Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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

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REIGN OF ELIZABETH.                                                105
several instruments in his Consort Lessons. I have alluded to the custom of introducing old songs into plays, and playing old tunes at the beginning and end of the acts, at p. 72. Queen Elizabeth's Virginal Book, and Lady Neville's, contain little else than old tunes, arranged with variations, or as then more usually termed, with " division." It is often difficult to extract the air accurately from these arrangements, if there be no other copy as a guide. Occasionally a mere skeleton of the tune is given, sometimes it is " in prolation," i. e., with every note drawn out to two, four, or eight times its proper duration, sometimes the melody is in the base, at others it is to be found in an inner part.
The rage for popular tunes abroad had shewn itself in the Masses set to music by the greatest composers. Baini, in his Life of Palestrina, gives, what he terms, a short list (" breve elenco") of some of them. It contains the names of eighty secular tunes upon which Masses had been composed, and sung even in the Pope's chapel. The tunes have principally French names, some are of lascivious songs, others of dance tunes. He names fifty different authors who composed them, and intimates that there is a much larger number than he has cited in the library of the Vatican. a Even our island was not quite irre­proachable on this point. Shakespeare speaks of Puritans singing psahns to hornpipes, and the Presbyterians sang their Divine Hymns to the tunes of popular songs, the titles of some of which the editor of Sacred Minstrelsy (vol. i., p. 7) " would not allow to sully his pages." Generally, however, the passion for melody expended itself in singing old tunes about the country, in the streets, and at the ends of plays, in playing them in barbers' shops, or at home, when arranged for chamber use with all the art and embellishment our musicians could devise. The scholastic music of that age, great as it was, was so entirely devoted to harmony, and that harmony so constructed upon old scales, that scarcely any­thing like tune could be found in it—I mean such tune as the uncultivated ear could carry away. Many would then, no doubt, say with Imperia, "I cannot abide these dull and lumpish tunes ; the musician stands longer a pricking them than I would do to hear them : no, no, give me your light ones."—(Middleton's Blurt, Master Constable.) No line of demarcation could be more complete than that between the music of the great composers of the time, and, what may be termed, the music of the people. Perhaps the only instance of a tune by a well-known musician of that age having been afterwards used as a ballad tune, is that of The Frog Cfalliard, composed by Dowland. Musicians held ballads in contempt, and the great poets rarely wrote in ballad metre.
Dr. Drake, in his Shakespeare and his Times, gives a list of two hundred and thirty-three British poetsb (forty major, and one hundred and ninety-three minor), who were contemporaneous with Shakespeare, and even that list, large as it is, might be greatly extended from miscellanies, and from ballads. Some idea of the number of ballads that were printed in the early part of the reign of
■ " Memorie storico-critiche della Vita, e delle Opere di      is already said (and, as I think, truly said) it is not
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina."—lloma, 2 vols, 4to.,      rhyming and versing that maketh poesy : one may be a
1828. Vol. i., p. 136, et seq. This evil was checked by a      poet without versing, and a versifier without poetry."—
decree of the Council of Trent.                                            Sir Philip Sidney's Defence of Poesy,
b The word " Poet" is here too generally applied. "It