Hyperion Records

Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12
First line:
Come, O come, my life's delight
composer
1908

Recordings
'Quilter: Songs' (CDA66878)
Quilter: Songs
'On this Island' (CDA67227)
On this Island
Details
No 1: Weep you no more sad fountains
No 2: My life's delight  Come, o come, my life's delight
No 3: Damask roses  Lady, when I behold the roses sprouting
No 4: The faithless shepherdess  While that the sun with his beams hot
No 5: Brown is my love
No 6: By a fountainside  Slow, slow, freah fount, keep time with my salt tears
No 7: Fair house of joy  Fain would I change that note

Seven Elizabethan Lyrics, Op 12
‘Seven Elizabethan Lyrics’ of 1908 is not a true song cycle but a well contrasted set of individual songs, probably the best single volume of songs the composer ever produced. In view of the popularity of the last of the group it is hard to understand why the others are so seldom performed. Weep you no more has words from John Dowland’s Third Book of Ayres, 1603. Dowland’s own setting is memorable and has led to at least eight twentieth-century settings of the same words; Quilter’s version stands up to the competition well. My Life’s Delight comes from Thomas Campion’s Third Book of Ayres and conveys the enthusiasm of the poem with great success. Damask Roses and Brown is my Love are both miniature gems, once heard never forgotten. The words of the first are an anonymous translation from an Italian poem by Angelo Grillo, published in 1589, the English version being set twice in John Wilbye’s First Set of Madrigals, 1598. The faithless shepherdess again started life as a madrigal, in this case by William Byrd, the poem then being published in the famous collection England’s Helicon, of 1600. Quilter took two of the four stanzas to make a lively song similar to Blow, blow, thou winter wind. The other two stanzas would not have fitted his simple scheme, being much too cynical; however, they show why the editor of England’s Helicon found them worth reprinting:

Another shepherd you did see,
To whom your heart was soon enchained.
Full soon your love was leapt from me,
Full soon my place he had obtained.
Soon came a third your love to win,
And we were out and he was in.
Sure you have made me passing glad
That you your mind so soon removed,
Before that I the leisure had
To choose you for my best beloved.
For all my love was past and done
Two days before it was begun.

By a Fountainside comes from Act I Scene 2 of Ben Jonson’s masque Cynthia’s Revels of 1600, though Quilter may have found the words in Henry Youll’s Canzonets to Three Voices published eight years later. This is a fine song, musically the most elaborate of the set, with a magical move to the major key half way through. The last song of the set, Fair House of Joy has taken on a life of its own, being a perennial favourite at music festivals throughout the country. It would be interesting to know how many of the performers understand the meaning of the first two lines, which could be paraphrased thus: ‘I wish I could sing according to the rules, for I think singing love songs is harmful.’

from notes by Michael Pilkington 1996

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