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The Bard, Davydd ab Gwilym, who flourished about the end of the 14th century, has given such droll and interesting particulars respecting the Irish Harp, as well as the Wellh Harp of that period, that I am unwilling to omit any thing which may throw light on the subject; therefore shall avail myself of it, by giving a literal translation of his Cowydd y Delyn Ledr, or Poem on the Leathern Harp; which is as follows : “ Grant, bounteous God, that the blessings may dawn of the mirthful manners of Wales in times of yore! The choicest spot; a fair garden, for the enjoyment of life thou wert, whilst the time of Clera continued, and the learning of the good old Cymry! Now, alas! cold the news; there is a noisy strumming amongst us, of dismal crazy fided Harps, or Leathern wickets. David had not one string from dead sheep ; long prosper the faith. The Minstrels of the serious prophet David, with all the cunning of their divination, Dever formed one Harp exquisitely pleasing, but of thing hair, yet pure the song! Wife is the easy and sprightly description of the Harp strung with glossy black hair. - The hair-strung Harp, a worthy gift ! by the bounty of Heaven which came complete to David, and was, and henceforth shall continue, from the beginning of the world: an ample ihought! till the day of doom ; awful contemplation!”
“There is none who would wish for life among us, should he be skilled in music; for there is nothing but the din of this Leathern Harp; (fie on the office!) prosperous it shall not be, played with a horny nail of unpleasant form; only the graceless bears it. For a learner, it will be difficult in a month to put it in tune the copper-tinted strumpet; an ugly plague, like the naked curve of the rainbow, a frightful form. It is the murmur of young sprawling crows, a pleasing brood affected by the rain.--Having an ardent thirst for perfection, I loved not its button-covered trough, nor its music; nor its intestines, founding eventful disgust; nor its yellowish colour, nor its gaudiness, nor its unconnected angle, nor its bending pillar : it is the vile that loves it. C'nder the pressure of the eight fingers, ugly is the swell of its body, with its canvas smock : its trunk, and its hoarse sound, were but formed for an age-worn Saxon. It is like the wild neighing and dismal roar of some bay mare after horses. The unceasing din through the night is a perfect Gifter to the frightful yellow hag of Rh6s ?.”
" It is the noise of a lame goose among the corn; a squealing, foolish, Irish witch; it is the rumbling of the mill-stream of crazy leap; and like the shrieking, wry-necked hare. It is the wooden fickle of a prude of yore, or the tottering fhin of an old woman.”
" Let every musical Professor, from the English marches, as far as Mono's itile, learn to play upon a fair Harp, with strings of jetty hair ; and to impart instructions, as was usual in the time of our old forefathers : I proclaim it! As for the other, giftless, twanging one, let no disciple bear it in the face of day
According to the above poem, Davydd ab Gwilym seems partial to the Harp strung with glossy hair, which formerly was curiously plaited ? : yet, it appears evident, from the ancient Welsh laws, that only the under graduates were obligated to use the hair-strung Harp until they took a degree. It seems also, that the body of some of the ancient Harps were covered with leather * ; (somewhat similar, perhaps, to
· The yellow plague, in the sixth century ; figuratively de-
The translation of the fame,
The sweet polished trunk, fair and light the load,
the form of a heart, between the breast and the arm; A thanneu rhawn, waith iawn rhwydd,
a tone and found the strings produce : Ar eur-glod, cainc yr arglwydd.
To effect this tone, four things concur ;
A Minstrel, of nearly the same period, likewise gives a de ages, was completely filled with hair strings, curiousy braid. scription of himself and Harp, in the following words : ed, to hymn golden praises to the Lord.
3 “ Eve a ddyly i gan bôb Cerddorion ievanc, pan ymada “ If I have my Harp, I care for no more, wont a Thelyn rawn, a mynnu bôd yn Gerddawr cyweithas; " It is my treasure, I keep it in store ; ac yn eirchiad bedair ar hugaint o ariant yn ei obrwy.” « For, my Harp is made of a good mare's skin ; Lees Wallicae, Lib. I. p. 69. See also, pages 28 and 32 of • The strings be of horse-hair, it maketh a good din. this Book.
