Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/18

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2 SUMER IS ICUMEN IN.

progressions which might well have passed un- censured in the far later days of Palestrina. The 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 24th bars 1 are in Strict Two-Part Counterpoint of the First and Second Order, of irreproachable purity. 3 But, in passing from the Qth to the loth, and from the 1 3th to the 14th bars, a flagrant violation of the First Cardinal Rule s results in the form- ation of Consecutive Fifths between the First and Third Cantus Parts, in the one case, and between the Second and Fourth Cantus, in the other. The same Rule is broken, between Cantus II, and Bassus I, in passing from bar 1 7 to bar 18; and, in bars 37, 38, 39, a similar infraction of the Rule produces no less than three Con- secutive Fifths between Cantus I, and Bassus II. Between bars 29 and 30, Cantus I and II sing Consecutive Unisons ; and the error is repeated, between bars 33, 34, by Cantus II and Cantus III, simultaneously with Consecutive Fifths between both these Parts and Cantus I. Similar faults are repeated, as the Rota proceeds, with per- sistent regularity.

Now, the smooth progressions shown in the 4th, 8th, and 24th bars, are as stringently for- bidden in the Diaphonia of the nth and I2th centuries, as the Consecutive Fifths in bars 37, 38, and 39, are in the Counterpoint of the I5th and i6th, or even in that of the I4th century. To which of these epochs, then, are we to refer the Rota ? The peculiarity of the Part- Writing clearly affords us no means whatever of answer- ing the question, but is calculated rather to mis- lead than to throw new light upon the point at issue.

3. Turning from the Part- Writing to the Me- lody, we find this pervaded by a freedom of rhythm, a merry graceful swing, immeasurably in advance of any kind of Polyphonic Music of earlier date than the Fa las peculiar to the later decads of the 1 6th century to which decads no critic has ever yet had the hardihood to refer the Rota. But, this flowing rhythm is not at all in advance of many a Folk -Song of quite unfathomable antiquity. The merry grace of a popular melody is no proof of its late origin. The dates of such melodies are so uncertain, that the element of Chronology may almost be said to have been eliminated from the history of the earlier forms of National Music. In most cases, the original Poetry and Music owed their origin, in all probability, to the same heart and voice. The melodies were not composed, but inspired. If the verses to which they were in- debted for their existence were light and trip- ping, so were they. If the verses were gloomy, the melodies naturally corresponded with them. And, because their authors, however unskilled they might be in the Theory of Music, were in the constant habit of hearing Church Melodies sung in the Ecclesiastical Modes, they naturally conformed, in most cases, to the tonality of those

1 In this, and all other cases, the references apply to OUT own Score in modern Notation, vol. 111. p. 766.

2 See STRICT COONTEEPOINT, vol. 111. p. 741743.

3 Ib. p. 741 a.

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venerable scales. We believe the Melody of the Rota to be an inspiration of this kind a Folk-* Song, pur et simple, in the Transposed Ionian Mode, owing its origin to the author either of the English or the Latin verses to which it is wedded.

Now, some Folk-Songs of great antiquity possess the rare and very curious peculiarity of falling into Canon of their own accord. An old version of ' Drops of brandy ' forms a very fair Canon in the unison for two voices. In the days of Madame Stockhausen, three independent Swiss melodies were accidentally found to fit together in the same way, and were actually published in the form of an English Round, which soon became very popular.

The melody of the Rota if we are right in believing it to be a genuine Folk-Song possesses this quality in a very remarkable degree. What more probable, then, than that a light-hearted young Postulant should troll it forth, on some bright May -morning, during the hour of recrea- tion ? That a second Novice should chime in, a little later ? That the effect of the Canon should be noticed, admired, and experimented upon, until the Brethren found that four of them could sing the tune, one after the other, in very pleasant Harmony ? There must have been many a learned Discantor at Reading, capable of modi- fying a note or two of the melody, here and there, for the purpose of making its phrases fit the more smoothly together. So learned a mu- sician would have found no difficulty whatever in adding the pes, as a support to the whole and the thing was done. The Harmony suggested, in the first instance, by a veritable ' Dutch Con- cert,' became a Round, or Canon, of the kind proved, by Mr. Chappell's opportune discovery of the Latin pun [see vol. iii. p. 7680], to have been already familiar to English ears ; for which very reason it was all the more likely, in a case like the present, to have been indebted for its confection to a happy accident.

The foregoing suggestion is, of course, purely hypothetical. We do not, however, make it with the intention of evading a grave chrono- logical difficulty by a mere idle guess. The influence exercised, by the point we are consider- ing, upon the history of Mediaeval Music in general, and that of the Early English School in particular, is of so great importance, that the element of conjecture would be altogether out of place in any chain of reasoning professing to solve the difficulties of an enigma which has puz- zled the best Musical Antiquaries of the age. We venture, therefore, to propose no conjectural theory, but simply to epitomise the results of a long course of study which has rendered the Reading MS. as familiar to us as our own handwriting ; submitting it to our readers with all possible deliberation, as a means of accounting for certain peculiarities in the Rota which would otherwise remain inexplicable. It accounts for a freedom of melody immeasurably in advance of that attained by the best Polyphonists of the 1 5th century, whether in the Flemish or

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