Come Again: Lute Songs of John Dowland and his Contemporaries

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In Stile Moderno

Agnes Coakley Cox, soprano
Sophie Michaux, alto
Corey Dalton Hart, tenor
Adam Jacob Simon, bass
Nathaniel Cox, lute

Beloved and lesser-known lute songs by John Dowland and his contemporaries take on a new dimension in this program of for four-voice ensemble and lute. In Stile Moderno brings to life the poetry of Elizabethan England with the original pronunciation of the time. Otherwise unheard rhymes and puns jump to the ear and a refreshingly direct and earthy timbre colors the language, while Dowland’s virtuosic contrapuntal writing is showcased by the lute and four-voice texture. Join us around the table for a feast of whimsical, melancholy and touching music.

Historical Notes

John Dowland was born in 1563, one year before William Shakespeare, and by the 1580s was making his mark on the musical life of London as a lutenist and composer. Although we cannot trace his early career precisely, we know that he participated in musical events at the court of Elizabeth I, and that at least one of his songs was performed for the Queen by one of her favorite singers, Robert Hales. However, Dowland was not appointed English court lutenist until the end of his career (under James I); rather, he spent much of his life in continental Europe. He was the highly prized court lutenist for Christian IV of Denmark, and he traveled in Germany, France, and Italy. Many influences from the rapidly changing world of European music are present in his compositions, which are at once cosmopolitan and extremely English. In spite of his many court engagements in Denmark, Dowland was able to return to England frequently enough to become a successful publisher of his own music. It was with his four books of songs (or “airs”) that he reached his largest audience, with the Firste Booke (1597) reprinted a remarkable four times. This collection remains well-known today, and unsurprisingly so, as the songs included are a veritable hit parade: each seemingly more catchy than the last, with a crowd-pleasing mix of styles. In the way he brought together elements of madrigals, consort songs, broadside ballads, and dance music, it’s no overstatement to say that Dowland created the genre of the English lute song.

Dowland’s other important innovation was the table book—the layout in which he published all his songs. In contrast to the established tradition of part-books, where every singer or player has a separate book, Dowland printed all the parts in a single book, facing in different directions, so that the book could be laid on a table and the performers grouped around it. Not only was this easier and cheaper than printing part-books, it also lent itself well to various kinds of performances at home. Any of the songs could be performed as a solo with lute (the melody line and lute tablature are printed together on the left-hand page), or as a part-song using some or all of the lower parts on the right-hand page, either sung or played by viols. In other words, whatever combination of voices and instruments you had at home, you could buy Mr. Dowland’s book and enjoy it.

Tonight’s program includes a selection of songs from Dowland’s Firste Booke and several songs from his other collections, as well as music by a few of his contemporaries, with which we hope to flesh out the musical world of early seventeenth-century England. The other composers we will feature include Thomas Campion, the most prolific composer of lute songs after Dowland, as well as a poet and writer of masques; John Coperario (or Cooper), a viol player and composer whose collection Funeral Teares (1606) was written in memory of Charles Blount, Earl of Devonshire; and the largely forgotten composers John Bartlet and Robert Jones. While the last two can be seen as riding on Dowland’s coattails with their volumes of lute songs, they nevertheless left several memorable works. We also include one anonymous song from the Turpyn Lute Book, a manuscript of lute songs and solo music copied ca. 1600–1625.

Performance Notes

The seed of tonight’s concert was planted about five years ago, when I first saw the YouTube video—then going viral—of linguist David Crystal and his son, actor Ben Crystal, standing in the Globe Theater in London and talking about Original Pronunciation, the historical pronunciation of English from Shakespeare’s time. Ben’s recitation of Sonnet 116 (“Let me not to marriage of true minds admit impediments…”) in historical pronunciation was galvanizing. Familiar, famous words suddenly sounded completely different. Rhymes emerged where there had been none (“loved” and “proved”; “come” and “doom”), the rhythm of the language sped up, and instead of correct and elevated, the language sounded earthy and direct. I knew immediately that I wanted to apply this pronunciation to singing, and the obvious composer to choose was John Dowland, Shakespeare’s contemporary, and a composer whose songs I had known well for years. Since then, historical pronunciation has made several appearances in the concerts of In Stile Moderno, but tonight is the first time that we have used it with a group of singers—an experience that has illuminated the challenges and rewards of this practice further.

