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Unquiet Thoughts: English lute songs from the Golden Age

by Mignarda

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Unquiet thoughts your civill slaughter stint, And wrap your wrongs within a pensive heart: And you my tongue that maks my mouth a minte, And stamps my thoughts to coyne them words by arte: Be still for if you ever doo the like, Ile cut the string, that maks the hammer strike. But what can staie my thoughts they may not start, Or put my tongue in durance for to dye? When as these eies the keyes of mouth and harte Open the locke where all my love doth lye; Ile seale them up within their lids for ever, So thoughts and words, and looks shall dye together. How shall I then gaze on my mistresse eies? My thoughts must have som vent els hart wil break, My tongue would rust as in my mouth it lies If eyes and thoughts were free and that not speake. Speake then and tell the passions of desire Which turns mine eies to floods, my thoghts to fire.
All ye whom love or fortune hath betraide. Al ye whom love or fortune hath betraide, All ye that dreame of blisse but live in greif, Al ye whose hopes are evermore delaid, All ye whose sighes or sicknes wants releif: Lend eares and teares to me most haples man, That sings my sorrewes like the dying Swanne. Care that consumes the heart with inward paine, Paine that presents sad care in outward vew, Both tyrant like enforce me to complaine, But still in vaine, for none my plaints will rue. Teares, sighes, and ceaselesse cries alone I spend, My woe wants comfort, and my sorrow end.
Deare, if you change, ile neuer chuse againe. Sweet, if you shrinke, Ile neuer thinke of loue. Faire, if you faile, ile iudge all beautie vaine. Wise, if too weake, moe wits Ile neuer proue. Deare, sweet, faire, wise, change, shrink, nor be not weake: And, on my faith, my faith shall never breake. Earth with her flowers shall sooner heauen adorne, Heauen her bright starres through earths dim globe shall moue, Fire heate shall lose, and frosts of flames be borne, Ayre made to shine as blacke as hell shall proue: Earth, heauen, fire, ayre, the world transform'd shall view, Ere I proue false to faith, or strange to you.
Can shee excuse my wrongs with vertues cloak? Shall I call her good when she proues vnkind? Are those cleer fires which vanish into smoak? Must I praise the leaues where no fruit I find? No no: where shadows do for bodies stand, Thou maist be abusde if thy sight be dim. Cold love is like to words written on sand, Or to bubbles which on the water swim. Wilt thou be thus abused still, Seeing that she wil right thee neuer? If thou canst not orecome her will, Thy loue wil be thus fruitles euer. Was I so base, that I might not aspire, Vnto those high ioyes which she holds from me? As they are high, so high is my desire: If she this denie, what can granted be? If she will yeeld to that which reason is, It is reasons will that loue should be iust. Deare make me happy still by granting this, Or cut off delayes if that die I must. Better a thousand times to die, Then for to liue thus still tormented: Deare but remember it was I, Who for thy sake did die contented.
The Sypres curten of the night is spread, And ouer all a silent dewe is cast, The weaker cares by sleepe are conquered, But I alone with hidious griefe, agast. In spite of Morpheus charmes a watch doe keepe Ouer mine eies to banish carelesse sleepe. Yet oft my trembling eyes through faintnes close, And then the Mappe of hell before me stands, Which Ghosts doe see, and I am one of those, Ordain'd to pine in sorrowes endles bands, Since from my wretched soule all hopes are reft, And now no cause of life to me is left. Griefe ceaze my soule, for that will still endure, When my cras'd bodie is consum'd and gone, Beare it to thy blacke denne, there keepe it sure, Where thou ten thousand soules doest tyre vpon, Yet all doe not affoord such foode to thee, As this poore one, the worser part of mee.
Author of light reviue my dying spright, Redeeme it from the snares of all-confounding night. Lord, light me to thy blessed way: For blinde with worldly vaine desires I wander as a stray. Sunne and Moone, Starres and vnderlights I see, But all their glorious beames are mists and darknes being compar'd to thee. Fountaine of health my soules deepe wounds recure, Sweet showres of pitty raine, wash my vncleannesse pure. One drop of thy desired grace The faint and fading hart can raise, and in ioyes bosome place. Sinne and Death, Hell and tempting Fiends may rage; But God his owne will guard, and their sharp paines and griefe in time assuage.
