Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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HENRY VI.                                                      41
Maxtokc; as were six minstrels (Mimi) belonging to the family of Lord Clinton, who lived in the adjoining Castle of Maxtoke, to sing, harp, and play in the hall of the monastery, during the extraordinary refection allowed to the monks on that anniversary.. Two shillings were given to the priests, and four to the minstrels : and the latter are said to have supped in camera picta, or the painted chamber of the convent, with the sub-prior, on which occasion the chamberlain furnished eight massive tapers of wax. ("Warton, vol. ii., p. 309.) However, on this occa­sion, the priests seem to have been better paid than usual, for in the same year (1441) the prior gave no more than sixpence to a preaching friar.
As late as in the early part of the reign of Elizabeth, -we find an entry in the books of the Stationers' Company (1560) of a similar character : Item, payd to the preacher, 6s. 2d. Item, payd to the minstrell, 12s.; so that even in the decline of minstrelsy, the scale of remuneration was relatively the same.
A curious collection of the songs and Christmas carols of this reign (Henry VI.) have been printed recently by the Percy Society. (Songs and Carols, No. 73.)
The manuscript book from which they are taken, had, in all probability, belonged to a country minstrel who sang at festivals and merry makings, and it has been, most judiciously, printed entire, as giving a general view of the classes of poetry then popular. A proportion of its contents consists of carols and religious songs, such as were sung at Christmas, and perhaps at other festivals of the Church. Another class, in which the MS. is, for its date, peculiarly rich, consists of drinking songs. It also contains a number of those satirical songs against the fair sex, and especially against shrews, which were so common in the middle ages, and have a certain degree of importance as showing the condition of private society among our forefathers. The larger number of the songs, including some of the most interesting and curious, appear to be unique, and the others are in general much better and more complete copies than those previously known (viz. in MS. Sloane, No. 2593, Brit. Mus). The editor of the MS. (Mr. T. Wright) observes that "The great variations in the different copies of. the same song, show that they were taken down from oral recitation, and had often been preserved by memory among minstrels, who were not unskilful at composing, and who were not only in the habit of, voluntarily or involuntarily, modifying the songs as they passed through their hands, and adding or omitting stanzas, but of making up new songs by stringing together phrases and lines, and even whole stanzas from the different compositions which were imprinted on their memories." But what renders the manuscript peculiarly interesting, is, that it contains the melodies of some of the songs as well as the words. From this it appears that the same tune was used for different words. At page 62 is a note, which in modern spelling is as follows : "Thisis the tune for the song following; if so be that ye will have another tune, it may be at your pleasure, for I have set all the song." The words of the carol, " Nowell, Nowell," (Noel) are written under the notes, but the wassail song that follows, and for which the tune was also intended, is of a very opposite character, " Bryng us in good ale." I have printed the first verse of each .under the tune, but it requires to be sung more quickly for the wassail song than for the carol.