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making, his wife-killing, and his quarrels heart's delight," " Full merrily sings the with the pope, Cardinal Wolsey, and his cuckoo upon the beechen tree,” great nobles, found time to write songs, frog came to the mill-door” (sioce modone of which was entitled “Pastime with ernized into " The frog he would a wooing Good Company.” In a MS. still in exist. go”), “I'll ne'er get drunk again,” and ence, and known to be of his reign, are the mariners' glee, “We be three mari. two songs, in pure though quaint English, ners ” – probably the oldest sea-song that which may be quoted as among the ear. England can boast. The only two names liest songs remaining in the language: of note that have reached the present age
in connection with this early song-litera. Ah my sweet sweeting My little pretty sweeting,
ture are William Tarleton and Martin My sweeting will I love, wherever I go.
Parker - both somewhat later than the She is so proper and pure,
time of Shakespeare. Martin Parker de. Full steadfast, stable, and demure, serves especial notice as the man who There is none such, you may be sure,
wrote the well-known song, “Ye gentle. As my sweet sweeting.
men of England” a song not only exThe other, entitled “The Loyal Lover," cellent in itself, but entitled to double
gratitude for having served Thomas is equally smooth and vocal :
Campbell as the model on which he built As I lie sleeping
“Ye mariners of England,” one of the In dreams fleeting
noblest songs ever written in any lanEver my sweeting
guage. Martin Parker's song sets itself Is in my mind.
Ye gentleman of England
Who live at home at ease,
Ah, little do
The dangers of the seas! There seems to be little or no authority
Give ear unto the mariners, for the statement that King Henry the
And they will plainly show Eighth himself wrote these songs; or, if All the cares, and the fears, he did, whether they were in celebration
When the stormy winds do blow. of the charms of the “sweetings" whose heads he cut off, or of those whose heads It used to be the fashion of the English he spared. But, whoever was the author peasantry to paste these songs in cupof them, these and similar songs were boards, on the lids of trunks, or on the like the first faint radiance that precedes backs of doors a custom which has been the dawn. The dawn and the daylight one great cause why so many of them were yet to come. Among the singing have been lost without hope of recovery. birds of the twilight, the most melodious Could they have been preserved, they were Sir Thomas Wyatt, whose son was might have thrown the light of contempobeheaded on Tower Hill, and the unfortu- rary poetry on the history of manners and nate Earl of Surrey, who himself suffered afforded us glimpses into the every.day on the block for alleged complicity in the life of our forefathers at a period particutreasons of an age when it was difficult to larly interesting, when the art of printing know what was treason and what was not. was bringing forth its first flowers and At length, as political affairs became fruits, operating important changes in the somewhat more settled, the full daylight national character, and preparing the way of poetry burst forth. The Elizabethan for the final triumphs of the Reformation. dramatists, with Shakespeare at their Similar songs are still printed for the use head, and Edmund Spenser, chief of the of the rural districts, and sold – humiliatnon-dramatic poets, inaugurated the new ing thought to the pride of song writers !
