Wlliam Gilmore Simms
Stories and Tales >> The Prima Donna: A Passage from City Life >> Page 176

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Short Stories | U of South Carolina P | 1974
Transcription 176THE PRIMA DONNA
I am not a musician myself. I am neither performer nor con-
noisseur, nor do I profess to have any great passion for that most
pure and elevated of all the sensual luxuries: but I should have
been more or less than mortal to have withstood the

"Divine, enchanting ravishment,"
of that voice whose sudden song, penetrating the thick folds of
sleep which enveloped me, commanded me to rise from my couch
and compelled me to listen. The song was an English one—one of
those simple old ballad ditties, the taste for which has undergone
some revival in recent days; but the air was decidedly foreign.
The artifices of Italian music linked with the direct, natural and
earnest language of English poetry, struck me on subsequent reflec-
tion, as suggesting a moral discord, which was unpleasant; but,
while the performance lasted I was not sensible to this or any
objection. I had no time to make it—no feeling for dissent or dis-
satisfaction, and it was only, long after the voice became silent, that,
in seeking to be critical I found any thing to qualify its complete
harmonies. I listened breathlessly while it proceeded. I was con-
founded to perceive that it came from a hovel, the very meanest
of the group, which stood almost in the centre of the `rookery.' If
I wondered, however, at the first moment of the discovery, I had
no time, just then, to yield myself up to mere astonishment. Delight
occupied all the emotions of my soul; and it was not until the
music had ceased for several moments, that I was able to shake
myself free from that overpowering spell which its sovereign sweet-
ness had imposed upon me. It was only when my ears ceased to
find employment, that my eyes began to resume their accustomed
exercise. It was only then, that, in examining the miserable dwelling
from which such intoxicating sounds arose, I perceived the partial
profile at one of the low, unsashed windows—of a woman, seem-
ingly very youthful, in whose style of face, I fancied I discerned
the marked outlines of the English character, and yet, not entirely
English. The black eyes hair, long and glossy, of the same colour,
which streamed upon a neck of unusual whiteness, seemed to dis-
tinguish one who had in her veins a warm, rich tincture of Milesian
blood. I subsequently discovered, however, that she was of direct