Archive for the ‘Poetry & Music’ Category

Sir Walter Raleigh

Sir Walter Raleigh

A few weeks ago I did a post on Marlowes poem ‘The passionate shepherd to his love’ – I thought it would be a good idea to include Raleigh’s reply. Raleigh was quite secretive about his poetry and only allowed a few examples of his work to atrributed. It is thought that many are included in anthologies of poetry and there is uncertainty about dates as well as what was written by him or edited by others.

I enjoyed reading this poem for it’s witty and cynical reply to the better known poem by Marlowe. This also gives an excuse to show some really good images taken in the British countryside. These colder, more wintery pictures were chosen to contrast with the earlier post which showed summertime images.

Taken from the Roxburghe ballads

Taken from the Roxburghe ballads

If all the world and love were young,

And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,

These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Time drives the flocks from field to fold
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold,
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

Gathering - by Floato on Flickr (Click image)

Gathering - by Floato on Flickr (Click image)

The flowers do fade, and wanton fields

To wayward winter reckoning yields;
A honey tongue, a heart of gall,
Is fancy’s spring, but sorrow’s fall.

Thy gowns, thy shoes, thy beds of roses,
Thy cap, thy kirtle, and thy posies
Soon break, soon wither, soon forgotten
In folly ripe, in season rotten.

Approaching Storm in December by Paddypix on Flickr (Click image)

Thy belt of straw and ivy buds,
Thy coral clasps and amber studs,
All these in me no means can move
To come to thee and be thy love.

But could youth last and love still breed,
Had joys no date nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy love.

Winter morning 1 by Erasmus T on Flickr (Click image)

Winter morning 1 by Erasmus T on Flickr (Click image)



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photo by Ruth1066 on Fkickr (Click image)

photo by Ruth1066 on Flickr (Click image)


Alas, my love, you do me wrong,

To cast me off discourteously.

For I have loved you well and long,

Delighting in your company.


Greensleeves was all my joy

Greensleeves was my delight,

Greensleeves was my heart of gold,

And who but my lady greensleeves.

Your vows you’ve broken, like my heart,

Oh, why did you so enrapture me?

Now I remain in a world apart

But my heart remains in captivity.


I have been ready at your hand,

To grant whatever you would crave,

I have both wagered life and land,

Your love and good-will for to have.


If you intend thus to disdain,

It does the more enrapture me,

And even so, I still remain

A lover in captivity.


My men were clothed all in green,

And they did ever wait on thee;

All this was gallant to be seen,

And yet thou wouldst not love me.


Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,

but still thou hadst it readily.

Thy music still to play and sing;

And yet thou wouldst not love me.


Well, I will pray to God on high,

that thou my constancy mayst see,

And that yet once before I die,

Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me.


Ah, Greensleeves, now farewell, adieu,

To God I pray to prosper thee,

For I am still thy lover true,

Come once again and love me.


Greensleeves was all my joy

Greensleeves was my delight,

Greensleeves was my heart of gold,

And who but my lady greensleeves.

Most people thinking about Greensleeeves from a Tudor point of view imagine it played on a lute – a round-backed string instrument which was popular from the early renaissance, up until about 1800.

Image from little Miss sunnydale on Flickr (Click image)

Taken from Little_miss_sunnydales Flickr photostream (Click image)

The golden age of the lute was during the 16th and 17th centuries, during which time notated music became the custom – rather than the fashion for improvisation which had gone before.

John Dowland (1563–1626) is probably the most famous lutenist of the era. He is most famous today for his melancholy songs ‘Flow my tears’, ‘I saw my lady weep’ and ‘In darkness let me dwell’. Karl Schumann writes,

The art of playing the lute … was a refined, soft, and at the same time colorful art, in sharp contrast to the agitated times in which it was practised’.

Greensleeves too is a song of yearning and heart-break. No-one knows who wrote it. Some say Henry VIII penned the verse and tune for Anne Boleyn. Whatever its origin it has achieved lasting popularity.

(For more about the history and background of this song click here)

PS – regarding the forthcoming David Starkey TV series about Henry VIII entitled  ‘Henry, Mind of a Tyrant’. Philip Sheppard who composed the theme music dropped us an email to say that the dates for the TV show have been announced.

He also mentioned that the soundtrack will be freely available on his blog from next week & there is a preview available now

Take a look (& a listen) here – the preview sounds absolutely superb!


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Portrait considered to be a possible likeness of Christopher Marlowe

Portrait considered to be a possible likeness of Christopher Marlowe

A simple post today – dedicated to Christopher Marlowes (1564-1593) poem “The passionate Shepherd” .  This poem was published after Marlowes death in 1599, although the exact date it was written cannot be determined exactly.

In the near future I intend to contrast this poem (and the brighter and more sunny images) with a further post which will cover Raleighs response to this entitled “The nymph’s reply to the shepherd“.

Drifting by Trapac on Flickr (Click picture) Drifting by Trapac on Flickr (Click picture)
Come live with me and be my Love,

And we will all the pleasures prove

That hills and valleys, dale and field,

And all the craggy mountains yield.

Campsie Fells Stream by alco2112on Flickr (Click Image)

By alco2112 on Flickr (Click image)

And see the shepherds feed their flocks, By shallow rivers, to whose falls

Melodious birds sing madrigals.

There will I make thee beds of roses

And a thousand fragrant posies,

A cap of flowers, and a kirtle

Embroider’d all with leaves of myrtle.

Roses by flash of light on Flickr (click image)

Roses by flash of light on Flickr (click image)

A gown made of the finest wool

Which from our pretty lambs we pull,

Fair linèd slippers for the cold,

With buckles of the purest gold.