“ My song, and my voice, and my Harp doth agree, 4. Lleddv lathr gavn vygr ysgavn vaich,
“ Much like the buzzing of an humble bee : Llun calon rhwng bron a braich ;
" Yet in my country I do make paltime. Tôn a Swn o'r Tannau sydd,
“ In telling of prophecy which be not in rhyme."Bid i'r dón bedwar deunydd, Pren, Croen, a Rhawn, cwbl ddawn cû,
The firf Book of the Introduation of Knowledge, by
AN ACCOUNT OF THE HARP AMONG THE ANCIENT WELSH.
the ancient Corugl, Coracle, or British boats, which were made of hoops, and covered with horses hides, as mentioned by Cæfar, and Pliny.) I am informed by Mr. William Williams, that when a boy, he had an old leathern Harp, which he used to play upon. The body of it was hollowed, or scooped, out of a piece of wood, and covered over with an ox's skin, which was sewed extremely tight at the back; and the pegs, which the strings were screwed with, were made of bone, or of ivory.
With regard to the compass of the ancient Welsh Harp, it is now difficult to ascertain this with precision, as it received various alterations, and improvements at different periods; therefore, it is the fruit of deep researches of divers speculative lovers of music. The late Mr. Lewis Morris attributes its rise and progress to the Bardic Druids, who had a great knowledge of music, when it was at the lowest ebb with all the other European nations'. There appears to have been a great deal of thought and art employed upon the formation of this instrument, and that it was not a work of chance.! It may be a question worthy a mathematician to answer, what curve the strings will form, so as to bear all an equal stress, supposing them to increase in thickness, from the shortest Treble to the longest Bafs string, so that none of them would be more liable to break than another, and yet be equally tight under the fingers, according to their length, when put in tune?
On a farther investigation, I find there are musical compositions still in being, which I have already mentioned in pages 28 and 29, that decidedly point out the compass of the Harp at a very early period ; some of those melodies are said to have been played about the year 520', and they extend from G, the first line in the bass, to D in Alt; (that is, 26 diatonic notes.) There are also other pieces, in the same manuscript, of about the year 1100, and some later, which extend from double C in the bass, to G in Alt. According to Mercennus ), the Cithara Antiqua, or Ancient Harp, had but one row of strings, which consisted of twenty-four chords; viz. from G, the first line in the bass, to G, the fifth space in the treble.
It appears by an address, written to solicit a Harp, in the reign of Elizabeth, that, “ twenty-nine strings, or more,” were then about the extent of the Harp*. I saw an old Harp, that formerly belonged to William ab Owen, of Pencraig Inco, in Caernarvonshire, which is said to have been made upwards of two hundred years ago, about the reign of Elizabeth. It had one row of strings, consisting of thirty-three. It was four feet nine inches high, and made of Pren Masarn, or Sicamore wood, as all the Harps and Viols are still made of, except the sound-board, which is made of deal. Query, whether the fine Cedar would not be better for making stringed instruments of, as King David, and King Solomon made all their Harps, and Pfalteries of Algum trees, or Cedars?
In early time, the single Harp was small and portable, and rather confined in the number of strings. It was always obliged to be tuned when the key required to be changed; but, when any accidental sharp was requisite in the middle of a tune, the performer ran up his hand close to the comb, and stopped the string dexterously with his thumb, while he played it with his finger. Likewise, some of the single-row Harps had Gwrachod', which were, a kind of angular pegs, ; the longest end of each, served as a pin, to keep the bottom, or knot end of the string fast in the found-board ; and the shortest angle of each of them served for the string to vibrate against, so as to cause a tremulous continuation of the found, not very unlike the effect of a trumpet-marine. Sometimes these pegs were turned off the strings, about one. fourth round, so as not to produce the tremuluous tones.
Mr. Lewis Morris's letter to the Cymmrodorion Society, on Angyles bêr rhwng ceraint, che structure of the Welsh Harp. Also, Peter Ramus says, A lluniaidd yw, llawn o dddint ; “ that Britain had twice the honour of instructing Gaulby the Nodais do, ond ydyw fór; Druids *, and by Alcuin t ; which last was of fingular service
Naw a'r hugain, neu'n rhagor, to Charlemagne, in eftablilhing the University at Paris."
