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CAROLAN, THE IRISH BARD.*
There can be perhaps no greater entertainment than to com pare the rude Celtic simplicity with modern refinement. Books, however, scem incapable of furnishing the parallel; and to be acquainted with the ancient manners of our own ancestors, we should endeavor to look for their remains in those countries, which, being in some measure retired from an intercourse with other nations, are still untinctured with foreign refinement, language, or breeding
The Irish will satisfy curiosity in this respect preferably to all other nations I have seen. They, in several parts of that country, still adhere to their ancient language, dress, furniture, and superstitions; several customs exist among them that still speak their original; and in some respects, Cæsar's description of the Ancient Britons is applicable to these.
Their Bards, in particular, are still held in great veneration among them; those traditional heralds are invited to every funeral, in order to fill up the intervals of the howl with their songs and harps. In these they rehearse the actions of the ancestors of the deceased, bewail the bondage of their country under the English government, and generally conclude with advising the young men and maidens to make the best use of their time, for they will soon, for all their present bloom, be stretched under the table, like the dead body before them.
Of all the Bards this country ever produced, the last and the greatest was CAROLAN THE BLIND. He was at once a poet, a musician, a composer, and sung his own verses to his harp. The
(For some account of Carolan, see Life, ch. i.)
original natives never mention his name without rapture, both his poetry and music they have by heart; and even some of the English themselves, who have been transplanted there, find his music extremely pleasing. A song beginning “O'Rourke's noble fare will ne'er be forgot," translated by Dean Swift, is of his composition; which, though perhaps by this means the best known of his pieces, is yet by no means the most deserving. His songs, in general, may be compared to those of Pindar, as they have frequently the same flights of imagination, and are composed (I don't say written, for he could not write) merely to flatter some man of fortune upon some excellence of the same kind. In these one man is praised for the excellence of his stable, as in Pindar, * another for his hospitality, a third for the beauty of his wife and children, and a fourth for the antiquity of his family. Whenever any of the original natives of distinction were assembled at feasting or revelling, Carolan was generally there, where he was always ready with his harp to celebrate their praises. He seemed by nature formed for his profession; for as he was born blind, so also he was possessed of the most astonishing memory, and a facetious turn of thinking, which gave his entertainers infinite satisfaction. Being once at the house of an Irish nobleman, where there was a musician present, who was eminent in the profession, Carolan immediately challenged him to a trial of skill. To carry the jest forward, his Lordship persuaded the musician to accept the challenge, and he accordingly played on his fiddle the fifth concerto of Vivaldi. Carolan, immediately taking his harp, played Over the whole piece after him, without missing a note, though be had never heard it before, which produced some surprise: but their astonishment increased, when he assured them he could make a concerto in the same taste himself, which he instantly composed, and that with such spirit and elegance, that it may compare (for we have it still) with the finest compositions of Italy.
f" Hiero's royal brow, whose care
Tends the courser's noble breed; Pleas'd to nurse the pregnant mare, Pleas'd to train the youthful steed," &c.
West's Pindar, Ode i.)
His death* was not more remarkable than his life. Homer was never more fond of a glass than he; he would drink whole pints of usquebaugh, and, as he used to think, without any ill consequence. His intemperance, however, in this respect, at length brought on an incurable disorder, and when just at the point of death, he called for a cup of his beloved liquor. Those who were standing round him, surprised at the demand, endeavored to persuade him to the contrary; but he persisted, and when the bowl was brought him, attempted to drink, but could not; wherefore, giving away the bowl, he observed with a smile, that it would be hard if two such friends as he and the
should part at least without kissing; and then expired.t
* (Carolan died in March 1738, while on a visit at the house of Mrs. Mac Dermot, of Alderford, in the county of Roscommon. He was interred in the parish church of Killronan, in the diocese of Ardagh; but “not a stone tells where he lies.”]