It was then that English poetry and at a halfpenny or a penny a yard. song entered into the golden age. In the The song.wriiers of the age of Shake. blaze of that sudden glory the inferior speare were many and excellent. Among compositions of the ballad-mongers were his contemporaries, or those who preceded left entirely to the lower rank of the peo- and followed him, were two or three who ple; many of them are still in existence, wrote songs almost as well as he did and still sung, such as some of the famous none who wrote better. The associated ballads to be found in Percy's “Reliques” dramatists Beaumont and Fletcher, Ben
- the poacher's song, "'Tis my delight, Jonson, Thomas Heywood, Christopher on a shiny night," " Women are best Marlowe, Robert Herrick, George Wither, when they are at rest,” “Sweet Nelly, my | Thomas Carew, Sir Walter Raleigh, John
Donne, Sir Henry Wotton, Richard Love. Come hither! come hither! come hither! lace, and George Herbert are but a few
Here shall he see out of a long list of poets of whose works
No enemy, any fair criticism would occupy a volume,
But winter and rough weather. so full are they of heartiness and beauty. Every one who reads knows the two Some of Ben Jonson's songs are exquisite charming pictures of spring and winter in their delicacy and grace. Every one sung in “Love's Labor Lost,” both of has read (or heard sung) the delicious them full of humor and of accurate paintsong better than anything attributed to ing from nature, and both of them adapted Anacreon, or any Greek or Roman writer to such excellent music by Dr. Arne whatsoever " Drink to me only with who lived a century afterwards thine eyes,” a paraphrase from the Low make every listener regret that Shake. Latin of a nameless poet in the Middle speare himself never had the felicity of Ages, and a great improvement on its orig. hearing the manner in which great com. inal - a song sufficient for fame if its posers can render the meaning of great author had written nothing else. Most poets. One other song of Shakespeare people have read or heard the song of Sir has been the favorite of successive genHenry Wotton, worth a whole library of erations of musicians, from the age of inferior compositions :
Milton to our own, who have striven with You meaner beauties of the night,
each other to do it justice: That poorly satisfy our eyes
Take, oh! take those lips away More by your numbers than your light,
That so sweetly were forsworn; You common people of the skies,
And those eyes, the break of day, What are you when the moon shall rise ?
Lights that do mislead the morn. Who does not know the songs of George The golden age of English lyrical poetry Wither? The chorus of one of them has did not die with Shakespeare. Its lustre. passed into the select family of familiar was not dimmed even by the troubles quotations:
of the Revolution, although the number: Shall I, wasting in despair,
of poets who arose from the accession of Die, because a woman's fais?
Charles the First to the restoration of: Or make pale my cheeks with care Charles the Second was small compared Because another's rosy are?
with the number who adorned the age of Be she fairer than the day,
Elizabeth and James. The age immedia. Or the flowery meads in May,
ately succeeding that of Shakespeare pro.. If she be not so to me,
duced Milton, Cowley, Lovelace, Waller;. What care I how fair she be?
and Dryden, and a host of inferior men. Robert Herrick wrote many songs of These, like all the greatest poets whom the highest merit, and particularly distin. England has known, attempted song-writ. guished above those of all his contempo. ing. Milton was a musician, and under. raries by the fluency of their melody, and stood all the fine shades and niceties of the luxuriant charm of their phraseology, language which songs require, if they are
But Shakespeare was the prince of all meant to be sung. He also, had he chosen the song-writers of his age." It may be to devote himself to lyrical instead of epic said of him that, had he not been the poetry, might have enriched literature greatest of epic poets, the greatest of law. with many matchless compositions. Peryers, the greatest of anything great to haps if he had done so he might have which it pleased him to direct the ener. been dearer and more familiar to his gies of his great mind, he would most cer. countrymen. As he is, he is too great tainly have been a great song-writer, for and too mighty for their love. His poetithe songs which he has scattered through cal character inspires awe and reverence his plays are all of them models either of rather than affection. He sits - bliod. wit, or grace, or tenderness, or of a name and solitary – on the cold summits of less beauty comprising all these. Every Parnassus, wrapped in a blaze of glory, one, at some time or other of his life, must inaccessible to the plaudits of the crowd. have rejoiced over the frolicsome little who behold him from afar. Yet when we song redolent of the green fields and flow. think of him as the author of “ Il Penseers of England:
roso" and "L'Allegro," of " Lycidas," and Under the greenwood tree,
of “Comus,” we take him to our hearts, Who loves to lie with me,
and lose some portion of our reverence in And tune his merry note
the new love we feel for him. In all his Unto the sweet bird's throat?
songs and lyrical poems tberei an Italian
sweetness mixed with an English force place. Matthew Prior- a fortunate verse. which scarcely needs any aid from the art maker and flatterer of the great, and who of the composer to shape them into music. wrote himself into an embassy and a pen.
