All the arts are enclosed within certain limits which they are forbidden to transgress. Their charm, their power depend on this unity of purpose, on this complete purity; to confuse them is to lose them. In a decadent period one sees sculptors coloring their marbles, painters putting statues on their canvases and not men, poets aiming at musical and picturesque effects, musicians pretending to an exact imitation of all that their art will never express and never imitate. Vain efforts to overstep the boundaries which the nature of things imposes on the artist! Barbarism is the result; the laws of the organism reject these innovations. This is not a matter of arbitrary rules, of codes planned in advance to shackle genius, of barriers placed by a La Harpe or a Le Batteux; nature herself requires that man remain man, that each species have its laws of reproduction and organization, that painting be painting and music music, at the risk of becoming nothing at all.
Hence look what our poets produce when they transform themselves into painters and only describe. Darwin in England, Delille in France. What has become of their glory? Ask the ages whether they admire or scorn those ivory busts with ebony eyes and silver hands, which have been worked with such an odd devotion and left to us by a degenerate sculpture. In the reign of Napoleon, did not the "Battle Sonata" ruin all the pianos of the empire? Did we not swoon with pleasure on hearing the arpeggios that represented an encampment, the dissonances that expressed the cries of the wounded, and those block chords over which the engraver wrote "The emperor's speech to the troops." Speech! What a sublime effort! In the guise of spoken eloquence, thirty measures of music! It is the masterwork, the last degree of ridicule one can attain in this system which tries to give music the attributes of poetry or rhetoric, and to poetry those of painting.
Doesn't each art have resources enough of its own? Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, all keep within musical limits, but have they not brought forth new and sublime effects? It is not necessary, as M. Berlioz does, to transform a symphony into a poem, to give a meaning to each da capo
, and a sense to every ritournelle. Essentially vague,striking the ear with a sound whose prestige is confused and limitless, music refuses this servile imitation. Music is infinite: that is her merit and her failing; she is lost in space, like the life of man in eternity, like the drop of water in the sea. Reverie, melancholy, religious sentiment, passionate ardor, these accord with music which is vague, immense, but imprecise, like these same emotions which she nourishes.From
Revue de Paris 21 (1830): 120-23vague des passions