+ [The fertility of this bard, whose name and performances are scarcely known in England except though the medium of a few of Mr. Thomas Moore's celebrated Melodies, may interest the musical reader. It will be seen by the following catalogue from Hardy's • Irish Minstrelsy,' that they take their names chiefly from those of the houses in which he was entertained :
‘McDermot Roe,' 'Mrs. McDermot Roe,' " Anna McDermot Roe,' Mr. Edmond MeDer. mot Roe,' • Planxty Reynolds,''Gracey Nugent,' Anne and Henry Ogs,'' Planxty Maguire,' “Bryan Maguire,'' O'More's Fair Daughter,' • Mild Mable Kelly,' •Planxty Kelly,' Receipt for Drinking, or Planxty Stafford,• Fair-haired Mary,''Lord Dillon,' ' Lady Dillon,' 'Fanny Dillon,'. Thomas Burke,' Isabel Burke, Planxty Burke,' Mr. James Betagh,' 'Fanny Be. tagh,'' John Moore,' • Mrs. Costello,' • Mr. Costello,'Colonel Manns O'Donnel,' 'Counsellor Dillon,' “Roze Dillon,' 'Doctor Harte,' “George Brabazon,' · Bridget O'Malley,' • Caplain Higgins," · Mrs. Garvey,' • Peggy Brown,' Mrs. Palmer,' «Frank Palmer,' • Roger Palmer," James Daly,'· Anne Daley,' “John Kelly,' • Patrick Kelly,' 'Sir Ulick Burke,' O'Conner Sligo,' • Edward Corcoran,' "Margaret Corcoran,' “Nanny Cooper,' Charles Coote,' Sir Edward Crofton, Mr. James Croston, Mrs. Crofton,' Miss Croston,' Edward Dodwell, • Mand O'Dowd,” Mrs. Fleming,' . Colonel Irwin,' 'Loftus Jones,' 'Planxty Jones,'' Abigail
A VISIT TO VAUXHALL.—PARALLEL BETWEEN MRS. VINCENT AND
I own it gave me some pleasure to find the entertainment at Vauxhall, which I regard, under proper regulations, as one of the most harmless and pleasing we have, much improved this season. Improved, if we consider the expense, which is lessened, or the singers who are better than before. Mrs. Vincent and Miss Brent are certainly capable of furnishing out an agreeable evening; and it must be confessed, the conductor of this entertainment has spared no expense in procuring a very elegant band of performers. The satisfaction which I received the first night I went there was greater than my expectations; I went in company of several friends of both sexes, whose virtues I regard, and jadgments I esteem. The music, the entertainment, but partienlarly the singing, diffused that good humor among us, which constitutes the true happiness of society; but I know not how,
1size,' James Plunket, Ria O'Hara, or the Cup of Hand.' 'O'Conor Faly,' Young O Coor Faly,' Mrs. O'Conor,' 'Mrs. O'Conor of Belanagare," Dennis O'Conor,''Doctor Cocor.' • Maurice O'Conor,' Michael O'Conor,' 'Planxty Conor,' 'Planxty Drury,' La Daignan, Mrs. French,'' Robert Hawkes,' Nelly Plunket,' • Toby Peyton,' Bridget Perha' . Molly St. George,' 'Dean Massey,' 'Mrs. Massey,' 'Doctor Delany,' 'Bishop of Ccrer,' • Catherine O'Brien, Mary Maguire,' afterwards his wife, 'Lady Iveagh,' “Vis. wer: Iveagh,' 'Captain O'Kane,' 'Lord Louth,' 'Lord Massareene,' 'Lady Massareene,' Kaame Maxwell,” • Miss Murphy,' • John Nugent,'' Mrs. Nugent,' 'Phelim O'Neil,” Mrs. OWL • Mise Eliza O'Neil,' 'Miss Mary O'Neil,'«Catherine Ovolaghan,' (Nolan) • David feo Power,' Mrs. Poer,' 'Planxty Reilly,,' 'Conor O'Reilly,' 'Myles O'Reilly,'' John Restly,' • Major Shanly,'' Mervyn Spratt,” “Mrs. Stirling,' “Mrs. Waller,' “Mr. Waller,'
William Ward.'— Those which bear his own name are 'Carolan's Concerto,' 'Devo. WzDream,''Elevation,' ' Farewell to Music,' • Fairy Queens,' « Frolick," "Lamentation,' **b rap,' Parting of Friends,' Planxty,' 'Port London,' 'Last Will and Testament,' Les Receipt for drinking Whiskey,' "Siothean an Thus, or Peace at First, and The Feast of O'Rourke.'
Many of these airs are now lost, and some of them are supposed to have been erroneously attributed to Carolan. To the most of his airs he suited brish words also of his own: his knowledge of English was very imperfect.]
from praising both the singers, as they deserved, we insensibly fell into a comparison of their respective perfections: one part of the company seemed to favor the old singer, another the new. The ladies, who in such a case, always declare their opinions first, seemed to give it in favor of Mrs. Vincent, because she was a married woman : the generality of the gentlemen were of a contrary opinion, and for a contrary reason. We, however, at length agreed to refer the dispute to two gentlemen of the company, who had been for some time in Italy, and were beside, of themselves tolerable performers. Even they, however, seemed of different opinions, and, as well as I remember, this was the substance of what either said on the occasion :
“I own," says he who spoke first, " that Miss Brent, by pleasing the town last season in the Beggar's Opera, has acquired a share of popularity which may alone lead the injudicious; but let us strip her of her theatrical ornaments, and merely as a singer, compare her with her rival Mrs. Vincent: I think it will be allowed me Mrs. Vincent has, rather, the most graceful person of the two; and even that consideration, trifling as it may seem, is of some consequence, when we are considering the perfections of a female singer. In Italy, you know, sir, scarce a lady dares appear even in a chorus, upon the stage, or as a public performer, without this natural advantage. Upon some of Miss Brent's notes there is also a huskiness, which her rival is entirely free from ; for you must confess, that nothing can be clearer than Mrs. Vincent's voice. Miss Brent, sometimes, drives the feeling theatrical manner into affectation ; for though a little of that manner is proper at all times, and is in fact the only thing in which the voice excels an instrument, yet, in plain singing, where acting is not required, it may sometimes be carried to a ridiculous excess. Mrs. Vincent sings with more ease, fetches her inspirations quicker, more unperceived, and with a better grace