A Poem For Sunday

by Alice Quinn

8721020776_ebbe32e519_k

Many 16th and 17th Century English poets were also musicians—perhaps chief among them Thomas Campion (1567-1620). Campion’s ayres were often pirated before he could publish them himself, and in a note introducing a selection of them, he wryly addresses this issue, “To be brief, all these songs are mine, if you express them well; otherwise they are your own. Farewell.”

Peter Warlock, composer and scholar of Elizabethan music, felt Campion was “at his best in half serious songs” of “deliciously pretty tunes.” The jaunty one below is one of my favorites, from the Book of Ayres (1601).

“I Care Not for These Ladies” by Thomas Campion:

I care not for these ladies,
That must be wooed and prayed,
Give me kind Amarillis
The wanton country maid;
Nature art disdaineth,
Her beauty is her own;
Her when we court and kiss,
She cries, forsooth, let go.
But when we come where comfort is,
She never will say no.

If I love Amarillis,
She gives me fruit and flowers,
But if we love these ladies,
We must give golden showers,
Give them gold that sell love,
Give me the nutbrown lass,
Who when we court and kiss,
She cries, forsooth, let go.
But when we come where comfort is,
She never will say no.

These ladies must have pillows,
And beds by strangers wrought,
Give me a bower of willows,
Of moss and leaves unbought,
And fresh Amarillis,
With milk and honey fed,
Who, when we court and kiss,
She cries, forsooth, let go.
But when we come where comfort is,
She never will say no.

(Photo of an Amaryllis flower by Thangaraj Kumaravel)