Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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

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54                                                    HENRY VIII.
upon, save psalmes, hymns, and such like godly songes. . . And if women at the rockes," and spinnynge at the wheles, had none other songes to pass their tymc withall, than such as Moses' sister, . . songe before them, they should be better occupied than with Hey, nonny, nonnyHey, trolly, lolly, and such like fantasies." -Despite the excellent intent with which this advice was given, it did not evidently make much impression, either then or after. The traditional tunes of every country seem as natural to the common people as warbling is to birds in a state of nature; the carters and ploughmen continued to be celebrated for their whistling, to the end of the eighteenth century, and the women thought rather with Ophelia: " You must sing down, a-down, an you call him a-down-a, Oh, how the loheel becomes it! "
Anthony a Wood says that Sternhold, who was Groom of the Chamber to Henry VIII., versified fifty-one of the Psalms, and " caused musical notes to be set to them, thinking thereby that the courtiers would sing them instead of their sonnets, but did not, only some few excepted." They were not, however, printed till 1549. On the title page it is expressed that they were to be sung "in private houses, for godly solace and comfort, and for the laying apart all ungodly songes and ballads."
Although Henry "VlLL. had given all possible encouragement to ballads and songs in the early part of his reign, both in public and private,—and in proof of their having been used on public occasions, I may mention the coronation of Anne Boleyn, when a choir of men and boys stood on the leads of St. Martin's Church, and sang new ballads in praise of her majesty,—yet, when they were re­sorted to as a weapon against the Reformation," or in opposition to any of his own opinions and varying commands, he adopted the summary process of suppressing them altogether. It is in some measure owing to that act, but principally to their perishable nature, that we have no printed ballads .now remaining of an earlier Sate than that on the downfall of his former favorite, Thomas, Lord Cromwell, which is in the library of the Society of Antiquaries, at Somerset House. The act, which was passed in 1543, is entitled " An act for the advancement of true religion, and for the abolishment of the contrary" (Anno 34-35, c. i.), and recites that " froward and malicious minds, intending to subvert the true exposition of scripture, have taken upon them, by printed ballads, rhymes, etc., subtilly and craftily to instruct his highness' people, and specially the youth of this his realm, untruly. For reformation whereof, his majesty considereth it most requisite to purge his realm of all such books, ballads, rhymes, and songs, as be pestiferous and noisome. Therefore, if any printer shall print, give, or deliver, any such, he shall suffer for the first time imprisonment for three months, and forfeit for every copy 101., and for the second time, forfeit all his goods and his body be committed to perpetual prison." Although the act only expresses " all such books, ballads, rhymes, and songs as be pestiferous and noisome," there is a list of exceptions to it, and no ballads of any description are excepted. " Provided, also, that
* Rock, a distaff: that is, the staff on which flax was the corresponding part of the spinning wheel.—Naret' held, when spinning was performed without a wheel; or Glostary.