Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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GOWER.—RICHARD II.
37
I shall conclude these numerous extracts with one of the song of nature, from the Knighte's Tale, (line 1493 to 98) :—
" The busy larke, messager of daye, Salueth in hire song the morwe [morning] gray; And fyry Phebus ryseth up so bright, That al the orient laugheth of the light, And with his stremes dryeth in the greves [groves] The silver dropfis, hongyng on the leeves." Having quoted so largely from Chaucer, whose portraiture of character and persons has never been excelled, it will be unnecessary to refer to his contem­porary, Gower, further than to say that in his Qonfessio Amantis, Venus greets Chaucer as her disciple and poet, who had filled the land in his youth with dittees and " songes glade," which he had made for her sake; and Gower says of himself:—                 "■ And also I have ofte assaide
Roundel, Balades, and Virelaie For her on whom myn hert laie." But about the same time, in the Burlesque Romance, The T[o]urnament of Tottenham (written in ridicule of chivalry), we find a notice of songs in six parts which demands attention. In the last verse :—
" Mekyl mirth was them among; In every corner of the hous Was melody delycyous For to he[a]re precyus
Of six menys song." It has been supposed that this is an allusion to Sumer is icumen in, which requires' six performers, but in all probability there were many such songs, although but one of so early a date has descended to us. We find in the Statutes of New College, Oxford (which was founded about 1380), that William of Wykeham ordered his scholars to recreate themselves on festival days with songs in the hall, both after dinner and supper; and as part-music was then in common use, it is reasonable to suppose that the founder intended the students thereby to combine improvement and recreation, instead of each singing a different song.
In the fourth year of king Richard II. (1381), John of Gaunt erected at Tutbury, in Staffordshire, a Court of Minstrels similar to that annually kept at Chester; and which, like a court-leet, or court-baron, had a legal jurisdiction, with full power to receive suit and service from the men of this profession within five neighbouring counties, to determine their controversies and enact laws; also to apprehend and arrest such of them as should refuse to appear at the said court, annually held on the 16th of August. For this they had a charter, by which they were empowered to appoint a King of the Minstrels, with four officers to preside over them. They were every year elected with great ceremony; the whole form of which, as observed in 1680, is described by Dr. Plot in his History of Staffordshire. That the barbarous diversion of bull-running was no part of the original institution, is fully proved by the Rev. Dr. Pegge, in Archaeologia, vol. ii., No. xiii., p. 86. The bull-running tune, however, is still popular in Staffordshire.