the Pipe and Tabor compendium

the Pipe and Tabor compendium

essays on the three-hole pipe

England: history of the pipe and tabor

the 17th century literature

In the 17th century neither terminology nor spelling were fixed. So a pipe and tabor player could be, for example, a minstrel, a musician, a drummer, a pyper, taber and pipe or a fidler. It is impossible to know now which of some of the quotes below are taborers or players of other instruments as seen in contemporary images.

1599 In 'Much Ado About Nothing' by William Shakespeare (Act ii. Sc. 3)
Benedick speaks of the fife as less refined than the pipe.

“I have known, when there was no music with him but the drum and fife;
and now had he rather hear the tabor and the pipe.”

Poem 'The Contented Man's Morice' by George Wither 1588 – 1667

“…Then, why should I give way to grief?
Come, strike up pipe and tabor
He that affecteth God in chief,
And as himself his neighbour,
May still enjoy a happy life,
Although he lives by labor….”

1605 and 1615 Don Quixote (pub in two parts)
“...On the frontispiece, and on every quarter of the edifice, was inscribed, “ The Castle of Wise Reservedness.”
Four expert musicians played to them on pipe and tabour.  Cupid began the dance…”

‘The History Of Quixote De La Mancha’ by Miguelde Cervantes Saavedra

1606 play 'Wily Beguiled' "The Chiefe Actors be these: A poore Scholler, a rich Foole, and a Knave at a shift"e.

“WILL CRICKET. Marry, to pretty Peg, Mistress Lelia's nurse's daughter.
O, 'tis the dapp'rest wench that ever danced after a Taber and pipe
For shee will so heele it, and toe it, and trip it,
O hir buttockes will quake like a custard..."

AT LONDON, Printed by H. L. for CLEMENT KNIGHT: and are to be solde at his Shop, in Paules Church-yard, at the signe of the Holy Lambe. 1606.

"The punning connection of the holy mount to the wicked musical instrument was not lost on the audience;
Henry Greenwood may have had the linkage in mind as he condemned “unrighteous” “hypocrites” who
“praise the Lord in the Tabor, but not in the dance.” 

by Jeanne Eller McDougall

1609-11'The Winter's Tale' by William Shakespeare

"SERVANT. O master, if you did but hear the pedlar at the door, you would never dance again after a tabor and pipe;..."

1611 'The Tempest' by William Shakespeare, Act iii. Sc. 2, Stephano, says (before he starts a catch) :

" Come on, Trinculo, let us sing.

Sings Flout 'em and skout 'em, and skout 'em and flout 'em ; Thought is free.'

Caliban. That's not the tune.

[Ariel, who is invisible, plays the tune on a tabor and pipe.)

Stephano. What is this same ?
Trinculo. This is the tune of our catch, played by the picture of No-Body. " ...

Ariel moves off, at the same time playing so enchantingly that the conspirators are constrained to follow :
Trin. The sound is going away ; let's follow it. ...
Ste. Lead, monster ; we'll follow. I would I could see this tabourer ; he lays it on.

1611 French proverb

"qui est venu par lafleute s'en retourne avec le Tabourin ; "
Prov. What the pipe hath gathered the Taber scattereth ; goods ill gotten are commonly ill spent.

Cotgraves Dictionary of the French and English Tongues quoted in: SIX LECTURES ON THE RECORDERAND OTHER

1612 In a double entendre seen in other commentary on musical instruments, William Fennor wrote of a man
being cuckolded by a “knave … playing frolickly upon his Tabor.”

1613 song:

“With Shackbuts noate that pierce the skies,
With Pipe and Taberet,
What tunes by reedes or canes arise,
Do not His praise forget.”

Sir William Leighton (1613) 'The Teares or Lamentacions of a Sorrowfull Soul. Composed with musical ayres and songs, both for voyces and divers instruments'. quoted in 'Old English instruments of music, their history and character' by Galpin, Francis W

A long topographical poem written between 1613 and 1622, describes the beauties of the English landscape
and the life of the people as the poet saw it. Musical instruments of the period are mentioned including:
"...Some blow the Bagpipe up, that plays the Country-Round;
The Tabor and the Pipe some take delight to sound. .."

