 

In a drama, principality may be given to some character like Hamlet or Lear, to whom all the other characters and all their actions are in some way subordinated. Let it be borne in mind, however, that in all such cases the effect is enhanced by the degree in which whatever has principality in thought is embodied in a principal form. In poetry this latter may be a certain number of words constituting a line of verse; and in music a certain number of notes constituting a phrase.

 

Long poems, in which the thought can be brought out only by describing a series of very different events or quoting words of very different characters, necessitate a form capable of being varied to the greatest possible extent without losing its distinguishing characteristics. Such a form we have in blank verse, either regular or broken; and, as much because it fulfils the requirements of principality as for any other reason, it is generally recognized, in the poems in which it is used, as something which imparts to them, however long or complicated they may be, an effect of unity.  For this reason, as well as for others, those who imagine that a “Paradise Lost” or “Idyls of the King” would be as valuable contributions to art as they are, were they composed without metre or verse, like some of the works of Whitman, are either destitute by nature of aesthetic sensibility or have not had their natural endowment sufficiently cultivated.  Before they can become entitled to leadership in the fields of criticism, they need either to be born again or bred again.

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 054]


It is mainly, however, from shorter poems in which all effects are less complex that we may get the clearest illustrations of the method under consideration.  The ordinary chorus or refrain at the end of successive stanzas, as a rule, illustrates principality.  It epitomizes in a form constantly recurring all that the whole poem to which it is attached is intended to express; e.g.:

 

Home, home! Sweet, sweet home!

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home!

                        —Home, Sweet Home: Payne.

 

The Star-Spangled Banner, oh! long may it wave

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

 —The Star-Spangled Banner: Key.

 

A similar effect is still more emphasized in some of the different French forms of verse, which of late years many of our younger poets with a somewhat overweening interest in mere mechanism have been imitating. As will be shown by and by, and as will be recognized by a single glance at the following poems, especially at their rhymes, repetition is their main characteristic.  But they also illustrate very clearly the influence of principality.

 

How is it you and I

Are always meeting so?

I see you passing by

Whichever way I go.

 

I cannot say I know

The spell that draws us nigh.

How is it you and I

Are always meeting so?

 

Still thoughts to thoughts reply,

And whispers ebb and flow;

I say it with a sigh,

But half confessed and low,

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 055]


How is it you and I

Are always meeting so?

 —Rondel: John Cameron Grant.

 

Lo, my heart, so sound asleep,

Lady, will you wake it?

For lost love I used to weep,

Now my heart is sound asleep,

If it once were yours to keep,

I fear you’d break it.

Lo, my heart, so sound asleep,

Lady, will you wake it?

Triolet: Justin Huntly McCarthy.

 

 

In spring. Love came, a welcome guest,

And tarried long at my behest;

Now autumn wanes, the skies are gray,

But loyal Love flees not away.

 

I charmed him with melodious lays,

Through long, rose-scented summer days;

My songs no more are clear and gay,

But loyal Love flees hot away.

 

We plucked and twined the myrtle flowers,

Made joyance in the sylvan bowers;

The blooms have died, wild winds hold sway,

But loyal Love flees not away.

 

Gone are the fifing crickets, gone

The feathered harbingers of dawn,

And gone the woodland's bright display,

But loyal Love flees not away.

 

With intermingled light and shade

The shifting seasons come and fade

Our fond hopes fail, false friends betray,

But loyal Love flees not away.

—Kyrielle: Clinton Scollard.

 

Notice illustrations of the same method in the French forms quoted on pages 63, 107, and 196.

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 056]


But many poems have no chorus nor refrain.  In these the effect of principality is dependent mainly, sometimes exclusively, upon the method of movement, i.e., upon the metre.  In the following a ride on horseback is the principal conception.  Observe how it is embodied in the movement of the opening sentence:

 

I sprang to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;

I galloped, Dirck galloped, we galloped all three.

—How They Brought the Good News from Ghent: Browning.

 

And how the gait of the horses is echoed in the rhythm of the whole:

 

So we were left galloping, Joris and I,

Past Loos and past Tangres, no cloud in the sky

The broad sun above laughed a pitiless laugh;

‘Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;

Till over by Dalhem a dome spire sprang white,

And “Gallop,” gasped Joris, “for Aix is in sight.”

                        —Idem.

 

Here the principal conception has reference to death.  Notice slow and solemn movement of the rhythm everywhere represents this:

 

The storm that wrecks the winter sky

No more disturbs their deep repose

Than summer evening’s latest sigh

That shuts the rose.

