The Lyrics of Henry VIII/Authors and Composers

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Lyrics  |  Manuscript  |  Authors and Composers
The Lyrics of Henry VIII
Appendix 1: Lyrics by Occasion/Theme  |  Appendix 2: Textual/Musical Witnesses  |  Appendix 3: Bibliography

Authors and Composers Represented in H, Beyond Henry VIII[edit]

In keeping with the large number of works found in the Henry VIII MS, there are a good number of composers (and authors) represented therein. Not all are native to England, and not all are known for their participation in the production of the early English lyric,[1] but several are both. What brings their work together in H is its connection to Henry’s court – some, as in the case of Henry’s contemporaries, via a direct presence in the activities that such lyrics would represent, and others via their work’s historic presence at court and/or in accordance with the court’s tastes influenced via interaction with the other courts of Europe, particularly (but by no means exclusively) the Burgundian court.

A generation of court composers working with the lyric that had not seen representation in the earlier Fayrfax MS (LFay; ca. 1500) have single examples of their work represented in H, excepting that manuscript’s namesake, Fayrfax[2] himself, who sees representation in both manuscripts; his “Svmwhat musyng” is present in H (120v-122r). Among this group are Richard Pygott (“QUid petis o fily” [H 112v-116r]), an occasional member of the Chapel Royal who rose from being a boy singer in Wolsey’s chapel to the position of master of that chapel;[3] John Lloyd (“Deme the best of euery dowt” [H 79v]), a priest in the Chapel Royal ca. 1505 and, by 1510, a gentleman of the Chapel;[4] Henry Rysby (“Whoso that wyll hym selff applye” [H 27v-28r]), a clerk at Eton ca. 1506-8;[5] and William Daggere, who is represented by his work “Downbery down” (H 25r).

The largest group of lyrics in H is provided by the king himself, who is the best represented contributor with fifteen lyrics of more than one line of text, followed by that of William Cornish (nine), Thomas Farthyng (five), and Robert Cooper (three).[6] Of Henry, much is already known, but other figures having a large place in H are less well known.

Cooper (ca. 1474 - ca. 1535-40), who is noted as Doctor in H,[7] received that title from Cambridge in 1507. Along with Farthing, he was a clerk at King’s College, Cambridge (1493-5) and may have associations there with Cornish as well.[8] After his ordination in 1498, Cooper was appointed rector of the chapel of Snodhill, Herefordshire (1498-1514) and of Lydiard Tregoz, Gloucestershire (1499-1513).[9] While his extant works are few, they demonstrate a close allegiance with the life of the court and familiarity with the works of the king. Cooper’s “I haue bene a foster” (H 65v-66r) suggests acquaintance with materials found in the Ritson MS (LRit), for it strongly echoes (textually and musically) the burden of the unattributed lyric “y haue ben a foster long and meney day” in that manuscript (53v); the matter of his own forester lyric receives answer in H in the unattributed “I am a joly foster” (H 69v-71r). Moreover, the setting he provides to “In youth and age” (Twenty Songes, #2) accompanies a text that echoes some concerns expressed in Henry’s own lyrics; as well, Cooper may have also participated in the production of Rastell’s interlude of the Four Elements (ca. 1517) by providing “Tyme to pas with goodly sport,” a lyric that borrows its tune from Henry’s “Adew madam et ma mastress” (H 17v-18r).[10]

Farthing (d. 1520), whose ties with Cooper and Cornish may have begun through his association with King’s College, has an earlier association with King’s than either of the other two, having begun there as a chorister (1477-83) and later being a clerk (1493-9). From 1500 onward, he was associated with the household of Margaret Beaufort, Henry VIII’s grandmother. Responsible for the education of Henry as a child, Margaret had brought John Skelton into her employ ca. 1494.[11] Farthing’s “Aboffe all thynge” (H 24v) is related to the celebrations in 1511 surrounding the birth of a male child to Henry and Katherine, and his first recorded presence as a member of the Chapel Royal is at that child’s funeral several weeks later.[12]

Composers, musicians, and singing-men all, and for the most part associated with Henry’s personal chapel, Cooper, Farthing and the others participated in the cultural life of the court as the professionals they were, chiefly through performance and composition. Taken together, this group’s involvement with the lyric of the day may be seen to be chiefly musical; in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it must be assumed that they participated in lyrical production according to the patterns of the day, which suggest a separation for the most part of the tasks of verse and musical composition.[13] There are, however, two exceptions to this pattern of operation, and these are the prominent figures of Henry VIII and Cornish.

