Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/316



Italians and Spaniards, or that of the English and French. Music he certainly understood, as he exhorts the singers of his Carmen seculare to attend his marking of the measures: servate mei pollicis ictum: let these words be interpreted as implying a mere blow given with this thumb upon any thing, to mark each measure; or, as I would rather have it, let them be understood as marking each measure by forcible strokes upon the gravest chord of his instrument, which, in one of his satires, he calls «the lower of the four», it follows either way, that Borace was acquainted with music; and one might almost conclude from those commanding words, that, like one of our masters in an orchestra, he presided himself to the singing of his Carmen. This conjecture will acquire strength, if we turn to the prologus, where he tells the audience, that «he sings verses never heard before», and sings them «to boys and girls». It borders upon absurdity there, not to interprete him literally; and it is surprising that father Sanadon did not even suspect his having been the musician as well as the poet upon that occasion, after having arranged the Polym^trum; which, if it does not prove, at least hints, that he appeared there in both characters.

Be that notwithstanding as it will, it is sufficient for my purpose, that one of Borace ’s odes must actually have been set to music, as it was sung on a great festival. But, if that particular ode was set to music, and sung, why should ali the rest remain deprived of that honour, when they are ali susceptible of music? Indeed, the modem composers must be charged with want of sagaciousness or curiosity for having forborn to avail themselves of subjects which would have teemed with an infinite variety of new modulations. They ought to have decorated with music the fine sense of that poet, as it fortunately happens to be wrapped up in the most melodious metres and expressed in the most significant words. Be it true that it is impossible, in our days, to ascertain how the Carmen seculare was set in the days of Augustus, and that we cannot even guess to what tunes the other odes were sung, if they