Not content with one historical performance practice challenge, we have also decided to go all in and use facsimiles of the original printed music: historical notation, lack of bar-lines, and all! I am very grateful to Sophie, Corey, and Adam for being both willing to experiment with these practices and open to the new possibilities they bring up. As Adam put it very well, reading from the facsimile “forces you to let go a little, relax, open your ears and listen to the textures unfold.”

Performing Dowland’s songs as a four-part vocal ensemble is far from the “correct” or “only” way to experience them—as we’ve mentioned, part of Dowland’s genius is that his songs work equally well in different configurations—but we’ve found it to be one of the most fun ways. Dowland’s songs offer a myriad of characters, from the polyphony of “In this trembling shadow” to the rhetoric of “Rest a while” and the dancing lightness of “Can she excuse my wrongs,” but all have a level of complexity beneath the surface that is brought out in the four-voice texture. Listen especially for the acrobatics of the tenor and alto voices in the faster tunes —easier to execute on a viol, but much less entertaining!

Although we easily could have put together an entire concert from only Dowland’s songs, or even from his Firste Booke alone, we have decided to include some lesser-known composers, whose publications we explored during a week at Avaloch Farm Music Institute. Bartlet’s bizarre love story “Unto a fly” seemed to pair especially well with Dowland’s equally strange “It was a time when silly bees could speak.” In a small excursion to the realm of sacred music, Campion’s beloved song “Never weather-beaten sail” comes together with two of our favorites from Dowland’s sacred works. You will also hear a few solos and duets through the evening. Though early-seventeenth-century London seems a world away, we hope you’ll find there is something timeless and powerful about gathering together around a table to put words to music. As Dowland writes in the preface to his Firste Booke: “…yet far higher authoritie and power hath been very worthily attributed to that kind of Musicke, which to the sweetnesse of instrument applies the lively voice of man, expressing some worthy sentence or excellent Poeme.”

— Agnes Coakley Cox


Can she excuse my wrongs – John Dowland (1563–1626)

Come again – Dowland

All ye whom love or fortune – Dowland

If my complaints – Dowland

A fancy – Dowland

Sorrow, stay – Dowland

My joy is dead – John Coperario (1570–1626)

Lie down, poor heart – Robert Jones (c. 1577–1617)

Unto a fly transformed – John Bartlet (fl. 1606–1610)

This merry pleasant spring – Anon. (Turpyn Lute Book, ca. 1610)

It was a time when silly bees – Dowland

Never weather-beaten sail – Thomas Campion (1567–1620)

In this trembling shadow – Dowland

Weep you no more – Dowland

Solus cum sola – Dowland

Lady, if you so spite me – Dowland

Shall I strive with words to move – Dowland

Rest a while, you cruel cares – Dowland

Awake, sweet love – Dowland

Now, O now, I needs must part – Dowland


Can she excuse my wrongs with virtue’s cloak?
Shall I call her good when she proves unkind?
Are those clear fires which vanish into smoke?
Must I praise the leaves where no fruit I find?

No, no: where shadows do for bodies stand,
Thou may’st be abused if thy sight be dim.
Cold love is like to words written on sand,
Or to bubbles which on the water swim.

Wilt thou be thus abused still,
Seeing that she will right thee never?
If thou canst not overcome her will,
Thy love will be thus fruitless ever.

Was I so base, that I might not aspire
Unto those high joys which she holds from me?
As they are high, so high is my desire:

If she this deny, what can granted be?
If she will yield to that which reason is,
It is reason’s will that Love should be just.
Dear, make me happy still by granting this,
Or cut off delays if that I die must.

Better a thousand times to die,
Then for to live thus still tormented:
Dear, but remember, it was I
Who for thy sake did die contented.

Come again! sweet love doth now invite
Thy graces that refrain
To do me due delight,
To see, to hear, to touch, to kiss, to die,
With thee again in sweetest sympathy.

Gentle love, draw forth thy wounding dart,
Thou canst not pierce her heart,
For I that do approve,
By sighs and tears more hot than are thy shafts,
Did tempt while she for triumph laughs.

Come again! that I may cease to mourn
Through thy unkind disdain;
For now left and forlorn
I sit, I sigh, I weep, I faint, I die,
In deadly pain and endless misery.