Ouer these brookes trusting to ease mine eies, Mine eies euen great in labour with her teares, I laid my face, my face wherein there lies Clusters of clowdes which no sunne euer cleeres, In watry glasse, my watry eies I see Sorrowes ill eased where sorrowes painted be. My thoughts imprisoned in my secret woes, With flamie breathes, doe issue oft in sound, The sound to this strange aire no sooner goes, But that it doth with Eccoes force rebound, And make me heare the plaints I would refraine, Thus outward helpes my inward griefes maintaine. Now in this sand I would discharge my mind, And cast from me part of my burdnous cares, But in the sand my tales foretold I find, And see therein how well the waters fares, Since streams, ayre, sand, mine eyes and eares conspire, What hope to quench, when each thing blowes the fire.
O deere life when shall it be That mine eyes thine eyes may see, And in them thy minde discouer, Whether absence hath had force, Thy remembrance to diuorce, From the Image of thy Louer? O if I my selfe finde not, By thine absence oft forgot, Nor debarde from Beauties treasure: Let no Tongue aspire to tell In what high [ioyes] I shall dwell, Onely Thought aymes at the pleasure. Thought therefore will I send thee, To take vp the place for mee, Long I will not after tarry: There vnseene thou mayst be bolde Those fayre wonders to behold, Which in them my hopes doe carry. Thought, see thou no place forbeare, Enter brauely euery where, Seize on all to her belonging: But if thou wouldest guarded be, Fearing her beames, take with thee, Strength of liking, rage of longing. O my Thoughts, my thoughts, surcease, Your delights my woes increase, My life fleetes with too much thinking. Thinke no more, but dye in mee Till thou shalt receiued be At her lips my Nectar drinking.
Tyme cruell tyme canst thou subdue that brow, That conquers all but thee, and thee too stayes: As if shee were exempt from scieth or bow, From Loue and yeares vnsubiect to decayes. Or art thou growne in league with those faire eyes, That they might help thee to consume our dayes, Or dost thou loue her for her cruelties, Being mercilesse lyke thee that no man wayes? Then doe so still although shee makes no steeme, Of dayes nor yeares, but lets them run in vaine: Hould still thy swift wing'd hours that wondring Seeme to gase on her, euen to turne back againe. And doe so still although she nothing cares, Doe as I doe, loue her although vnkinde, Hould still, yet O I feare at vnawares, Thou wilt beguile her though thou seem'st so kinde.
To aske for loue, and thy whole heart t'were madnesse. I doe not sue, nor can admit (Fairest) from you to haue all yet. Who giueth all hath nothing to impart, but sadnesse. He that receiueth all, can haue no more then seeing. My Loue by length of euery houre, Gathers new strength, new growth, new flower. You must haue daily new rewards in store still being. You cannot euery day giue me your heart for merit: Yet if you will, when yours doth goe, You shall haue still one to bestow : For you shall mine when yours doth part inherit. Yet if you please, Ile finde a better way, then change them : For so alone dearest we shall Be one and one anothers all. Let vs so ioyne our hearts that nothing may estrange them.
I saw my Lady weepe and sorrow proud to bee aduanced so: in those faire eies, where all perfecions keepe, hir face was full of woe, but such a woe (belieue me) as wins more hearts, then mirth can doe, with hir intysing parts. Sorow was there made faire, And passion wise, teares a delightfull thing, Silence beyond all speech a wisdome rare, Shee made hir sighes to sing, And all things with so sweet a sadnesse moue, As made my heart at once both grieue and loue. O fayrer then ought ells, The world can shew, leaue of in time to grieue, Inough, inough, your joyfull lookes excells, Teares kills the heart belieue, O striue not o bee excellent in woe, Which onely breeds your beauties ouerhrow.
Flow my teares fall from your springs, Exilde for ever: let mee morne, Where nights black bird hir sad infamy sings, There let mee live forlorne. Downe vaine lightes shine you no more, No nights are dark enough for those That in dispaire their last fortuns deplore, Light doth but shame disclose. Never may my woes be relieved, Since pittie is fled, And teares, and sighes, and grones my wearie dayes, Of all joyes have deprived. From the highest spire of contentment, My fortune is throwne, And feare, and griefe, and paine for my deserts Are my hopes since hope is gone. Harke you shadowes that in darcknesse dwell, Learne to contemne light, Happie, happie they that in hell Feele not the worlds despite.
Sorrow stay 03:14
Sorrow stay, lend true repentant teares, To a woefull wretched wight, Hence dispaire with thy tormenting feares: Doe not, O doe not my heart, poor heart affright, Pitty, pitty, pitty, help now or never, Mark me not to endlesse paine, Alas I am condempned ever, No hope, no help, ther doth remaine, But downe, downe, downe, downe I fall, Downe, downe, downe, downe I fall, Downe and arise, down and arise, I never shall.
In darknesse let me dwell The ground shall sorrow be, The roofe Dispaire to barre all cheerfull light from mee, The wals of marble blacke that moistened still shall weepe, My musicke hellish iarring sounds to banish friendly sleepe. Thus wedded to my woes, and bedded to my Tombe, O let me liuing die, Till death doe come, In darknesse let mee dwell.


