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mitted to question the propriety of his inferences, and, indeed, his general hypothefis. Every part of France, but more especially Normandy, seems have formerly abounded in minstrels, whose profeffion has been already described. Many of these people, we can easily suppose, attended the Conqueror, and his Norman barons, in their expedition to England; and perhaps were provided for, or continued to gain a subsistence by their profefional art among the settlers. The constant intercourse which so long sublisted between the two countries, that is, while the English monarchs had poffeffions in France, afforded the French and Norman minstrels constant opportunities of a free and unexpensive paffage into England, where they were certain of a favorable reception and liberal rewards from the king, his barons, and other Anglo-Norman subjects. French or Norman minstrels, however, are not English ones. There is not the least proof that the latter were a respectable society, or that they even deserve the name of a society. That there were men in those times, as there are in the
present, who gained a livelihood by going about from place to place, singing and playing to the illiterate vulgar, is doubtless true (133) ; but that they were received into the castles of the nobility, sung at their tables, and were rewarded like the French minstrels, does not any where appear, nor is it at all credible. The reason is evident.
(133) Puttenham gives us the following curious picture of the “ Ancient English Minstrels" of bis rime:
“ The ouer busie and too speedy returne of one maner of tune [doth] “ too much annoy & as it were glut the eare, vnlefse it be in small " and popular Musickes fong by these Cantanbanqui vpon beaches and " barrels heads where they haue none other audience then boys or
countrey fellowes that passe by them in the street, or else by blind “ harpers or such like taverne minstrelles that give a fit of mirth for a “ groat, & their matters being for the most part stories of old time,
as the tale- of fir Topas, the reportes of Beuis of Southampton, “ Guy of Warwicke, Adam Bell, and Clymme of the Clough & such “ other old romances or historicall rimes, made purposely for recreation " of the comon people at Christmas dinners & brideales, and in “ tauernes & alehouses and such other places of bale resort." Arte of English Poesie, 1889, p. 69.
The French tongue alone was used at court, and in the households of the Norman barons (who despised the Saxon manners and language), for many centuries after the Conquest, and continued till, at least, the reign of Henry VIII. the polite language of both court and country, and as well known as the English itsself: a fact of which (to keep to our subject) we need no other evidence than the multitude of French poems and songs to be found in every library, The learned treatise above no. ticed might, therefor, with more propriety, have been intitled “ An Essay on the ancient French Minstrels,' whom the several facts and anecdotes there related alone concern. Of the English minstrels, all the knowlege we have of them is, that by a law of queen Elizabeth they were pronounced “ rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy
beggars (134) ;”. a sufficient proof they were not very respectable in her time, how eminent foever they might have been before (135). That such characters as these should have left us no memorials of theirselves is not at all furprifing. They could fing and play; but it was none of their business to read or write. So that, whatever their songs may have been, they seem to have perished along with them; for, excepting the two ballads which have been mentioned (neither of which, unless it be from the rude and barbarous jargon in which they are composed, are necessarily ascribable to minstrels), we have not a single composition which can, with any degree of certainty, or even plausibility, be given to a person of this description (136).
Ames, (234) 39 Eliz. C. 4. S. 2.. (135) They are not represented to much greater advantage by the early historians," who,” it seems, “ can seldom afford them a “ better name than that of Scurre, Famelici, Nebulones, &c.” Parcy (Notes on the Essay, xlii.).
(136) That the reader may not be misled by a term, it will be pertinent to remark that the word is frequently used for a musician in general. Thus “the kings minstrels" were his band of music. The choristers of a cathedral as well as the trumpets of an army are likewife often so called. And in an ordinance of the rump parliament, 1658, which pays the minstrels no more respect than Queen Elizabeth had done, the word is used as synonimous with fiddlers, in which more expressive and characteristic appellation it has been fince entirely loft,
Ames, the author of the Typographical Antiquities, is said to have had in his possession a folio volume of English songs or ballads, composed or collected by one ]chn Lucas, about the year 1450; which fir John Hawkins thinks“ is probably yet in being (137).” Whoever has it, would do the public an essential service, by informing them of the nature of its contents. As to Shirleys collection, in the Ashmolean museum, it is of very littie value, and contains, at least in the present sense of the words, neither songs nor baslads.
The reign of Edward IV. affords no particular information on the subject. In that cf his son and short-lived fucceffor, we have a song written by the learned Anthony Widville, earl Rivers, during the time of his imprisonment, by the arbitrary dictates of the ambitious and ufurping Gloucester, in Pontefract castle. This little piece, which is preserved by Rouse the historian, and has been reprinted by Percy, is in imitation of the measure of one ascribed to Chaucer, and begins
Sumwhat musyng, &c. There is no song extant which can be safely ascribed tò the reign of Richard III. Skelton, in the time of hiš immediate successor, is a poet of some eminence. He was a great writer of " balades” and “ dities of plea“ sure,'' a few of which we have left; but the best, at least the most humourous of them, is, at present, too gross to be endured, and the others are too insipid to be regarded.
