Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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PIERCE PLOWMAN.—CHAUCER.                                           83
He says, however, of himself, in allusion to the minstrels :— " Ich can nat tabre, ne trompe, ne telle faire gestes, Ne fithelyn, at fe[a]stes, ne harpen : Japen ne jagelyn, ne gentilliche pipe ;
Nother sailen [leap or dance], ne sautrien, ne singe with the giterne." He also describes his Friar as much better acquainted with the " Mimes of Robinhode and of Randal, erle of Chester," than with his Paternoster.
Chaucer, throughout his works, never loses an opportunity of describing or alluding to the general use of music, and of bestowing it as an accomplishment upon the pilgrims, heroes, and heroines of his several tales or poems, whenever propriety admits. Wc may learn as much from Chaucer of the music of his day,, and of the estimation in which the art was then held in England, as if a treatise had been written on the subject.
Firstly, from the Canterbury Tales, in his description of the Squire (line 91 to 96), he says:—
" Syngynge he was, or jiowiynge [fluting] al the day; He was as fresh as is the moneth of May : Short was his goune, with sleeves long and wyde ; Well cowde he sitte on hors, and faire ryde. He cowde songes wel make and endite,
Juste (fence) and eke daunce, and wel p[o]urtray and write." Of the Nun, a Prioress (line 122 to 126), he says :— " Ful wel sche sang the servise devyne, Untuned in hire nose ful seemyly; And Frensch sche spak ful faire and fetysly [neatly], Aftur the schole of Stratford atte Bowe, For Frensch of Parys was to hire unknowe " [unknown]. The Monk, a jolly fellow, and great sportsman, seems to have had a passion for no music but that of hounds, and the bells on his horse's bridle (line 169 to 171) : " And whan he rood [rode], men might his bridel heere Gyngle in a whistlyng wynd so cleere, And eke as lowde as doth the chapel belle." Of his Mendicant Friar, whose study was only to please (lines 235—270), he says :— " And certayn he hadde a mery note;
Wel couthe he synge andplaye on a rote [hurdy-gurdy].. .. Somewhat he lipsede [lisped] for wantounesse, To make his Englissch swete upon his tunge; And in his harpyng, whan that he had sunge, His eyghen [eyes] twynkeled in his he[a]d aright, As don the sterres [do the stars] in the frosty night." Of the Miller (line 564 to 568), he says :—
" Wel cowde he ste[a]le corn, and tollen thrics [take toll thrice] ; And yet he had a thombe of gold,a parde, A whight cote and blewe hood we[a]red he ;
■ Tyrwhitt says there is an old proverb-" Every honett nevertheless he was as honest as his brethren. There are miller has a thumb of gold." Perhaps it means that many early songs on thievish millers and bakers.