Critical and Historical Essays: Lectures Delivered at Columbia University

By Edward MacDowell; W. J. Baltzell | Go to book overview

XII
THE TROUBADOURS, MINNESINGERS AND MASTERSINGERS

ALTHOUGH wandering minstrels or bards have existed since the world began, and although the poetry they have left is often suggestive, the music to which the words were sung is but little known.

About 700-800 A. D., when all Europe was in a state of dense ignorance and mental degradation, the Arabs were the embodiment of culture and science, and the Arab empire extended at that time over India, Persia, Arabia, Egypt (including Algeria and Barbary), Portugal, and the Spanish caliphates, Andalusia, Granada, etc. The descriptions of the splendour at the courts of the Eastern caliphs at Bagdad seem almost incredible.

For instance, the Caliph Mahdi is said to have expended six millions of dinars of gold in a single pilgrimage to Mecca. His grandson, Almamon, gave in alms, on one single occasion, two and a half millions of gold pieces, and the rooms in his palace at Bagdad were hung with thirty-eight thousand pieces of tapestry, over twelve thousand of which were of silk embroidered with gold. The floor carpets were more than twenty thousand in number, and the Greek ambassador was shown a hundred lions, each with his keeper, as a sign of the king's royalty, as well as a wonderful tree of gold and silver, spreading into eighteen large, leafy branches, on which were many

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