Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

That by no meane can they abide ne dwell
Within their houses, but out they nede must go;

More wildly wandering thon either bucke or doe.
Some with their harpes, another with their lute,
Another with his bagpipe, or a foolishe flute."

This, to be sure, treats of serenaders, but regular musicians were among them.

One can find traces of medieval contempt for the wandering musicians in the many laws fulminated against them in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The gleemen and wandering minstrels (such as Autolycus, in "Winter's Tale"), in old England, had scarcely any rights whatever; they might be abused, robbed, or even killed, and no redress could be obtained. In York, Chester, Canterbury, and Beverly, the minstrels established guilds to protect themselves. For a graphic picture of the helpless state of the minstrel in England, in early times, we must refer the reader to Rowbotham's "Troubadours and Courts of Love;" we cite the case here only to show that there was good cause for the humble status of the musician in the Elizabethan era; it was an inheritance from bygone times. Singular to relate, some of the English laws against wandering musicians, having fallen into desuetude, have never been repealed; it is barely possible that

'See also Chappell's "National English Airs," Percy's "Reliques," and Ritson's "Collection of English Songs."

they might be resuscitated, at some inopportune moment, as was the case with another statute, in 1819, when a convicted murderer escaped punishment by demanding the right of trial by combat, and challenging his accuser (in this case the counsel for the prosecution) to a battle to the death.

But, as there was a decided difference in station between the ordinary musician and the composer, so there was also distinction made between the musician and the amateur. Every gentleman dabbled in music to some degree, and, in addition to the viol-playing described in Chapter II., it was held to be necessary for every cultured person to be able to descant, or add a part to any melody that was sung. Nor was this singing confined to the upper classes; in the old English plays we find tinkers and tailors, millers and soldiers, in short, all classes, high and low, recreating themselves with vocal music. The especial catch of the tinkers, for example, ran :

"Now God be with old Simeon,

For he made cans for many a one,

And a good old man was he:
And Jinkin was his journey-man,
And he could tipple of every can,

And thus he said to me:
To whom drink you?

Sir Knave, to you.

Then, hey ho! jolly Jinkin,
I spy a knave in drinking.
Come trole the bowl to me."

That servants were occasionally expected to be able to take part in the music of their masters is clearly proved, also. Pepys seems often to have caused his wife and her maid to join with him in song.

The "musicians" introduced by Shakespeare into his plays are generally of the lower and less esteemed sort, and he often seems to allude to their humble station either directly or by innuendo, as illustrated above.

Carmen were especially musical. Falstaff (Second Part of "Henry IV.," Act iii. Sc. 2) speaks of Shallow hearing "the carmen whistle," and there exists. an old English folk-song, which the early contrapuntists did not disdain to make "divisions" upon, called "The Carman's Whistle," which we present herewith.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

The words to this melody were rather broad, and do not require reprinting, since Shakespeare alludes only to the music of the Carman.

Nor were carmen, tailors, and tinkers, the only practical musicians among the trades. A very pretty custom was borrowed from Germany, where, in mediæval times, every 'prentice lad was obliged to learn the melodies which custom had assigned to his trade, and chant the rhymes reciting the names of his tools. Doloony, in his "History of the Gentle Craft," thus portrays a meeting of shoemakers (1598):

"And coming in this sort to Gilford, they were both taken for shoemakers, and verie hartilie welcomed by the jorneymen of that place, especially Harry, because they never saw him before: and at their meeting they askt him if he could sing, or sound the trumpet, or play upon the flute, or recon up his tooles in rime, or manfully handle the pike-staff, or fight with sword and buckler? 'Beleeve me,' quoth Harrie, 'I can neither sound the trumpet nor play on the flute; and beshroe his nose that made me a shoomaker, for he never tought me to recon up my tooles in rime nor in prose." "

Whereupon Harrie was adjudged an impostor.

Fitz-Stephen describes the joyous music of the London 'prentices and their sweethearts, as early as 1174. Decidedly, the English were a musical people in ancient times; more so than at present.

CHAPTER V.

Shakespeare's Technical Knowledge of Music- -"Broken Music " - John Skelton's Diatribe — Time Keeping — Harmony Prized Above Mere Melody - The Eighth Sonnet Similar Views of Browning - The Proper Wedding of Poetry and Music "The Passionate Pilgrim"- Wagner and Herbert Spencer on the Union of the Two Arts.

We now approach certain passages written by Shakespeare, which indicate that the poet not only appreciated the art, but actually had become acquainted with some of its technicalities. In the thirty-seven plays (in this numeration we include "Titus Andronicus ") only five are barren of musical allusions, while the sonnets and "Tarquin and Lucrece," as well as the "Passionate Pilgrim," possess some very subtle passages relative to the art. In studying many of the passages, the conviction is borne in upon us that Shakespeare was himself a singer. The vocal allusions are more detailed, and exhibit a surer hand than those connected with instrumental work.

We have already given (in Chapter I.) a tolerably complete list of the instruments of Shakespeare's time, as recited by Michael Drayton. In that cita

« AnteriorContinuar »