1613 story: 'CHAPTER XX: Of the Marriage of Rich Camacho, and the Success of Poor Basilius'

“...Four skilful musicians played to them on a tabor and pipe; Cupid began the dance, and, after two changes,
he lifted up his eyes and bent his bow against a virgin that stood upon the battlements of the castle   …..
the verse being ended, he shot a flight over the castle, and retired to his standing.  By and by came out Money,
and performed his two changes; the tabor ceased, and he spoke:…..
At last, after Money had danced a good while, he drew out a great purse made of a Roman cat’s skin,
which seemed to be full of money, ….. they made show as if they would have rescued her; and all these
motions were to the sound of the tabors. With skilful dancing the savages parted them, who very speedily
went to set up and join the boards of the castle, and the damosel was there enclosed anew; and with this
the dance ended, to the great content of the spectators....”

The History of the Valorous & Witty Knight-Errant Don Quixote of the Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes, Translated by Thomas Shelton


‘...SILENUS, an old fat man’ comes in, ....
Before SILENUS marched four singers.....
His music, a tabor and pipe, a base violin, a treble violin, a sackbut  , a mandora...’


1615-30 play 'The Partiall Law'  Act 2, Scene 4 mentions seven dance tunes played on pipe and tabor. 

  • 1.Man. … she hath promis’d me to meete me much about this houre in this very place,
    and to bring two of her neighbours along with her, and a Tabor and Pipe, to give me
    and any two I shall bring with me a meeting where we may trip it for an hour or two …
    2. Wom. I can daunce with them too ; are you they, I pray you ? if you be, we have
    brought a very feat Tabourer along with us.
    2. Man. That you may know, pretty mayde, that we be the men you looke for, command
    your Tabourer to strike up, and we two to any two of them.
    3. Wom. Nay, we’ll all daunce, that’s sure, we’ll none sit by for looker’s on …

1620 poem 'The Night-Raven'

Terrible news  for Taber and Pipe,

“AN odd companion, walking up and downe,
To pipe a living out from towne to towne:
Being at a Wedding busie at his play,
Forgetting danger of his tedious way.
Belated was, yet be it ill or good,
He did resolve to wander through a wood.
And as he went with knap-sacke full of scrapps,
And Taber at his backe,..
[Ed a bear chased him up a tree and he fed it with the wedding scraps]

Terrible news for Tabber and Pipe,

“… And so betakes him, to his Pipe and Tabor,
And doth them both, so sound and brave belabor,
The Beare amazed from his scratching runs
As if at's breech had bin a peale of guns,
Which when the Taborer with joy did see.
Well Beare (he said) if this your humor be,
Would I had knowne to use the charming feaste.
You should have daunc'd, before you had my meate
…The story of the Piper and the Beare,
Vowing his Tabor was more deere to him,…”

by  Rowlands, Samuel, 1570?-1630?

1620 story: 1620‘The Worth of a Penny: Or, a Caution to Keep Money. With the Causes of the Scarcity and Misery of the Want Thereof. As also how
to save it , in our Diet , Apparel , Recreation , & c . Home And also what honest Courses Men in want may take to Live’ by Henry Peacham
1622 poem ‘A Christmas Carroll’

“…And every lad is wondrous trimm,
And no man minds his labour,
Our lasses have provided them
A bag-pipe and a tabor….”

First published in ‘A Miscelany of Epigrams [&c.]’ appended to ‘Faire-Virtue, the Mistresse of Phil'Arete’,
generally bound with ‘Juvenilia’ by George Wither

1637 Court antimasque ‘Britannia Triumphans’,
"enter the severall Antimasques:

1. Entrie.
Of mockmusick of 5. persons. One with a Violl, the rest with
Taber and Pipe, knackers and bells, tongs and key, gridiron and shoeing horn”

‘A Masque, Presented at White Hall, by the Kings Majestie and his Lords, on the Sunday af∣ter Twelfth-night, 1637’
by Inigo Iones Surveyor of his Majesties workes, and William Davenant her Majesties servant.  page 10


"Verse 3
...Twixt widowes and maids there is a great strife,
And either of them would faine be a wife,
They all doe cry out on this fond single life,
And long to dance after a Taber and Fife.. ..."


1647 ‘THE ARMIES LETANIE, Imploring the Blessing of God on the present proceedings of the Armie.’

“…repudiated puritans who wanted to save the nation `From May-poles and Fidlers and all that is Jolly'.
[Fidler another name for pipe and tabor]

1647 poem ‘The Hostesse’ by Thomas Stanley

“…Green Cowcumbers, that on their stalks decline:
The Gardens Guardian, with no dreadful look,
Nor other weapon than a pruning-hook.
Tabor and Pipe come hither: see, alasse,
Thy tir'd Beast sweats; spare him; our wel-lov'd Asse….”