 

I long to lay this painful head

And aching heart beneath the soil,

To slumber in that dreamless bed

From all my toil.

—The Grave: Montgomery

 

And what could better give principality to a half doubting, half confiding mood than the arrangement of rhythm and rhymes in this?

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 057]


With weary steps I loiter on,

Tho’ always under altered skies.

The purple from the distance dies,

My prospect and horizon gone.

 

No joy the blowing season gives

The herald melodies of spring,

But in the songs I loved to sing

A doubtful gleam of solace lives.

 

If any care for what is here

Survive in spirits rendered free

Then are these songs I sing of thee

Not all ungrateful to thine ear.

—In Memoriam, xxxviii: Tennyson

 

Here the Idea of rocking a babe to sleep is uppermost:

 

Sleep and rest, sleep and rest,

Father will come to thee soon;

Rest, rest on mother's breast,

Father will come to thee soon;

Father will come to his babe in the nest,

Silver sails all out of the west

Under the silver moon:

Sleep, my little one, sleep, my pretty one, sleep.

—Lullaby from the Princess: Tennyson

 

Here is a movement to accompany a triumphant march:

 

Hail to the chief who in triumph advances.

Honored and blest be the evergreen pine.

Long may the tree in his banner that glances

Flourish, the shelter and grace of our line.

—Song of Clan Alpine: Scott

 

Here is an exhortation to strike successive blows at tyrants:

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 058]


Lay the proud usurpers low.

Tyrants fall in every foe,

Liberty’s in every blow,

Forward, let us do or die.

—Bannockburn: Burns.

 

And this represents riding on a railway:

 

Singing through the forests,

Rattling over ridges;

Shooting under arches,

Rumbling over bridges;

Whizzing though the mountains,

Buzzing o'er the vale,—

Bless me, this is pleasant,

Riding on the rail.

—Railroad Rhyme: Saxe.

 

Most of us will probably obtain the best conception of principality and subordination in music, by recalling the difference between a melody, as it is either sung or played upon an instrument, and that which is called its accompaniment.  In this case, the former, of course, is the principal thing, and the latter, the subordinate.  A more complete illustration of the same difference, because necessitating more elaboration in the subordinate features, is furnished by one of those compositions which are popularly called variations. In these, as we hear the repeated strains of a familiar melody, we have no difficulty in detecting the principal theme, notwithstanding great differences in the effects of duration, force, pitch, or quality.  The following from the “Paraphrase de Concert,” by Charles Gimbel, of Foster’s popular “Old Black Joe,” will illustrate this fact to the eye almost as clearly as to the ear.  The lower, bass notes contain the melody, which is the principal thing; and the upper notes the accompanying variations, which, like features in the background of a painting, are subordinate to the melody

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 059]


Paraphrase de Concert: Charles Gimbel (Foster’s Old Black Joe)

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[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 060]


The same general method is pursued in almost every composition.  In many of the more important of them, however, as in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5, in C minor,

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the theme is more simple, consisting of only a few notes; and, at the same time, the developments are more complex, involving a greater departure from it.  Both facts cause it to be more difficult to keep in mind and to recognize when it reappears.  But unless one conversant with the methods of music can do this, the result is more or less inartistic.  In shorter compositions, like ballads and hymns, the effect may be perceived by all.  Notice, in the music printed on page 43, how the same movements, varied but slightly, are constantly recurring in successive lines, or pairs, or series of lines, like those marked by the same letters—namely A B, or A B+.  

 

Now, let us consider complement and balance in these arts.  As has been said, the complementary or balancing factors are sometimes the principal and a subordinate one, and sometimes are both subordinate.  In the play of “Hamlet,” the cool-headed, well-poised, consistent character of the intellectual Horatio complements that of the hot-headed, ill-poised, irresolute, but intellectual hero. At the time, certain of the other characters, as Laertes and Ophelia, and the King and Queen, complement each other.  In a sense, too, as if to show the connection of the parts with the whole as well as with other parts, they also complement certain characteristics of Hamlet.

 

Applying the same methods to form, we could say that in the following poem the principal metre consisted of a

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 061]


line of four feet, or eight syllables; and if printed thus—as it might be—all the lines would contain exactly the same rhythmic quantities, and therefore would exactly balance.

 

From gold to gray our mild sweet day

Of Indian summer fades too soon.

 

But printed as it ordinarily is, the first two lines, while together balancing the third, still more effectually balance each other.  