Cowley did not excel in song.writing. sion expressed in some famous and Nature had not endowed him with a fine often-quoted lines to “Chloe Jealous "the ear, and, like Wordsworth and Sir Walter low opinion he entertained of the art he Scott in our owo day, he could not readily cultivated : distinguish one tune from another, conse.
Prior to Chloe Jealous. quently his verse was monotonous, if not
To be vexed at a trifle or two that I writ, harsh and rugged. His most noted com.
Your judgment at once and my passion you position, one that is still sung by boon
wrong; companions, and at places where young You take that for a fact which will scarce be men drink more than they think, is a para- found wit. phrase of Anacreon - a Bacchanalian Od's life! must one swear to the truth of a song, suited to the tastes of a Bacchanalian
song? age, and not consistent with modern ideas, except in so far as we may admire the What I speak, my fair Chloe, and what I
write, shows ingenious perversity which presses all na.
The difference there is betwixt Nature and ture into the service of inebriation : The thirsty earth drinks up the rain,
I court others in verse, but I love thee in prose, And thirsts and gapes for drink again.
And they have my whimsies, but thou hast The sea itself (which, one would think, Should have but little need of drink) Drinks twice ten thousand rivers up,
How was it possible that poetry could So full that they o’erflow the cup.
flourish when a poet, even of the second The busy sun (and one would guess
rank, could write thus? One of the few By 's drunken fiery face no less)
songs worth preserving which date from Drinks up the sea; and when he's done this time is entitled “When this old cap The moon and stars drink up the sun. was new,” published anonymously in 1666. Fill up the bowl then, fill it high!
It throws some light on the manners of Fill all the glasses up, for why
the day, and on the antiquity of the great Should every creature drink but I? Why, man of morals, tell me why?
and truly British art of grumbling. If the
chancellor of the exchequer could but get Dryden's songs were better adapted to Parliament to agree to a grumbling-tax, music than Cowley's; but, for the most and allow no one, male or female, to part, they were even less adapted to decent grumble unless they took out a license, society, and have long since perished from what a revenue he might raise ! memory, no more to be revived. One or two of them that were of a patriotic char. Now poor men starve and die, and are not
Good hospitality was cherished then of many, acter have been preserved, such as “Come
helped by any; if you
dare !” His “ Alexander's Feast," For Charity waxeth cold, and Love is found a fine composition set to fine music, was in few; not a song, but a small opera.
Not so in time of old, when this old cap was But Dryden belongs to the bad period new! of the Restoration - a period in which
In that day, as in the present, the ladies courtiers and public men thought it their duty, as well as their pleasure, to imitate dress as they pleased, or wear hoops, or
were not allowed to copy the French and the vices of the court of Charles the Second, when every moral sentiment was from the song.writers, who then, and not
any other abomination, without a protest deadened or debauched; when hospital.
newspaper editors, were the leaders of ity degenerated into boisterous and de.