A rhain yn fin er's ennyd,
in bêr iawn o'r rhawn ar hyd. Davydd Benwyn, A. D. 1584. • Cæfar's Commentaries of his wars in Gaul, Book VI. chap. 13. + Alcuin flourished in the latter part of the 8tb century,
This poetical petition probably was written for an undera Gougb's Camden, Vol. 1. p. cvii. of the Introduction. graduate, because it mentions hair strings :
s See page 92 --The first kind of cedar is the cedar of
Lebanon. It is fometimes kept in the gardens of the curious: • See also, Pennant's Tour in Wales, Vol. I. p. 459, of the the wood is of a reddish colour, something
resinous, of a strong second edition.
fagreeable smell, and it is said, it never will decay. Also, it is
used in phyfic, as a sudorific.3 Mersennus, Liber Primus, de Instrumentis Harmonicis, The angular pegs are called Gwrachod, probably from propofito XLIII. p. 70, 1632.
their being crooked, like an old Hag.
In process of time, the Double Harp, or Harp with two rows of strings, was invented, which supplied the deficiency, and obviated the difficulty, in some degree, of the flats and sharps ; though they had a method of producing them long before, which was by tuning, and by judiciously stopping the strings ; the latter they executed, with great skill, whilst they were playing: but, query, whether the sound of those could be so clear as the other strings? I have already described the Double Harp, in the preceding pages of 96 and 99.
The next improvement was the Triple Harp, or Harp with three rows of strings ; which probably was invented in the fourteenth century; though I have not been able to find any particulars respecting it sooner than about the year 1450, in a monody of the bard, Siôn Eos, which contains the following passage: Ve aeth dy gymmar yn-vúd,
0, Reinallt! thy rival is dumb,
The turtle of the triple-stringed Harp !
Alas! thou has consigned to filence
The golden Harp of Harpers.
The best, and gentle harmonizer
of sweetest touch, with Three rows of strings.
Cadwaladyr Roberts. Galileo, in the year 1582, describing the double Harp, mentions the number of strings in Harps of that period ; viz. “ fifty-four, fifty-six, fifty-eight, and as far as fixty": consequently, it seems more than probable, that the latter was a triple Harp which he alludes to, as having fixty strings. Marsennus, likewise, in the year 1632, has delineated the triple Harp ; and says, it extended four octaves, but consisted altogether of seventy-five strings ?.
The present Triple Harp extends to the compass of five octáves, and one notes. The two outside rows are the diatonics, which are both tuned in unisons, and in any key that the performer means to play in: the treble row of them consists of twenty-seven strings, that is, from A in alt down to C in the bass; and the opposite row, or unisons, (which are played with the bass hand,) extends from A in alt as low as double G in the bass, which is thirty-seven strings : and the middle row, being the flats and sharps, extends from alto G sharp, down to double B natural, in the bass; consisting of 34 strings. All the three rows together, amount to ninety-eight strings. See this Harp delineated in the trophy of the Musical Instruments, in page 89.-In playing upon the Welsh Harp, as well as the Irish Harp, it has always been customary to incline it against the left shoulder, and to play the treble with the left hand, and the bass with the right hand. But, the contrary is now more usual in performing on the Pedal Harp, which is, to rest it against the right shoulder, so as to play the treble with the right hand, and the bass with the left. This recent custom originated, probably, for the sake of making it more uniform, and familiar to those who play on the Piano-forte. Though, at the same time it is evident, that the Harpli. chord first originated from the Harp 4.
There is one idea worthy of remark, the Druidic Bards had an extraordinary veneration for the number
* Vinc. Galileo's Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music, .p. After him, John Richards, who died about 25 years ago,
was the most celebrated maker of the Triple Harp of his time. Mersennus, Liber Primus, de instrumentis Harmonicis, In the latter part of his life, he was retained as a pensioner Propofito XLIII. p. 68 and 69.
at the late Mr. Gwynn's, of Glan-bran, (a great lover of Some of its present appendages were the additions of the music, in Caermarthenshire ;) during that period, John Richlatter centuries. "I saw a painting, of an old Triple Harp, ards made him upwards of twenty harps; becaufe Mr. Gwynn which had only fifty-seven strings. Now there are some Triple had such a high opinion of his inftruments, that he despaired Harps that have above a hundred strings, including the three of ever attaining a good one, when John Richards died. rows together.