 

From gold to gray

our mild sweet day

Of Indian summer fades too soon;

But tenderly

Above the sea

Hangs, white and calm, the hunter's moon

—Indian Summer: Whittier.

 

The very common arrangement represented in this stanza, in accordance with which couplets, or two lines and not three, rhyme, while the rhyming lines, however widely separated, are of equal lengths, is clearly traceable to the prevalence in this art of this quantitative kind of balance.

 

Here again, too, the French forms of verse will prove serviceable by way of illustration.  Any one who will compare the following poetry with the music on page 64 will have no difficulty in detecting in both the same method of securing complementary or balancing effects as are there explained.  Just as in this, the phrase used in the first line is repeated in the fourth and seventh lines, while the first two lines are the same as the last two; so in the music the phrase set to the words in the first line is repeated in that set to the third and seventh lines, while the first two lines are very nearly the same as

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 062]


the last two.  Forms so evidently alike in principle may have arisen in poetry through attempts to imitate methods with which music first made the poets familiar.  But it is more likely that these forms in both music and poetry sprang from a common source, the source to which are attributable all the methods of art-composition.  This supposition is all the more likely inasmuch as the same characteristics, as will presently be shown, appear in the arts of sight, but so differently manifested that by no stretch of imagination is it conceivable that their appearance in the latter should have resulted from conscious imitation. Here is the poetry:

 

Oh, Love’s but a dance.

Where Time plays the fiddle:

See the couples advance,—

Oh, Love’s but a dance:

A whisper, a glance,—

"Shall we twirl down the middle?"

Oh, Love’s but a dance,

Where Time plays the fiddle.

—Triolet: Austin Dobson.

 

Once more, it is evident that the forms of verse as manifested in the arrangement, not only of its lines, but of its feet, constructed as these are out of regularly counteracting and alternating accented and unaccented syllables, owe their origin in part to the principle of balance. And what but a recognition of the artistic possibilities of a fulfilment of the same principle leads poets, and prose-writers too, to use so many pairs of words having the same sense or sound?  With Swinburne this arrangement is so common as to have become a mannerism:

 

Naked, shamed, cast out of consecration,

Corpse and coffin, yea the very graves,

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 063]


Scoffed at, scattered, shaken from their station,

Spurned and scourged of wind and sea like slaves,

Desolate beyond man's desolation,

Shrink and sink into the waste of waves.

—By the North Sea: Swinburne.

 

The same methods are equally manifest in musical effects.  To go back to the compositions termed Variations that were mentioned a moment ago, if the melody in them that furnishes the theme be the principal thing, it is evident that all the different forms of variation, while subordinate to this, are also complementary.  It is equally evident that they are all complementary of each other.  Indeed, the frequency with which a high or fast movement is placed in immediate juxtaposition to a low or slow movement cannot be explained except by supposing an intention to produce this effect.

 

In the following typically arranged melody, the principal theme may be said to be contained in the first five bars.  Notice how this is at once repeated so as to emphasize its principality; but with one complementary change in the ninth and tenth bars.  Then follow five more bars wholly complementary of the theme; then five more in which the theme is repeated again with a slight change in the last two measures.  A precisely similar arrangement, too, except that the principal theme occupies four instead of five bars, will be found in the music on page 43.

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 064]



—Missionary Hymn: Lowell Mason.

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Not only are the movements set to the fifth and sixth lines of this stanza complementary of the principal theme, but, as will be noticed, those set to the second and fourth, as well as to the sixth and eighth lines, are mutually complementary.  So important is complement of this sort to the effect of music, that it is hardly possible for a phrase to be introduced into a composition without an accompanying complement and not produce an effect of incompleteness that will be felt, even though, as is very likely, it cannot be explained.  However we may admire the following, who can ever hear its eighth line without wishing that it had been omitted, or that another line had been added somewhere? The

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 065]


reason for this is that there is nothing to balance or complement it

Ein’ Feste Burg: Luther.

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[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 066]


In addition to what has been said, notice also how uniformly in almost all compositions of this kind every two or three measures in which the notes move upward are followed by two or three in which they move downward.

 

                                            Schusucht nach dem Fruhlinge: Mozart.

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Very often, too, one part is complemented or balanced by another. In the following, when the soprano ascends the scale, the bass usually descends it, and vice versa.

 

                                                                    Laban: Lowell Mason.

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[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 067]


As for the individual measures, all that was said of those of poetry applies also to these.  In fact, throughout all their manifestations, the arts possessing forms that move, show scarcely less tendency to balance regularly from one extreme to another than does a man when he moves in walking.

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter IV, page 068]



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