O you that hear this voice (William Byrd)

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  • (Posted 2022-11-11)  CPDL #71523:         
Editor: Allen Garvin (submitted 2022-11-11).   Score information: Letter, 3 pages, 76 kB   Copyright: CC BY NC
Edition notes: The first singing part has all verses.
  • (Posted 2003-06-30)  CPDL #05285:        (Sibelius 4)
Editor: David Fraser (submitted 2003-06-30).   Score information: A4, 5 pages, 302 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Revised Sept '22 (error correction, formatting).

General Information

Title: O you that hear this voice
Composer: William Byrd
Lyricist: Philip Sidney from Astrophel and Stella, the sixth song

Number of voices: 5vv   Voicing: SATTB
Genre: SecularPartsong

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1588 in Psalmes, Sonnets and Songs, no. 16

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

O You, that heare this voyce,
O you that see this face,
say whether of the choice,
may have the former place.
Who dare judge this debate,
that it be void of hate:

This side doth beautie take,
for that doth Musick speak,
fit Orators to make,
the strongest judgements weak.
The bar to plead their right,
is onely true delight.

Thus doth the voyce and face,
these gentle lawiers wage:
like loving brothers case,
for fathers heritage:
that each, while each contends,
it selfe to other lends.

For beautie beautifies,
with heavenly hew and grace,
the heavenly harmonies,
and in that faultlesse face,
the perfect beauties bee,
a perfect harmonie.

Musicke more loftie swells,
in phrases finely plac’d:
Beautie as farre excells,
in action aptly grac’d:
a friend each partie drawes,
to countenance his cause.

Love more affected seemes,
to beauties lovely light,
and wonder more esteemes,
of Musick wond’rous might,
but both to both so bent,
as both in both are spent.

Musicke doth witnesse call,
the eare his truth doth trye:
Beautie brings to the hall,
eye witnesse of the eye,
each in his object such,
as none exceptions touch.

The comon sense which might,
bee arbiter of this:
to bee forsooth upright,
to both sides parciall is:
he layes on this chiefe praise,
chiefe praise on that hee laies.

Then Reason, princesse hie,
which sits in throne of minde:
and Musicke can in Skye,
with hidden beauties finde,
say whether thou wilt crowne,
with limit lesse renowne.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86):
The Sixt Song from Astrophel and Stella