Poem: "On the True Use of Musick"

I've found myself chewing on several thoughts in light of the responses to my post about art's useful and non-useful status. I'd really like to explore them properly. But unfortunately I am also trying to finish up a final paper. Brain cells can only be distributed so much. I'm grateful for the generous tone of the comments and I'm excited to see where this will lead.

In the meanwhile, I'd like to also keep my habit of including poetry in my regular diet of posts. In honor of our discussion I've decided to post a portion of Charles Wesley's poem, "On the True Use of Musick," published at some point during the 1740s. Reading it makes me think: there really isn't anything new under the sun.

The one curious background note is that, despite the poem's apologetic for music's exclusively "religious" justification, his son, Charles Jr., seems to have spent his considerable talent and time playing "non-religious" (classical) music. This apparently upset many of the Methodists of the day, feeling it was too "worldly," and they let the Wesley family know it. At one point Charles Sr. felt compelled to pen a public a reply. In it he wrote:

"Whatever trade a boy is designed for, he must be taught that trade. If it be painting, he must be sent to the Zimmer; if navigator, to the sailors; if music, to the musicians.... With a good conscience and a single eye I build up my son for a Musician. I make no secret of it. The world knows it; and let the world make their most of it. He goes to perform at the Concert, he goes not to his diversion, but to his business.... If God gives my son grace, he will be preserved from the snares of his calling. He will be a Christian and a Musician too."

My opinion? I think it took a great deal of courage for Charles to write those words and then to make them public, despite the widespread criticism of fellow Methodists.

Here then is the poem.

1. Listed into the Cause of Sin,
Why should a Good be Evil?
Musick, alas! too long has been
Prest to obey the Devil;
Drunken, or lewd, or light the Lay
Flow'd to the Soul's Undoing,
Widen'd, and strew'd with Flowers the Way
Down to Eternal Ruin.

2. Who on the Part of GOD will rise,
Innocent Sound recover,
Fly on the Prey, and take the Prize,
Plunder the Carnal Lover,
Srip him of every moving Strain,
Every melting Measure,
Musick in Virtue's Cause retain,
Rescue the Holy Pleasure?

3. Come let us try if JESU's love
Will not as well inspire us:
This is the Theme of Those above,
This upon Earth shall fire us.
Say, if your Hearts are tun'd to sing,
Is there a Subject greater?
Harmony all its Strains may bring,
JESUS's Name is sweeter.

4. JESUS the Soul of Musick is;
His is the Noblest Passion:
JESUS's Name is Joy and Peace,
Happiness and Salvation:
JESUS's Name the Dead can rise,
Shew us our Sins forgiven,
Fill us with all the Life of Grace,
Carry us up to Heaven.

5. Who hath a Right like Us to sing,
Us whom his Mercy raises?
Merry our Hearts, for CHRIST is King,
Cheerful are all our Faces:
Who of his Love doth once partake
He evermore rejoices:
Melody in our Hearts we make,
Echoing to our Voices....


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