KING DAVID THE HARPER

If we may judge by his name, the Semitic king who bore
the name of Cinyras was, like King David, a harper; for
the name of Cinyras is clearly connected with the Greek
cinyra, “a lyre,” which in its turn comes from the
Semitic kinnor, “a lyre,” the very word applied to the
instrument on which David played before Saul. We shall
probably not err in assuming that at Paphos as at
Jerusalem the music of the lyre or harp was not a mere
pastime designed to while away an idle hour, but
formed part of the service of religion, the moving
influence of its melodies being perhaps set down, like
the effect of wine, to the direct inspiration of a deity.
Certainly at Jerusalem the regular clergy of the temple
prophesied to the music of harps, of psalteries, and of
cymbals; and it appears that the irregular clergy also, as
we may call the prophets, depended on some such
stimulus for inducing the ecstatic state which they took
for immediate converse with the divinity. Thus we read
of a band of prophets coming down from a high place
with a psaltery, a timbrel, a pipe, and a harp before
them, and prophesying as they went.

Again, just as the cloud of melancholy which from time
to time darkened the moody mind of Saul was viewed as
an evil spirit from the Lord vexing him, so on the other
hand the solemn strains of the harp, which soothed and
composed his troubled thoughts, may well have seemed
to the hag-ridden king the very voice of God or of his
good angel whispering peace. Even in our own day a
great religious writer, himself deeply sensitive to the
witchery of music, has said that musical notes, with all
their power to fire the blood and melt the heart, cannot
be mere empty sounds and nothing more; no, they have
escaped from some higher sphere, they are outpourings
of eternal harmony, the voice of angels, the Magnificat
of saints. It is thus that the rude imaginings of primitive
man are transfigured and his feeble lispings echoed
with a rolling reverberation in the musical prose of Newman.
Indeed the influence of music on the
development of religion is a subject which would repay
a sympathetic study. For we cannot doubt that this, the
most intimate and affecting of all the arts, has done
much to create as well as to express the religious
emotions, thus modifying more or less deeply the fabric
of belief to which at first sight it seems only to minister.
The musician has done his part as well as the prophet
and the thinker in the making of religion. Every faith
has its appropriate music, and the difference between
the creeds might almost be expressed in musical
notation. The interval, for example, which divides the
wild revels of Cybele from the stately ritual of the
Catholic Church is measured by the gulf which severs
the dissonant clash of cymbals and tambourines from
the grave harmonies of Palestrina and Handel. A
different spirit breathes in the difference of the music.

James Frazer THE GOLDEN BOUGH (XXXI. Adonis in Cyprus)

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