What is our life? (Orlando Gibbons)

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  • (Posted 2012-05-12)  CPDL #26156:         
Editor: James Gibb (submitted 2012-05-12).   Score information: A4, 7 pages, 94 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Revised files uploaded 28/10/17.
  • (Posted 2006-02-28)  CPDL #11131:         
Editor: Brian Russell (submitted 2006-02-28).   Score information: A4, 8 pages, 73 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: NoteWorthy Composer file may be viewed and printed with NoteWorthy Composer Viewer.
  • (Posted 2005-11-26)  CPDL #10242:  Network.png
Editor: Vince M. Brennan (submitted 2005-11-26).   Score information: Letter, 11 pages, 114 kB   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: Copyright (c) 2004 by V. M. Brennan.
  • (Posted 2004-02-20)  CPDL #06752:  Network.png
Editor: John D. Smith (submitted 2004-02-20).   Score information: A4, 7 pages   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: Scores listed alphabetically by composer. All scores available in Scorch format, some are also available as PDF files.
  • (Posted 1999-03-15)  CPDL #00148:   
Editor: Gordon J. Callon (submitted 1999-03-15).   Score information: Letter, 12 pages, 652 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes:

General Information

Title: What is our life?
Composer: Orlando Gibbons
Lyricist: Walter Raleigh

Number of voices: 5vv   Voicing: SAATB
Genre: SecularMadrigal

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1612 in The First Set of Madrigals and Mottets, no. 14
    2nd published: 1900 in Ausgewählte Madrigale und mehrstimmige Gesänge , Book I, no. 6
    3rd published: 1982 in Das Chorwerk, no. 132.2
Description:  This five-part madrigal is Orlando Gibbons's setting of Sir Walter Raleigh's sonnet of the same title, a somber lament written while awaiting execution in the Tower of London. The resulting posthumous collaboration, a concise musical statement of great intensity and concentration, is one of the masterpieces of the English madrigal repertoire.

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

What is our life? A play of passion.
Our mirth the music of division.
Our mother's wombs the 'tiring houses be,
where we are dress'd for this short comedy.
Heav'n the judicious sharp spectator is,
that sits and marks still who doth act amiss.
Our graves, that hide us from the searching sun
are like drawn curtains when the play is done.
Thus march we, playing to our latest rest;
Only we die in earnest, that's no jest.