Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

Ancient Songs, Ballads, & Dance Tunes, Sheet Music & Lyrics - online book

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Easter Hymns

Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
every branch of that people, viz.: Ang. Sax. hearpe and hearpa ; Iceland, harpa and haurpa; Dan. and Belg. harpe; German, harpffe and harpffa; Gal. harpe; Span, liarpa ; Ital. arpa. The Welsh, or Cambro-Britons, call their harp teylin, a word for which no etymon is to be found in their language. In the Erse its name is crwth. That it was also the favorite musical instrument of the Britons and other Northern nations in the middle ages, is evident from their laws, and various passages in their history. By the laws of Wales (Leges Wallicse), a harp was one of the three things that were necessary to constitute a gentleman, or a freeman ; and none could pretend to that character who had not one of these favorite instruments, or could not play upon it. To prevent slaves from pre­tending to be gentlemen, it was expressly forbidden to teach, or to permit, them to play upon the harp; and none but the king, the king's musicians, and gentlemen, were allowed to have harps in their possession. A gentleman's harp was not liable to be seized for debt; because the want of it would have degraded him from his rank, and reduced him to that of a slave.
Alfred entered the Danish camp a.d. 878; and about sixty years after, a Danish king made use of the same disguise to explore the camp of our king Athelstan. With his harp in his hand, and dressed like a minstrel, Aulaff, king of the Danes, went among the Saxon tents; and taking his stand by the king's pavilion, began to play, and was immediately admitted. There he entertained Athelstan and his lords with his singing and his music, and was at length dis­missed with an honorable reward, though his songs might have disclosed the fact that he was a Dane. Athelstan was saved from the consequences of this stratagem by a soldier, who had observed Aulaff bury the money which had been given him, either from some scruple of honor or superstitious feeling. This occasioned a discovery.
Now if the Saxons had not been accustomed to have Minstrels of their own, Alfred's assuming so new and unusual a character would have excited suspicions among the Danes. On the other hand, if it had not been customary with the Saxons to show favor and respect to the Danish Scalds, Aulaff would not have ventured himself among them, especially on the eve of a battle. From the uniform procedure of both these kings, we may fairly conclude that the same mode of entertainment prevailed among both people, and that the Minstrel was a privileged character with each.
May it not be further said,—what a devotion to the art of music must have existed in those rude times, when the vigilance of war was lulled into sleep and false security, and the enmities of two detesting nations were forgotten for awhile, in the enjoyment of sweet sounds !
That the Gleeman or Minstrel held a stated and continued office in the court of our Anglo-Saxon kings, can be proved satisfactorily. We have but to turn to the Doomsday Book, and find under the head: Glowecesterscire, fol. 162, col. 1. —" Berdic, Joculator Kegis, habet iii villas," &c. That the word Joculator (at this early period) meant Harper or Minstrel, is sufficiently evident from Geoffrey of Monmouth, of whom Dr. Percy observes very justly, " that whatever credit is

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