Bards, Music, and Arthurian Legend
He was a harp; all life that he had
known and that was his consciousness was the strings; and
the flood of music was a wind that poured against those
strings and set them vibrating with memories and dreams .
. . Past, present, and future mingled; and he went on
oscillating across the broad, warm world, through high
adventure and noble deeds to Her--ay, and with her,
winning her, his arm about her, and carrying her on in
flight across the empery of his mind.
Music has helped to carry on the Arthurian legend and folklore. Bards or troubadours wrote songs and ballads to help them recall various stories and legends. Bards referenced stories involving Arthur and Tristan before any known French works began shortly after 1150. The troubadours used the Provencal language in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries to write songs and poetry in what is now France and adjoining countries. This proves the early extensive circulation of Arthurian themes.
|The prime subject for bards was love. As a result
Tristan is referred to many times throughout the known
songs and poems. Because Arthur is not associated with
love, especially in early works, he does not receive as
From the surviving works of the troubadours it appears that they did not elaborate on many of the Arthurian stories. They were however very good at exploiting its poetic value. An Arthurian theme or name was able to evoke with very little development an entire courtly world and ideology in which the bards like to imagine themselves and perhaps their ladies.
The earliest examples of Arthurian music in Great Britain are known only by account and in entries in the Stationers Register. The broadside ballad, "a pleasaunte history of an adventurus knyghte of knygges Arthurs Couurte" was licensed by a Richard Jones in 1565-66. The history Arthurian music in Great Britain continues with the appearence of ballad collections in the1700s. Bishop Percys Reliques of Ancient English Poetry firsted appeared in 1765. This collection included six ballads on Arthurian themes. The sixth ballad in the collection follows the traditional story of a womens change from an ugly hag to a beautiful damsel. It tells the same story as the fifteenth century romance The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.
|Some Celtic traditional songs have been used to find origins of Arthurian romance. A Scottish Gaelic song, "Am Bron Binn" ("The Sweet Sorrow"), tells a tale of Arthur or Sir Bhalbha who rescues a lady from a castle on an island. This song is still sung in oral tradition. Another work, "laoidh an Amadain Mhoir" ("The Lay of the Great Fool"), whose hero is the Great Fool does not specifically mention Arthur. However its themes are similar to other Arthurian texts. It was likely composed in the sixteenth or seventeenth century.|
The New Arthurian Encycolopedia, Edited by Norris J. Lacy, Garland Publishing, Inc. 1991.
Find the links on this page to play Hang the Joker!
The following are a few Celtic tunes in the standard Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) file format. More songs of this type including those below may be found at Reel Music - the celtic music network
|"The Ash Grove", Trad. Welsh Dance Tune.||Lyrics|
|"The Battle of Harlaw", Trad. Scots.||Lyrics|
|"The Boar & The Fox", Trad. Scots.|
|"Greensleeves", Trad. English Morris Dance.||Lyrics|
|"The Minstrel Boy", by Sir Thomas Moore.||Lyrics|
|"The Morpeth Rant", Trad. English Step Dance.|
|"3 Bagpipe Tunes", arranged by John Renfro Davis.|
|"Bard Dance" by Enya|
Links to Popular Celtic Bands.
The Clannad WWW Home Page.
The Unoficial Enya Home Page.
|Page Created April 13, 1997
© 1997 Lancelot Productions
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