THE MORRIS BOOK, Online Version

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then proceeded to dance the Morisco the length of the hall, forth and back, to the great amusement of the company. So says Tabourot, long dead; and to-day we learn that, in most winters, a side of Morris-men dances at White Ladies Aston, one-and-a-half mile from Spetchley, Worcester. They blacken their faces and have for music accordion, triangle, and tambourine: their flute-player died recently. Tabourot suggests that the bells might have been borrowed from the crotali of the ancients in the Pyrrhic dance. He then describes the more modern Morris dance, which was performed by striking the ground with the fore part of the feet; but as this proved fatiguing the work was given to the heels, the toes being kept firm, whereby the bells jingled more effectively. He adds that this method in turn was modified, as it tended to bring on gouty complaints.
We are given by the same writer a notation of the Morisco, or Morisque, music, steps, and description: this shows as nearly as possible the steps of the Morris as we have seen it danced in England to-day.
Again, Engel, in a passage to us of extraordinary interest, gives in modern notation "... one of the tunes headed La Morisque, probably the oldest tune of the famous Morris dance still extant. As it is interesting from having been printed in the year 1550, when most likely it was already an old tune, it shall be inserted here ...." And there we found the same tune which Tabourot gives for the dance that he described, as we have already told. It is the tune of "Morris Off," which we reproduce in our books of tunes. Just a few weeks earlier we had taken down, at Redditch, from the fiddler of the Bidford Morris-men, the same tune, note for note, as Tabourot gives it. Here in truth is a signal instance of that persistence and continuity which is always cropping up, to the lasting amazement and delight of the student of Folk-music—to the delight more especially of the student who, like ourselves, holds that in our Folk-music is a treasury not to be hoarded for the delectation of the scholar, but to be expended with both hands for the revivifying of a national spirit.
The Morris, then—once also the Moresc—of England; La Morisque and Morisco of France; the Moresca of Corsica, danced by armed men to represent a conflict between Moors and Christians—is in all reasonable probability Moorish in origin: never mind if in our own country it is become as English as fisticuffs, as the dance called "How d'ye do" will show—wherein our own folk, after their own manner, have suggested strife, as in the Corsican variety. Holland, as is told by Engel, was infected too; industrious research, in fact, will probably show that the Morris in some shape or other was known throughout Europe, and beyond. As for the date of its introduction into England that is impossible to state with certainty; but most authorities point to the time of Edward III., maybe when John of Gaunt returned from Spain, as probably the earliest when Morris-men were seen in England. It is said also that we had it from the French; another lays its introduction to the credit of the Flemings. The window with its Morris-men shown in our frontispiece is probably of the time of Edward IV.
Schemes of wider research, however, we are content to leave in the hands of the intrepid Folk-lorist. We are concerned here to extract from a mass of notes and references some outstanding few, to remind practising and potential Morris-dancers of to-day that this new-old art, if not indigenous, has been, like many another foreign importation, assimilated much to our advantage.
The Morisco, from which our own Morris has obviously descended, seems to have been originally both a solo and square dance, the latter being performed by sides (that is, sets) of six. The solo Morris existed all along, and still exists. When we saw our friend Kimber (mentioned elsewhere) dance his Morris jig to the tune of "Rodney," had our other old friend Tabourot been






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