2 January 2020

englit day

One of the many reasons why we classicists are so widely disliked and loathed is our patronising disdain for common ordinary people. So let me demonstrate how broadminded we really are by printing the text of an 'elegy' which was set to music composed by William Byrd. It seems, in fact, to be a sonnet with faintly protoshaxperian symptoms, but some slightly ragged metrics and rhymes.

Crowned with flow'rs and lilies I saw the Muses
A shrine adorn above the sphere of crystal,
Therein to place a Queen whom Fate refuses
A sacred tomb to give of fame immortal:

Mary she hight, of Henry great the daughter,
For whom these ladies came richly adorned,
And offer'd all with tears on golden altar
A sacred hymn, and singing thus, they mourned:

O worthy Queen! Though Fortune thee denieth
A pyramid of gold to heav'n aspiring,
Yet Virtue shining bright, which never dieth,
Of thy good life on earth leaves such admiring,

That through the world the fame hath sounded
Of Mary, noble Queen of Britain crowned.

A Revd Dr W Wizeman explained: 'This same elegy was also set to a madrigal by Phillipe de Monte (1521-1603), whom Byrd met when De Monte accompanied Philip of Spain to wed Mary in 1554. Their mutual appreciaton continued long after: in 1583 De Monte, now Kapellmeister of the Imperial Court in Vienna, wrote Super flumina Babylonis for Byrd, who responded with Quomodo cantabimus.'


1 comment:

Jane Perdue said...

Metrical mayhem with lovely sentiment.