All ye whom love or fortune hath betrayed,
All ye that dream of bliss, but live in grief,
All ye whose hopes are ever more delayed,
All ye whose sighs or sickness wants relief:
Lend ears and tears to me, most hapless man,
That sings my sorrows like the dying swan.

If my complaints could passions move,
Or make Love see wherein I suffer wrong:
My passions were enough to prove,
That my despairs had governed me too long.

O Love, I live and die in thee,
Thy grief in my deep sighs still speaks:
Thy wounds do freshly bleed in me,
My heart for thy unkindness breaks:

Yet thou dost hope when I despair,
And when I hope, thou mak’st me hope in vain.
Thou sayst thou canst my harms repair,
Yet for redress, thou let’st me still complain.

Can Love be rich, and yet I want?
Is Love my judge, and yet am I condemned?
Thou plenty hast, yet me dost scant:
Thou made a god, and yet thy pow’r contemned.

That I do live, it is thy power:
That I desire it is thy worth:
If Love doth make men’s lives too sour,
Let me not love, nor live henceforth.

Die shall my hopes, but not my faith,
That you that of my fall may hearers be
May here despair, which truly saith,
I was more true to Love than Love to me.

Sorrow, sorrow, stay, lend true repentant teares
To a woefull wretched wight,
Hence, dispaire with thy tormenting fears:
O doe not my poore heart affright.

Pity, pity, pity, help now or never;
Mark me not to endless pain,
Alas I am condemned ever.

No hope, no help there doth remain,
But down, down, down I fall,
And arise I never shall.

My joy is dead and cannot be revived,
Fled is my joy and never may return.
Both of my joy and of my self deprived,
Far from all joy, I sing and singing mourn.
O let no tender heart or gentle ear
Partake my passions or my plainings hear.

Lie down poor heart and die a while for grief,
Think not this world will ever do thee good.
Fortune forewarns thou look to thy relief,
And sorrow sucks upon thy living blood.

Then this is all can help thee of this hell,
Lie down and die, and then thou shalt do well.

Day gives his light but to thy labour’s toil,
And night her rest but to thy weary bones,
Thy fairest fortune follows with a foil,
And laughing ends but with their after groans.
And this is all can help thee of this hell,
Lie down and die, and then thou shalt do well.

Patience doth pine and pity ease no pain,
Time wears the thoughts, but nothing helps the mind.
Dead and alive, alive and dead again,
These are the fits that thou art like to find.
And this is all can help thee of thy hell,
Lie down and die, and then thou shalt do well.

Unto a fly transformed from humankind
Methought I ranged on a sunshine day,
When for to ease my sad afflicted mind,
Upon my mistress ’robe I gan to play.
At length I mounted up her dainty breast,
From whence I sought my solace and my rest.

Yet not content with these aspiring toys,
Changing my seat into her curled hair,
By seeking to increase my new-found joys,
I turned my sweet applause to sudden fears.
For chancing on her eyes of flame and fire,
I burnt my wings whereby I did aspire.

Thus falling to the ground in my decay,
With mournful buzzings craving her relief,
Methought she moude with ruth my heavy lay,
And crushed me with her foot to end my grief.
And lo, the silly wretch doth lie,
Whose end was such because he flew so high.

This merry pleasant spring, hark, how the sweet birds sing,
And warble in the copse and on the briers.
Jug jug jug jug jug! The nightingale delivers.
Yet, yet, yet, yet, the sparrow sings his hot desires;
The robin doth record; the lark, he quivers.
O sweet, sweet as ever; from strains so sweet, sweet birds deprive us never.

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 favor 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,
Th’art bound to serve the time, the time not thee.

Never weather-beaten sail more willing bent to shore.
Never tired pilgrim’s limbs affected slumber more,
Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast:
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest.
Ever blooming are the joys of Heaven’s high Paradise.

Cold age deafs not there our ears nor vapour dims our eyes:
Glory there the sun outshines, whose beams the blessed only see:
O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to thee!

In this trembling shadow, cast
From those boughs which thy winds shake,
Far from humane troubles placed,
Songs to the Lord would I make,
Darkness from my mind then take,
For thy rites none may begin,
Till they feel thy light within.

Weep you no more, sad fountains;
What need you flow so fast?
Look how the snowy mountains
Heaven’s sun doth gently waste.