4 The Manichordij, Clavicytherium, or Clavicimbalum, was It appears, by a Welsh stanza, that Davydd Morris, of originally a kind of an upright Spinet, or Harpsichord ; and Dolgam, near Llanrwst, who lived about 150 years ago, was supposed to have been constructed from the Harp. Afteran eminent Harp maker at that time. Also it seems that a wards, it was made horizontal, and called Clavichord, Clariwhite Harp, unvarnished, or uncoloured, was then not un- chord, or Virginal, because, it was played by Nuns, and young common.
Virgins. After that, it was sometimes termed Harp couched Old Evan, who lived in London about the beginning of the or Spinet : then Harpsichord, Piano Forte, Grand Piano Forte, last century, is said to have been a famous Harp-maker, and &c.-Mersennus de Instrumentis Harmonicis, Lib. I. p.65Lufciinstructor of John Richards, of Llanrwst, in his art, nius's Mujurgia, p. 8 and 9. And see the preceding page 97.
OF THE TRIPLE HARP, THE PEDAL HARP, &c. Three'; for instance, their Triads ? ; their triplet verses ? ; their Harps being triangular, and their tuning keys having three arms *; likewise, a little more than three centuries ago, the Harp received the addition of a triple row of strings. The Harmonical Triad, or mufical consonance (of a fifth, a third, and fundamental note.) The Triple time, or meafure, in music: A Trio; a Canons; &c.
The next improvement on the Harp was the Pedals, by which addition this instrument was again reduced nearly to its original size, and former simplicity of a single row of strings. The Pedal Harp is usually tuned in the key of E flat; and the use of the Pedals, is to make the occasional sharps, and to alter it into the different keys without the trouble of tuning; therefore, by these mechanical pedals, it evades those inconveniences which are subject to the Triple Harp, and is rendered much less com. plicated, and commodipus. At the same time, I am rather an advocate for the Triple Harp, because I admire its venerable and stately appearance ; and particularly the sweet re-echoing effect of its unifons, which are played with both hands, and are peculiar to that instrument. Notwithstanding, when it is compared with the. Pedal Harp, which has modern elegance, as well as conveniences blended, consequently the preference is given in favour of the latter. The usual compass of the Pedal Harp is from double G at bottom to double D in alt, consisting of forty strings : also, there are some, that are of still greater compass. Sometimes the Pedal Harp is called the German Harp, because its pedals are said to have been first invented by a German. However, I shall quote here what Dr. Burney says on the subject : “ The Pedal Harp is very much practised by the ladies at Brussels as well as at Paris : it is a sweet and becoming instrument, and less cumbrous and unweildy than our triple Welsh Harp. The compass is from double Bb to F in altissimo; it is capable of great expression, and of executing whatever can be played on the harpsichord : there are about thirty-three strings upon it, which are the mere natural notes of the diatonic scale ; the rest are made by the feet. This method, of producing the half-tones on the Harp by pedals, was invented at Brussels, (about fifty years ago,) by M. Simon, who resides in that city. It is an ingenious and useful contrivance, in more respects than one : for, by reducing the number of strings, the tones of those that remain are improved; as it is well known that, the less an instrument is loaded, the more freely it vibrates 6.”.
“ The Harp passed for the most majestic of instruments; and, on this account, the French romancers place it in the hands of their greatest heroes, as the ancient Greek-poets did the Lyre. It was in such general favour, in the fourteenth century, that the old Poet, Machau, has made it the subject of a poem, called Le Dict de la Harpe, (the Ditty, or Poem, upon the Harp,) and praises it as an instrument too good to be profaned in taverns, or places of debauchery, saying that it should be used by Knights,
. What mystery might be in the number Three, among the. It is impossible that the Ancient British Bards should have Britons, is not easy to determine, unless it were in regard to been ignorant of Harmony. They certainly knew it, long beits perfection, as being the first of odd numbers, and con- fore Guido's time. In the first place, the Harp is the earliest taining in it, a beginning, a middle, and an end. For this inftrument, it had the greatest number of strings, and it was reason it has been said, that three was all. It is likewise called the first played with the fingers of both hands. Therefore, is the holy number, and was thought the most proper and fit for it probable, that the Britons should have performed on the every thing that related to religion. There is now extant a Harp from time immemorial; and been obliged to study treatise in folio, intitled, Mystica Numerorum Significationis, writ-twelve, or fifteen years before they past their degrees; and to ten by one Peter Bongus, and published at Bergamo, in the year use both bands, and ten fingers, and yet to avoid falling into 1585; the fole end of which is to unfold the mysteries, and something like counterpoint, or compositions in parts? In fact, explain the properties of certain numbers.
