Page images

unpicturesque ; but all these combined are, at once, as romantic, exciting, impressive, and melodramatic, as the various aptitudes, the exacting taste, and the broad, experimental genius of the age. The gifts of nature, the resources of art, the gratification of the senses, the exigencies of fashion and taste, and the wants of the heart and imagination, find in the opera a most convenient luxury. The lyrical drama has thus gradually usurped the place of tour. nament and theatre; it is a social as well as an artistic exponent of the day; and those who have best illustrated it are justly regarded as public benefactors. Few, however, have ministered in this temple with the artless grace, the pure enthusiasm, the glory, of Jenny Lind. The daughters of the South, ardent and susceptible, but capricious and extravagant, have heretofore won its chief honors; their triumphs have been great but spasmodic, gained by impulse rather than nature, by glorious gifts of person rather than rare graces of soul.

Jenny Lind, with her fair hair and blue eyes, her unqueenly form, and childlike simplicity, has achieved' almost unparalleled success, by means quite diverse. Her one natural gift is a voice of singular depth, compass, flexibility, and tone. This has been, if we may be allowed the expression, mesmerized by a soul earnest, pure, and sincere ; and thus, with the clear perception and dauntless will of the North, has she interpreted the familiar musical dramas in a new, vivid, and original manner. One would imagine she had come with one bound from tending her flock on the hill-side, to warble behind the foot-lights; for, so directly from the heart of nature springs her melody, and so beyond the reach of art is the simple grace of her air and manners, that we associate her with the opera only through the consummate skill - the result of scientific training -- manifested in her vocalism. The term warbling is thus adapted peculiarly to express the character of her style ; its ease, fluency, spontaneous gush, and the total absence of everything meretricious and exaggerated in the action and bearing that accompany it. It is like the song of a bird, only more human. Nature in her seems to have taken Art to her bosom, and assimilated it, through love, with herself, until the identity of each is lost in the other.


Her career in the United States was signalized by the same enthusiasm, judicious and liberal benefactions, and independence of character. She was repelled by the “self-idolatry," as she termed it, of the Americans, and forced into an antagonistic social attitude by the encroachment of the lionizing mania; but, with those she respected and loved, her manners were full of sweetness. The blind, the aged, the poor, followed her triumphant progress with benedictions. She remitted one hundred thousand dollars of her American earnings to establish free schools in Sweden. Her marriage took place in Boston; and one of the leading journals thus truly chronicled the results of her visit:

“ The Swedish Nightingale has folded her wings and hushed her song for a time, and betakes herself to the enjoyment of a little rest, after her year's great and incessant labors. It is very nearly twelve months since she arrived on our shores, and, up to this moment, she has been almost constantly before the public. She has given one hundred and twenty-three concerts, and has travelled more than sixteen thousand miles, in various parts of the United States, and in Cuba. How enthusiastically her wondrous song has been greeted by the tens of thousands who have flocked to listen to it, the press has faithfully and minutely chronicled, as her brilliant progress has extended itself over the land. Never was there a more powerful impression made by any artist who has ever been among us, and never a richer fund of private respect and regard accumulated by any stranger visiting our shores. Her personal virtues have won as much upon our countrymen's and countrywomen's love, as her wonderful music has upon their admiration and delight.”

The union of such musical science, such thoroughly disciplined art, with such artlessness and simplicity, is, perhaps, the crowning mystery of her genius. To know and to love are the conditions of triumph in all the exalted spheres of human labor; and, in the musical drama, they have never been so admirably united. Her command of expression seems not so much the result of study as of inspiration ; and there is about her a certain gentle elevation which stamps her to every eye as one who is consecrated to a high service.

Her ingenuous countenance, always enlivened by an active intelligence, might convey, at first, chiefly the idea of goodnature and cleverness in the English sense; but her carriage, voice, movements, and expression, in the more affecting moments of a drama, give sympathetic assurance of what we must be excused for calling a crystal soul. In all her characters she transports us, at once, away from the commonplace and the artificial--if not always into the domain of lofty idealism, into the more human and blissful domain of primal nature; and unhappy is the being who finds not the unconscious delight of childhood, or the dream of love, momentarily renewed in that serene and unclouded air.

In accordance with this view of Jenny Lind's characteristics, the enthusiasm she excited in England is alluded to by the leading critics as singularly honest.

No musical artist, indeed, was ever so fitted to win Anglo-Saxon sympathies She has the morale of the North ; and does not awaken the prejudice so common in Great Britain, and so truly described in “ Corinne," against the passionate temperament and tendency to extravagance that mark the children of the South. No candidate for public favor was ever so devoid of the ordinary means of attaining it. There is something absurd in making such a creature the mere nucleus of fashionable vanity, or the object of that namby-pamby criticism that busies itself with details of personal appearance and French terms of compliment. Jenny Lind is not beautiful; she does not take her audiences by storm; she exercises no intoxicating physical magnetism over their sensitive natures. She is not classic either in form of feature, or manner, or style of singing. Her loveliness as a woman, her power as an artist, her grace as a character, lies in expression; and that expression owes its variety and its enchantment to unaffected truth to nature, sentiment, and the principles of art.

“A melody with Southern passion fraught I hear thee warble : 't is as if a bird

a By intuition human strains had caught,

But whose pure breast no kindred feeling stirred. Thy native song the hushed arena fills,

So wildly plaintive, that I seem to stand

Alone, and see, from off the circling hills,

The bright horizon of the North expand ! High art is thus intact; and matchless skill

Born of intelligence and self-control, The graduated tone and perfect trill

Prove a restrained, but not a frigid soul ; Thine finds expression in such generous deeds, That music from thy lips for human sorrows pleads !”



The relation of this country to Europe, as it is rendered more intimate by the facilities of modern intercourse and the increase of emigration, assumes a greater historical interest. When a long, tedious, and comparatively perilous voyage divided us from the Old World, the advent of a band of exiles or adventurers, or the sojourn of a distinguished foreigner, was a memorable incident. The primitive reverence and attachment which bound the early colonists to their fatherland, their dependence for intellectual resources upon an older civilization, and the nucleus afforded by a vast and unappropriated country for the establishment and growth of political and religious minorities transplanted from ancient states and hierarchies, combined to render the arrival of a refugee, an experimentalist, a member of a proscribed sect, or the advocate of an original scheme or doctrine, an event fraught with incalculable results and singular attraction. The motives, career, and influence, of the gifted, the unfortunate, and the philanthropic men, who have thus sought an asylum and an arena in America, would form a chapter in our history second to none in importance and romance. It would include the agency of puritan and cavalier, of missionary and gold-seeker, of the thrifty Dutchman, the mercurial Gaul, the Spanish soldier, of priest, statesman, and trader, in moulding the original elements of national life; and from these general types it would descend to the more temporary but not less illustrious examples of the chosen few who came


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »