“Songes of the Doeinges of Their Auncestors”: Aspects of Welsh and English Musical Traditions

  • Sally Harper
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


An imaginary juxtaposition of the contrasting soundscapes that might have characterized Wales and England during the 1430s is found in an anonymous dialogue ballad of the early seventeenth century.1 Purportedly a translation from a Welsh original, this fanciful recreation of the courtship of the future grandparents of Henry VII—Owain Tudor of Anglesey (ca. 1400–1461) and the widow of Henry V, Catherine de Valois (1401–37)—has Owain attempting to woo the aristocratic Catherine by laying before her the charms of his homeland. Wales is defined by a series of pastoral delights; among them the “murmuring musick” of its clear fountains, the “musicall moanes” of its harps, tabors and “sweet humming drones,” its Whitsuntide maypoles and dancing on the village green, and the serenading of a bride with bagpipes as she makes her way to church. Catherine, accustomed to tilting and tournaments, masques and revels, inevitably has very different expectations. For her the music of courtship requires a soothing “silver-like melody” that “rocks up” the senses; Welsh music, to her refined ear, is “clownish,” for it “soundeth not sweet.”


Sixteenth Century Fifteenth Century Oxford Dictionary National Biography Henry Versus 
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© Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones 2008

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  • Sally Harper

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