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

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.


  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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