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That the hornpipe dance was first and foremost a ‘round’ is confirmed by a number of quotes which I have included amongst the music here. It would seem that little else could be said, either about the hornpipe or the jig, if indeed they could be distinguished one from the other, for at least 150 years after the hornpipe’s first mention. However, one remarkable record has survived which provides us with much more. It appears in a collection of poems compiled by a mid-16th century minstrel named Richard Sheale, a resident of Tamworth in Derbyshire, a retainer to the Earl of Derby, ‘one who carries the harp’, according to his own description. The manuscript, which is now in the British Library, was edited by Thomas Wright (Wright, 1926) who dates its contents between 1554 and 1558. The dance description appears in the poem ‘Our Jockey sale have our Jenny, hope I’, written by John Wallys, whose other works in the collection are mostly satires about women. Surprisingly, elements of this poem also survived into the late 18th century, a Scottish version being published by David Herd in 1769; again, it seems to come ‘from out of the north’. I printed excerpts from Wallys’s long poem in Robin with the Bagpipe (Stewart, 2001) and more in The Day it Daws (Stewart, 2005) along with the matching excerpts from Herd’s version; I make no excuse for reprinting the dance description in full, since it does not appear in the Herd version and the manuscript source is not easily accessible. It remains the only real evidence we have for the nature of the dance in the 16th century.


Our Jockey sale have our Jenny, hope I

Then Jocky, when dynner was done,
Begane hyme selffe to advance,
And sayd, "let pypar pype up sone,
For, be our Lord, I wyll go dance.
Jocky took Jenny faste be the hand;
Then pypar lafte the trace;
He playd so myryly the cold not stand
But the dansyd all apace.
The pyper pypte tyll his bally grypte,
And the rowte began to revell;
With that lowde myrth he browth many forth,
Then upstart carll and kevel.

"Now play us a horn pype," Jocky can say;
Then todle lowdle the pyper dyd playe.
Harry Sprig, Harry Spryg, Mawde my doughtare,
Thomas my sone, and Jone cum after.
Wylkyn and Malkyn and Marryon be nam,
Lettes all kepe the strock in the peane of shame.
Torn about, Robyn; let Besse stand asyde;
"Now smyt up, mynstrell," the women cryde.
The pyper playd with his fynggars and thommes;
Play thick and short, mynstrell; my mothar commis.
"I wyl dance,' said one "and I for the wars;
Dance we, dance we, dance we!"
"Heighe!" quoth Hogkyne, "gyrd byth ars,
Letts dance all for compayne."
"Halfe torne, Jone, haffe nowe, Jock!
Well dansyde, be sent Dennye!
And he that breakys the firste strocke,
Sall gyve the pypar a pennye.

In with fut, Robsone! owt with fut, Byllynge!
Here wyll be good daunsyng belyve;
Daunsyng hath cost me forty good shyllynge,
Ye forti shillynge and fyve.
Torn rownde, Robyne! kepe trace, Wylkyne!
"Set fut to fut a pas," quod Pylkyne;
"Abowt with howghe let us wynde"
"No, Tybe, war, Tom well," sayd Cate;
"Kepe in Sandar, hold owte, Syme.
Nowe, Gaff, hear gome abowt me mat;
Nyccoll, well dansyde and tryme."

"A gambole," quod Jocky, "stand asyde;
Let ylke man play his parte.
Mak rom, my mastars; stande mor wyde;
I pray youe with all my harte."
Hear ys for me wightly whipte,
And it wear even for the nons;
Now for the lyghtly skypte,
Well staggeryde on the stonnys.
"Be sweat sent Tandrowe, I am weary." quoth Jennye,
"Good pypar, holde thy peace;
And thaw salt have thy bryddes penny."
Then the pyper began to seas

(‘Our Jockey sale have our Jenny, hope I’, written by John Wallys, c. 1556)

breughel dance

Detail from ‘Village Wedding’ by Jean Brueghel, c.1550

What is even more remarkable is that we not only have a picture from the same era, of what appears to be this dance, in Breughel’s ‘Village Wedding’, we also have the music to accompany it, although this again comes from a continental source, this time from Paris; Guillaume de Morlaye’s 2nd guitar book contains the ‘Hornepipe D’Angleterre’. (The piece appears later in a number of lute manuscripts.)

