Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 1

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

Home Main Menu Singing & Playing Order & Order Info Support Search Shopping Discounts



Share page  Visit Us On FB

Previous Contents Next
252                                  ENGLISH SONG AND EALLAD MUSIC.
" Let there be no noise made, my gentle friends,
Unless some slow and favourable hand - Will whisper music to my weary spirit."
Part II, act iv., sc. 9.
Shakespeare purchased his house in Blackfriars, in 1612, from Henry Walker, who is described in the deed as " Citizen and Minstrel, of London." The price paid was £140,* which, considering the difference in the value of money, is equal to, at least, £700 now. Of what class of " minstrel" Walker was, we know not, but there were very few of any talent who had not the opportunity of saving money, if so disposed. Even the itinerant fiddler who gave " a fytte of mirth for a groat," was well paid. The long ballads were usually divided into two or three "fyttes," and if he received a shilling per ballad, it would purchase as many of the neces­saries of life as five or six times that amount now. The groat was so generally his remuneration, whether it were for singing or for playing dances, as to be commonly called " fiddlers' money," and when the groat was no longer current, the term was transferred to the sixpence.
It appears that in the reign of James, ballads were first collected into little miscellanies, called Garlands, for we have none extant of earlier date. Thomas Deloney and Richard Johnson (author of the still popular boys' book, called Tfw Seven Champions of Christendom) were the first who collected their scattered pro­ductions, and printed them in that form.
Deloney's Garland of Good-will, and Johnson's Crown Garland of Golden Hoses, were two of the most popular of the class. They .have been reprinted, with some others, by the Percy Society, and the reader will find some account of the authors prefixed to those works. .
During the reign of Henry VIH., " the most pregnant wits " were employed in compiling ballads.b Those in the possession of Captain Cox, described in Laneham's Letter from Kenilworth (1575), as " all ancient,"c could not well be of later date than Henry's reign; and at Henry's death we find, with the list of musical instruments left in the charge of Philip van Wilder, "sondrie bookes and slcrolles of songes and hallattesP In the reign of James, however, poets rarely wrote in ballad metre; ballad writing had become quite a separate employment, and (from the evidently great demand for ballads) I should suppose it to have been a profitable one. In Shakespeare's Henry IV., when Falstaff threatens Prince Henry and his companions, he says, " An I have not ballads made on you all, and sung to filthy tunes, let a cup of sack be my poison;" and after Sir-John Colvile had surrendered, he thus addresses Prince John: " I beseech your grace, let it be booked with the rest of this day's deeds; or by the Lord, I will have it in a particular ballad else, with mine own picture at the top of it, Colvile kissing my foot."
To conclude this introduction, I have subjoined a few quotations to shew the
•  Shakespeare's autograph, attached to the counterpart         ' The list of Captain Cox's ballads has been so often re-of this deed, was sold by auction by Evans, on 24th May,      printed, that 1 do not think it necessary to repeat It. The. 1841, for £155.                                                                    reader will find it, with many others, In the introduction
See The Nature of the Four Elements, written about      to Ititson's Ancient Songs, as well as in more recently-1517.                                                                                  printed books.