Pagina:Baretti - Prefazioni e polemiche.djvu/317



were ever sung. Can \ve do nothing more than read and recite them, because we cannot determine these points? Are \ve utterl}te forbear rendering them stili more delightful, because we are ignorant of the notes that once enlivened them? Being ignorant of the true pronunciation of the Latin tongue, we give ali over Europe such soimds to its sjllables, as would, in ali probability, seem rude and disgustful to an ancient Roman. Yet, under this unavoidable disadvantage, we read and recite the odes of Horace with the greatest pleasure. Why then should we scruple to g^ve them a modem music as we do a modem pronunciation, and fairly try whether they may, or may not, afford us a new species of pleasure, though not set off in the modulations of the Augustan age?

To make this trial, Philidor and I have joined our abilities, such as they are, and bring the Carmen secularc before a British audience. The modem nation that abounds most in scholars has a right to see first what can be done in this particular. But let no auditor be too severe to a first essay, lest succeeding attempts be discouraged. The summit of perfection was never reached at once. Indulgence must keep company with justice and temper the austerity of a first decree.

Yet, as an audience cannot consist solely of scholars, and as many of the other sex may be drawn by curiosity to be our hearers, it is necessary to teli them what the Carmen seculare is, and premise a few explanations, that they also may partake in the pleasure of such an exhibition.

Carmen seculare means a poem or a song, made at the beginning of a seculum, that is, of a century, to hail it in auspiciously. It was the custom of the Romans to celebrate the foundation of their city at the beginning of ever>- century by a great festival; in which, among a variety of games and diversions, a song was introduced, made in honour of Apollo and Diana, the tutelar deities of their town, to implore a continuance of their favour and protection. The song was sung in a tempie dedicated to those deities, by seven and twentjboys and as many girls, ali born of their noblest families.