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Henry V., forbidding any songs to be composed on his victory, or to be sung by harpers or others, roundly gives it, he would not permit " any ditties to be made and sung by Minstrels on his glorious victory," &c. Vide p. xlix. and note (BB 4).
Now that this order of men, at first called Gleemen, then Jugglers, and afterwards more generally Minstrels, existed here from the Conquest, who entertained their hearers with chanting, to the harp or other instruments, songs and tales of chivalry, or as they were called gests* and romances in verse in the English language, is proved by the existence of the very compositions they so chanted, which are still preserved in great abundance; and exhibit a regular series from the time our language was almost Saxon, till after its improvements in the age of Chaucer, who enumerates many of them. And as the Norman French was in the time of this bard still the courtly language, it shows that the English was not thereby excluded from affording entertainment to our nobility, who are so often addressed therein by the title of lordings: and sometimes more positively "lords and ladies." (p. cvii.)
And though many of these were translated from the French, others are evidently of English origin,† which appear in their turns to have afforded versions into that language; a sufficient proof of that intercommunity between the French and English Minstrels which hath been mentioned in a preceding page. Even the abundance of such translations into English, being all adapted for popular recitation, sufficiently establishes the fact, that the English Minstrels had a great demand for such compositions, which they were glad to supply, whether from their own native stores or from other languages.
We have seen above that the Joculator, Mimus, Histrio, whether these characters were the same, or had any real difference, were
*GESTS at length came to signify adventures or incidents in general. So in a narrative of the Journey into Scotland, of Queen Margaret and her attendants, on her marriage with K. James IV. in 1503, [in Appendix to Leland. Collect. iv. p. 265,] we are promised an account " of their Gestys and manners during the said Voyage."
The romance of Richard Cœur de Lion (no. 25.) I should judge to be of English origin, from the names Wardrewe and Eldrede, &c. vol. iii. pp. 34, 30. As is also Eger and Grime (no. 12.) wherein a knight is named Sir Gray Steel, and a lady who excels in surgery is called Loospaine, or Lose-pain: these surely are not derived from France.
all called Minstrels; as was also the Harper,* when the term implied a singer, if not a composer, of songs, &c. By degrees the name of Minstrel was extended to vocal and instrumental musicians of every kind and as in the establishment of royal and noble houses the latter would necessarily be most numerous, so we are not to wonder that the band of music (entered under the general name of Minstrels) should consist of instrumental performers chiefly, if not altogether: for, as the composer or singer of heroic tales to the harp would necessarily be a solitary performer, we must not expect to find him in the band along with the trumpeters, fluters, &c.
However, as we sometimes find mention of "Minstrels of music :"+ so at other times we hear of "expert Minstrels and Musicians of tongue and cunning," (BB 3) p. xcviii.‡ meaning doubtless by the former Singers, and probably by the latter phrase Composers of songs. Even "Minstrels music" seems to be applied to the species of verse used by Minstrels in the passage quoted below.§
But although, from the predominancy of instrumental music, Minstrelsy was at length chiefly to be understood in this sense, yet it was still applied to the poetry of Minstrels so late as the time of
* See the Romance of Sir Isenbras (vol. iii. no. 14. p. 31) sign. a. Harpers loved him in Hall With other Minstrels all.”
+ T. Warton, ii. 258, note (a) from Leland's Collect. (vol. iv. Append. edit. 1774, p. 267.)
The curious author of the Tour in Wales, 1773, 4to. p. 435, I find to have read these words "in toune and contrey;" which I can scarce imagine to have been applicable to Wales at that time. Nor can I agree with him in the representation he has given (p. 367) concerning the Cymmorth or meeting, wherein the Bards exerted their powers to excite their countrymen to war; as if it were by a deduction of the particulars he enumerates, and as it should seem in the way of barangue, &c. After which," the band of minstrels ....... struck up; the harp, the crwth, and the pipe filled the measures of enthusiasm, which the others had begun to inspire." Whereas it is well known, that the Bard chanted his enthusiastic effusions to the harp; and as for the term Minstrel, it was not, I conceive, at all used by the Welsh; and in English it comprehended both the bard and the musician.
"Your ordinarie rimers use very much their measures in the odde, as nine and eleven, and the sharpe accent upon the last sillable, which therefore makes him go ill favouredly and like "a MINSTRELS MUSICKE.' (Puttenham's Arte of Eng. Poesie, 1589, p. 59). This must mean his vocal music, otherwise it appears not applicable to the subject.
Queen Elizabeth, as appears in the following extract from Puttenham's Arte of English Poesie," p. 9. Who, speaking of the first composers of Latin verses in rhyme, says, "All that they wrote to the favor or prayse of princes, they did it in such manner of Minstralsie; and thought themselves no small fooles, when they could make their verses go all in ryme."
I shall conclude this subject with the following description of Minstrelsy given by John Lidgate at the beginning of the 15th century, as it shows what a variety of entertainments were then comprehended under this term, together with every kind of instrumental music then in use.
-"Al maner MYNSTRALCYE,
Ffor there were Rotys of Almayne,
* By this phrase I understand, new Tales or narrative Rhymes composed by the Minstrels on the subject of true and faithful Lovers, &c.
END OF THE ESSAY.
The foregoing Essay on the Ancient Minstrels has been very much enlarged and improved since the first edition, with respect to the Anglo-Saxon Minstrels, in consequence of some objections proposed by the reverend and learned Mr. Pegge, which the reader may find in the second volume of the ARCHEOLOGIA, printed by the Antiquarian Society; but which that gentleman has since retracted in the most liberal and candid manner in the third volume of the ARCHEOLOGIA, No. xxxiv. p. 310.
And in consequence of similar objections respecting the English Minstrels after the Conquest, the subsequent part hath been much enlarged, and additional light thrown upon the subject; which, to prevent cavil, hath been extended to MINSTRELSY in all its branches, as it was established in England, whether by natives or foreigners.
I never heard the old song of Percie and Douglas, that I found not my heart moved more than with a trumpet: and yet 'it' is sung but by some blinde crowder, with no rougher voice, than rude style; which beeing so evill apparelled in the dust and cobweb of that uncivil age, what would it work, trimmed in the gorgeous eloquence of Pindare!
SIR PHILIP SYDNEY'S DEFENCE OF POETRY.