Hornpipe d’Angleterre (G. de Morlaye, 1553)

morlaye hornpipe

Putting these three elements together should yield an idea of the nature of the hornpipe-jig in the mid16th century. The poem however, offers some challenges to the lexicographer. Guided by the quotes which John Ward supplies, I offer the following comments on the more obscure terms.
Strocke: ”When they were in their dance they kept stroke with their feet just one with another, but with their hands, heads, faces, and bodies, every one of them had a severall gesture.” (Samuel Purchas, Purchass His Pilgrames, 1625).
The Scottish version of the poem has ‘stot’ here, an accepted term for a ‘step’ in a dance. This quote reveals as much about the expectations of a literary observer as it does of the customs of the dancers observed, since Mr Purchas was clearly familiar with the noble dances where gesture and posture were an integral art of the dance movements.
Kepe trace: The trace had been a dance, or an element of a dance, since the late 13th century. I have dealt with this term in detail in The Day it Daws (Stewart, 2005). Ward quotes; ‘the tracing of this round required in the middle thereof a conge’ (John Grange, The Golden Aphroditis, 1577).
Gambold: ‘Such feats of agilities, … leaps, skips, springs, gambauds, soomersauts, caprettes & flyghts’ (Robert Laneham, A Letter, 1575). Gavin Douglas, in his translation of Virgil’s Aeneid, describes dancers who ‘gan do dowbill brangillys and gam batis’ (c. 1512). Cotgrave’s Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611) translates ‘gambader’ as ‘to turn heeles over head … shew tumbling tricks’ and he translates moulinet as ‘A morris dauncers gamboll’. See also the quote on page 26. Today, gambolling is largely the preserve of little lambs.
Wightly Whipte: ‘to move briskly’. ‘Wight’ in Scots implies vigour and strength.