public opinion. grading intemperance ; when virtue was a jest, and honor, so jealously guarded by Our ladies in those days in civil habit went; the sword and pistol of the duellist, was Broad-cloth was then worth praise, and gave held to be a thing quite apart from good
the best content ; ness; and when the only manly virtue French fashions then were scorned; such fan. that was recognized at all was personal
gles no one knew; courage. This age was very prolific of And modesty women adorned, when this old
cap was new! bad verse. Poetry was supposed to be something artificial, and not natural, and To the period of unblushing vice and the consequence was that poetry disap. effrontery succeeded a period of false peared, and mere idle rhyme took its pretence. Love played at masquerade;
and the song.writers, deriving their in. I practice. The world owes to him the spiration not at first hand from nature, music of more than a hundred songs but at second hand from the Greek and music that has for the most part been Latio writers whom they imitated or par. divorced from the service of the stage and odied, made every lover a shepherd, in a concert room to that of religion, and is court dress with gold buttons, shoes with attuned to pious hymns and psalms in silver buckles, a curly wig d la Louis Qun. half of the churches and chapels of En. torze. Lovers in those days had no such gland and America. It is not known with bonest names as John or Thomas or Ed. certainty who wrote the noble music or ward or Charles, but were all Strephons, the words of “God Save the King,” but or Adonises. Every lass was an Arca: the balance of proof inclines in favor of dian shepherdess with silk stockings and Carey. Nothing is more difficult than to spangled robe as short as that of a ballei- fix the age or the authorships of songs dancer; and she, too, instead of being and ballads published anonymously. Even called Jane, Mary, Ellen, or Margaret, the production of the first printed copy was Chloe, Phæbe, Lesbia, or Sophro with an authentic date is not always suffinisba. To judge of the English by their cient to set at rest such doubtful points. popular songs at this period, they might This test is unfortunately wanting in most have been ranked as a nation of Greek or inquiries of the kind, and even when apRoman pagans. There was no such thing plied is not always adequate to the appar. as love in literature; but, instead of it, ently simple task of giving an author his “Cupid ” was continually shooting, his own property. So difficult is it even in
darts," rhyming them with, as well as our own day to establish a poet's claim to aiming them at, “hearts." The word a song which has happened from any
marriage” was never mentioned; but accident to become popular, that when the happy pair, as Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Thomas Moore was accused in jest by Jeames Yellowplush sometimes say in our Father Prout of translating or stealing day, went to the “altar of Hymen.” A the whole of his Irish melodies from breeze was not a breeze but a zephyr; the Greek and Latin, French, German, and storm was Boreas, the sun was Sol or Italian, the world took the good-natured Phæbus, and the moon was Cynthia, Di- hoax as a serious accusation, and believed ana, or Luna.
very pretty girl, if not a that there was but too much truth in it. shepherdess in very short petticoats, was Thomas Campbell was declared to have a Venus if she were kind, and a Diana if stolen “The Exile of Erin” from an Irish she were coy. Bacchus a vulgar hy hedge-schoolmaster whose name no one brid, half Silenus, half Sir John Falstaff ever heard before or since. The Rev.
was the god of drunkenness, to whom Mr. Wolfe, the author of the noble ode on continual appeals were made to drown the burial of Sir John Moore, was in like care in a wine-butt or a bowl. Of the manner declared to be an impudent pla. kind of song that was most in favor at this giarist. One set of wise men declared time, the following, by Henry Carey, au- that he purloined the ode from a lady, thor of “Sally in our Alley,” will afford a while another declared that he stole it favorable or, more correctly speaking, an from a briefless Irish barrister, wbo, howunfavorable specimen :
ever, made no claim to it, or on whose Bacchus must now his power resign
behalf no appeal was made during his
lifetime. But if such be the case with a I am the only god of wine. It is not fit the wretch should be
modern composition, when the proofs are In competition set with me,
so abundant and so easily accessible, we Who can drink ten times more than he ! need scarcely wonder that it is sometimes
difficult to fix the authorship of songs and Make a new world, ye powers divine,
poems published without a name Stock it with nothing else but wine ; Let wine its only product be;
than a century ago. This has been emi. Let wine be earth, and air, and sea,
nently the case with the English national
anthem, the most renowned song ever and, most drunken, most selfish rhymer! written, the most fervent expression of if be meant what he sang
British loyalty, a song that touches a chord And let that wine be all for me!
