BY JAN HAAG

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Re: muse or muzzle



Date: Fri, 28 Feb 2003 22:17:32 -0800
From: Oliver Seeler
To: J. Haag
Subject: Re: muse or muzzle

Hi Jan,

Well, that's bizarre and interesting. What you're seeing is confusion at the OED (not the only time I've run across that, and something that's very common around bagpipes, there being little available reference material). One of the earliest written references (if not the earliest) to a bagpipe (meaning a reed instrument incorporating a bag, a melody pipe and a drone) is from a French work of 1288, in which the instrument is called a "muse." Subsequently, we find in France the later (and still present) bagpipe called "Cornemuse" (see my page www.hotpipes.com/pipe0002.html) and then the elaborate bellows-blown Renaissance "Musette de Cour" (see my page www.hotpipes.com/pipe0025.html)

There is also an old French Shawm (simple oboe) called a musette, often seen in the form of a toy. It is this latter instrument that the OED may be mistakenly referring to with their "tube," as it has been argued that various sorts of Shawms are the chanters (melody pipes) of bagpipes that have lost their bags and drone(s). But the OED reference to bellows displays another confusion, as bellows aren't known to have been used on bagpipes until much later (perhaps 16th century).

Apparently Anthony Baines, one of the great historians of the bagpipe and musical instruments in general, was aware of some difficulties with the word "muse," as when he describes its 1288 appearance he comments parenthetically that the word is "of uncertain etymology."

OK, now I've gotten out my own OED, which is much more recent - 1971 (it's the microprint edition, and takes a magnifying glass to use). Apparently somebody caught the earlier problem, because now the entry includes a qualifier for that 1782 quotation: "The explanation in quot. 1782 , which alone appears in modern dicts., seems to be a pseudo-etymological guess connecting the word with OF. [italics] muse [end italics] muzzle."

I presume "OF." means Old French (?). I love that term "pseudo-etymological guess." Anyway, the entry goes on to give two other quotations, including from 1484: "...I pyped and played of my muse or bag pype ...." The other mentions "cornemusys" and "musys." The 1288 French usage is of course not mentioned. However, the entry also contains "Cf. Cornemuse." In looking up that word (which I wouldn't have expected to find in an English dictionary), there are a bunch of alternate spellings, and then the basic definition "a horn-pipe; an early form of the bagpipe."

The bottom line seems to be that "muse" in this context simply meant "bagpipe" and that the 1782 fellow was confused. One wonders why the later OED even uses that quote at all, what with their qualifier...

I think that about exhausts my resources on this subject. However, if you need them I can provide citations for the Baines quote etc.

You are more than welcome to link to my site and also to use this letter as you see fit.

Best Regards,

Oliver

Oliver Seeler
Director, Nova Albion Research
Chief, Albion - Little River Volunteer Fire Dept.
oseeler@mcn.org & bagpipes@mcn.org

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Copyright © 2003 Oliver Seeler




At 02:13 PM 2/28/03, Jan Haag wrote:

I have this quote from the OED under "Muse": "The Muse is the muzzle or tube of a bag-pipe, without the bellows." Oxford English Dictionary 1933 edition, p. 780 from 1782, Burney History of Music

And I am looking at your wonderful page at

http://www.hotpipes.com/glossary.html

but not knowing a thing about bagpipes, I am unable to quite tell if it is what I get when I "FIND" "muse" or when I find "tube". In fact it rather sounds to me as if this definition is telling me that the muzzle or muse is the whole blowing mechanism without the "bag".

So could you help me to understand exactly what the OED is talking about when it says "the muse is the muzzle or tube..."?

Thanks, I would much appreciate your help.

Also, if you can help me, I would like to link to your page from my page on which I use this OED reference -- i.e. in the epigraph and first line of the poem MUSE at janhaag.com/PO2003m.html#16

Again, thanks,

Jan Haag
janhaag.com



Copyright © 2003 Jan Haag
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Jan Haag may be reached via e-mail: jhaag@janhaag.com or jhaag@u.washington.edu

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MUSE


BY JAN HAAG

ART & POETRY - ACCUMULATIONS

INTRODUCTION + POETRY + MUSIC + ESSAYS + TRAVEL + FICTION + TEXTILE ART

HAAG'S BIO

21st CENTURY ART, C.E. - B.C., A Context