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the following from "A Nest of Ninnies," by Robert Armin (1608):

"At a Christmas-time, when great logs furnish the hall fire: when brawne is in season, and indeed all revelling is regarded; this gallant knight kept open house for all commers, were beefe, beere and bread was no niggard. Amongst all the pleasures provided, a noyse of minstrells and a Lincolnshire bagpipe was prepared; the minstrells for the great chamber, the bagpipe for the hall; the minstrells to serve up the knights' meate, and the bagpipe for the common dauncing."

Richard Grant White scoffingly says: "It is impossible to believe that the drone of any one bagpipe could be more melancholy than that of any other." Nevertheless, there must have been some peculiar quality about this instrument to make two authors specify it by name.

Another allusion to the bagpipe, by Shakespeare, has also puzzled many commentators. Shylock ("Merchant of Venice," Act iv. Sc. 1) twice alludes to the instrument (an allusion quite out of place in Venice), the second time speaking of a "woollen bagpipe." Naylor passes this by with the question, "What is a 'woollen bagpipe'?" Steevens thought that "swollen bagpipe" was meant; Collier's folio of 1632 gives it as "bollen bagpipe;" White thinks that the adjective refers to the baize covering, which is as likely a solution as 'any.

The bagpipe is mentioned by English poets before

the Elizabethan time. Even Chaucer says of his miller :

"A baggepipe coude wel he blowe and soune."

The Canterbury pilgrims are mentioned in the same poem as performing their journey to the tones of the same instrument.

Cornet and serpent have already been described in the preceding chapter. The former is called for in some of the stage directions of Shakespeare, to which we shall devote an especial page.


Instruments, continued - The Virginals—A Musical Error - The Sonnets Musical Mistakes of Great Authors - Queen Eliza. beth and Her Virginal Playing — The Lute — Difficulty of Tuning-Presents of Lute Strings - The Organ.

ONE of the most used musical instruments of the Elizabethan epoch was the virginals, a tiny and primitive piano on which the strings were plucked by little pieces of quill, set in "jacks." The tone of the virginals was faint and more like a mandolin than any other instrument. Shading was impossible upon it; the player produced a constant, and rather irritating, pizzicato, which must have been a deadly foe to anything like expression. Yet the instrument was very popular. Every barber's shop of that time had its lute or its virginals (for the instrument was always spoken of in the plural) for the customers to play upon while awaiting their turn to be shaved.' As late as 1666, Pepys, speaking of the great fire in London, says:

"River full of lighters and boats taking in goods, and good goods swimming in the water, and only I observed that hardly

'In this connection it may be added that the striped pole which indicates the American barber's shop is derived from the bleeding arm in a white bandage which the old English barber-surgeons displayed at their doors.

one lighter or boat in three, that had the goods of a house in, but there was a Pair of Virginalls in it."

It is singular that Shakespeare only alludes to this instrument once in his plays, although here the metaphor is a fine one. It occurs in "Winter's Tale" (Act i. Sc. 2), when the jealous Leontes watches his queen, Hermione, with Polixenes, and sees her take the Bohemian's hand, while he angrily mutters, "Still virginalling upon his palm."

The action of the virginal player was not very dif ferent from that of the pianist, as will readily be seen from the accompanying print of the title-page of the first collection of virginal music.

Perhaps the lack of allusions to the instrument in Shakespeare may be explained by a peculiar error that occurs in one of his sonnets, and which may show that he had not a very perfect knowledge of the instrument. It is a poem written to the "dark lady," the 128th sonnet, and here, for once, the writer speaks at some length of the musical instrument:

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"How oft, when thou, my music, music play'st,

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers, when thou gently sway'st,
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

'Possibly Mrs. Fytton, who was Lord Pembroke's mistress. The Earl of Pembroke was William Herbert ("W. H."), who succeeded to the title in 1601.




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