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Some Reminiscences and the Bagpipe
Chapter IV — A Well-Abused Instrument


NO musical instrument has been subjected to so much hostile criticism as the Great Highland Bagpipe.

No musical instrument has been so often made the butt of the heavy after-dinner wits!

Men, in whom the sense of humour seems entirely awanting, waken up on the first mention of the word Bagpipe, feeling that their reproach is about to be taken from them—now they will show that they too are possessed of a nice wit—and nine out of ten such answer the simple question “Do you like the Bagpipe?’' with, “Oh, yes! I like the Bagpipe at a distance.” The long pause after Bagpipe punctuates the wit, and prepares for the laughter that always follows.

Is this sort of thing not becoming a little stale?

It may be clever! I really do not know; but even the best joke loses force from over-repetition.

Demades, the Athenian Orator, a man “of no character or principle,” who lived in the beginning of the fourth century, B.C., was among the first to set the fashion of laughing at the Pipe, and there has been a host of imitators since his day.

Falstaff, that unprincipled braggart, says that he is “as melancholy as the drone of a Lincolnshire Bagpipe.”

Shylock’s reference to it is unfit for gentle ears.

Otway, of whom his biographer writes “little is known, nor is there any part of that little which his biographer can take pleasure in relating,” said once, “A Scotch song! I hate it worse than a Scotch Bagpipe.”

While William Black, the novelist, not to be outdone in originality by these old writers, harps upon the same string thus—“Sermons, like the Scotch Bagpipes (sic), sound very well,—when one does not hear them.”

Only the other day an English critic, who was present at a large gathering of Highlanders in one of the Midland towns, wrote to his paper as follows :— “The Highlanders cheered loud and long as the pipers marched into the hall to the strain of the Bagpipes. The Englishmen also cheered heartily when the pipers marched out

The italics mark the humour, and prevent the careless reader from missing a joke, all time-worn and thread-bare as it is.

“Now, by two-headed Janus,
Nature hath framed strange fellows in her time:
Some that will evermore peep through their eyes,
And laugh like parrots at a Bagpiper.”


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