Thomas Morley Poems

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Thomas Morley
Thomas Morley (1557 or 1558 October 1602) was an English composer, theorist, editor and organist of the Renaissance, and the foremost member of the English Madrigal School. He was the most famous composer of secular music in Elizabethan England, and the composer of the only surviving contemporary settings of verse by Shakespeare. Morley was born in Norwich, in East Anglia, the son of a brewer. Most likely he was a singer in the local cathedral from his boyhood, and he became master of choristers there in 1583. However, Morley evidently spent some time away from East Anglia, for he later referred to the great Elizabethan composer of sacred music, William Byrd, as his teacher; while the dates he studied with Byrd are not known, they were most likely in the early 1570s. In 1588 he received his bachelor's degree from Oxford, and shortly thereafter was employed as organist at St. Paul's in London. His young son died the following year. In 1588 Nicholas Yonge published his Musica transalpina, the collection of Italian madrigals fitted with English texts, which touched off the explosive and colorful vogue for madrigal composition in England. Morley evidently found his compositional direction at this time, and shortly afterwards began publishing his own collections of madrigals (11 in all). Morley lived for a time in the same parish as Shakespeare, and a connection between the two has been long speculated, though never proven. His famous setting of "It was a lover and his lass" from As You Like It has never been established as having been used in a performance of Shakespeare's play, though the possibility that it was is obvious. Morley was highly placed by the mid-1590s and would have had easy access to the theatrical community; certainly there was then, as there is now, a close connection between prominent actors and musicians. While Morley attempted to imitate the spirit of Byrd in some of his early sacred works, it was in the form of the madrigal that he made his principal contribution to music history. His work in the genre has remained in the repertory to the present day, and shows a wider variety of emotional color, form and technique than anything by other composers of the period. Usually his madrigals are light, quick-moving and easily singable, like his well-known "Now is the Month of Maying"; he took the aspects of Italian style that suited his personality and anglicised them. Other composers of the English Madrigal School, for instance Thomas Weelkes and John Wilbye, were to write madrigals in a more serious or sombre vein. In addition to his madrigals, Morley wrote instrumental music, including keyboard music (some of which has been preserved in the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book), and music for the uniquely English consort of two viols, flute, lute, cittern and bandora, notably as published in 1599 in The First Booke of Consort Lessons, made by diuers exquisite Authors, for six Instruments to play together, the Treble Lute, the Pandora, the Cittern, the Base-Violl, the Flute & Treble-Violl. Morley's Plaine and Easie Introduction to Practicall Musicke (published 1597) remained popular for almost two hundred years after its author's death, and remains an important reference for information about sixteenth century composition and performance.

in prison
 
 
Wearily, drearily,
Half the day long,
Flap the great banners
High over the stone;... [read poem]
the story of sigurd the volsung
 
 
But therewith the sun rose upward and lightened all the earth,
And the light flashed up to the ... [read poem]
iceland first seen
 
 
Lo from our loitering ship a new land at last to be seen;
Toothed rocks down the side of the fi... [read poem]
my death
 
 
If I'm lucky, I'll be wired every whichway
in a hospital bed. Tubes running into
my nose. ... [read poem]
the earthly paradise: apology
 
 
Of Heaven or Hell I have no power to sing,
I cannot ease the burden of your fears,
Or make... [read poem]
the voice of toil
 
 
I heard men saying, Leave hope and praying,
All days shall be as all have been;
To-day and... [read poem]
love is enough: songs i-ix
 
 
Love is enough: though the World be a-waning
And the woods have no voice but the voice of ... [read poem]
the eve of crecy
 
 
Gold on her head, and gold on her feet,
And gold where the hems of her kirtle meet,
And a ... [read poem]
the haystack in the floods
 
 
Had she come all the way for this,
To part at last without a kiss?
Yea, had she borne the ... [read poem]
shameful death
 
 
There were four of us about that bed;
The mass-priest knelt at the side,
I and his mot... [read poem]
on a fair morning as i came by the way
 
 
On a fair morning, as I came by the way,
Met I with a merry maid in the merry month of May,... [read poem]
a death song
 
 
What cometh here from west to east awending?
And who are these, the marchers stern and slow?... [read poem]
the earthly paradise: the lady of the land
 
 
The Argument


It happened once, some men of Italy
Midst the Greek Isla... [read poem]
sir giles' war-song
 
 
Ho! is there any will ride with me,
Sir Giles, le bon des barrières?... [read poem]
riding together
 
 
For many, many days together
The wind blew steady from the East;
For many days hot gre... [read poem]
the defence of guenevere
 
 
But, learning now that they would have her speak,
She threw her wet hair backward from her brow... [read poem]
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