It was a time when silly bees could speake (John Dowland)

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  • (Posted 2016-11-05)  CPDL #41709:     
Editor: Sabine Cassola (submitted 2016-11-05).   Score information: A4, 2 pages, 72 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes:
  • (Posted 2011-08-07)  CPDL #24113:         
Editor: James Gibb (submitted 2011-08-07).   Score information: A4, 3 pages, 82 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Includes a keyboard reduction of the a cappella choral score. Revised files uploadeed 5/11/20.
  • (Posted 2011-04-24)  CPDL #23427:        (Sibelius 5)
Editor: Walker Boyle (submitted 2011-04-24).   Score information: Letter, 3 pages, 74 kB   Copyright: Public Domain
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  • (Posted 2008-05-07)  CPDL #16847:       
Editor: Brian Russell (submitted 2008-05-07).   Score information: A4, 27 pages   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: NoteWorthy Composer file may be viewed and printed with NoteWorthy Composer Viewer.
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General Information

Title: It was a time when silly Bees could speake
Composer: John Dowland
Lyricist: Robert Devereux , 2nd Earl of Essex

Number of voices: 4vv   Voicing: SATB
Genre: SecularMadrigal

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1603 in The Third and Last Booke of Songs or Aires, no. 18

Description:

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

It was a time when silly bees could speak,
And in that time I was a silly bee,
Who fed on time until my heart 'gan break,
Yet never found the time would favour me.
Of all the swarm I only did not thrive,
Yet brought I wax and honey to the hive.

Then thus I buzzed when time no sap would give:
Why should this blessed time to me be dry,
Sith by this time the lazy drone doth live,
The wasp, the worm, the gnat, the butterfly?
Mated with grief I kneeled on my knees,
And thus complained unto the king of bees:

My liege, gods grant thy time may never end,
And yet vouchsafe to hear my plaint of time,
Which fruitless flies have found to have a friend,
And I cast down when atomies do climb.
The king replied but thus: Peace, peevish bee,
Thou'rt bound to serve the time, the time not thee.

German.png German translation

Es gab eine Zeit, als einfältige Bienen sprechen konnten,
und zu der Zeit war ich eine einfältige Biene,
die sich von Thymian ernährte, bis mein Herz zu brechen begann,
doch niemals wollte das Schicksal mich begünstigen.
Als einziger des ganzen Schwarms hatte ich keinen Erfolg,
und ich brachte doch Wachs und Honig zum Stock.

Also summte ich, als der Thymian keinen Saft geben wollte:
warum sollte dieser gesegnete Thymian für mich versiegen,
während von ihm die faule Drohne lebt,
die Wespe, der Wurm, die Mücke, der Schmetterling?
Vom Kummer überkommen, kniete ich nieder,
und klagte also dem König der Bienen mein Leid:

Mein Herr, die Götter mögen gewähren, dass deine Zeit niemals endet,
doch mögt ihr gnädig euer Ohr meiner Klage über den Thymian leihen,
der die unnützen Fliegen begünstigt,
und ich liege darnieder, während Kleingeister aufsteigen.
Der König antwortete nur: Sei still, verdrossene Biene,
Du musst dem Lauf der Zeit dienen, nicht er dir.
Translation by Gerhard Weydt