UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Poetry and music in England, 1660 to 1760 : a comparison based on the works on Dryden, Purcell, Pope, and Handel. Gooch, Bryan Niel Shirley


Art reflects the age in which it is produced, and any facet of Art, such as music or poetry, by virtue of this fact, is intrinsically related to other facets. Such an examination as is suggested in the title of this thesis is deemed to be of use to students of English on the ground, then, that literature, or more specifically, poetry, is not an isolated cultural phenomenon which has no relationship to other arts within a given age. In some eras, many similarities exist in the arts; in other ages, fewer. It is my contention that between 1660 and 1760 in England, there were many points of resemblance in poetry and music. The first chapter discusses the approach to be taken in dealing with, similarities in the two mediums noted above, and indicates the limitations of the thesis. Because of the great amount of both primary and secondary source material relevant to the period between 1660 and 1760, the examination is confined to a comparison of certain representative works of Dryden, Purcell, Pope, and Handel. Some secondary source material is also brought into the discussion; as there has been much excellent critical work done both in regard to music and poetry, it is logical to try to bring together in this thesis comments of writers on both arts. Since this dissertation is intended primarily for literary scholars, the first chapter also includes a brief outline of developments in music in England in the post-Elizabethan and Commonwealth years; this inclusion is judged to be necessary in view of the fact that some of the facets of Restoration music relate to works produced in earlier years. The second and third chapters constitute the major part of the examination. The former deals with Dryden and Purcell, and involves (respectively) a consideration of the poetic and musical influences working upon them, the courtly, secular, and occasional nature of their productions, and the presence, in the latter, of the "spectacular," the "magnificent." This portion of the chapter considers ornamentation, such aspects of the arts as theatrical elements, innovation and improvement, form, and manner. Specific works are then discussed; these include Dryden's A Song for Saint Cecilia's Day and Alexander's Feast, and Purcell's setting of Nicholas Brady's ode for St. Cecilia's day, Hail! Bright Cecilia, and King Arthur. The third chapter is like the second in many respects, but deals with Pope and Handel. The influences on these two men are discussed, and an illustration is included to show that such influences bear a remarkable similarity to those which, in many ways, determined the nature of the works of Dryden and Purcell. The discussion dealing first with Pope and then with Handel, moves to such topics as precision and craftsmanship, representation of thought in sound, choice of words (Pope), rhythm, and selection of range and nature of music in the setting of poetry (Handel), principle of contrast, pastoral aspects, satire, influence of the belief in an ordered universe, regard for Nature, and general classification of both arts. The works of Pope dealt with in these pages include The Rape of the Lock, An Essay on Criticism. Moral Essays. Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, The Dunciad, and Windsor Forest: of Handel, Messiah, Kompositionen für Klavier, and Music for the Royal Fireworks. The chapter concludes with a short analysis of Handel's setting of Pope's words in the aria, "Where'er you walk" from Semele. In the case of the music of both Purcell and Handel, illustrations are provided to assist the reader. Extensive documentation also ensures the maximum utility of the dissertation. The fourth chapter draws together the lines of the discussion. That there are definite parallels between the two arts, in the light of the evidence presented, is undeniable. As the final pages state, there is still a great deal to be done in the field in terms of further research and examination of both primary and secondary sources. However, this thesis shows conclusively that the same currents which were present in the poetry between 1660 and 176O were very often present in some form in the music, and there is every reason for considering the two arts "acknowledg'd sisters."

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