A belt of straw and ivy buds

With coral clasps and amber studs:

And if these pleasures may thee move,

Come live with me and be my Love.

Thy silver dishes for thy meat

As precious as the gods do eat,

Shall on an ivory table be

Prepared each day for thee and me.

The shepherd swains shall dance and sing

For thy delight each May-morning:

If these delights thy mind may move,

Then live with me and be my Love.

Sheep on Loch Lomond (Jody9 on Flickr:click image)

Sheep on Loch Lomond (Jody9 on Flickr:click image)


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For many people, the song ‘Greensleeves’ is associated with the Tudors, England and with traditional English music. If the hit counters on ‘YouTube‘ are any guide it is still popular, the version above has been watched over 25,000 times whilst another has had over a million hits!

There is a persistent myth that Greensleeves was composed by Henry VIII for his lover and future queen Anne Boleyn. Anne rejected Henry’s attempts to seduce her and this rejection is apparently referred to in the song, when the writer’s love “cast [him] off discourteously.” However, it seems Henry did not write Greensleeves, which is probably an Elizabethan tune.

In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, written around 1602, the character Mistress Ford refers twice without any explanation to the tune of Greensleeves, and Falstaff later exclaims:

Let the sky rain potatoes! Let it thunder to the tune of ‘Greensleeves’!

I like the idea of the sky raining potatoes! These allusions suggest that the song was already well known at that time.

A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves

A broadside ballad by the name of Greensleeves was registered at the London Stationer’s Company in 1580 as “A New Northern Dittye of the Lady Greene Sleeves”. It then appears in the surviving A Handful of Pleasant Delights (1584) as “A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves. To the new tune of Green Sleeves.”

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn

No-one really knows who wrote Greensleeves but we do know that music played a huge part in Tudor court life.  Dancing was a form of exercise enjoyed by the royal family and practised every morning. Dancing was accompanied by the Court musicians. Low born but talented musicians sought places at the court of the Tudors, and one such musician, Mark Smeaton, featured strongly in the tragic story of Anne Boleyn. Favoured by Anne Boleyn he was falsely accused of being her lover, tortured and finally put to death.

A rich time for music

The Tudor period was a rich time for music making – and I play and listen to music which would have been familiar to Tudor ears. Music and dancing were at the heart of life for rich and poor alike. The medieval music of the pipe and tabor was still very much in evidence, and many tunes that were played then are still used for English Country Dancing and Morris Dancing. I know many of these well as I play the melodeon for dancing. New instruments were being developed during the Tudor period; and the religious turmoil of the age acted as a stimulus for the music of Tallis, Byrd, which will be the subject of a future post.

(For more about this song including Lyrics click here)

nb dont have permission yet!

Image courtesy of Sandmania on Flickr (click picture)


PS On the subject of Tudor music we had a comment from Philip Sheppard who is composing music for the forthcoming David Starkey TV program about Henry VIII . If you want to hear a preview of the music go to his blog “radiomovies


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On my first Sonne

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy ;
My sin was too much hope of thee, lov’d boy.
Seven years thou wert lent to me, and I thee pay,
Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.
Oh, could I lose all father now ! For why
Will man lament the state he should envy?
To have so soon ‘scaped world’s and flesh’s rage,
And if no other misery, yet age !
Rest in soft peace, and, asked, say, Here doth lie
Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry.
For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such
As what he loves may never like too much.

Ben Jonson

In most modern societies childbirth and childhood are considered to be joyful parts of family life. It is very easy to forget that people once had cause to view things much differently. In Tudor times childbirth was a hazardous time for mother and child whilst infant mortality was high. Ben Jonson’s well known and touching lament (above) on the death of his son Benjamin who died in 1603 reminds us of the grief that was all too commonly experienced. Shakespeare too lost a son, Hamnet who died aged 11 in 1596. It is hard to imagine that the following verse from the play King John does not contain an insight into Shakespeare’s own feelings.

Childbirth was a dangerous time and contemporary medical science and midwifery was ill equipped to deal with complications. It is well known that Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour died of complications following the birth of Edward VI in 1537. Catherine of Aragon was pregnant on seven occasions, every child but her daughter Mary died either in or shortly after birth.

Catherine of Aragon

Catherine of Aragon

Because of the risks, children were baptised quickly as it was commonly believed that children who died without christening might be condemned to eternal damnation. There is a suggestion that christening came to be associated with superstitious beliefs. In Keith Thomas’ book Religion and the decline of magic he describes how the idea that children ‘came on better’ once christened in some places survived into the 20th century. The religious character of the midwife was also important because she would have to baptise the baby if there was a danger of it dying before it could be baptised.

In modern times we have mostly come to associate death with elderly people but for our Tudor ancestors it was something that confronted all ages far more commonly. Some estimates suggest that between a third and a half of children did not survive past the age of 5 years old. Life expectancy for most people was around 35 years and a person reaching their 40’s was considered to be aged.

Although Shakespeare and Ben Jonson’s writing serves to give us an idea how people must have felt when facing the prospect of death and disease it is still hard to imagine how people coped. In Keith Thomas’ book he describes how ordinary people developed a fatalistic attitude towards life. Parents were slower to recognise their children as individuals whilst husbands and wives accepted that they might have to marry again should their partner die. Apparently, middle class observers were shocked at the resigned attitude that ordinary people adopted towards their and their families fate. Would Ben Jonson or Shakespeare’s writing about loss and grief would have been different had they lived in less privileged circumstances?

See also free Podcast ‘Mortality & morbidity in early modern Europe”  by Assistant Professor Brian Els from University of Portland ( iTunes link)


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