Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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4                                                 ENGLISH MINSTRELSY.
of a perfect prince, or a complete hero. The harp seems to have been, for many ages, the favorite instrument of the inhabitants of this island,"whether under British, Saxon, Danish, or Norman kings. Even so early as the first invasion of Britain by the Saxons, we have an incident which records the use of it, and which shows that the Minstrel or Bard was well-known among this people; and that their princes themselves could, upon occasion, assume that character. Colgrin, son of that Ella who was elected king or leader of the Saxons, in the, room of Hengist, was shut up in York, and closely besieged by Arthur and his Britons. Baldulph, brother of Colgrin, wanted to gain access to him, and to apprize him of a rein­forcement which was coming from Germany. He had no other way to accom­plish his design, but by assuming the character of a Minstrel. He therefore shaved his head and beard, and dressing himself in the habit of that profession, took his harp in his hand. In this disguise he walked up and down the trenches without suspicion, playing all the while upon his instrument as a harper. By little and little he advanced near to the walls of the city, and making himself known to the sentinels, was in the night drawn up by a rope. Bapin places the incident here related under the year 495. The story of King Alfred entering and exploring the Danish camp under the disguise of a Minstrel, is related by Ingulph, Henry of Huntingdon, Speed, William of Malmesbury, and almost all the best modern historians; but we are also told that before he was twelve years old, he could repeat a variety of Saxon songs, which he had learned from hearing them sung by others, who had themselves, perhaps, only acquired them by tradition, and that his genius was first roused by this species of erudition.
Bale asserts that Alfred's knowledge of music was perfect; and it is evident that he was an enthusiast in the art, from his paraphrase of Bede's description of the sacred poet Csedmon's embarrassment when the harp was presented to him in turn, that he might sing to it, " be hearpan singan ;" Bede's words are simply " Surgebat a media ceena, et egressus, ad suum domum repedabat:" but Alfred adds, that he arose for shame (aras he for sceome) ; implying that it was a dis­grace to be found ignorant of the art.
. We may also judge of the Anglo-Saxon love for song, from the course pursued by St. Aldhelme, Abbot of Malmesbury, who died in 709. Being desirous of instructing his then semi-barbarous countrymen, he was in the daily habit of taking his station on the bridges and high roads, as if a Gleeman or Minstrel by profession, and of enticing them to listen to him, by intermixing more serious subjects with minstrel ballads.—Qui. Malms, de Pontificalibus. Lib. 5. And in the ancient life of St. Dunstan (whose feat of taking the evil one by the nose with a pair of red-hot pincers, was so favorite a sign for inns and taverns) he is said, not only to have learnt " the vain songs of his nation," but also " to have constructed an organ with brass pipes, and filled with air from bellows." The Saint was a monk of Glastonbury, and born about 925.
That the harp was the common musical instrument of the Anglo-Saxons, may also be inferred from the word itself, which is not derived from the British, or any other Celtic language, but of genuine Gothic original, and current among