If women could be fair (William Byrd)

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  • (Posted 2004-06-28)  CPDL #07338:        (Sibelius 4)
Editor: David Fraser (submitted 2004-06-28).   Score information: A4, 4 pages, 98 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Revised August 08.

General Information

Title: If women could be fair
Composer: William Byrd

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

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

    Manuscript 1580 in Dow Partbooks, no. 93
First published: 1588 in Psalmes, Sonnets and Songs, no. 17

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

If women could be faire & never fond,
or that their beautie might continue still:
I would not mervaile though they made men bond,
by service long, to purchase their good will.
But when I see, how frail these cretures are:
I laugh, that men forget themselves so far.

To marke what choise they make, and how they change,
how leving best the worst they chose out stil:
And how like haggards wilde, about they range,
Skorning after reason to follow will.
Who would not shake such bussards from the fist,
& let them flie (faire fooles) which way they list.

Yet for our sport, wee fawne and flatter both,
To passe the time, when nothing else can please:
And traine them on to yeeld by subtill oath,
The sweet content, that gives such humour ease.
And then wee say, when wee their follies trie,
To play with fooles, Oh what a foole was I.

Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (1550-1604)