It all sounds a pretty rumbustious affair. There are twenty-six people named as participants (counting Jocky and Jenny themselves) and though the general form does seem to be a round, ‘kepe trace’ suggests the whole company moving as a line, with occasional turns (‘Torn round, Robyne!’). I suspect that ‘churchye pege’ means ‘keep in line’ and the phrase ‘Abowt with howghe let us wynde’ surely describes the hey, the interweaving of the line by one or more dancers, as described in Gavin Douglas’s Aeneid, written at the close of the 15th century, which has ‘dansys and roundis tracyng mony gatis [‘ways, directions’]/ athir throu other reland ’ [‘one through another reeling’ i.e. a ‘hey’.] In general we seem to have a description of typical medieval peasant dance figures, a description of which is given by Cotgrave as a translation of brawl; a dance “wherein many (men and women) holding by the hands sometimes in a ring and otherwise at length, move together”.
We might well ask, what makes the dance Wallys describes a hornpipe? Clearly, ‘’Now play us a horn pype’ is a call to the musician for music for a particular type of dance, but how specific was Jocky being? He could have called to the company ‘Menstrallis blaw up ane brawl of France’, as his more or less contemporary in Scotland did (Lyndsay, Ane Satyre of the Thrie Eastatis (?1530/1550), but there seem to have been few other alternatives available to the mid-16th century rural dancer, to whom the refinements of the Pavane or the Basse Danse were barely dancing at all; they were basically the Rounddance and the Line-dance, although something described as ‘the country dance’ is referred to by Thomas Morley towards the end of the century. What makes this hornpipe distinctive is the reference to solo stepping (“A gambole … stande aside”), a feature which the dance has retained into the present, having at some point abandoned all the other figures. Such stepping was clearly a feature of some round dances in the past; Breughel’s painting shows a couple who appear to be stepping to each other in this way, and the same can still be seen in Sardinia, where round dances (to the music of the launeddas, the Sardinian triple-pipes) include the breaking away of groups of two or three to perform stepping figures.
The nature of this stepping is described in several texts; taken together they create the impression of energetic exertions far removed from the stately and refined dances of the court. The Puritan, Northbrooke, in his Treatise against Dicing, Dancing etc., (1577) says it is ‘a hell to see, howe they will swing, leape and turne when the pypers and crowders begin to play” and his confederate Stubbes adds “some have broke their legs with skipping, leaping, turning and vawting”. Meanwhile Shakespeare (in A
Winter’s Tale, IV, iii) has a group of herdsman whose ‘dance is a gallimaufry of gambols”. From the poet Keats’s description of dancing he saw in Ireby in Cumberland two hundred years later, one gets the impression that not much had changed regarding style of performance:
“They kickit and jumpit with mettle extraordinary, and whiskit and friskit, and toed it and goed it, and twirl’d it and whirl’d it, and stamped it and sweated it, tattooing the floor like mad …” (Keats, 1818; quoted in Ward, 1990)
The only direct description I have traced of a hornpipe step from this era is in Robert Greene’s James IV, (1592), in which the clown Slipper says ‘one hornpipe further, a refluence [reverence?] backe, and two doubles forward; What, not one crosse-point against Sundays?’ and though I presume that this is in some way a description of a hornpipe step, it is not easy to see how it relates to any music we have. In fact, Thomas Morley, having described the Pavan and Galliard, Almain, Courante and French brawls, says that “knowing these the rest [the “Hornpipes, jigs, and infinite more”] cannot but be understood as being one with some of these which I have already told you”, a remark which seems to justify looking at the steps for dances which seem related. Judging by Morlaye’s tune these would be the Galliard and the Bransle Gay. According to Arbeau (L’Orchesographie, 1589) the Branle Gay is danced with a pied en l’air for each of the first three crotchets of a 6/4 bar, with the fourth crotchet having a further pied en l’air followed by a pause. Thus, the step always begins on the same foot, and requires great agility to do at any speed. The Galliard is similar, except that it fills the pause with a jump and a posture, where the weight is carried by both feet, thus allowing a reprise from the other foot. It is also done plus haut et plus virilement. Both these steps are to 6/4 type rhythms. That this is related to the hornpipe is borne out by John Hawkins (Hawkins, 1776) who speaks of the hornpipe’s ‘six crotchets in a bar four whereof are to be beat with a down and two with an up hand”.
To happily dance such a step in 3/2 it seems necessary to shift the jump to the fifth crotchet, a suggestion that seems to confirm Roderick Cannon’s suggestion to me that the hornpipe should be seen as a ’syncopated jig’, that is to say a jig with the bar-line moved one crotchet to the left. This easily falls into the standard ‘rant’ with two extra steps added, or more simply, LR LR Lhop. This relates closely to the suggestions made by John Offord (Offord, 1985). Solo stepping interludes, as described in Wallys’s poem, might involve the kind of ‘shuffle’ used in hornpipe steps today, with special features introduced to augment the ‘hop’ such as ‘gambolds’, whatever they might be which might, as suggeted above, include ‘tumbling’, or even ‘head over heels’.
After the Restoration the hornpipe seems to have caught the imagination of dancing-masters, including visiting ones from the Continent. They encouraged their pupils to give demonstrations of the elaborated steps that they devised at the dances they organized, as a means of marketing the services they were offering; the result was the display dance that is mentioned increasingly towards the end of the 17th century to be seen in music-booths at fairs and at interludes in theatrical performances, danced by professionals often with high levels of skill, ‘to the admiration of all’. Indeed, some actors became renowned for particular dances; George Daniel in his Merrie England in the olden time mentions in particular the actor Doggett who was probably responsible for the popularity of the Cheshire Rounds. The social dances that were set to 3/2 tunes and which appear in considerable numbers in the first half of the 18th century, were all of the ‘longways for as many as will’ type, where, if the ‘hornpipe step’ were called for, it would be a simple ‘double step’ or combination of singles and a double. At the same time elaborate dances which included ‘hornpipes’, based on French baroque styles were devised, chiefly for court balls and birthday celebrations.
The first hornpipe music that appears in Britain, that by Henry Aston (c. 1485-1558?), actually predates Morlaye’s ‘Hornpipe D’Angleterre’ by about 20 years. It looks at first glance to be a very different kind of piece. Ward takes the rhythm of it to be a ‘broad 3/2’. However, it seems to me that this is strictly a 6/4 piece written with double note lengths; halving the note lengths and re-barring in 6/4 results in a rhythmic structure similar to Morlaye’s. Aston’s hornpipe has 53 variations, (the last 75 bars of which have note values halved, giving 3/4 if we take the first section as 3/2). Martha Curti tells us that Aston was born and brought up in Lancashire, so it is possible that he was familiar with the local idiom; his variations, however, are carefully contrived into a formal structure, which, if Marsden’s ‘divisions’ are to be taken as representative, was not the case with ‘country fiddlers’. I have given the opening strains of Aston’s music here with note values halved, as I have with William Byrd’s hornpipe; this reveals the close connection with Morlaye’s and with that in the Ballet Lute book (c. 1597). The Ballet lute book contains a good deal of popular music and seems to confirm that both art-music and country hornpipe music were at that time closely related to the music of the Galliard. This implies that at some time during the 17th century changes occurred which led to the emergence of the 3/2 rhythm which prevails in the current collections. It is far from clear how and when this transformation took place, but I would suggest there was more than one route travelled, with discernibly different results.

A Hornepype (H. Aston, c. 1530)

aston hornpipe

A Hornpipe (Wm. Byrd, c. 1590)

byrd hornpipe

The Hornpipe (Ballet Lute Book c.1590)

ballet hornpipe