Friday, 11 May 2012

Pleasure it is

Pleasure it is
To hear, iwis,
The birdes sing.
The deer in the dale,
The sheep in the vale,
The corn springing.
God's purveyance
For sustenance,
It is for man.
Then we always
To Him give praise,
And thank Him then,
And thank Him then.

(N.B.: purveyance means 'provision')

This little sixteenth-century song is by William Cornish (or Cornysshe), Master of the Chapel Royal under Henry VII and Henry VIII. The song was printed in 1530 in Wynkyn de Worde's Twenty Songs (Bassus) (BL K.1.e.1), a book of twenty part-songs. Only one copy survives and you can see images of the whole book here at the 'View music' link - this song is folio 34-5, with a splendid initial 'P'!

The music there is only the bass part (as the name of the book suggests...) so the melody of the song hasn't survived. It has been set to music by modern composers, though - by Benjamin Britten, as 'Spring Carol', number 9 in his Ceremony of Carols (1942):

And by John Ireland in 1938 as 'A Thanksgiving', the first song in his Five XVIth Century Poems (1938):

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