in every British heart, and makes it via
brate not only with personal attachment Carey was an excellent musician but a to the sovereign, whether that sovereign very inferior poet. He composed the mu- be a king as in old times or a beloved sic to his own songs, and was one of the queen, the model and example of woman. first in modern days to revive the ancient hood, wifehood, and motherhood, as in
our happier day, but which expresses a Among the song.writers of this and the patriotic devotion to that mild, equable, preceding age is Thomas or “ Tom ” Dur. well-considered, and venerable constitu- fey, with whom King Charles the Second tion, of which the crown is the symbol once condescended to walk though St. rather than the agent. The sovereigns of James's Park, arm-in-arm, his dogs and England know not the name of the man courtiers following behind. Durfey wrote who wrote this hymn of loyalty; the peo- five or six volumes of songs, none above ple are equally ignorant. One set of mu. mediocrity, and some far below it. Gay, sical antiquaries claim the music for Dr. the author of “The Beggar's Opera," John Bull in the reign of James the First, wrote many new songs to the excellent old but give no parentage to the poetry. An- tunes of England, but scarcely succeeded other set claim both words and music for in making the new songs inore moral or Henry Carey, who wrote in the reigos less vulgar than the old, or left one great of William the Third, Anne, and George or noble sentiment on record in this form the First. Carey was both musician and of composition, except in “ Black-eyed Su. poet; his music excellent, his poetry in. san," one of the most popular songs in the different. This description well applies to English language. Shortly after his time the national anthem. The music is grand appeared David Garrick, who wrote that and simple, and capable of being elevated vigorous sea-song which in his time was into sublimity; but the poetry, or the enough to transform every sailor who verse, is tame and weak; the rhymes heard it before going into battle into a
Hearts of oak are our ships,
Hearts of oak are our men, cannot be called poetry at all, or even re. In the same period of literary history spectable verse ; and all Carey's avowed must be placed James Thomson, author compositions abound in similar defects of “The Seasons," who wrote the national and inelegancies. It may be asked why anthem “Rule Britannia,” a composition Carey, if he wrote the anthem, never which had the good fortune to be assoclaimed the authorship? Carey was a ciated with the music of Dr. Arne, and to Jacobite. He wrote the sentiments of the be floated upon that full tide into a surer Jacobites; and the song when first sung haven of immortality than it could ever was treason to the reigning family, as have reached by its own unaided merits. treasonable as that other Jacobite song, Stilllater appeared Thomas Percy, Bishop Here's to the king, sir !
of Dromore, the editor of Percy's “ Rel. You know who I mean, sir !
iques," and who wrote one song, “O
Nanny, wilt thou go with me?” which Carey lived a life of poverty and neg. received from the pen of no less a person lect. The suspicion of disloyalty clung to than Robert Burns the praise of being him. He was thought to have written a the finest composition of its kind in the treasonable song - that song which, by a whole compass of literature. strange turn in the wheel of fortune, has But it was not until the bright particusince become the very watchword of truth lar star of Charles Dibdin arose, towards and loyalty. He thús failed to acquire the close of the last century, that England the favor of those who could have be- recognized her greatest national songster. friended him, and at the age of eighty-six, The ideas of some writers are of the earth, weary of the world, sick at heart, hope- earthy. The ideas of honest Dibdin, muless, destitute, and reduced literally to his sician and poet, were of the salt sea, salty ; last penny, he committed suicide in a mis of the ocean, oceanic; of Great Britain, erable garret.
Carey's great anthem - truly British. England loves her sailors; treasonable though it seemed in his own she admires their free-heartedness, their day - was loyally meant. It was loyal to outspoken honesty, their contempt of diffia principle ; it was loyal to missortune; culty and danger, their rollickings, their and by the happy accident of its adoption roystering good-humor, their superexu. by the house of Hanover it has become berant fun, their sublime courage; and the embodiment of a still greater and bet. so dearly loves them that the offence ter-founded loyalty than its author in- against good manners and propriety which tended - - a more valuable possession to she would severely condemn in any other, the throne of Great Britain than all the she condones or excuses in the sailor. jewels in the royal tiara or the great Koh- The soldier, though highly esteemed in his i-noor itself.
own way, is not the prime favorite of the