"...But I doe hope once more the day will come,
That you shall mount and pearch your cocks as high
As ere you did, and that the pipe and drum
Shall bid defiance to your enemy;
And that all fidlers, which in corners lurke,
And have been almost starv’d for want of worke,
Shall draw their crowds, and, at your exaltation,
Play many a fit of merry recreation. ..."

Hone The Everyday Book 1826, May 1st

1651 from 'The Court and Character of King James. Whereunto Is Now Added the Court of King Charles:
Continued Unto the Beginning of These Unhappy Times' by Anthony Weldon.
1658 poem ‘Voila Ma Vie’ (a Cavalier’s Creed 1658.)

“To him whose hardest toil seems play,
Since well he loves his labour,
Life gives continual holiday,
While Time plays pipe and tabor….”

In ‘Cavalier lyrics: for church and crown' by Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth, 1887

1660 John Collop wrote of his hope for a restoration of church order in which:
“None then shall Organs hate, all Organs be;
Made instrumentall in the serving thee.
No nose tun'd Parson th' Pulpit shall belabour
With noise resembling the Scotch Pipe and Tabor
17th century burlesque 'A Mock Poem' 17th century‘The genuine poetical works of Charles Cotton, esq; containing, I. Scarronides: or, Virgil travestie. II….

1675 ' Burlesque' by Charles Cotton
‘Burlesque upon burlesque, or, The scoffer scoft being some of Lucians dialogues, newly put into English
fustian for the consolation of those who had rather laugh and be merry, then be merry and wise.’1675


Apollo and Mercury, page 121
"But scarcely was he gone an Acre,
When in slips Captain Cuekold-maker,
And whips me into Bed to's wife,
Where whilst she whistled on the Fife,
He beat (Oh never such a Drum!)
A point of War upon her Bum.
Now as they thus, with pleasing labour,
Did jump and jigg to Pipe, and Tabour,"

Juno and Jupiter, page 126
"With a loud Crew of hair-brain-Jades;
A knot of very fine Comrades:
Yet good enough for him they be,
And far more Masculine than he:
Whilst to their Tabors, and their Pipes;
He jolts about his swagging Tripes,
With his hair crisp't so neat and fine,
And crown'd with Chaplets of the Vine,

More like a Morris-dancer far,
Than any Son of Jupiter. "

1682 an allegorical novel by John Bunyan:

"So they were bid rise up, and go to the town, and tell to Mansoul what the Prince had done.
He commanded also that one with a pipe and tabor should go and play before them all the
way into the town...he sent them away to their home with pipe and tabor going before them...
they went down to the camp with heavy hearts, but came back again with pipe and tabor playing
before them...  but of the Prince’s mercy, and sent home with pipe and tabor..... the Prince had
sent home the three prisoners of Mansoul with joy, and pipe and tabor...

‘THE HOLY WAR Made by Shaddai upon Diabolus
for the Regaining of the Metropolis of the World or The Losing and Taking Again of the Town of Mansoul,’ ch 7

1682 cure for the bite of the tarantula:

“…Some doubt many have of the tarantula, or poisonous spider of Calabria, and that magical cure
of the bite thereof by music. But since we observe that many attest it from experience; since the learned
Kircherus hath positively averred it, and set down the songs and tunes solemnly used for it; since some
also affirm the tarantula itself will dance upon certain strokes, whereby they set their instruments against
its poison,… a Polish nobleman, bribed a man to undergo the same experiment, in whom the only result
was a swelling in the hand, attended by intolerable itching. The fellow’s sole remedy was a bottle of wine,
which charmed away all his pain, without the aid of “ pipe and tabor.”

‘Sir Thomas Browne. Works’.vol 1reprinted 1894

1683 poem

“…Those friends whom most her suff'rings cou'd shock.
The Loves and Graces — were with Woodcock,
Pan busy at his pipe and tabor.
And all the Muses— Were in labour,…”

An Epistle from William Lord Russell: Written in Newgate, on Friday Night, July 20th, 1683

1680's satirical poem:

"..A dancing Baboon, yclep'd Heraclitus,
With Tabor and Pipe began to delight us....”

‘Anecdotes Illustrative of the Manners and History of Europe ‘ James Peller Malcolm, 1811

about 1691 'An Answer to Harvest Home : a true character of such countrymen who glory in cheating the vicar,
and prefer bag-pudding and dumpling before religion and learning.'

 " ...Tell them of going to Church to pray,
They'd rather hear Robin the Piper play : . . .
Their hungry appetite to suffice,
Bag-pudding and dumpling they idolize. . . .
Likewise, by the laws of this potent land,
They in the pillory ought to stand...."

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