Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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32
ENGLISH MINSTRELSY.
to attend them, and who could enter freely into a king's palace. Such distinctions among minstrels arc frequently drawn in the old romances. For instance, in the romance of Launfel we arc told, " They had menstralles of moche honours," and also that they had " Fydelers, sytolyrs (citolers), and trompoteres." It is not, however, surprising that they should be rich enough to build a column of a Minster, considering the excessive devotion to, and encouragement of, music which characterised the English in that and the two following centuries.
No poets of any country make such frequent and enthusiastic mention of min­strelsy as the English. There is scarcely an old poem but abounds with the praises of music. Adam Davy, or Davie, of Stratford-le-Bow, near London, flourished about 1312. In his Life of Alexander, we have several passages like this :—                " Mer[r]y it is in halle to he[a]re the harpe,
The mynstrall synge, the jogelour carpe" (recite). And again,—          " Mery is the twynlcelyng of the harpour."
The fondness of even the most illiterate, to hear tales and rhymes, is much dwelt on by Robert de Brunne, or Robert Mannyng, " the first of our vernacular poets who is at all readable now." All rhymes were then sung with accompani­ment, and generally to the harp. So in 1338, when Adam de Orleton, bishop of Winchester, visited his Cathedral Priory of St. Swithin, in that city, a minstrel named Herbert was introduced, who sang the Song of Oolbrond, a Danish Giant, and the tale of Queen Emma delivered from the plough-shares, or trial by fire, in .•the hall of the Prior. A similar festival was held in this Priory in 1374, when similar gestes or tales were sung. Chaucer's Troilus and Cresseide, though almost as long as the ^Eneid, was to be " redde, or else songe," and Warton has printed a portion of the Life of St. Swithin from a manuscript, with points and accents inserted, both over the words and dividing the line, evidently for the purposes of singing or recitation (Mistory of English Poetry, vol. i., p. 15. 1840). We have probably by far more tunes that are fitted for the recitation of such lengthy stories than exist in any other country.
In the year 1362, an Act of Parliament passed, that " all pleas in the court of the king, or of any other lord, shall be pleaded and adjudged in the English tongue" (stat. 36 Edw. HI., cap. 15) ; and the reason, which is recited in the preamble, was, that the French tongue was so unknown in England that the parties to the law-suits had no knowledge or understanding of what was said for or against them, because the counsel spoke French. This was the era of Chaucer, and of the author of Pierce Plowman—two poets whose language is as different as if they had been born a century apart. Longland, instead of availing himself of the rising and rapid improvements of the English language, prefers and adopts the style of the Anglo-Saxon poets, even prefering their perpetual alliteration to rhyme. His subject—a satire on the vices of the age, but particularly on the corruptions of the clergy and the absurdities of superstition—does not lead him to say much of music, but he speaks of ignorance of the art as a just subject of reproach. " They kennen [know] no more mynstralcy, ne mnsik, men to gladde, Than Mundy the mullcr [miller], of multa fecit Deus!"