Of Cornish (ca. 1474-1523), there is a considerable amount to say, for his career sees him as poet, dramatist, revels organiser, participant, and deviser, composer, and performer. The most prominent member of a musical family with an often overlapping history that included the composer John (fl. ca. 1500) and the musician William (d. 1502),[14] Cornish made his earliest court appearance ca. 1493-4, when he offered a prophecy to the court and participated, in the role of St. George, in Twelfth Night revels.[15] He became a member of the Henry VII’s Chapel Royal in 1494[16] and by ca. 1495, and certainly no later than ca. 1502, he was setting to music texts written by Skelton.[17] By 1504, he is known to have authored a poetic work for which he would become known, like Skelton, as a satirical poet; Stow, in his Annales, mentions him as such (488) for his rhymes that address Richard Empson, which include that found in his “A Treatis bitwene Trowthe and enformacon” (1504) and his later “A Balade of Empson” (ca. 1510).[18]

Cornish also devised pageants and disguisings for the celebrations surrounding the marriage of Prince Arthur and Katherine of Aragon (1501),[19] provided the setting for a carol during the Christmas season of 1502,[20] and by 1509 was Master of the Children for Henry VIII’s Chapel Royal. From the middle of the first decade of the sixteenth century he was the major driving force behind the players of the Chapel Royal, acting in many of their productions, and by 1514-16 he was devising revels at court in association with Henry Guildford.[21] Of those many entertainments with which he was associated, it is thought that he provided the song “Yow and I and amyas” (H 45v-46r) to accompany the Schatew Vert pageant of 5 March 1522 which, along with Henry Guildford and Richard Gibson, he likely helped organise;[22] he did author an interlude, played on Twelfth Night 1516, called Troylus and Pandor,[23] as well as the political play of 15 June 1522 which was intended to convey to Charles V the path of the negotiations for an alliance against the French into which he and Henry VIII would enter.[24]

Non-Native Authors and Composers[edit]

While there is significant (if not, at times, incomplete) attribution to English composers, the non-native authors and composers represented in the manuscript see no direct attribution whatsoever, nor do the texts of their works exist in more than incipit form. All told, this suggests that they exist at one step remove from the central focus of H.

Of non-native composers, those most strongly represented are working in the Franco-Flemish tradition. Among this group are Agricola, in his “Belle sur tautes” (H 99v-100r), in an equal tradition with attribution to Loyset Compère, in “La season” (H 47v-48r), and with others elsewhere; Jacob Barbireau, in “En frolyk weson” (H 6v-7r);[25] Antoine Busnois, in “Fortune esperee” (H 4v-5r);[26] Anthoine de Févin, after Ockeghem, in “Ffors solemant” (H 104v-105r); van Ghizeghem, in “Alles regretz uuidez dema presence” (H 5v-6r; with text by Jean II of Bourbon) and in “De tous bien plane” (H 40v-41r); Isaac, in “Benedictus” (H 3v-4r); and Prioris, in “Dulcis amica” (H 88v-89r), among non-textual works and possible others.[27]

Notes[edit]

