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Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 132.djvu/770

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PIANIST AND MARTYR.

was a most unequivocal success, and Japan may well congratulate herself on having so quickly acquired a large body of officers as well trained and as effective as these cadets showed themselves to be to-day. This training-ship, by the way, was once in the British service, whence it was purchased by the Japanese government. In England she was known as the "Beagle," a name rendered famous by association with that of Darwin. This inspection may be said to have concluded the festivities of the new year, as to-morrow the mikado leaves Yedo, en route for the western capital. This means that the new year is fairly started on its way; the emperor now leaves it to take care of itself.




From The Examiner.

PIANIST AND MARTYR.

When Music, heavenly maid, was young, did she practise many hours a day? Did she train her fingers gymnastically with scales and shakes and exercises on five notes; and did she plod through the bars of toilsome fantasias, repeating them through weeks, a dozen times together, until at last the patient process had achieved the crown of success, and she could take the allegros, and for the matter of that the andantes too, at a fast prestissimo? And did she have next-door neighbors?

In our days there are many maidens, young and doubtless heavenly, who are perseveringly flattening their finger-tips with a view to becoming musical. They pursue their art of measured sounds ascetically, not to gratify a taste but to perform a duty. Left to their own instinctive aspirations, they would have been as likely to wish to learn bricklaying as instrumental music, but they, or their parents for them, know the moral proprieties, and therefore they set themselves to fulfil one of the chief purposes to which nature has destined them and acquire the womanly virtue of playing the piano. The better the girl the longer she practises. Miss Goodenough just passes muster with an hour a day. Miss Well-Bred takes rank as a pattern young lady with three, but Miss Nonesuch with five establishes her reputation as a glory and hope of her sex. The present writer has known two Miss Nonesuches whose merit was quoted in each case as immeasurably enhanced by the fact that the persevering votary of this "forceful art" was deficient in ear for music, and had no taste for it. One of them succeeded and became, for an amateur, quite a dexterous pianist, particularly neat in her fingering; the other, perverted by inclinations for drawing and for croquet, fell away after only two years' diligence, and by that instability lost more than all the ground she had gained during her period of melodious Juggernautism. It was absurd of her to plead that her two years' hard work had not enabled her to play any one of her "pieces" correctly and in time; if she played so badly there was all the more need for practising.

Putting aside any recollection of personal sufferings of our own, of chromatic ascensions next door of which each note seemed hammered into our aching heads, of bluettes, and pensées, and rains of pearls and roses and stars and all things droppable and drippable on the piano, setting our brains in a watery whirl as we painfully try to write or read and not to hear, of glib perpetual waltzes and too familiar "short tunes and long tunes" forcing themselves, like old acquaintances defiant of "not-at-homes," through our unwilling ears and churning on inside our heads when we want to write our epic or our recondite treatise on political economy — putting aside all subjective considerations, we must needs revere these martyrs to duty who are to be found in every English home and swarm next door. What they do they do because it is right. They do not know why they ought to give a large part of their young lives to a protracted attempt at mastering a craft which requires a rare and special talent not belonging to them, they only know that it is their vocation. Like Tennyson's linnet they do but sing because they must; but theirs is not the linnet's unreasoning self-indulgent must, it is the must of the civilized being, obedient to conscience and with a conscience obedient to public opinion. The taunt sometimes levelled at them that they seek and value musical acquirements as a means of winning a husband, is one which, in nineteen cases out of twenty at the least, is undeserved. Girls who consciously go to work to get married know very well that a well-placed sigh is worth fifty sonatas and that no amount of major and minor prestidigitation can win a triumph over the rival who, though a dunce at the music-book, is an expert in smiles and dropped eyelids; and the other girls, who, taking their lives as they find them, shut their eyes and see what chance will send them, simply accept their music, like their lace-embroidery, as a part of woman's mission