Music in Oxford Street

March 17 2014

Wordsworth’s poem on Venice (post before last) may not be great. Power of Music must be one of his worst, but I am tolerant of the lesser products of men of genius:

“An Orpheus! an Orpheus! yes, Faith may grow bold,
And take to herself all the wonders of old; –
Near the stately Pantheon you’ll meet with the same
In the street that from Oxford hath borrowed its name.

His station is there; and he works on [vulgar] the crowd,
He sways them with harmony merry and loud;
He fills with his power all their hearts to the brim –
Was aught ever heard like his fiddle and him?

What an eager assembly! what an empire is this!
The weary have life, and the hungry have bliss;
The mourner is cheered, and the anxious have rest;
And the guilt-burthened soul is no longer opprest.

As the Moon brightens round her the clouds of the night,]
So He, where he stands, is a centre of light;
It gleams on the face, there, of dusky-browed Jack,
And the pale-visaged Baker’s, with basket on back.

That errand-bound ’Prentice was passing in haste –
What matter! he’s caught – and his time runs to waste;
The Newsman is stopped, though he stops on the fret;
And the half-breathless Lamplighter – he’s in the net!

The Porter sits down on the weight which he bore;
The Lass with her barrow wheels hither her store; –
If a thief could be here he might pilfer at ease;
She sees the Musician, ’tis all that she sees!

He stands, backed by the wall; – he abates not his din;
His hat gives him vigour, with boons dropping in,
From the old and the young, from the poorest; and there!]
The one-pennied Boy has his penny to spare.

O blest are the hearers, and proud be the hand
Of the pleasure it spreads through so thankful a band;
I am glad for him, blind as he is! – all the while
If they speak ’tis to praise, and they praise with a smile.

That tall Man, a giant in bulk and in height,
Not an inch of his body is free from delight;
Can he keep himself still, if he would? oh, not he!
The music stirs in him like wind through a tree.

Mark that Cripple who leans on his crutch; like a tower
That long has leaned forward, leans hour after hour! –
That Mother, whose spirit in fetters is bound,
While she dandles the Babe in her arms to the sound.

Now, coaches and chariots! roar on like a stream;
Here are twenty souls happy as souls in a dream:
They are deaf to your murmurs – they care not for you,
Nor what ye are flying, nor what ye pursue!”



From Oxford Street to Oxfordshire.

A fiddler gets less attention in the last of Hogarth’s Humours of an Election, oil paintings and engravings illustrating an Oxfordshire election in 1754. An Election Entertainment, Canvassing for Votes and The Polling show corruption. Chairing the Member shows the celebrations of a Tory and his supporters (each constituency elected two MPs). The blind fiddler is a sublime commentary. Sir John Soane’s Museum.

William Hogarth


Haydn completed his Symphony no 92 in G, the Oxford, in 1789. He conducted it there in 1791 at a ceremony in which he was awarded an honorary doctorate, but it had been commissioned by the Count d’Ogny for performance in Paris. Vienna Philharmonic, Bernstein:

[March 19: this has been taken offline already, so here is the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra, Adam Fischer:

What is the picture there? It looks like the Louvre.]

2 Responses to “Music in Oxford Street”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Parry wrote a Cambridge symphony, his second (1882-83).

    Tchaikovsky visited Oxford a few months before his death to receive an honorary doctorate (1893).

  2. davidderrick Says:

    The Pantheon: one of the lost pleasure-haunts of London, along with Vauxhall Gardens and the Crystal Palace.

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