Social Changes in Sussex. 299
The rest may come in good time! Poets, and great poets too, we have had in Sussex, but there has been no Sussex composer yet,* nor is there that we are aware of such a thing as a genuine Sussex air.
There can be little doubt that, at one period of our history, music in Sussex, as known and practised by the people, had all but died away; and it is still a belief with some that Sussex people lack both ear and voice f6r music. Certainly the singing at sheep-shearing feasts and other rural meetings gives little token of either; it is a dreary monotonous singsong of two or three notes, repeated through interminable verses of-equally dreary rhyme. Some specimens of these rude rhymes are given in the paper on " The Sussex Sheep-shearer," and Mr. M. A. Lower, in his " Old Speech and Manners in Sussex," after stating that there are still in existence " two or three rhythmical composition's once familiar to Sussex men," quotes, as one of these, a Sussex whistling song, " which, he says, " was formerly popular and is not yet entirely forgotten." Here it is:—
A SUSSEX WHISTLING SONG.
There was an old Farmer in Sussex did dwell,
[Chorus of Whistlers] « There was an old Farmer in Sussex did dwell, And he had a bad wife, as many knew well.
[Chorus of Whistlers].
Then Satan came to the old man at the plough— " One of your family I must have now."
" It is not your eldest son that I do crave, But 'tis your old wife; and she I will have."
"O! welcome, good Satan, with all my heart; I hope you and she will never more part!"
• This reproach might have been removed from Sussex forty years ago but for the premature death of a young musician (Alfred Bennett, the eldest son of the then Organist of Chichester Cathedral), who promised fair to keep up the succession of great composers of Church music. At 24 he was chosen (in public competition) Organist of New College, Oxford, and had composed Services and Anthems which are still played in our Cathedrals, besides other compositions. But his career was cut short by a fatal coach accident whilst proceeding from Oxford to the Worcester Musical Festival. So the advent of a great Sussex composer was deferred—may we predict—till our own days?