12 and-a-halfth session: Wednesday 4th May

Eamon and I had an off-site session just to rehearse the John Dowland song In Darkness Let me Dwell. This was written to be played and sung by a lutenist (the composer himself), but is usually now not sung by the player. There is a consort version for viols too, as with his famous Lachrymae. With Eamon’s indulgence I will sing our version accompanied by a viol on the bass line supporting the lute. An advantage of adding a viol is that it is a very nice resonance to sing with, especially if you are wrapped around the thing as you sing. The song is extraordinary in its intensity and chromaticism; it took us a few passes to be sure we were playing the right notes (and to fix the ones that weren’t!) but it’s a real gothic gem. The poem is anonymous, about 1600, and Dowland’s setting from 1610.

In darkness let me dwell; the ground shall sorrow be,
The roof despair, to bar all cheerful light from me;
The walls of marble black, that moist’ned still shall weep;
My music, hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep.
Thus, wedded to my woes, and bedded in my tomb,
O let me living die, till death doth come, till death doth come.

IMG_6787Dowland is comemmorated locally with this mosaic in Sorrento Park,  being believed to have come from Dalkey.

  • Malachy 7/5/16
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3 thoughts on “12 and-a-halfth session: Wednesday 4th May

  1. ukuleledagamba

    I’m sure Dowland wrote the words himself. The first five lines are iambic hexameter but the last is a pentameter (leaving out the repeat). Who would write a poem that changes metre like that for the last line?

    The Earl of Essex Galliard (Can she excuse my wrongs) has got to be a case of words fitting an existing tune, which establishes a precedent.

    The version I have uses the subjunctive in the last line, which is more convincing:

    Till death do come.

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  2. malachyrobinson Post author

    Good point about the Essex Galliard, but according to my sources (wiki!) Darkness is included in the 1606 song collection “Funeral Teares” by John Coprario: “Its first stanza also served as the basis to a song ascribed to the lutenist and composer John Dowland.”
    The fact that there is a second verse which Dowland doesn’t use indicates that he didn’t write it (although he seems to have made the subjunctive change you mention – that’s the one I sing too). Maybe Coprario wrote it??

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