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soning of these two learned and ingenious gentlemen on
Svmer if icumen in.
Ne swik bu nauer nu (128).
(128) i e. Summer is come in ; loud sings the cuckoo: now the feed
grows, and the mead blows (i.e. is in flower), and the wood springs. The ewe bleats after the lamb; the calf lows after the cow; the bullock starts, the buck verts (i. e. goes to harbour in the fern); merrily fings the cuckoo. Well lingest thou, cuckoo. Mayest thou never cease,
of the language and poetic manner of this early period, we Mall insert the first verse of “ a song in praise of “ the authors mistress, whose name was Alysoun.”
Bytuene mersh & aueril
When spray biginnep to spînge
On hyre lud to synge
Icham in hire bandoun
And lyht on Alysoun (129). The four last lines make the burthen of the three remaining stanzas.
Of nearly the same age, in another manuscript, we have “ a song in praise of the valiant knight fir Piers de
Birmingham, who, while he lived, was a scourge to “ the Irish, and died A. D. 1288.” But it is very long, and has little merit.
During the reign of Edward III. Chaucer considerably improved and polished both our language and our poetry. He is, undoubtedly, a writer of great genius, and, almost, the first English poet worth naming. In the CanTERBURY Tales, and, indeed, throughout his works, are numberless allusions to the state of the music and song of his age (130). But few, perhaps, if any, of those
(129) Between March and April, when the branches begin to Spring, the little birds indulge their inclination to sing in their lane guage. I live in the longings of love, for the seem liest of all creatures. She may bring me happiness. I am in her bonds. I have obtained a happy lot. I wot [believe it is sent me from heaven. My love has left all other women, and is alighted upon Alison,
(130) For instance, the Pardoner fings“ Come hither, love, to me:" while the fompnour (summoner or apparitor) bears him a tif “ burdoun," i. e. fings the base. This was, doubtless, some favourite fong at that time. As was, likewise, it Thould seem “ 'l he Kinges
numerous fongs, which he expressly tells us he composed, and for the composition of which he testifies so much penitence (131), seem to have come down to us; unless the rondeau printed by Percy, beginning
our two eyn will ne me fodenly, should happen to be one of them. His ballades may,
indeed, have been sung, but they are certainly no songs.
Of the reign of Richard II. there is no song known to be extant. A manuscript in the Cotton library, of the time of his ufurping successor, contains a sarcastic ballad upon the execution, as it should seem, of John Holland, duke of Exeter, whom the author calls « Jac
Nape," and for whose soul he makes the rest of
note," which is elsewhere mentioned. Absalon, the all-accom. plighed parish clerk, is celebrated for his skill in music:
In twenty manere could he trip and dance,
And as wel coude he play on a giterne Ho &ci Nay, our jocose author has even preserved the very fong which this amourous youth performed in one of his nocturnal serenades,
He fingeth in his vois gentil and smal;
Ful wel accordant to his giterning.
Tho coude I dancen to an harpé (male
And Sing ywis as any nightingale. And from a passage in the Prioresses Tale it should appear that “ “ SINGEN” was as much an established branch of the education of “ smale children" as
(131) – and many a song, and many a LICHIROUS LAY, “ Crist of his grete mercie foryeve me the finne.” RETRAC, C. T. (iii. 277.)
• And after that he fong the kinges note;
Ful cften blessed was his mery throte. M.T.
# A guitar or citern. VOL. II.
the conspirators, by name, sing “ Placebo & dirige." It begins,
In the moneth of May, when gâsse groweb grene, and is accompanied by another, against the Lollards, of the same age.
Henry V. forbad his subjects to extol his victory at Agincourt: but they either had already begun to chant triumphal songs, or were not deterred by the prohibition; for one of these pieces, with the original music, is luckily preserved to us, and has been frequently printed (132).
The reign of Henry VI, is an era of great consequence in the poetical annals of this country; not so much, indeed, from the excellence, as from the magnitude and multiplicity of its metrical productions. The works of Lydgate, monk of Bury, alone, are nearly suficient to load. a waggon. His ballades are numerous; but we find nothing which we can call a song; except a fort of “roun“ dell” previous to the coronation of Henry the Sixth, which is not worth inserting here. But Dan John, like most of the other professed poets of that age, laboured too much with a leaden pen, in what was then thought a solemn and stately ftanza (rythme royal), to be a good writer of fongs. These were chiefly composed by anony. mous and ignorant rimers, for the use of the vulgar, and it is by mere accident that any of them have been preferved. It must, indeçd, be confessed that most of those which remain possess' very little merit, besides that of exhibiting the state of the art at the time in which they were written. Though a collection of such things, rude and simple as they are, would by no means prove either unworthy of attention, or void of use. The Turnament of Tottenham, however, printed by Percy, is a very humourous and very excellent composition. But the most curicus and remarkable pieces of this period are two songs or ballads, in a rude Northern dialect, which deserve particular attention; the one is upon the battle of
(192) Literary Magazine, 1757, p. 308. Percys Reliques, ii, 25. ard elsewbere.
Otterburn, fought between the Scots and the English, under the respective commands of an earl of Douglas (who was slain in the field), and the great and celebrated Henry lord Percy, surnamed Hotspur, son of the earl of Northumberland, who was carried prisoner into Scotland; the other, if not a different modification of this ballad, is on an imaginary conflict between a Douglas and a Percy, occafioned by a hunting match supposed to have been made by the latter in CHEVY CHAce (i. e. the heights of Cheviot in Northumberland, then within the Scotish march), in which they are both llain. This is known to have been a popular song in the time of queen Elizabeth. “ I never heard,” says the accomplished fir Philip Sid. ney, “ the old song of Percy and Douglas, that I found
heart moued more then with a trumpet; and yet is it but sung by some blind crowder, with no
rougher voice then rude stile: which being so euill "apparelled in the dust and cobweb of that vnciuillage, so what would it worke trimmed in the
elo. quence of Pindare.”
Notwithstanding this eulogy, it feems to have been little known and much neglected; and, being modernised in a fucceeding reign, became totally forgotten, till it was accidentally recovered by that industrious antiquary, mr. Thomas Hearne, by whom it was first printed ; and from him bishop Percy inserted it in his Reliques of ancient English Poetry; in which, likewise, The Battle of Otterburn, two copies whereof are luckily extant in the Museum, made its first appearance. These two songs are by this ingenious writer ascribed to a body of men, who are supposed to have been, about this period, and for some preceding centuries, very numerous and respectable; and concerning whom he has favoured the world with a most ingenious and elegant essay. The reader will immediately recollect-the ancient English or minstrels,” of whom, before we advance further in our little history, it may not be impertinent or improper to take some notice.
Without attempting to controvert the slightest fact laid down by the learned prelate, one may be well per: