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The music in the tavern was most frequently made by the convivial friends who met together there, for every gentleman was expected to be able to bear his part in vocal music if he had anything like "a voice;" but there were also strolling musicians, held in low esteem, who would enter these houses and seek for temporary employment in playing for some company unable to furnish their own musical recreation. Such music was called a "noise," occasionally. In that most graphic bit of tavern-life, the fourth scene of the second act of "King Henry IV." (Second part), the drawer bids his companion
"See if thou canst find out Sneak's noise; Mistress Tearsheet would fain hear some music."
In Ben Jonson's "Silent Woman" (Act iii. Sc. 1), we read:
“Dauphine. Well, there be guests and meat now; how shall we do for music?
Clerimont. The smell of the venison, going through the streets, will invite one noise of fiddlers or other.
Dauphine. I would it would call the trumpeters hither.
Clerimont. Faith, there is hope; they have intelligence of all feasts. There is good correspondence betwixt them and the London cooks; 'tis twenty to one but we have them."
And Fletcher also alludes to musicians' "noise" in several of his plays.
The musicians themselves were scarcely regarded as anything else than mendicants. Gosson, in his
"Short Apologie of the Schoole of Abuse," London, 1587, says:
"London is so full of unprofitable pipers and fiddlers, that a man can no sooner enter a tavern, than two or three cast of them hang at his heels, to give him a dance before he depart."
They thrust themselves upon any company that gathered for conviviality with, "Will you have any music, gentlemen?" and seem to have been as difficult to shake off as Neapolitan beggars. In the thirty-ninth year of Elizabeth (1597), a law was promulgated against these humble sons of the Muses, by which all minstrels, "wandering abroad," were classed as "rogues, vagabonds, and sturdy beggars," and were promised severe punishment. A little later on, Cromwell reinforced the edict with:
Any persons commonly called Fidlers or Minstrels who shall at any time be taken playing, fidling, and making music in any inn, ale-house, or tavern, or shall be taken proffering themselves, or desiring, or intreating any . . . to hear them play or make music in any of the places aforesaid shall be adjudged and declared to be rogues, vagabonds and sturdy beggars."
Yet sometimes in Elizabeth's day these itinerant musicians received fat fees. One anonymous writer, who brought out a pamphlet called the "Actor's Remonstrance," in 1643, says that they sometimes
received twenty shillings for two hours' playing; bu as this was written a full generation after the epoc', and the statement is not backed up by any proof, ve may assume (especially taking the Elizabethan scatute into consideration) that the strolling players were held of very low caste, and eked out but a scanty livelihood.
When music was sent for, as in the case cited above, it was generally to play in the best room of the tavern, and this room frequently received some especial name. The larger taverns seem to have had more than one room with such name.' Shakespeare brings in this nomenclature in "Measure for Measure" (Act ii. Sc. 1), where the clown alludes to the "Bunch of Grapes," not a tavern, but an especial room in it; in the Boar's Head Tavern (Act ii. Sc. 4, of First Part of "King Henry IV.") we find Poins (or Pointz) alluding to "the Halfmoon;" and other instances of this custom might readily be cited.
If the revellers made their own music, they genererally sang catches together, and these compositions were of the liveliest description, often (as will be seen in the next chapter) containing some jest or double-entendre. We reproduce a few of the poems that constituted the text of the old catches :
'See the tavern-scene in Fletcher's "Captain" (Act iv. Sc. 2) for a very graphic presentation of this matter.
"If any so wise is,
That sack he despises,
Let him drink his small beer and be sober.
Whilst we drink sack and sing
As if it were Spring,
He shall droop like the trees in October.
"But be sure, overnight,
If this dog do you bite,
You take it henceforth for a warning;
Soon as out of your bed,
To settle your head,
Take a hair of his tail in the morning."
"She that will eat her breakfast in bed,
And spend the morn in dressing of her head,
And nothing do all day but talk of pride:
"Never let a man take heavily the clamour of his wife,
If she scolds then laugh and sing,
Shakespeare's own characters occasionally appear in early catches, as may be seen by the reproduction of the catch by George Holmes, who was not the organist of Lincoln, but an anterior musician, living possibly in the time of Charles I.