Popular Music Of The Olden Time Vol 2

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

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REIGN OF QUEEN ANNE TO GEORGE II.                               623
Statins, can amuse a whole board of Justices and extraordinary 'Squires, or gain one hum of approbation, or laugh of admiration! 'These things,' they would say, 'are too studious, they may do well enough with such as love reading, but give us your ancient poet, Mr. D'Urfey." {Pope's Literary Correspondence, Curll, i. 267.)
The secret of D'Urfey's popularity as a song-writer, lay in his selection of the tunes. He trenched upon the occupation of the professed ballad-writers, by adopting the airs which had been their exclusive property, and by taking the subjects of their ballads; altering them to give them as his own. If the reader will compare Martin Parker's "Milkmaid's Life" with D'Urfey's " Bonny Milkmaid " (ante pp. 295, 297), he will see how these transformations were effected; and there are many similar examples in the Pills.
Perhaps no man was ever so general a favorite with his contemporaries as Toiq D'Urfey. His brother poets pleaded for him in his old age, and, by their good offices and those of the actors, he was rescued from the effects of the im­providence which has been proverbial with men of his class. Steele and Addison were his great friends, and equally urged his claims upon the public. Addison, on the occasion of a play to be acted for D'Urfey's benefit, wrote in these words:—" He has made the world merry, and I hope they will make him easy as long as he stays among us. This I will take upon me to say, they cannot do a kindness to a more diverting companion, or a more cheerful, honest, good-natured man."
The Londoner who enters St. James's Church from Jermyn Street will see a stone with this inscription:—" Tom D'Urfey : Dyed Feb1* ye 26th, 1723." The stone has been removed to the back of the church, for within my recollection, it stood by che principal entrance. The following " Epitaph upon Tom D'Urfey" is from Miscellaneous Poems by several hands, i. 6. 1726 :—
" Here lyes the Lyrick, who, with tale and song, Did life to three score years and ten prolong; His tale was pleasant and his song was sweet, His heart was cheerful—but his thirst was great. Grieve, Header, grieve, that he too soon grew old,— His song has ended, and his tale is told."
The only great use which had been made of old tunes by the upper classes before D'Urfey's time (except for dancing) was for political songs or lampoons, and they were continuously employed for those purposes to the middle of the last century, and occasionally at later dates. Lady Luxborough says in a letter to Shtnstone, " It is the fashion for every body to write a couplet to the same tune " (viz., an old country dance) upon whatever subject occurs to them,—I should say upon whatever person, with their names to it. Lords, gentlemen, ladies, flirts, scholars, soldiers, divines, masters, and misses, are all authors upon this occasion and also the objects of each other's satire." {Monthly Review, liv., 62.)
1 n the petition of Thomas Brown, by Sir Fleetwood Shepherd, he thus alludes to their frequent use in his day:—

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