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Even so late as the reign of Henry VIIT. the Reciters of verses, or moral speeches learnt by heart, intruded without ceremony into all companies ; not only in ta. verns, but in the houses of the nobility themselves, This we learn from Eralmus t, whose argument led him only to describe a species of these men who DID SING their compositions ; but the others that did, enjoyed without doubt the same privileges.
The Reader will find that the Minstrels continued down to the reign of Elizabeth; in whose time they had loft much of their dignity, and were sinking into con-. teinpt and neglect. Yet till they sustained a character far superior to any thing we can conceive at present of the fingers of old ballads ti
When Queen Elizabeth was entertained at Killingworth Caftle by the Earl of Leicester in 1575, among the many devices and pageants which were exhibited for her entertainment, one of the personages introduced was that of an ancient Minstrel, whole appearance and dress are fo minutely described by a writer there present i, and give us so diftinct an idea of the character, that I Mall
quote the paffage at large. “ À Person very meet seemed he for the purpofe, of
xly years old, aparelled partly as he would himself. " His cap off: his head seemly rounded tonster-wise il : de fair kembed, that with a sponge daintily dipt in a little “ capon's greace, was finely smoothed, to make it shine " like a mallard's wing. His beard smugly shaven “ and yet his shirt after the new trink, with ruffs fair
ftarched, fleeked and gliftering like a pair of new † See his Ecclésiast..... Irrumpunt in convivia mag. natum, aut in cauponas vinarias ; et argumentum aliquod quod edidicérunt recitant, &c. Jortin, vol. 2. p. 193
See vol. 2. p. 162.
the Queen's entertainment at Killingworth in 1575. p. 46. (This writer's orthography is not here copied.) # « Tonfare-wise," after the manner of the Monks.
“ shoes, marshalled in good order with a setting ftick, oc' and strut, that every ruff stood up like a wafer. A os fide [i. e. long] gown of Kendale green, after the 6 freshnefs of the year now, gathered at the neck with
a narrow gorget, fastened afore with a white clasp and « a keeper close up to the chin ; but easily, for heat, s to undo when he list. Seemly begirt in a red caddis
girdle : from that a pair of capped Sheffield knives hanging a'two sides. Out of his bosom drawn forth
a lappet of his napkin * edged with a blue lace, and “ marked with a D for Damian, for he was but a 66 batchelor yet.
“ His gown had fide [i. e. long] sleeves down to “ mid-leg, slit from the shoulder to the hand, and lined " with white cotton. His doublet-sleeves of black “ worsted: upon them a pair of points of tawny chamci let laced along the wrist with blue threaden poinets ll, a " wealt towards the hands of fuftian-a-napes. A pair " of red neather stocks. A pair of pumps on his feet, 66 with a cross cut at his toes for corns : not new indeed,
yet cleanly blackt with foot, and shining as a fhoing 66 horn.
About his neck a red ribband suitable to his girdle. “ His Harp in good grace dependent before him. His “ wrest † tyed to a green lace and hanging by : “ Under the gorget of his gown a fair flaggon chain,
(pewter | for) SILVER, as a SQUIRE MINSTREL OF “ MIDDLESEX, that travelled the country this summer " season, unto fair and worshipful mens houses. From « his chain hung a scutcheon, with metal and colour,
resplendant upon his breast, of the ancient arms of “ Illington.”
* j. e. handkerchief, or cravat. || Perhaps points. + The key, or screw, with which he tuned his harp.
I The reader will remember that this was not a REAL MIN. STREL, but only one personating that character : his ornaments therefore were only such as OUTWARDLY represented those of a real Minstrel.
- This Minstrel is described as belonging to that vil lage. I suppose such as were retained by noble families, wore their arms hanging down by a silver chain as a kind of badge. From the expression of SQUIRE Minstrel above, we may conclude there were other inferior orders, as Yeomen Minstrels, or the like.
