Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

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

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Tom D'Urfey, to whose songs I have so frequently had occasion to refer in the preceding pages, was a poet and dramatist who flourished about 1675 to 1720. His father was a Protestant, who fled from Rochelle before the memorable siege in 1628, and settled at Exeter, where, in 1649, Tom was born.* He was intended for the law, a profession very uncongenial to his own taste, and for which he was disqualified by an impediment in his speech; but this did not affect him in singing. In his 27th year he produced his comedy, The Fond Hmband, or The Plotting Sisters* which " was honoured with the presence of King Charles H. three of the first five nights," and had a long-continued success. It was frequently revived, and three editions were printed during the author's life, viz: in 1678,1685, and 1711. Tom tried his hand at tragedy, but the bom­bast of his heroic verse met with little encouragement. The success of The Plot­ting Sisters was the turning point of his fortune, by leading to his introduction at Court. It was well known that Charles II. liked no music to which he could not beat time; and, as the rhythm most easily marked was that of dance and ballad tunes, D'Urfey accommodated his songs to the royal taste by writing them to airs of that class, or in such metres as might enable composers to adopt a similar style of composition. Before his time, it had been a rule with English poets, especially the greater, to select metres that should effectually prevent their songs being sung to ballad tunes; and for that reason, those songs are rarely, if ever, heard in the present day. The exceptions are almost invariably those to which music has been composed at comparatively recent dates. Since D'Urfey's time, English poets have generally pursued the old course, but the Scotch have actod otherwise. They sang D'Urfey's songs,—adopted many of the tunes,— their poets wrote other words to them, and continue, to the present day, to write to airs of a similar class. " Hoy's Wife of Aldivalloch," " Caller Herrin," " Auld lang syne," and numberless others, are taken from books of Scottish dance music, printed during the latter half of the last century; and many of the most pathetic airs were originally quick tunes of the same kind. If English poets wish their songs to endure, the safest course will be to follow the example of Tom D'Urfey, and of the Scotch. Dibdin's sea songs are already fading from memory, because he composed music to them, instead of writing to airs which had stood the test of time.
• His mother was probably an Englishwoman, for Tom ttrovn addresses D'Urfey in one of his satires, as "Thou cur! half French, half English breed."
b It was licensed June 15th, 1676, and, according to the Biographic Dramalica, published in that year. After D'Urfey's death it was revived in 1726, 1732, and 1740.

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III