Friday, 23 January 2009

Red Byrd sings Purcell & co.

Red Byrd consists of songsters John Potter and Richard Wistreich, violinists Sharon Lindo and Naomi Rogers, guitarist Robin Jeffrey, and Jon Banks on cembalo. Last night they were in the Mozart Saal at the Vienna Konzerthaus as part of the annual Resonanzen week. 17th century songs and poems addressing this year's themes of love, lust and damnation were on the musical menu.


As Amoret and Thirsis lay;
Melting the hours in gentle play;
Joyning Faces; mingling Kisses,
And exchanging harmless Blisses:
He trembling cry'd with eager hast;
Let me Feed; oh! as well as Tast;
I die if I'm not wholly Blest.

(William Congreve 1670-1729)


When Celia was learning on the Spinnet to play,
her Tutor stood by her to show her the way,
She shook not the Note, which anger'd him much,
And made him cry Zounds! 'tis a long prick'd Note you touch,
Surpriz'd was the Lady to hear him complain,
And said I will shake it when I come to't again.

John Isham (1680-1726)

and Damnation

Poor Celia once was very fair,
A quick bewitching Eye she had;
Most neatly look'd her braided Hair,
Her dainty Cheek would make you mad;
Upon her Lips did all the Graces play
And on her Breasts ten Thousand Cupids lay.

Then many a doting Lover came
From Seventeen till Twenty one;
Each told her of his mighty flame,
But She, forsooth, affected none:
One was not Handsome, th'other was not Fine;
this of Tobacco smelt, and that of Wine.

But t'other day it was my fate
To walk along that way alone;
I saw no Coach before her gate,
But at her door I heard her moan:
She dropped a Tear, and sighing seemed to say,
Young Ladies, Marry, Marry while you may.

(Roger Hill 16??-1674)

and bardic bacchanalia from Henry Purcell -

Since the pox or the plague of inconstancy reigns
In most of the women o' the town,
What ridiculous fop would trouble his brains,
To make the lewd devils lie down.
No more in dull rhyme, or some heavier strain,
Will I of the jades or their jilting complain,
My court I will make to things more divine;
The pleasures of friendship, freedom and wine.
We'll Venus adore for a goddess no more,
No more we'll adore; that old Lady whore.
But Bacchus we'll court, who doth drinking support;
Let the world sink or swim,
Sirrah! fill to the brim!

Bacchus is a pow'r divine,
For he no sooner fills my head
with mighty wine, but all my cares resign,
And droop, then sink down dead.
Then the pleasing thoughts begin,
And I in riches flow, at least I fancy so.

And without thought of want I sing,
Stretch'd on the earth, my head all around
With flowers weav'd into a garland crown'd
Then I begin to live,
And scorn of what the world can show or give.

Let the brave fools that fondly think of honour
And delight to make a noise and fight,
Go seek out war, whilst I seek peace and drink.
Then fill my glass, fill it high,
Some perhaps think it fit to fall and die,
But when the bottles rang'd make war with me,
The fighting fools shall see, when I am sunk,
The diff'rence to lie dead, and lie dead drunk.

(Henry Purcell 1659-1695)


  1. I love these poems! Many years ago I used to sing and play in an Early Music Group (playing virginals, records etc.) When you are looking for stuff to perform it is amazing how much bawdy stuff there was in the 16th and 17th centuries. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand don't have the monopoly on it - but it was certainly a bit more poetic in those days (though no more subtle, I would say)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Weaver, I decided to delete the above reply which was about the nature of a conversation involving Nell Gwyn. The basic thrust, if I can put it that way, is that human nature in this field is basically unchanged.


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