a third, a fifth, or a chord, are more easily struck on the Harp, See the Triads, in pages 10, 11, 12 ; and in 79, &c. than a single note, because the strings lie convenient, and na. See page 4 and 5.
tural for the hand. If any one wishes for farther illustration 4 Also, Trimarchwys, or a British war chariot, had three on this head, see pages 29, 35, 36, of this work. And proofs horses, a charioteer and two attendants.“ A tri March, a gwys from Ancient writers in Mr. Stilling fleet's Principles of the or Gweifon.” The Trefoil was much reverenced, and account - Power of Harmony, p. 132 and 133. ed the husbandman's Almanack, by reason, when it fhutteth in the leaves, it fortelleth rain. Their ancient seats are also 6 Burney's present state of Music in Germany, Netherlands, and three-footed, or tripods, as well as their trevets, kettles, and United Provinces, Vol. I. p. 59, second edition, o&avo. Likewise, other implements. And Morgan says, that of old, the letter Dr. Burney mentions, that when he was at Vienna, about T (Tau,) was the Hieroglyphick of security.
thirty-two years fince, “M. Mut, a good performer, playSA Canon, or song, in two, three, or more, parts. It is ed a piece on the fingle Harp, without pedals, which renders extraordinary, though a fact, that the term Canon, appears as it a very difficult instrument, as the performer is obliged to far back as the fixth century, in Aneurin's poem on the Months; make the femitones by brass rings with the left hand, which, which runs thus : “ Mis Medi mydr y nghanon.”
being placed at the top of the Harp, are not only hard to get In September comes the metrical Canon: at, but disagreeable to hear, from the noise, which by a sudden A Canon is again mentioned by a Bard of the middle ages, the semitones by Pedals, is not yet arrived at Vienna ; and
motion of the hand they occasion. The secret of producing in a poem of thanks for a bow : Brawd gwyn a brydai ganon,
the Double Harp is utterly unknown there. This player,
though highly esteemed, did not fulfil all my ideas of the Tig gw o Lan-gatwg lôn Tbomas Derllye
power of that inftrument." Ibid, Voll. p. 284.
Efquires, Clerics, persons of rank, and ladies with plump and beautiful hands; and that its courteous and gentle sounds should be heard only by the elegant and good. (At that period,) it had twenty-five strings; to each of which the poet gives an allegorical name: calling one liberality, another wealth, a third politeness, a fourth youth, &c. applying all these qualities to his Mistress, and comparing her to the Harp.
It does not appear that the Saxons had the Harp, nor letters ’, prior to their arrival in Britain, whichi was about the end of the fifth century, in the reign of Gwrtheyrn, or Vortigern, the 82d king of Britain. About the beginning of the eighth century, the Harp appears to have been in high estimation amo
the Saxons. Venerable Bede records, that at one of their feasts, for the sake of conviviality, it was agreed that all the guests should sing in their turn: as soon as Cadmon saw the Harp approach near him, he rose up, for shame,, from the table, and retired home 3. About that period also, it was usual to learn both to read and sing at schools 4.
The manner of singing with the Harp, among the Britons, I have already mentioned, in pages 34, 35, 60, and 61, of this work. Shakespear alludes also to this custom of singing to the Harp, amongst the English, in the time of Henry the Fourth S.
