What pleasure have great princes (William Byrd)

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  • (Posted 2022-11-12)  CPDL #71530:        (LilyPond)
Editor: Allen Garvin (submitted 2022-11-12).   Score information: Letter, 3 pages, 57 kB   Copyright: CC BY NC
Edition notes: All verses set for the first singing part.
  • (Posted 2004-12-07)  CPDL #08695:        (Sibelius 4)
Editor: David Fraser (submitted 2004-12-07).   Score information: A4, 3 pages, 93 kB   Copyright: CPDL
Edition notes: Revised Sept 08.

General Information

Title: What pleasure have great princes
Composer: William Byrd

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

Language: English
Instruments: A cappella

First published: 1588 in Psalmes, Sonnets and Songs, no. 19

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

What pleasure have great princes,
more daintie to their choice,
then heardmen wild, who carelesse,
in quiet life rejoyce,
& fortunes fate not fearing,
sing sweet, in Sommer morning.

Their dealings plaine and rightfull,
are voyde of all disceit:
they never know how spightfull,
it is to kneele and waite
on favorite presumptuous,
whose pride is vaine and sumptuous.

All day their flocks each tendeth,
at night they take their rest,
more quiet than who sendeth
his ship into the East,
where gold and pearle are plentie,
but getting very daintie.

For Lawiers and their pleading,
the’steeme it not a straw,
they think that honest meaning
is of it selfe a law,
where conscience judgeth plainely,
they spend no mony vainely.

O happie who thus liveth,
not caring much for gold,
with clothing which suffiseth,
too keepe him from the cold,
though poore and plaine his diet,
yet merrie it is and quiet.