Essex Songs

EarlofEssex.jpg
EarlofEssex.jpg

Essex Songs

13.35

two voices and cello

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  • Premiere: 30 May 2008 / The Phoenix Concerts / Church of Saint Matthew and Saint Timothy, NYC / Seraphim (Gilda Lyons, Elaine Valby, Robert La Rue)
  • Instrumentation: two voices and cello
  • Duration: 12'
  • Text: John Dowland, Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex

Program Note

I.  It was a time when silly Bees could speake
II. The Earle of Essex Galiard
III. Can she excuse my wrongs
IV. O sweet woods

While sifting through the songs of John Dowland, I was fascinated to track the stormy relationship between Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex, and Queen Elizabeth I of England through various works for which Dowland turned to poems attributed to Devereaux.  Four of these Dowland pieces have been assembled here and adapted for Seraphim.

 

Texts

I. It was a time when silly Bees could speake

It was a time when silly Bees could speake,

And in that time I was a silly Bee,

Who fed on Time until my heart 'gan break,

Yet never found the time would favour mee.

Of all the swarme I only did not thrive,

Yet brought I waxe and honey to the hive.

Then thus I buzzed when Time no sap would give:

Why should this blessed Time to me be dry,

Sith by this Time the lazy drone doth live,

The wasp, the worm, the gnat, the butterflie?

Mated with grief I kneeled on my knees,

And thus complained unto the king of Bees:

My liege, Gods grant thy time may never end,

And yet vouchsafe to hear my plaint of time,

Which fruitless Flies have found to have a friend,

And I cast downe when aromies do climb.

The king replied but thus: Peace, peevish bee,

Thou'rt bound to serve the time, the time not thee.

II. The Earle of Essex Galliard

wordless vocalise 


III. Can she excuse my wrongs

Can she excuse my wrongs with virtue's cloak?

shall I call her good when she proves unkind?

Are those clear fires which vanish into smoke?

must I praise the leaves where no fruit I find?

No, no: where shadows do for bodies stand,

thou may'st be abused if thy sight be dim.

Cold love is like to words written on sand,

or to bubbles which on the water swim.

Was I so base, that I might not aspire

Unto those high joys which she holds from me?

As they are high, so high is my desire:

If she this deny what can granted be?

If she will yield to that which reason is,

It is reasons will that love should be just.

Dear make me happy still by granting this,

Or cut off delays if that I die must.

Wilt thou be thus abused still,

seeing that she will right thee never?

if thou canst not overcome her will,

thy love will be thus fruitless ever.

Better a thousand times to die,

then for to live thus still tormented:

Dear but remember it was I

Who for thy sake did die contented.

Can she excuse my wrongs with virtue's cloak?

shall I call her good when she proves unkind?

Are those clear fires which vanish into smoke?

must I praise the leaves where no fruit I find?

IV. O sweet woods

O sweet woods the delight of solitarinesse,

O how much do I love your solitarinesse.

From fames desire, from loves delight retir'd,

In these sad groves an Hermits life I led,

With sad remembrance of my fall, I dread.

You men that give false worship unto Love,

And seeke that which you never shall obtaine,

Whose end is this, to know you strive in vaine,

Whose end is this, to know you strive in vaine,

Hope and desire which now your Idols bee,

You needs must loose and feele dispaire with mee.

Wansted my Mistres faith this is the doome,

Thou art loves Childbed, Nursery, and Tombe.

O sweet woods the delight of solitarinesse,

O how much do I love your solitarinesse.

You woods in you the fairest Nimphs have walked,

Nimphs at whose sight all harts did yeeld to Love.

O woods you now a place of mourning prove.

- Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex