She never will say no

Thomas Campian (o Campion; 12 febbraio 1567-1620): I care not for these ladies, da A Booke of Ayres (1601). Alfred Deller, haute-contre; Desmond Dupré, liuto.

I care not for these ladies
That must be wooed and prayed:
Give me kind Amaryllis,
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 Amaryllis,
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 nut-brown 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 Amaryllis,
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.

Campian - I care not


Lady Greensleeves e Mistress Ford

Anonimo inglese della seconda metà del Cinquecento: Greensleeves. Alfred Deller, haute-contre; Desmond Dupré, liuto.
L’interpretazione di Deller e Dupré ci dà modo di ascoltare la più antica versione conosciuta della melodia e, insieme, alcune strofe tratte dalla prima edizione nota del testo, una raccolta del 1584 intitolata A Handful of Pleasant Delites. Ecco il testo completo (le parti in corsivo sono omesse da Deller):

Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously,
For I have loved you well and long,
Delighting in your company.

Greensleeves was all my joy
Greensleeves was my delight,
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but my lady Greensleeves.

I have been ready at your hand,
To grant whatever you would crave;
I have both waged life and land,
Your love and good-will for to have.

I bought three kerchers to thy head,
That were wrought fine and gallantly;
I kept them both at board and bed,
Which cost my purse well-favour’dly.

I bought thee petticoats of the best,
The cloth so fine as fine might be:
I gave thee jewels for thy chest;
And all this cost I spent on thee.

Thy smock of silk both fair and white,
With gold embroidered gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of sendall right;
And this I bought thee gladly.

Thy girdle of gold so red,
With pearls bedecked sumptously,
The like no other lasses had;
And yet you do not love me!

Thy purse, and eke thy gay gilt knives,
Thy pin-case, gallant to the eye;
No better wore the burgess’ wives;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

Thy gown was of the grassy green,
The sleeves of satin hanging by;
Which made thee be our harvest queen;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

Thy garters fringed with the gold,
And silver aglets hanging by;
Which made thee blithe for to behold;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

My gayest gelding thee I gave,
To ride wherever liked thee;
No lady ever was so brave;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

My men were clothed all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

They set thee up, they took thee down,
They served thee with humility;
Thy foot might not once touch the ground;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

For every morning, when thou rose,
I sent thee dainties, orderly,
To cheer thy stomach from all woes;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
But still thou hadst it readily,
Thy music still to play and sing;
And yet thou wouldst not love me!

And who did pay for all this gear,
That thou didst spend when pleased thee?
Even I that am rejected here,
And thou disdainst to love me!

Well! I will pray to God on high,
That thou my constancy mayst see,
And that, yet once before I die,
Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me!

Greensleeves, now farewell! Adieu!
God I pray to prosper thee!

For I am still thy lover true;
Come once again and love me!


Da una ristampa, datata 1878, di A Handful of Pleasant Delites

In una antologia di «musica scespiriana», Greensleeves non può mancare: la canzone della bella signora dalle maniche verdi è infatti menzionata nella commedia The Merry Wives of Windsor (scritta forse tra il 1599 e il 1601, ma tradizionalmente la si fa risalire al 1597). La trama è nota: il panciuto cavaliere John Falstaff tenta maldestramente di sedurre due signore, Mistress Ford e Mistress Page, sposate a ricchi borghesi di Windsor (nel Berkshire); sir John, trovandosi a corto di quattrini, spera così di mettere le mani sui loro averi, ma è subito smascherato e cade vittima di alcune perfide burle ordite dalle due donne.
Quando l’imbroglio viene scoperto, questo è il commento di Mistress Ford (atto II, scena 1ª):

I shall think the worse of fat men, as long as I have an eye to make difference of men’s liking: and yet he would not swear; praised women’s modesty; and gave such orderly and well-behaved reproof to all uncomeliness, that I would have sworn his disposition would have gone to the truth of his words; but they do no more adhere and keep place together than the Hundredth Psalm to the tune of Green Sleeves.

È vero, Greensleeves non va d’accordo con il centesimo salmo: ma è un impedimento di carattere puramente metrico – i versi («Acclamate il Signore, voi tutti della terra»; nella versione della Great Bible, 1539: «O be joyful in the Lord, all ye lands») non combaciano affatto con la melodia – e non una sorta di divieto morale. L’adattamento di un testo sacro a una melodia profana («travestimento spirituale») non ha mai costituito un problema, e del resto abbiamo già visto (qui) che, nel corso della sua storia pluricentenaria, la stessa Greensleeves ha prestato la propria melodia a un canto religioso (e non solo).

L’ultima burla ai danni di Falstaff ha luogo nella foresta di Windsor, dove egli viene invitato a recarsi, vestito da cacciatore, per un incontro amoroso (atto V, scena 5ª). «Sir John!», lo apostrofa Mistress Ford, «Art thou there, my deer? my male deer?»; Falstaff risponde affermando che nemmeno una «tempesta di amorose provocazioni», fra le quali la melodia di Greensleeves, riuscirà a distoglierlo da lei:

My doe with the black scut! Let the sky rain potatoes; let it thunder to the tune of Green Sleeves, hail kissing-comfits and snow eringoes; let there come a tempest of provocation, I will shelter me here.

Per chi fosse interessato, l’elenco degli articoli in cui ho trattato l’argomento Greensleeves si trova qui.


2016, anno scespiriano

Al concludersi dell’anno del Bardo, desidero dedicare l’insieme dei miei scritti sull’argomento «musica e Shakespeare» a tutti coloro che hanno avuto la pazienza e la voglia di leggerli, e in particolare a Barbara e al suo infinito amore per il teatro.

I will give my love an apple

Anonimo: I will give my love an apple, «a folk song from Dorset». Alfred Deller, haute-contre; Desmond Dupré, liuto.

I will give my love an apple without e’er a core,
I will give my love a house without e’er a door,
I will give my love a palace wherein she may be,
And she may unlock it without any key.

My head is the apple without e’er a core,
My mind is the house without e’er a door.
My heart is the palace wherein she may be
And she may unlock it without any key.

Dolce Kate

Robert Jones (c1577-1617): Sweet Kate, da A Musicall Dreame, or the Fourth Booke of Ayres (1609). Alfred e Mark Deller, controtenori; Desmond Dupré, liuto.

Sweet Kate
Of late
Ran away and left me plaining
I cried,
«Or I die with thy disdaining.»
«Tehehe» quoth she,
«Gladly would I see
Any man to die with loving.
Never any yet
Died of such a fit;
Neither have I fear of proving.»

I find
thy delight is in tormenting:
I cried,
«Or I die with thy consenting.»
«Tehehe» quoth she,
«Make no fool of me!
Men I know have oaths of pleasure;
But their hopes attain’d,
they bewray they feign’d,
And their hopes are kept at leisure.»

Her words,
Like swords,
Cut my sorry heart to sunder
Her flouts
With doubts
Kept my heart’s affections under.
«Tehehe» quoth she,
«What a fool is he
Stands in awe of once denying»
Cause I had enough
To become more rough;
So I did. O happy trying!

Robert Jones - Sweet Kate

Something rich and strange

Due canzoni di Ariele nella Tempesta di William Shakespeare (1610-11):
Full fathom five (atto I, scena 2a)
Where the bee sucks (atto V, scena 1a)
La musica è di Robert Johnson (c1583-1633), il quale compose questi brani appositamente per la rappresentazione del dramma shakespeariano. Canta Alfred Deller, accompagnato al liuto da Desmond Dupré.

Full fathom five thy father lies,
Of his bones are coral made,
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them:
Ding-dong, bell.

Where the bee sucks, there suck I.
In a cowslip’s bell I lie.
There I couch when owls do cry.
On the bat’s back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.


William Shakespeare
* aprile 1564
† 23 aprile 1616

Il vento e la pioggia

Anonimo (sec. XVI-XVII): When that I was, canzone di Feste che conclude La dodicesima notte di William Shakespeare (1599-1601). Alfred Deller, haute-contre.

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
  With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
  For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man’s estate,
‘Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate.

But when I came, alas!, to wive,
By swaggering I could never thrive.

[But when I came unto my beds,
With toss-pots still had drunken heads.]

A great while ago the world begun,
  With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
  And we’ll strive to please you every day.


William Shakespeare
* aprile 1564
† 23 aprile 1616

Che cos’è dunque l’amore, se non tormento?

Philip Rosseter (1567 o 1568 – 5 maggio 1623): What then is love but mourning, ayre (1601). Alfred Deller, haute-contre, e Desmond Dupré, liuto (Parigi, 16 dicembre 1972).

What then is love but mourning,
What desire but a selfburning,
Till she that hates doth love return,
Thus will I mourn,
Thus will I sing,
Come away, come away my darling.

Beauty is but a blooming,
Youth in his glory entombing,
Time hath a while which none can stay,
Then come away,
While thus I sing,
Come away, come away my darling.

Summer in winter fadeth,
Gloomy night heav’nly light shadeth,
Like to the mourn are Venus’ flowers,
Such are her hours,
Then will I sing,
Come away, come away my darling.