shakespeare

Music Monday: Now Is The Month of Maying 1595

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Thomas Morley Image One
Image Credit: All Poetry

Stepping backwards a bit, I stumbled across something prior to 1600…

Thomas Morley was an English composer, theorist, singer and organist of the Renaissance. He was one of the foremost members of the English Madrigal School. Living in London at the same time as Shakespeare, Morley was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England. [He] was active in church music as a singer, composer and organist at St Paul’s Cathedral [and] was involved in music publishing. [He] lived for a time in the same parish as Shakespeare and, a connection between the two has been long speculated but, never proven. In addition to his madrigals, [he] wrote instrumental music, including keyboard music […].

Now Is The Month of Maying is one of the most famous of the English ballets […]. It is based on the canzonet So Ben Mi Chi Ha Bon Tempo used by Orazio Vecchi […]. It was printed in […] Morley’s First Book of Ballets to Five Voyces [in] 1595. The song delights in bawdy double-entendre. It is, apparently, about spring dancing but, this is a metaphor for making love/sex. For example, a barley-break would have suggested outdoor sexual activity (rather like […] a roll in the hay). The use of such imagery and puns increased during the Renaissance.

It was also heard in 1964 on The Andy Griffith Show episode The Song Festers.

Now Is The Month of Maying Image Two
Image Credit: sheetmusicdirect.com & amazon.com

Lyrics:
Now is the month of maying,
When merry lads are playing,
Fa la la la la la la la la,
Fa la la, etc…
Each with his bonny lass
Upon the greeny grass.
Fa la la, etc…

The Spring, clad all in gladness,
Doth laugh at Winter’s sadness,
Fa la la, etc…
And to the bagpipe’s sound
The nymphs tread out their ground.
Fa la la, etc…

Fie then! Why sit we musing,
Youth’s sweet delight refusing?
Fa la la, etc…
Say, dainty nymphs, and speak,
Shall we play barley break?
Fa la la, etc…

Additional Reading & Sources:
Thomas Morley (Britannica)
Thomas Morley (Elizabethan-Era Site)
The Song Festers (IMDB)
Now Is The Month of Maying (Wikipedia)
Thomas Morley (Wikipedia)

Barney’s Voice Lessons

Tune Tuesday: Flow, My Tears 1600

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Flow My Tears Dowland Image One
Image Credit: youtube.com

Four hundred, twenty years ago, Renaissance composer, lutenist and singer John Dowland (a contemporary of William Shakespeare) publishes his Second Book of Songs in London. There were 22 song titles in the book and the most well known of these is Flow, My Tears. Written as an aria and for a lute, its style and form is based on a pavane, a slow, couple-dance common in the 16th century. It’s original 1596 title was Lachrimae Pavane (literally “tears dance”) and Dowland added lyrics later.

This is Dowland’s most famous aria and he would, occasionally, sign his name as Jo. Dolandi de Lachrimae (literally, “John of the Tears“)

Lines 8 thru 10 are quoted in Philip K. Dick‘s book Flow, My Tears, the Policeman Said, a science fiction novel set in a dystopian future. The book’s title is a direct reference to Dowland’s piece.

Additional Reading & Sources:
John Dowland (Edition HH Music Publishers)
John Dowland Part I (Millenium of Music)
John Dowland Biography (Study Website)
Lachrimae: Continental Context (University of London Goldsmiths)
Flow, My Tears (Wikipedia)
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (Wikipedia)

Philip K Dick Book Image Two
Image Credit: Doubleday
Philip K. Dick 1974
First Edition Hardcover
wikipedia.org & wikimedia.org

Lyrics:
Flow, my tears, fall from your springs!
Exiled for ever, let me mourn;
Where night’s black bird her sad infamy sings,
There let me live forlorn.

Down vain lights, shine you no more!
No nights are dark enough for those
That in despair their last fortunes deplore.
Light doth but shame disclose.

Never may my woes be relieved,
Since pity is fled;
And tears and sighs and groans my weary days, my weary days
Of all joys have deprived.

From the highest spire of contentment
My fortune is thrown;
And fear and grief and pain for my deserts, for my deserts
Are my hopes, since hope is gone.

Hark! you shadows that in darkness dwell,
Learn to contemn light
Happy, happy they that in hell
Feel not the world’s despite.

Music Monday: Greensleeves 1580

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Lady Greensleeves Dante Rossetti Image One
My Lady Greensleeves 1863
Artist: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Harvard Art Musems
Model: Mrs. W. J. Knewstub
Photographer: Maris Stella
Reverse Image
Image Credit: Wikipedia & Wikimedia

Moving forward to 1580…

Henry VIII

A widespread belief exists that the song Greensleeves was composed by none other than King Henry VIII following an early rejection of his love by his future wife Anne Boleyn. The lyrics of this song of unrequited love have been seen to relate to his courtship of Anne in the 1520s. Many of the verses of Greensleeves imply a rich and extravagant courtship […]. Henry VIII was a composer and musician of some merit […]. [C]ourt officials […] attribute to Henry many compositions which were not his and the consensus of expert opinion, today, is that Greensleeves was composed rather later in the Tudor era, during the reign of Anne Boleyn’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth I. [T]he piece is based on an Italian style of composition that did not reach England until after Henry’s death […].

Origins

A broadside ballad […] was registered at the London Stationer’s Company in September [of] 1580, by [a] Richard Jones, as A Newe Northern Dittye of ye Ladye Greene Sleves. Six more ballads followed in less than a year, one on the same day […]. Needless to say the rights to the song were in very hot dispute. It was in 1584 that Jones printed his final version of the melody and this is the one we know today. It was titled A New Courtly Sonnet of the Lady Green Sleeves […].

Lady Greensleeves Dante Rossetti Image Two
My Lady Greensleeves 1859
Image Credit: Rossetti Archive

Who was Lady Greensleeves

[W]hy would anyone be named for their green sleeves? Interpretations […] usually have a sexual connotation, most notably in the phrase “a green gown”, a reference to the grass stains on a woman’s dress from engaging in sexual intercourse outdoors. Was this lady a prostitute? [T]he song lyrics mention a “discourteous” rejection of the singer’s advances, suggesting to some that the lady in question was actually virtuous but, perhaps, was mistaken for a prostitute as a result of her green sleeves. [A]nother explanation is quite the opposite to promiscuity […]. [I]n heraldry, colour also had symbolisms and green indicated truth and fidelity […]. [A] knight may give a green armband to his true love to wear to show his devotion to her, giving rise to the familiar phrase “wearing your heart on your sleeve” meaning, to show your true feelings.

None of these theories, however, really seem to reflect the song’s true meaning, which clearly expresses an unrequited love by a rich man for a fair lady. All that we can confidently deduce, is that “Lady Greensleeves” is a nickname, not a title. Exactly who she was, remains a mystery.

Trivia Bits:
♦ In Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, the character Mistress Ford refers, twice, to “the tune of ‘Greensleeves'”.
♦ The tune was the basis for “Home in the Meadow,” a recurring song throughout the 1962 epic film How the West Was Won.
♦ A rendering of the tune, titled the “Lassie Theme”, was used extensively in the Lassie television show, especially the ending credits.

Everyone will remember this tune as What Child Is This? ~Vic

Sources & Additional Reading:
The Folk Song Greensleeves (Greensleeves Hubs)
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (Rossetti Archive)
Lyrics (Six Wives Website)
Greensleeves (Wikipedia)

Amy Nuttall