Page images

the great humidity there. And having afterwards remarked that the passages he had cited expressed women's playing on this instrument, he repeats it again, that the Eastern women scareely touch any other instrument. If the female music of antiquity was as limited as it is now in the East, (and I cannot help remarking, that the passages I have cited above, which speak of the women's playing on music, seem very much to limit them to timbrels or tabrets,) they had then but one sort of instrument that they commonly played upon.

My reader will now be curious to know, what Dr. Russell says about the diff-The diff then, according to him, “is a hoop, (sometimes with pieces of brass fixed in it to make a jingling) over which a piece of parchment is distended. It is beat with the fingers, and in the true tympanum of the ancients; as appears from its figure in several relievos."

The ladies that do me the honour to peruse these papers will not be pleased, I am afraid, with this description; but as Russell tells us just before, that the diff serves chiefly to beat time to the voice, it is possible it might be used only to regulate those fine voices of the damsels of Israel, which had no other attendant music, while the voices of their males, according to this writer, “is the worst of all their music, for they bellow so hideously that it

& Vol. I. p. 154.

spoils what without it would be in some degree harmonious.”

Dr. Russell describes but one kind of instrument of this sort. The hoop is covered with a skin at Aleppo, and as the humidity of the Holy Land is not greater, doubtless so were the Jewish timbrels or tabrets. As it is beaten with their fingers, and those fingers are applied to a skin stretched over a hollow hoop, the description gives great life to the words of the Prophet Nahum, who compares women's beating on their breasts, in deep anguish, to their playing on a tabret, ch. 11. 7.


Different kinds of Musical Instruments used in the


An attempt to ascertain with exactness all the kinds of musical instruments, mentioned in Holy Writ, would probably be vain, certainly it would be useless, since in general the knowing that the sacred writer is speaking of music is sufficient for us; however, where things present themselves, without any attending difficulty, it would be wrong to neglect such notices ; and for this reason I would observe here, that another instrument played upon in the Jewish feasts, according to Isaiah v. 12, may be de

& Dr. Russell (MS. note) says, there is but one kind of the diff, but they are of different sizes. Edit.

termined without scruple, I apprehend, to be a bagpipe.

Dr. Russell observes of the diff, mentioned under the preceding Observation, that it exactly answers the Roman tympanum, as it appears in ancient relievos; he also proves, by a quotation from Juvenal, that the Romans had the tympanum from Syria ; this Syrian instrument then is just what it was seventeen or eighteen hundred years ago. The same reasons that have kept it unaltered so many years, probably operated as many generations before that; and might equally preserve others of their musical instruments unchanged.

After mentioning the musical instruments they use at Aleppo, Dr. Russell adds, “ Besides the above-mentioned instruments, they have likewise a sort of a bagpipe, which numbers of idle fellows play upon round the skirts of the town, making it a pretence to ask a present of such as pass.”

An instrument used by the vulgar may be deemed to be as little liable to alteration as any, consequently this bagpipe may be imagined to be very ancient.

And, when I find that the same word 593 Nebel, that signifies a goast's skin vessel, formed of the outer skin of that animal tied up close at the feet, and gathered together at the neck, used for carrying wine and other liquids in; signifies also an ancient musical instrument, I am strongly prompted to conclude the word

Vol. i. p. 155.




means that kind of Syrian bagpipe that Russell speaks of; and I cannot help wishing that very ingenious and modest author had given us a figure of it, as he has of five other instruments of music, made use of in that country. “As for our translators, they render nebel by the word viol, in Is. v. 12, and in four other places, which word, according to Johnson, signifies a stringed instrument of music, but most commonly by the word psaltery, which in the same dictionary signifies a kind of harp, beaten with sticks : very unlucky these translations, if nebel really signifies a bagpipe !

Nor is it any objection to my supposition, that the nebel was an instrument that anciently was united with great pomp, as appears from Is. xiv. Il; for though we now. very commonly associate the ideas of meanness and a bagpipe together, it does not follow they do in other countries, or did so in other ages. A bagpipe was, some ages ago, I apprehend, a venerable kind of instrument in the northern part of this island.

Of this instrument Dr. Shaw' takes no notice, and therefore supposes it is unknown in Barbary.

I have only to add, that I am very sensible, not only our translators, but the learned in general take the nebel to have been a stringed

i Amos vi. 5. ch. v. 23. Is. xiv. 2. and in the margin of Is, xxii. 24.

* It is, however, a quite different word in Dan. iii. 5, 7, 10, 15, which is rendered psaltery in our version.


instrument; and Pfeiffer, in his Collections, has given us from Kircher, who is said to have taken it from an old book in the Vatican, a figure of the nebel sufficiently odd : I leave it to my reader to determine which sentiment is most probable.“


Of Field and House Music at Aleppo.

Five or six sorts of public music are mentioned in the third of Daniel ; which are about the same number as are used by the bashaws at Aleppo.

"The music of the country,” says Russell," “is of two sorts; one for the field, the other for the chamber. The first makes part of the retinue of the bashaws, and other great military officers, and is used also in their gar

· Pfeifferi opera, tom. 1. p. 296.

- Bythner, in his Lyra, observes, that the nebel was like a leather-bottle, but then explains himself as meaning something like the ancient Greek and Roman lyre, whose body was made of the shell of a tortoise, (See Phil. Trans. Abrid. vol. 4. part 1. p. 474,) but was a stringed instru. ment; and then cites Josephus, as saying that the kinnor was played upon with a plectrum, but the nebel, which had twelve strings, with the fingers. The authority of Jo. sephus may be justly thought to be a great objection to my supposition : but as his testimony is not perfectly decisive, with respect to the Hebrew instruments of music used be. fore the captivity, so I may add, that upon consulting Jo. sephus, I find he does not say the vx6ac had twelve strings, but twelve sounds, and was played upon with the fingers, * Ηδε ναύλα δωδεκα φθογίους εχουσα, τοις δακτυλοις κρουεται.(Ant. Jud. lib. vii. cap. 12. $ 3. Is this description per, fectly incompatible with a bagpipe 2"

n Voi, i. p. 150.

« PreviousContinue »