  1. Among these are Dunstable (ca. 1390 - 1453), the influential English composer of the early fifteenth century (see 36v) and John Kempe, lay singer at Westminister Abbey and teacher of its choristers ca. 1501-9 (New Oxford History of Music 347; also E. Pine, 28), whose “Hey nowe nowe” is represented in H (21v).
  2. Fayrfax was a member of Chapel Royal from 1497 to his death in 1521.
  3. See Flood (34 ff.).
  4. He is recorded at the funeral of Prince Henry in 1511 as “Mr. John Lloid” with the other composers / gentlemen of the Chapel; see PRO LC Vol. 550 (170v) and Grove (11: 99).
  5. See the New Oxford History of Music (347).
  6. While each provides settings with their lyrics, and most are responsible for settings without accompanying text, it is their texts that are the chief focus of this work.
  7. His surname is prefixed by “D.” (66r, and elsewhere).
  8. Their works appear together in an inventory of pricksong books belonging to King’s College in 1529; see Harrison (iv).
  9. As well, the Archbishop of Canterbury granted Cooper in 1516 two benefices, that of East Horsley, Surrey and Latchington, Essex; he served as rector of Snargate, Kent from 1526 until his death ca. 1535-40. See Grove (5:14).
  10. See Grove (5:14-15) and Stevens (M&P 258, 430 #6, 456 #326).
  11. 1494 marks the beginnings of a large output of didactic works and translations by Skelton (covered in an article in progress by the author). A payment was given to “my lady the kinges moder poete” on 3-4 December 1497; refer to PRO E/101/414-16 and H. Edwards (Skelton 288); Henry VII gave Skelton a payment after attending Skelton’s mass (see PRO E/101/412-16 [November 11-16, 1498]; Nelson 71); as schoolmaster, Skelton received two payments in 1502 (PRO E/101/415-3; H. Edwards, Skelton 288-9). For a discussion of Skelton as Prince Henry’s chaplain in 1500, see Kinney (34). It may have been Fisher, Bishop of Rochester and chaplain and confessor to Margaret, who brought Skelton to her attention (H. Edwards, Skelton 56).
  12. PRO LC Vol. 550 (170v). In the same year, Henry also granted Farthing two manors in Northamptonshire for his service to Margaret Beaufort, as well as an annuity; see Grove (6:410) and the New Oxford History of Music (346-7).
  13. Cooper, for example, would provide the music for “Petyously constraynd am I” (LR58 19v), a text provided, likely, by Skelton; see Stevens (M&P 451, #261), the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature (1.410), and Henderson’s edition of Skelton’s works (19). For the details of such production, please refer to “Interpretative Provinces,” above.
  14. John, who has a piece in the Ritson MS (LRit; see Stevens M&P 338), may have been the father of Cornish, as some extant records suggest; alternatively, William may be the father of Cornish, as attribution of several works in the Fayrfax MS (LFay 64v, and others) to a William Cornish “iun” suggest. Grove (4.795-6) provides a good summary of the lives of the three, though that provided by Streitberger (Court Revels 50-3) is to be preferred for its detail and its weighing of the extant evidence. Details presented are, in part, drawn from these sources; see also the New Oxford History of Music (345) and Pine (19-20).
  15. He received payment for an unspecified service as “a Willmo Cornysshe de Rege,” (PRO E403/2558 [41v]). See Streitberger (Court Revels 51).
  16. An entry of 6 January 1494 refers to him as “oon of the kyngys Chappell” (London, Guildhall Library MS 3,313 [230r]).
  17. See, for example, “Manerly Margery Mylk and Ale,” dated ca. 1495 (Kinsman and Yonge 11, C37) and present in the Fayrfax MS (LFay) of several years later, set by Cornish (96v-99r). “Woffully araid” (Skelton, Garlande of Laurel ll. 1418-9; Kinsman and Yonge 32-3, L118; attributed to Skelton by Dyce, is also found in the Fayrfax MS (LFay) set once Cornish (63v-67r) and once by Browne (73v-77r). Others of Skelton’s works (certainly works in the Skeltonic tradition) are present in the Fayrfax MS (LFay); see Stevens (M&P 351 ff., notes).
  18. “A Treatis bitwene Trowthe and enformacon” (BL Harleian MS 43 [88r-91v], BL Royal MS 18.D.ii [163r-164r]) was written during Cornish’s imprisonment in 1504. His “A Balade of Empson” (London, Guildhall Library 3313 [320v-323v]), which begins “O myshchevous M, Fyrst syllable of thy name,” is found in the Great Chronicle of London; see Thomas and Thornley, eds. For a discussion of each, and their relation to Empson, see Anglo’s “William Cornish in a Play, Pageants, Prison, and Politics.”
  19. Cornish was paid £20 “for his iij pagenttes” (PRO E101/415/3 [72v]).
  20. PRO E36/210 (80).
  21. See Streitberger (Court Revels 53, 94-5) and Grove (4:795).
  22. See Streitberger (Court Revels 112-4), Anglo (“Evolution of the Early Tudor Disguising” 34), L&P Henry VIII (III[ii] 1558-9), PRO SP1/29 (228v-37r), and Hall (637).
  23. This is no longer extant; see Stevens (M&P 251; 263 n.65, 67), Anglo’s “William Cornish in a Play, Pageants, Prison, and Politics,” PRO E 36/229 (72r-82r), and Hall (583).
  24. See Streitberger (Court Revels 115), Anglo (“William Cornish” 357-60), L&P Henry VIII (III[ii] #2305), Cal. Spanish (II #437), Hall (641), and PRO SP1/24 (231v, 234r-6r); for Cornish’s entertainment for Charles V on 5 June, see Strietberger (Court Revels 114), Hall (637), and PRO SP1/24 (230v-3v).
  25. See Du Saar.
  26. See Catherine Brooks (“Busnois”).
  27. See BL. Add. (7-9), Hamm (64-6; esp. the list of critical works provided on 65), Stevens M&P (386 ff. and elsewhere), and Stevens MCH8, among others.


The Lyrics of Henry VIII
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