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James King of Scotland, who not only composed many pieces of sacred music, but also of himself invented a new kind of music, plaintive and melancholy, different from all others, in which he has been imitated by Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, who, in our age, has improved music with many new and admirable inventions."
Among the list of song-tunes popular in Scotland at and after the time of James, we find that the names preserved to us show an English origin. In a humorous poem entitled “ Cockelby's Sow," of which the earliest copy is a Ms. dated in 1568, but from internal and other evidence, supposed to have been com- ' posed at least a century earlier, occurs the following passage:
“ And his cousin Copyn Cull
Sum Rusty Bully with a bek.” Many of these songs are either lost altogether, or are extant under other names and known to be English. In the “Complaint of Scotland,” published in 1549, there is still more remarkable evidence of the English origin and character of the songs then popular in Scotland. The author representing himself as weary with study, “ walks out into the wholesome fields, to hear the songs of the shepherds," and gives a list of thirty
seven of these compositions. “ Now I will rehearse,” says he, some of the sweet songs that I heard among them.” Among others, he mentions, “ Pastime with gude company," a song the composition of King Henry VIII.;“ Still under the levis grene," and “ Coll thou me the rashis grene,” two songs acknowledged by later Scottish writers to be English; “King William's note,” -supposed to be the song sung by Nicholas in Chaucer's “ Miller's Tale:”
“ And after that he sang the King's note,
Full often bless'd was his mery throat." “Trolly, lolly,” of the English origin of which there needs no other proof than the title; “ The frog came to the mill-door," better known to English readers at the present time under the title of " The frog he would a-wooing go;" “ The Percy and the Montgomery met,” or the English ballad of “ Otterbourne,” printed in “ Percy's Reliques," and six songs entitled, “ Alone I weep in great distress,” “ Right sorely musing in my mind,” “O mine heart, this is my song,” “Grievous is my sorrow,” · Alas, that seeming sweet face,” and “In one mirthful morrow.” These songs have been lost; but their music has been fortunately preserved in the work of Andro Hart, printed in Aberdeen about the commencement of the seventeenth century, and called,“ Ane Compendious Book of Godly and Spiritual Songs, collectit out of sundrie parts of the Scripture, with sundrie of other Ballats, chainged out of Profaine Songs, for the avoiding of Sinne and Harlotrie.” In this work the tunes appear under their old titles, as given above, but with the “godly words” of the strange religious parodies which were made upon them. These six tunes, as well as all the other melodies in Hart's book, are acknowledged by all investigators to be English, and to have none of the marks by which songs in the Scottish manner are now distinguished.
Thus it would appear that the intercourse between England and Scotland, or the identical origin of the two nations, or the similarity of literary and musical taste and development at this time, were such, that they possessed many songs in common, as they do now. It is clear, moreover, from these and other circumstances already mentioned, that the influence exercised
and music by James I. was strong and lasting. He is recognised as the father of Scottish melody, and popular tradition ascribes to him the composition of many beautiful and well-known airs. Circumstances at a later period tended to develop the musical taste of the people, and to make it somewhat different from that of England, from which it sprung. Constant intercourse with France was probably not without some effect; and the career of James V., himself composer and song-writer, as well as that of the beautiful, accomplished, and unfortunate Mary, tended to improve the musical taste of the country. Mary's two secretaries, Chatelar, a Frenchman, and Rizzio, an Italian, were both admitted to her favour and intimacy in consequence of their musical skill; and both, it is to be presumed, encouraged a love of music among the frequenters of the court, and influenced in a greater or less degree the musical taste of the people. To Chatelar are ascribed many tender melodies now considered Scottish, which are obviously of French parentage; and to Rizzio Scotland is probably indebted for more music than will ever be discovered to have come from Italy. Be this as it may, music flourished in this little-known and but half-civilised portion of the empire when it began to decay elsewhere; and not even the Reformation, which in England had the effect of consigning to oblivion or to popular hatred many ancient songs and tunes, could damp in Scotland the musical ardour of the people.
Many Roman Catholic chants became the property of the secular Muse; and such airs as “ John, come kiss me now,” “ Auld lang syne,” “ John Anderson my Jo," and "We're a’ noddin,” which belonged to the cathedral service of both countries, were appropriated to profane purposes and indecent parodies, and sung sometimes in ridicule of that Church from which they had been taken, and sometimes to words of the most objectionable character.
Scottish music was, however, but little known to the world until Allan Ramsay, in the year 1724, collected the melodies of his country. His “ Tea-Table Miscellany” was the first successful attempt to give them a local habitation. Without him they would have died, as many old English melodies have unfortunately done; but honest Allan gave little account of them; indeed, he could not tell what he did not know, for “although," as Mr. Robert Chambers says, “the Scottish people are more proud of their songs and music than of any other branch of literature, they can tell very little regarding the origin and early history of these endeared national treasures.” But Allan Ramsay, though certainly the most valuable of the early labourers in the field, was not the first. Towards the middle of the seventeenth century Scottish music began to be spoken of in England, and from that period to the reign of Queen Anne became so fashionable as to be imitated by English musicians. English song-writers, of the class of D'Urfey and others, also began to imitate the Scottish manner, and produced some very barbarous songs, as distasteful to Scotchmen as they were incomprehensible to Englishmen. But in Scotland itself at this time the current music was purely traditional and popular; and the first music-book printed north of the Tweed, the book of Andro Hart, of which we have already made mention, con
tained no Scottish melodies whatsoever, but tunes that were notoriously and avowedly English.
Nevertheless, the national music continued to flourish in Scotland; and if not to decline in England, to be banished almost entirely from the higher circles of the nobility and the Court. Scotland was peculiarly fortunate in this respect. It never became the fashion to deny the existence of her national melodies, whether of her own or of English growth; and zealous collectors appeared from time to time to preserve both her songs and her music. Allan Ramsay, who not only preserved the ancient lyrics of his country, and improved them by many masterly touches of his own, but enriched its literature by many beautiful original compositions, which he adapted to the old tunes, was followed, after a short interval, by David Herd, an investigator of great industry, as well as judgment and taste. To him, though not indebted for much of the ancient music, Scotland owes the preservation of many admirable old songs and ballads, abounding either with its characteristic tenderness, or with its no less characteristic humour. Johnson's “ Musical Museum,"* the first number of which appeared in 1787, was an effort both to preserve and to improve the songs and music of Scotland—an effort in which the publisher and editor was admirably assisted by Robert Burns, a writer then but little known, but whose fame is now as wide as the two hemispheres, and penetrates as far as the influence of the English language and the pastures or farm-steadings of our colonies. Burns wrote some songs for this work, and brought from obscurity, by the easy light of his genius, a still greater
* The imprint of this volume states it to have been sold by “ James Johnson, Engraver, Bell's Wynd, Edinburgh;" and that it was sold " by T. Kay and Co., 332. Strand, and by Longman and Brodripp, 26 Cheapside, London.” No. 332 Strand is the present office of the Morning Chronicle,