Unquiet Thoughts presents a personal selection of our favorites by John Dowland (1563 - 1626) and a few of his contemporaries with a concentration on songs with exquisite poetical texts by some of the best poets of the Elizabethan age. It is no accident that we chose the very first song from Dowland's First Booke as the title of our album, as the eloquent term so appropriately describes a genre that pairs an intimate voice with the most personal of instruments to express the secrets of the soul. Unquiet Thoughts is also the title of our blog that has since 2010 offered our insights and experience of music for voice and lute, soon to be published in book form.

John Dowland's ayres for voice and lute represent the pinnacle of a musical form that appeared in manuscript and printed sources throughout Europe for at least 100 years prior to the publication of Dowland's First Booke in 1597. Continental examples of lute songs distilled an arrangement of polyphonic vocal music that assigned the lower parts to be played on the lute. English music for voice and lute prior to Dowland's First Booke consisted of psalm harmonizations and secular poetry set to Italian dance grounds.

Building upon this foundation, Dowland retained the rhythmic vitality of dance forms improved with his gift for melody and expressive text setting. Strongly influenced by French and Italian examples, Dowland forged a new style of accompaniment that drew upon the resources of the lute, employing characteristic plucked-string techniques such as cross-string suspensions, rhythmic syncopations and running passages interspersed with expressive chordal events, creating a rich and complex musical effect.

Our recording opens aptly with Dowland’s very first song from his First Booke, “Unquiet Thoughts.” We feature other iconic songs by Dowland as bookends surrounding worthy works of poetry by Thomas Campion, Sir Philip Sidney and Samuel Danyel, all published in The Mignarda Songbook Volume One: English Ayres. Dowland’s song texts set mostly anonymous poetry, but in recent memory Anthony Rooley has proposed that some of the poetry set by Dowland may be attributed to Robert Devereaux, the famous Earl of Essex, adding an interesting angle to the broad story of Elizabeth melancholy.

The three lute solos featured on our album are all drawn from a single manuscript source: Cambridge University Library Add. MS. 3056, formerly known as the Cosens Lute Book. The manuscript includes several well-known solos from the golden age of English lute music, but each piece is given a unique twist one way or another.

The version of Dowland’s famous “Frogg galliard” (lute solo version of the song, “Now O now I needs must part”) bears idiosyncratic yet appealing decoration. The untitled Fantasia attributed to Dowland is a veritable discourse on the famous “Lachrimæ” theme and the many ways it may be woven into the fabric of a free-standing fantasia. John Danyel’s “Rosa” is an instrumental setting of his brother Samuel’s 1592 poem "The Complaint of Rosamond," which illuminates the legend of Rosamund Clifford and her unhappy dalliance with King Henry II. The tolling of the death knell in the third section of the pavan says it all.

A word about interpretation:

From the beginning of our work as a duo specializing in music for voice and lute, we have followed a very different interpretive path from most performers in the genre. Our interpretations delve deeply into the meaning of the language—and the clever bits hidden in the music—in an effort to attain a level of performance that honors the original context and performing style of each and every song.

As working musicians, we understand from an insider's perspective that the published scores of the repertory of English lute songs represent only a starting place, and that 17th-century musicians would never have been bound by the constraints of our modern pitch reference (A=440 Hz) with the resulting chirruping sounds when performed without judicial adjustment. It is well-understood today that historical lutes were larger, strings were thicker, and reference pitches were generally lower. The evidence indicates that most of Dowland's solo songs were intended to be sung in the tenor range with the octave transposition implied. We make use of different lutes tuned to gentler pitches in order to adjust the range of the song for optimal communication of the text, as we are certain was done originally.

A Tribute

Our recording of English lute songs is dedicated to the memory of Edward Doughtie (1935-2014), Professor of English Literature at Rice University and a specialist who possessed a broad and deep knowledge of the poetical texts from which the songs of Dowland and his contemporaries were drawn.

In his iconic Lyrics from English Airs, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1970 — in near-constant use in our household — Doughtie traced with conciseness and clarity the evolution of the unique marriage of words and music that became known as the Golden Age of English lute songs.

Ed was generous with his knowledge of the sources, context, and meaning of English lyrics, and our interpretations have benefited tremendously from our many conversations on the subject. His influence on our approach to the texts of English lute songs was at first through his essential publications but was later reinforced through a very active correspondence and culminated in his contribution of an essay published in the booklet of our 2013 recording John Dowland: A Pilgrimes Solace.

Ed kindly expressed his appreciation for our interpretive insights, and he even composed a new lute song for us. He clarified many textual details that bridge the vast chasm that lies between simply performing a song and completely inhabiting the emotional context of a piece, and he is with us in spirit whenever we perform English lute songs.

We are honored to have been bequeathed his notes and annotated copies of facsimiles from his indispensable research on English lute songs.


released April 10, 2021

Recorded 2020 at The Lava Room in Beachwood, OH; Engineer, Chris Ebbert.

Lutes by Sandi Harris & Stephen Barber (1,7); Richard Fletcher (5, 11, 15); Nico van der Waals (all remaining tracks).

Performing editions & recordings ©2015-2021, Ron Andrico & Donna Stewart, Mignarda Editions

Special thanks to Jean Toombs and Glen Yasharian for their generous loan of lutes.


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Mignarda Cleveland Heights, Ohio

Mignarda specializes in thoughtful programming illuminating the vibrant mingling of renaissance music & poetry. Noted for awakening modern audiences to an appreciation for historical music, their work encompasses concertizing, teaching & recording, with 17 critically-acclaimed CDs, a series of 16 music editions, scholarly articles, reviews and the internationally-popular blog, Unquiet Thoughts. ... more

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