One of our better Maine radio stations brings us a taped musical program every Sunday evening that is produced by the Boston Pops Orchestra. That worthy aggregation has lately had a change of command, and we are now getting tapes made by the new conductor. Last Sunday we listened for maybe 20 minutes and my wide looked up from her knitting to say, "Seems to me that conductor is making more liek a motorman." I was aware that pleasure in the music had waned lately, but the niceties of music are not my strong point and I answered that perhaps I was nobody to judge.
"If you like some and don't like some, you're a judge," she said, and I thought maybe I'd heard that before.
"Justice must be tempered with mercy," I offered, knowing well I had heard thatm before, and I added, "There's a piano passage in Sylviem and Brunom that I believe I'll look up."
Has anybody bothered with Sylviem and Brunom for the past generation or so? I can reach Alicem down in the dark, but I had to hunt to find Sylvie and Bruno.m Sylvie and Bruno were fairies imagined by Lewis Carroll, and his story about them is by no means up there with his Alice books, but it has its good parts and it tells us a lot about the curious man whose curiouser mind beguiles us.
Lady Muriel gave a party, and a gifted young lady played the piano for the guests. Something of a clash was expected after the young lady said to Bruno, "You're not more than seven, are you?"
"'I'm one,' said Bruno. 'Sylvie and me is two.'"
She was one of those players whom Society talks of as "brilliant," and she dashed into the loveliest of Haydn's Symphonies in a style that was clearly the outcome of years of patient study under the best of masters. At first it seemed to be the perfection of piano-forte-playing; but in a few minutes I began to ask myself, wearily, "What is it that is wanting? Why does one get no pleasure from it?"m
The answer offered is that her music had only mechanical correctness. It was , in short, simply irritating. And when asked if he liked music, Arthur (Lady Muriel's betrothed) said, "Do I like music?m My dear Lady Muriel, there is Music and Music. Your question is painfully vague. You might as well ask, 'do you like people?'"
Which causes Bruno to say, "Im likes Peoples!"
"That's about the size of it, " my wife said when I had read the passage.
"There's something else comes to mind," I told her. "Just a minute."
It didn't take long to find The compleat Angler,m and the passage I was after may be the best lines in the book.
Pisc. Look you, Scholar; you see I have hold of a good fish: I now see it is a trout. I pray put the net under him, and touch not my line, for if you do, then we break all. Well done, Scholar, I thank you. Now for another . . .m
Ven. . . . but I have no fortune; sure, Master, yours is a better rod and better tackling.m
Pisc. Nay, then take mine and I will fish with yours. Look you, Scholar, I have another . . . and now I have a bite at another -- Oh, me! he has broke all; there's half a line and a good hook lost.m
Ven. Ay, and a good trout, too.m
Pisc.Nay, the trout is not lost; for pray take notice, no man can lose what he never had.m
Ven. Master, I can neither catch with the first nor second angle: I have no fortune.m
Pisc. Look you, Scholar, I have yet another. And now . . . I will tell you a short tale as we walk towards our breakfast. A preacher that was to preach to procure the approbation of a parish had got from his fellow-pupil the copy of a sermon that was first preached with great commendation. though the borrower of it preached it word for word, yet it was utterly disliked as it was preached; which the sermon-borrower complained of to the lender of it and was thus answered: "I lent you indeed my fiddle, but not my fiddlestick." You yet have not skill to know how to carry your hand and line, nor how to guide it to a right place; and this must be taught you, -- for you are to remember I told you Angling is an art.m
Some of the others are grammar, rhetorics, arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.