Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

Ancient Songs, Ballads, & Dance Tunes, Sheet Music & Lyrics - online book

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EDWARD IV.                                                     45
on " the great variety of entries in connection with music and musical performers," as forming " a prominent feature" of the book. " Not only were the musicians -attached to noblemen, or to private individuals, liberally rewarded, but also those who were attached to particular towns, and who seem to have been generally required to perform before Lord Howard on his various journies. On the 14th of October, 1841, he entered into an agreement with William Wastell, harper of London, that he should teach the son of John Colet, of Colchester, harper, for a year, in order, probably, to render him competent afterwards to fill the post of one of the family musicians."
Here also a part of the stipulation was that, at the end of the year, Lord Howard should give Wa3tell a gown, which seems to have been the distinguishing feature of a harper's dress. In Laneham's letter from Kenilworth (1575), describing the " device of an ancient minstrel and his song," which was to have been proffered for the amusement of queen Elizabeth, this " Squire minstrel, of Middlesex, who travelled the country this summer season, unto worshipful men's houses," is represented as a harper with a long gown of Kendal green, gathered at the neck with a narrow gorget, and fastened before with a white clasp; his gown, having long sleeves down to mid-leg, but slit from the shoulders to the hand, and lined with white. His harp was to be " in good grace dependent before him," and his " wrest," or tuning-key, " tied to a green lace, and hanging by." He wore a red Cadiz girdle, and the corner of his handkerchief, edged with blue lace hung from his bosom. Under the gorget of his gown hung a chain, " re­splendent upon his breast, of the ancient arms of Islington." The acts of king Arthur were the subject of his song.
The Romances which still remained popular [1480] are mentioned by William of Nassyngton [in a MS. which Warton saw in the library of Lincoln Cathedral], who gives his readers fair notice that he does not intend to amuse them.
" I warne you first at the begynnynge       And of many other Gestes,
That I will make no vayne carpynge,        As namely, when they come to festes;
Of dedes of amies, ne of amours,              Ne of the lyf of Bevys of Hamptodnb,
As does Mynstrellis and Gestours,            That was a Knyght of grete renowne ;
That maketh carpynge in many a place     Ne of Syr Gye of Warwyke, &c.
Of Ootaviase and Isenbraoe,                                        Warton, vol. iv., p. 368.
The invention of printing, coupled with the increased cultivation of poetry and music by men of genius and learning, accelerated the downfall of the Minstrels. They could not long withstand the superior standard of excellence in the sister arts, on the one hand, and the competition of the ballad-singer (who sang without asking remuneration, and sold his songs for a penny) on the other. In little more than fifty years from this time they seem to have fallen into utter contempt. We have a melancholy picture of their condition, in the person of Richard Sheale, which it is impossible to read without sympathy, if we consider that to him wc are indebted for the preservation of the celebrated heroic ballad of Chevy Chace, at which Sir Philip Sidney's heart was wont to beat, " as at the sound of a