Sir Thomas Browne (1683) Certain Miscellany Tracts. Tract VI: Of Cymbals, &c., pp. 121-124.



Cymbals, &c.


With what difficulty, if possibility, you may expect satisfaction concerning the Musick, or Musical Instruments of the Hebrews, you will easily discover if you consult the attempts of learned men upon that Subject: but for Cymbals, of whose Figure you enquire, you may find some described in Baysius, in the Comment of Rhodius upon Scribonius Largus, and others.

As for Κύμβαλων άλαλάζον mentioned by S. Paul,1 and rendred a Tinckling Cymbal, whether the translation be not too soft and diminutive some question may be made: for the word ἀλαλάζον implieth no small sound, but a strained and lofty vociferation, or some kind of hollowing sound, according to the Exposition of Hesychius, Ἀλαλάξατε ἐνθψώσατε τὴν φωνήν. A word drawn from the lusty shout of Souldiers, crying Ἀλαλὰ at the first charge upon their Enemies, according to the custom of Eastern Nations, and used by Trojans in Homer; and is also the Note of the Chorus in Aristophanes Ἀλαλαὶ ίὴ παιών. In other parts of Scripture we reade of loud and high sounding Cymbals; and in Clemens Alexandrinus that the Arabians made use of Cymbals in their Wars instead of other military Musick; and Polyænus in his Stratagemes affirmeth that Bacchus gave the signal of Battel unto his numerous Army not with Trumpets but with Tympans and Cymbals.

And now I take the opportunity to thank you for the new Book sent me containing the Anthems sung in our Cathedral and Collegiate Churches: ’tis probable there will be additions, the Masters of Musick being now active in that affair. Beside my naked thanks I have yet nothing to return you but this enclosed, which may be somewhat rare unto you, and that is a Turkish Hymn translated into French out of the Turkish Metre, which I thus render unto you.

O what praise doth he deserve, and how great is that Lord, all whose Slaves are so many Kings!

Whosoever shall rub his Eyes with the dust of his Feet, shall behold such admirable things that he shall fall into an ecstasie.

He that shall drink one drop of his Beverage, shall have his Bosome like the Ocean filled with Gems and pretious Liquours.

Let not loose the Reins unto thy Passions in this world: he that represseth them shall become a true Solomon in the Faith.

Amuse not thy self to adore Riches, nor to build great Houses and Palaces.

The end of what thou shalt build is but ruine.

Pamper not thy Body with delicacies and dainties; it may come to pass one day that this Body may be in Hell.

Imagine not that he who findeth Riches findeth Happiness; he that findeth Happiness is he that findeth God.

All who prostrating themselves in humility shall this day believe in Velè,2 if they were Poor shall be Rich, and if Rich shall become Kings.

After the Sermon ended which was made upon a Verse in the Alcoran containing much Morality, the Deruices in a Gallery apart sung this Hymn, accompanied with Instrumental Musick, which so affected the Ears of Monsieur du Loyr, that he would not omit to set it down, together with the Musical Notes, to be found in his first Letter unto Monsieur Bouliau, Prior of Magny.

Excuse my brevity: I can say but little where I understand but little.

I am, &c.


Original marginalia are in green.

1 1 Cor. 13.1.

2 Velè the Founder of the Convent.

This page is by James Eason.