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Madeira around 1820 and its itinerant musicians

Ancient traditional costumes of Madeira


Itinerant musicians in Madeira - engraving reproduced and restored by © Norbert Pousseur
Madeira - ~1820 - Itinerant musicians


engraving and text extracted from
History of Madeira - 1821 (from my library)
Madeira was then under British domination

Itinerant musicians

It may be naturally expected, in a country, where the love of music and the practice of it is so universal, from rank and opulence to the lowest classes of every denomina­tion, that there would be such a profession as that which the plate so characteristically displays. These itinerant musicians assist at the religious festivals and the private entertainments of the capital, while they entertain the more humble audience of the village. Indeed, as they travel from one end of the island to the other, they may be considered as occasionally enlivening and delighting the whole of it. To the song and the instrument they add the dance. They excel also in extemporaneous compositions. Their music is suited to the occasion ; and their dancing is not devoid of grace, but slow in its movements. Their occupation is to afford pleasure to others ; but, as they are in continual motion, and never stationary, theirs is a life of no common labour. They are represented as sleeping little, and eating less: but, though they support their fatigue chiefly by drinking, they are never seen to indulge it to excess.

How blithe they look, how brisk and gay !
'Tis thus they sing their lives away :
At least in this all must agree
They ’re heard to live in harmony.
While with their song and graceful measure
They labour to give others pleasure,
And each his daily morsel gains,
By pleasing sounds and winning strains,
To welcome mirth, and banish pains.
Though to make merry they succeed,
’Tis but a toilsome life they lead ;
And thus their good is mix’d with bad,
For they must sing though they are sad ;
Nay, whatsoever ills annoy,
They must perform the part of joy :
Whate’er may be their foul mischance,
Though they ’re sore-footed, they must dance.
’Tis thus their bus’ness they fulfil,
They live by never standing still ;
And ’tis their lot this world among
Rarely to have a quiet tongue.
Although they gain their due reward,
These traveling minstrels labour hard ;
But then this comfort they possess,
And that’s some source of happiness,
That, in their journeys to and fro,
They carry mirth where’er they go.


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This engraving of Madeira people can be enlarged by zoom,
the original measuring 17x22 cm



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