John Skelton - NOTES TO AGAINST A COMELY CUSTRON

NOTES TO AGAINST A COMELY CUSTRON

1. Custron (which Skelton uses again in his poem The Doughty Duke of Albany, v. 171., and has Latinized in his Speak, Parrot, v. 125 is written by Chaucer quistron;

"This God of Love of his fashion
Was like no knave ne quistron,
[Ne resembloit pas un garcon]."
Rom. of the .Rose, fol. 113,—Works, ed. 1602.

Custron (Coystrowne, questron, quoitron, coestron) is—bastard, (from quaestuaria, quae quaestu corporis vivit). "Chetif, coquin, truant, Questron, bastart." Ducange, ed. Henschel, in v. QAESTUARIUS.

Currishly countered—In Prompt. Parv. we find "Countering in song. Occento." ed. 1499. To counter is properly—to sing an extemporaneous part upon the plain chant. Skelton uses the word in other places, and perhaps not always in its strict sense.

2. In peevishness yet they snapper and fall,
Which men the eighth deadly sin call
] Snapper is commonly explained—stumble; but Palsgrave makes a distinction between the words: "I Snapper, as a horse doth that trippeth, Je trippette. My horse did not stumble, he did but snapper a little, Mon cheval ne choppit point, il ne fit que trippetter un petit." Palsgrave, L'Éclaircissement de la Langue Française, par Jean Palsgrave, ed. F. Génin. Paris, 1852. p. 723. Compare the following lines;

"Not say I this but well percase that I
In peevish sin might hap me in a
sweven,
Which is the viii sin to sins vii."
Poems by C. Duke of Orleans, MS. Harl. 682. fol. 145.

3. carp] Which generally means speak, talk,—is sometimes found applied to music, and here, perhaps, is equivalent to—make a noise.

4. Lo, Jack would be a gentleman!] So in Heywood's Dialogue;

"Jack would be a gentleman, if he could speak French."
Sig. D 2,—Works, ed. 1598.

See also Ray's Proverbs, p. 124. ed. 1768.

5. Hey, trolly, lolly,] Ritson observes, is a chorus or burden "of vast antiquity;" see Anc. Songs, ii. 8. ed. 1829:

6. knack] i.e. triflingly, or affectedly show off his skill in singing about, &c.

7. Martin Swart] In A very merry and Pithy Comedy, called The longer thou livest, the more fool thou art, &c. Newly compiled by W. Wager, 4to. n. d. (written in the early part of Elizabeth's reign), Moros sings, among other fragments of songs,

"Martin swart and his man, sodledum, sodledum,
Martin swart and his man, sodledum bell."
Sig. A 3.

and in a comparatively recent drama we find;

"The Bear, the Boar, and Talbot with his tuskish white,
Oh so sore that he would bite,
The Talbot with his Tuskish white,
Soudledum Soudledum;
The Talbot with his Tuskish white, Soudledum bell.
The Talbot with his Tuskish white,
Oh so sore that he would bite,
Orebecke soudledum, sing orum bell."
The Variety (by the Duke of Newcastle), 1649. 12mo. p. 41.

Martin Swart, "a noble man in Germany, and in martial feats very expert," (Hall's Chron. (Henry VII.) fol. ix. ed. 1548), headed the auxiliaries sent by the Duchess of Burgundy with Lambert Simnel, and fell, fighting with great valour, at the battle of Stoke.

8. pyrdewy] Compare Hycke Scorner;

"Then into love's dance we were brought,
That we played the pyrdewy.
Sig. A v. ed. W. de Word.

and Colkelbie Sow;

"Sum Perdowy, sum Trolly lolly."
v. 303. Laing's Early Pop. Poet. Of Scotland.

9. prick-song] i.e. music pricked or noted down; when opposed to plain song, it meant counter-point, as distinguished from mere melody.

10. a large and a long] Characters in old music: one large contained two longs, one long two breves, &c.

11. feign] Palsgrave gives, "I feign in singing, Je chante a basse voix. We may not sing out, we are too near my lord, but let us feign this song," &c., p. 548. But here, I apprehend, feign can only mean—sing in falsetto. Our author, in The Bowge of Court, has

"His throat was clear, and lustily could feign."
v. 233.

12. doctor Deuce-ace] Deuce-ace was a dice throw of a one and a two–a losing throw, depending on the game. So again Skelton in his Colyn Cloute,

"Avaunt, sir doctor Deuce-ace!"
v. 1159.

Compare a much later writer:

"What, a grave Doctor, a base John Doleta the Almanack-maker, Doctor Deuce-ace and Doctor Merryman?" Nash's Have with you to Saffron-Walden, 1596. sig. L 3

13. Custodi nos?] Custodi nos, Domine ("Protect us, O Lord") is a plain chant hymn.

14. Sospitati dedit aegros] ("The sick are restored to health") is from the plainchant Sequence ofSst.Nicholas of Bari."

15. walk, and be nought!] Equivalent to—away, and a mischief on you!

16. Take this in worth] To take in worth, or in gree, is to accept favourably, be satisfied with.

17. Written at Croydon by Crowland-in-the-Clay,
On Candlemas even, the Calends of May
] To G. Steinman Steinman, Esq., author of the Hist. of Croydon, I am indebted for the following observations: "The passage has been a puzzle to me. The distance is very great between Crowland and Croydon in Cambridgeshire; and in Croydon in Surrey there is no such place as Crowland, though I can point out to you the Clays there. The manor of Crouham is in the Surrey Croydon, but far away from the Clays:'" [Perhaps two distant places are purposely brought together for grotesque effect. This would be in the same humour as the confusion of times in the next line, "Candelmas even, the Kalends of May:" which expression, it may be observed, occurs also in the Interlude of Thersytes, obviously written in imitation of Skelton.

"Writing at my house on Candelmas day,
Midsummer month, the Calends of May.]

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