Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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NOTICES OF MUSIC BY CHAUCER.                                       35
The Wife of Bath says (lines 5481 and 2, and 6039 and 40), that wives were
chosen—             ....." some, for they can synge and daunce,
And some for gentilesse or daliaunce.......
How couthe I daunce to an harpe smale, And synge y-wys as eny nightyngale." I shall conclude Chaucer's inimitable descriptions of character with that of his Oxford Clerk, who was so fond of books and study, that he loved Aristotle better
" Than robes riche, or fidel or sautrie.....
Souning in moral virtue was his speech, And gladly would he lerne and gladly teche." We learn from the preceding quotations, that country squires in the fourteenth century could pass the day in singing, or playing the flute, and that some could " Songes well make and indite:" that the most attractive accomplishment in a young lady was to be able to sing well, and that it afforded the best chance of her obtaining an eligible husband; also that the cultivation of music extended to every class. The Miller, of whose education Pierce Plowman speaks so slight­ingly, could play upon the bagpipe ; and the apprentice both on the ribible and gittern. The musical instruments that have been named are the harp, psaltry, fiddle, bagpipe, flute, trumpet, rote, rebec, and gittern. There remain the lute, organ, ^shalm (or shawm), and citole, the hautboy (or wayte), the horn, and shepherd's pipe, and the catalogue will be nearly complete, for the cittern or cithren differed chiefly from the gittern, in being strung with wire instead of gut, or other material. The sackbut was a bass trumpet with a slide,8 like the modern trombone; and the dulcimer differed chiefly from the psaltry in the wires being struck, instead of being twitted by a plectrum, or quill, and therefore requiring both hands to perform on it.
Li the commencement of the Pardoner's Tale he mentions lutes, harps, and gitterns for dancing, as well as singers with harps ; in the Knight's Tale he repre­sents Venus with a citole in her right hand, and the organ is alluded to both in the History of St. Cecilia, and in the tale of the Cock and the Fox. In the House of Fame (Urry's Edit., line 127 to 136), he says: " That madin londe Minstralsies In Cornmuse [bagpipe] and eke in Skalmies,h
» "As he that plates upon a Sagbut, by pulling it up and down alters his tones and tunes."—Burton'* Anatomy o/Melancholy, 8vo. Edit, of 1800, p. 379.
b A very early drawing of the Shalm, or Shawm, is in one of the illustrations to a copy of Froissart, in the Brit. Mus.—Royal SfSS. 18, E. Another In Commenius' Visible World, translated by lloole, 1650, (he translates the Latin word gingras, shawm,) from which it is copied into Cavendish's Life of Wolsey, edited by Singer, vol. i. p. 114., Ed. 1825. The modern clarionet is an improve­ment upon the shawm, which was played with a reed, like the wayte, or hautboy, but being a bass Instrument, with about the compass of an octave, had probably more the tone of a bassoon. It was used on occasions of state. " What stately music have you? You have shawms? Ralph plays a stately part, and he must needs have shawms."—Knight of the Burning Pestle. Drayton speaks of it as shrill-toned: " E'en from the shrillest shawm, unto the cornamute."—Potyolbion, vol. iv., p. 376. I conceive
the shrillness to have arisen from over-blowing, or else the following quotation will appear contradictory:—
" A Shawme maketh a swele sonnde, for he tunylhe the basse,
It mountithe not to hye, but kepithc rule and space.
Yet yf it be blowne withe to vehement a wynde,
It makithe it to mysgoverne out of his kynde." This is one of the " proverbis " that were written about the time of Henry VII., on the walls of the Manor House at Leckingfield, near Beverley, Yorkshire, anciently be­longing to the Percys, Earls of Northumberland, but now destroyed. There were many others relating to music, and musical instruments (harp, lute, recorder,»clar1icorde, clarysymballis, virgynalls, clarion, organ, singing, and musical notation,) and the inscribing them on the walls adds another to the numberless proofs of the estimation in which the art was held. A manuscript copy of them is preserved in Bib. Reg. 18. D. 11. Brit. Mus.

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