The bella (John Taverner)

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  • (Posted 2023-01-23)  CPDL #72375:     
Editor: Jason Smart (submitted 2023-01-23).   Score information: A4, 12 pages, 273 kB   Copyright: CC BY NC ND
Edition notes: Edited from the 'xx songes' of 1530 and the 'Drexel fragments' of c.1515 and completed editorially: for more information see the critical commentary. Original pitch and note values retained. Two missing lines of the poem have been reinvented editorially (NB: I might change my mind about these).

General Information

Title: The bella
Composer: John Taverner
Number of voices: 4vv   Voicings: SSST or SAAT
Genre: SecularPartsong

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

First published: Earliest MS c. 1515.
Description: This is an attempt to complete a song by Taverner that has survived in a seriously incomplete state. Fortunately, some missing notes can be restored from those that survive. Additionally it seems that Taverner's verses consisted substantially of duets, so that the losses are not quite as bad as at first appears.

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

The bell-a, the bell-a, we maidens beareth the bell-a.

We be maidens fair and free:
Come near, young men, behold and see
How pretty and proper now that we be,
So comely under kell-a.
The bell-a, the bell-a...

We be maidens fair and gent
With eyes grey and brows bent.
We be come for this intent,
Our selves now for to sell-a.
The bell-a, the bell-a...

[Two lines missing]
Assay you then none of their spice,
For it will make your belly to swell-a.
The bell-a, the bell-a...

Sister, look that ye be not forlorn,
For then every man will laugh you to scorn
And say, 'Kytt hath got a clap under a thorn.'
Alack, where shall we then dwell-a?
The bell-a, the bell-a...