THE MORRIS BOOK, Online Version

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As a conclusion to this imperfect sketch we would point once more to the warranty of its imperfections and sketchiness offered in the beginning. We hope for it no more than that it may serve to direct those inclined to bestow upon the Morris a closer study, to at least the beginnings of an enthralling subject. So much for the origin and history of the art. As for its living practitioners: of the men, for instance, of Gloucestershire, Norfolk, Lancashire, Northumberland—the last-named of whom danced the other day before the King at Alnwick Castle under the name of Guisards—and elsewhere, we offer no precise information. It may be that one day we shall be privileged to do so. But for the tunes we have set down, and for the dances belonging thereto we have attempted to describe, we do claim that in these we have tried most faithfully to pass on to others what the Morris-men gave to us.
MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS.
In earliest days of the Morris, music was made by a simple pipe, by pipe and tabour, or the bagpipe. Of these the bagpipe was apparently the original. An old madrigal, printed in 1660, runs thus:
Harke, harke, I hear the dancing And a nimble morris prancing; The bagpipe and the morris bells That they are not farre hence us tells; Come let us goe thither, And dance like friends together.
Since the disappearance of the bagpipe, pipe and tabour (called whittle and dub) have been, even within the memory of living men, the accepted instruments wherewith to make music and beat time for the Morris. They are now fallen into disuse. The pipe or whittle was of wood, really an early form of the flageolet, over a foot long; sometimes it had a metal tongue in the mouthpiece; two finger-holes and a thumb-hole to vary the note, and was played with the left hand. From the left thumb the tabour, or dub, was suspended by a loop: the dub was a miniature drum, elaborately made, and was beaten by a stick held in the right hand. Pipe and tabour were sometimes played by separate men.
At the present time the music is generally played on a fiddle; though here, again, having no complete knowledge of all the traditional dancers still left among us, we offer no precise statement as to the instruments still in use. One Morris-man we knew made music on a concertina. See plate opp. p. 22.
DRESS.
In the matter of dress, old-time accounts prove that the Morris-men indulged in considerable variety; and even amongst present-day inheritors of the tradition there are many differences. Still, certain features may be regarded as common, and the dress of Mr. Salisbury (plate opp. p. 21), leader of the Bidford men, may be cited as typical. The tall hat, though not universal, is the most popular and general headgear; and this dancer and his men wore a broad band of plaited ribbons on their hats some two-and-a-half inches wide, in red, green and white. The elaborately frilled and pleated white shirt is also typical; this was tied at wrist and elbow with blue ribbons, the ends left hanging. The breeches were of fawn-shaded corduroy, with braces of white webbing; on the braces were pinned, in front and at the back, level with the breast, rosettes of red, white and blue ribbons, the ends left hanging. The tie was of the same blue ribbon as that in






E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III