This Minstrel, the author tells us a little below, “ after " three lowly courtefies, cleared his voice with a hem,
and wiped his lips with the hollow of his hand for 'filing his napkin, tempered a string or two with his
wrest, and after a little warbling on his HARP for “ a prelude, came forth with a solemn song, warranted « for story out of King Arthur's acts, &c." -This fong the reader will find printed in this work, volume
III. pag. 25
Towards the end of the fixteenth century this class of men had lost all credit, and were sunk so low in the public opinion, that in the 39th year of Elizabeth I a statute was passed by which « Minkrels, wandering 16 abroad” were included among rogues, vagabonds, “and sturdy beggars,” and were adjudged to be punished as such. This act seems to have put an end to the profession, for after this time they are no longer mentioned, 6 I CANNOT conclude this account of the ancient MinSTRELS, without remarking that they are most of them represented to have been of the North. There is hardly an ancient Ballad or Romance, wherein a Minstrel or Harper appears, but he is chara&terized by way of eminence to have been “ OF THE NORTH COUNTRIE and indeed the prevalence of the Northern dialect in such kind of poems, news that this representation is real. The reason of which seems to be this; the civilizing of nations has begun from the South: the North would therefore be the last civilized, and the old manners would
Vid. Pulton's Stat. 1961. p. 1110. 39° Eliz.
longest fubfift there. With the manners, the old poetry that painted these manners would remain likewise; and 'in proportion as their boundaries became more contracted, and their neighbours refined, the poetry of those rude men would be more distinctly peculiar, and that peculiarity more strikingly remarked.
The Reader will observe in the more ancient ballads of this collection, a cast of style and measure very different from that of contemporary poets of a higher class : many phrases and idioms, which the Minstrels
seem to have appropriated to themselves, and a very remarkable licence of varying the accent of words at plealure, in order to humour the flow of the verse, particularly in the rhimes:
Countrie harper battel morning
Ladie finger damsèl loving, instead of country; lòdy, harper, finger, &c. This liberty is but sparingly assumed by the classical poets of the same age; or even by the latter composers of Heroical Ballads : I mean by such as professedly wrote for the press. For it is to be observed, that so long as the Minstrels sublifted, they seem never to have designed their Thymes for publication, and probably never committed them to writing themselves : what copies are preserved of them were doubtless taken down from their mouths. But as the old Minstrels gradually wore out, a new race of ballad-writers succeeded, an inferior fort of minor poets, who wrote narrative songs meerly for the press. Instances of both may be found in the reign of Elizabeth. The two latest pieces in the genuine ftrain of the old MinArelfy that I can discover, are No. III. and IV. of Books III. in this volume. Lower than these I cannot trace the old mode of writing.
The old Minstrel-ballads are in the northern dialect, abound with antique words and phrases, are extremely incorrect, and run into the utmost licence of metre; they have also a romantic wildness, and are in the true spirit of chivalry. The other fort are written in exacter mea?
Lure, have a low or subordinate correctness, sometimes bordering on the infipid, yet often well adapted to the pathetic; these are generally in the southern dialect, exhibit a more modern phraseology, and are commonly descriptive of more modern manners.—To be sensible of the difference between them, let the Reader compare in this volume No. III. of book III. with No. IX. of Book II.
Towards the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign, (as is mentioned above) the genuine old Minttrelsy seems to have been extinct, and thenceforth the ballads that were produced were wholly of the latter kind, and these came forth in such abundance, that in the reign of James I. they began to be collected into little Miscellanies under the name of GARLANDS, and at length to be written purposely for such collections*.
* In the Pepysian, and other libraries, are preserved a great number of these in black letter, 12 mo. under the following quaint and affected titles, viz.
1. A Crowne Garland of Goulden Roses gathered out of England's Royall Garden, &c. by Richard Johnson, 1612. [In the Bodleyan Library. ] The Golden Garland of Princely Delight.-3. The Garland of Good-will, by T. D. 1631, 4. The Royal Garland of Love and Delight, by T. D.
-5. The Garland of Love and Mirth, by Thomas Lanfier. 6. The Garland of Delight, &c. by Tho. Delone.
57. Cupid's Garland set round with guilded Rotes. -8. The Garland of withered Roses, by Martin Parker, 1656.-9. The Shepherd's Garland of Love, Loyalty, &c.- 10. The Country Garland.
.II. The Golden Gailand of Mirth and Merriinent. 12. The Lover's Garland.
-13. Neptune's Fair Garland. -14. England's fair Garland.
-15. Robin Hood's Garland.-16. The Lover's Garland.-17. The Maiden's Garland.----18. A loyal Garland of Mirth and Pastime.
-&c. &c, &c. This fort of petty publications were anciently called PENNYMerriments: as little religious tracts of the same size went by the name Penny GODLINESSES : In the Pepy Library are multitudes of both kinds. b 4