The late mr. Thoresby had a fair large manuscript collection of English fongs of this period, with the musical compositions of the most eminent masters, which had once belonged to the lord Fairfax. It afterwards came into the hands of a gentleman in the city, who permitted great part of it to be engraved and published. The music, according to dr. Burney, is somewhat uncouth, but is still better than the poetry. To sing by note, appears to have been then an ordinary accomplishment.
The songs used at this time, and, indeed, down to the Reformation, were mostly in French, Italian, or Latin (138). The music-book of prince Arthur is still ex(137) History of Music, 11.9). (138) Burney, II. 551.
tant: it is full of songs; and there is not an English word among them.
Of Henry the Eighths reign the writer of these pages has before him a tolerably large manuscript, somewhat resembling the Fairfax collection, but more abounding in church services, hymns, carols, and other religious pieces. One of the songs is much in the manner of Skelton, and not without humour. Another, intitled The kynges ballad, beginning
Passe tyme with good cumpanye,
is probably the composition of this or the preceding tyrant, each of whom is said to have had a turn for music and song (139). Caligula and Nero affected the same taste.
In the library of the Society of Antiquaries are several old printed copies of songs, on the disgrace of Thomas Cromwell, earl of Effex, which lhould seem to have been sung and sold in the streets. The first, and perhaps best of them, is reprinted by Percy (140). It is scarcely possible that the fall of Wolsey was less distinguished.
The Reformation appears to have given full as much employment to the ballad-makers as to the polemical divines. Perhaps, indeed, they were one and the same set. A few of these are to be found in the Reliques.
It is much to be regretted that we have no songs of Surrey or Wyatt, the two best poets of that age, and the first who made any progress in polishing and improving the language: unlels the latters exquisite address to his lute can be properly deemed one.
(139) Puttenham (Arte of English Poesie, p. 12.) mentions “one “ Gray” as having grown into great estimation with Henry VIII. « and afterward with the duke of Somerset protectour, for making “ certaine merry ballades, whereof one chiefly was, The hunte is up, " the bunte is up.” There is likewise a species of poetical harmony, in old books, called “ K. H. mirth, or Freemens Songs.” For the meaning of the letter H. fir John Hawkins says, we are to seek: there cannot be a doubt that they mean King Henrys. (140) Reliques, II. 64. C4
Lord Vaux the elder is a song-writer of the two fol. lowing reigns. His Aged Lover, of which the gravedigger in Hamlet sings a few ftanzas, and Cupids Afault, both preserved at the end of Surreys poems, and reprinted by Percy, are pieces of no little merit. And, in whatever light the beautiful pastoral of Harpalus be considered, the author has done hisself much injuitice in concealing his name.
We now arrive at the time of queen Elizabeth ; in which we are to look for the origin of the modern English song; not a single composition of that nature, with the smallest degree of poetical merit, being discoverable at any preceding period; and, confequently, none earlyer is to be found in the collection herewith given to the public (141).
We may venture to place Marlow at the head of the numerous song-writers of this reign ; not more by reaSon of his priority, than on account of his merit. And yet his Pastoral Invitation is the only song of his which has descended to us ; poflibly, which he wrote. But the beautiful and characteristic fimplicity of this little piece is fully fufficient to justify the preference here given him on the score of merit. Wither, better known in the
political, as well as poetical, annals of the two following reigns, must be esteemed a fongster of this. Both he and Marlow are happily imitated by Raleigh. Spenser has inserted a paftoral song in his eclogues. Drayton, a smooth and poetic writer, has left us two or three tolerable songs ; but his excellence is in his larger works. The genius of Shakspeare was as universal as it was sublime : his Lyric produc, tions are superior to those of his contemporaries ; and than some of them nothing better has since appeared.
(141) If we could recover that “ bunch of ballets and songs « all' ancient," which capiain Cox, the literary mason of Coventry, had “ fair wrapt up in parchment and bound with a whipcord : " “ as “ Broom, broom on hil: So wo iz me begon, trolylo. Over a whinny " weg. Hey ding a ding. Bonny lass upon a green. My bony on
gave me a bek. By a bank az I lay; and a hundred more" (Langham, letter from Killingworth. Lon. 1575. 8vo.) it is very poffible that the above opinion might prove erroneous.