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AN ESSAY

ON

THE ANCIENT MINSTRELS IN ENGLAND.

I. The MINSTRELS (A) were an order of men in the Middle Ages, who subsisted by the arts of poetry and music, and sang to the harp verses composed by themselves, or others. They also appear to have accompanied their songs with mimickry and action, and to have practised such various means of diverting as were much admired in those rude times, and supplied the want of more refined entertainment (B). These arts rendered them extremely popular and acceptable in this and all the neighbouring countries, where no high scene of festivity was esteemed complete that was not set off with the exercise of their talents, and where, so long as the spirit of chivalry subsisted, they were protected and caressed, because their songs tended to do honour to the ruling passion of the times, and to encourage and foment a martial spirit.

The Minstrels seem to have been the genuine successors of the ancient Bards (c), who, under different names, were admired and revered from the earliest ages among the people of Gaul, Britain, Ireland, and the North, and indeed by almost all the first inhabitants of Europe, whether of Celtic or Gothic race;? but by none more than by our own Teutonic ancestors, particularly by all the Danish tribes." Among these they were distinguished by the name of SCALDS, a word

(A) The larger notes and illustrations referred to by the letters (A) (B), &c., are thrown together to the end of this Essay.

i Wedded to no hypothesis, the Author hath readily corrected any mistakes wbich have been proved to be in this Essay; and considering the novelty of the subject, and the time and place when and where he first took it up, many such had been excusabie. -Tbat the term minstrel was not confined, as some contend, to a mere musician in this country, any more than on the Continent, will be considered more fully in the last note (GG) at the end of this Essay.

2 Vide Pelloutier, Hist. des Celtes, tom. 1, l. 2, c. 6, 10. 3 Tacit. de Mor. Germ. cap. 2.

4 Vide Bartholin. De Causis contemptæ a Danis Mortis, lib. i. cap. 10.-Wormis. Literatura Runic. ad finem.See also “ Northern Antiquities, or a Description of the Marners, Customs, &c., of the ancient Danes and other Northern Nations: from the French of M. Mallet." London, printed for T. Carnan, 1770, 2 vols. 8vo.

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