The grand Coronation of Henry the Fifth, held at Westminster in the year 1413, is recorded by Elmham, from whom the following is literally translated. “ What festival, I beseech you, can be deemed more important than one which is honoured with the presence of so many royal personages ; but such a multitude of chiefs, and ladies ; where the tumultuous sounds of so many trumpets compel the Heavens to re-echo with a noise like thunder. The harmony of the Harpers, drawn from their instruments, struck with the rapidest touch of the fingers, note against note, and the soft angelic whispering of their modulations, are gratifying to the ears of the guests. The musical concert also, of other instruments, which had learnt to be free from all sort of diffonance, invites to similar entertainment."
St. Dunstan, who lived in the tenth century, is represented by a writer of his life, that he could, like David, take the Psaltery, handle the Organ, touch the Cymbal, and strike the Harp. And as David, with his instrument, calmed the disturbed fpirit of Saul, so did Dunstan, by his music, exhilarate the heart of his Prince, after his being harassed by worldly cares ?. This Saint's Harp was indeed endued with a miraculous power, which David's never poffefsed; for, when suspended on the wall of Dunstan's cell, it would, without the interposition of any visible hand, pour out the most harmonious sounds.
This reminds me of Æolus's Harp, invented by Kircher, about the year 1649°: which is simply a box with about 15 strings, or more, all tuned in unison, or with an octave : when this instrument is put in a window, the wind sounds it, and sometimes produces a wonderful effect of harmony, and swelling and diminishing of sounds. If it was possible to add tune, and time to it, it would be the most perfect of all instruments. The Æolian Harp is exquisitely described, in a poem by Thomson", and by others.
1“ Burney's History of Music," Vol. II. p. 262. And Re passed round the table. Plutarch fymp. l. i. p. i. Athen. Diep. Medes de Fortune, par Mr. Machau.-On an antique ewer, dug 1. XV. Plato, de Leg. l. ii. up near Soisons, is a representation of some musicians, one of 4 Beda, lib. V.cap. 6. - lib. II. cap. 20. which is a player on the Harp. The chapel of St. Julian des
s In the first part of Henry the 1Vth. A& III. Sc. t. Menejiriers, at Paris, was built in 1331, by Jaques Grure and Hugues de Lorrain, two of the Jongleurs, or Minttrels, of Philip Owen Glyndwr thus addresses Hotspur : de Valois, and on the portico of which are some minstrels de I can speak English, Lord, as well as you, fcribed. See Burney's History of Music, Vol. II. page 264.
For I was trained up in the English court; Likewise, I am 'informed, there is another church at Paris, Where, being young, I framed to the Harp called St. John des Menestriers, and founded by the Minstrels, Many an English ditty.
6 Thome de Elmham Vit. et geft. Henry V. Edit. Hearne, cap. See Lhuyd's Preface to his Archeologia Britannica ; At y XII. p. 23. Cymry. "Lewis's Ancient History of Great Britain, page 61,
? Quernus de vita Duniani, et Angl. Sacr. Vol. II. p. 93, 94, of the Introduction.” And note io in pages 7 and 8,
&c. far as page 16, of this volume of the Bards.
Sumpfit fecum ex more Cytharam fuam, 3 Bede's Ecclefiaftical History, lib. IV. cap. 24. Among the Greeks also, mufic was esteemed a necessary accomplishment :
Quam paterni Lingua Hearpam vocamus. Cap. ii. n. 12. and an ignorance in this art was regarded as a capital defect. * Thorpe's Antiquities of Kent, p. 95 and 1c2. Darwent Of this we have an instance, even in Themiftocles himself, who Church, in Kent, is said to have been built about the year 940, was upbraided with his ignorance in mufic. Cicero Tufc. lib. i. and upon the font is sculptured the figure of King David, The whole country of Cynąthe laboured under a similar re- playing on the Harp, which probably was executed in the proach; and all the enormous crimes committed there, were time of Dunstan. Ibid. p. 94, fol. attributed by the neighbouring states, to the neglect of Music; Kircher's Mufurgia : and Hawkin's Hift. of Music, Vol. which may be said, in fome measure to comprehend religion, IV. P:
218. polity, and morality. Athenæus, Polybius, and Aristotle. When Dodsley's Poems, Vol. III. p. 4 of the 5th edition : Vol. the lyre came more into use, it was usual for all those that IV. p. 267. And Thomson's Cafle of Indolence, Canto Ift, 39, were at their entertainments to play upon it alternately till it 40, and 41.