O dear life (William Byrd)

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Editor: David Fraser (added 2002-11-08).   Score information: A4, 5 pages, 84 kbytes   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: Revised May 2006 (complete re-edit from original printed source). Verses 2 & 3 underlaid by the editor

General Information

Title: O Dear Life
Composer: William Byrd

Number of voices: 5vv  Voicing: ATTBarB
Genre: Secular, Madrigals

Language: English
Instruments: a cappella
Published: Songs of Sundrie Natures (1589), no.33

Description: A setting of a poem by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86): the first three stanzas of the Tenth Song from Astrophel and Stella. The piece clearly originates as a consort song for high voice and four viols, though no source of this version is now known.

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

O Dear life, when may it be,
that mine eyes thine eyes may see,
And in them my mind discover,
Whether absence hath had force,
Thy remembrance to divorce,
From the Image of thy lover.

O, if I my self find not,
though my parting aught forgot
Nor debarred from beauty’s treasure
Let no tongue aspire to tell
In what high Joys I shall dwell,
Only thought aims at the pleasure.

Thought therefore I will send thee
To take up the place for me,
Long I will not after tarry,
There unseen thou mayst be bold
These fair wonders to behold,
Which in them my hopes do carry.