But my sun’s heavenly eyes
View not your weeping,
That now lie sleeping
Softly, now softly lies sleeping.

Sleep is a reconciling,
A rest that peace begets.
Doth not the sun rise smiling
When fair at even he sets?

Rest you then, rest, sad eyes,
Melt not in weeping
While she lies sleeping
Softly, now softly lies sleeping.

Lady, if you so spite me,
Wherefore do you so oft kiss and delight me?
Sure that my hart oppressed and overcloyed,
May break thus overjoyed,
If you seek to spill me,
Come kiss me sweet and kill me,
So shall your hart be eased,
And I shall rest content and die well pleased.

Shall I strive with words to move, when deeds receive not due regard?
Shall I speak, and neither please, nor be freely heard?
Grief, alas, though all in vain, her restless anguish must reveal:

She alone my wound shall know, though she will not heale.
All woes have end, though a while delayed, our patience proving.
Oh that Time’s strange effects could but make her loving.

Storms calm at last, and why may not she leave off her frowning?
Oh sweet Love, help her hands, my affection crowning.
I wooed her, I loved her, and none but her admire.
O come dear joy, and answer my desire.

Rest awhile, you cruel cares,
Be not more severe than love.
Beauty kills and beauty spares,
And sweet smiles sad sighs remove.

Laura, fair queen of my delight,
Come grant me love in love’s despite,
And if I ever fail to honour thee,
Let this heav’nly light I see
Be as dark as hell to me.

If I speak, my words want weight,
Am I mute, my heart doth break,
If I sigh, she fears deceit,
Sorrow then for me must speak.

Cruel unkind, with favour view
The wound that first was made by you,
And if my torments ever feigned be,
Let this heav’nly light I see
Be as dark as hell to me.

Awake, sweet love, thou art return’d:
My heart, which long in absence mourn’d,
Lives now in perfect joy.

Let love, which never absent dies,
Now live for ever in her eyes,
Whence came my first annoy.

Only herself hath seemed fair:
She only I could love,
She only drave me to despair,
When she unkind did prove.

Despair did she make me wish to die;
That I my joys might end:
She only, which did make me fly,
My state may now amend.

If she esteem thee now aught worth,
She will not grieve thy love henceforth,
Which so despair hath prov’d.

Despair hath proved now in me,
That love will not unconstant be,
Though long in vain I lov’d.

If she at last reward thy love,
And all thy harms repair,
Thy happiness will sweeter prove,
Rais’d up from deep despair.

And if that now thou welcome be,
When thou with her dost meet,
She all this while but play’d with thee,
To make thy joys more sweet.

Now, O, now, I needs must part,
Parting though I absent mourn.
Absence can no joy impart,
Joy, once fled, cannot return.

While I live I needs must love,
Love lives not when hope is gone:
Now, at last, despair doth prove,
Love divided loveth none.

Sad despair doth drive me hence,
This despair unkindness sends.
If that parting be offence,
It is she which then offends!

Dear, when from thee I am gone,
Gone are all my joys at once.
I loved thee and thee alone,
In whose love I joyed once.

And, although your sight I leave,
Sight wherein my joys do lie,
‘Till that Death do sense bereave,
Never shall affection die.

Sad despair…

About the Performers

In Stile Moderno was founded by Agnes Coakley and Nathaniel Cox in 2012, when they were both students at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland. Named after the “modern style” of music which emerged in Italy around 1600, the ensemble is dedicated to music of the seventeenth century, and combines fidelity to historical performance practice with a drive to make early music accessible and relevant to modern audiences. Both as a lute and voice duo and in larger formations with cornetto, organ, voice, and plucked instruments, In Stile Moderno has charmed audiences with their engaging performances of seventeenth-century music in Boston, Vermont, and New York, as well as in concert series in Switzerland, Germany, and France. Recent appearances include the Boston Early Music Festival Fringe and the Kindred Spirits Arts series in Milford, PA. Visit us online and join our mailing list at, and follow us on facebook at


Agnes Coakley Cox is a specialist in the performance of early Baroque music. Based in Boston, Agnes is a sought-after choral singer and soloist and has sung with ensembles including the Choir of the Church of the Advent, The Thirteen, Seven Times Salt, the Boston Camerata, the Washington Bach Consort, and the Schola Cantorum of Boston. Her desire to bring early music to life has led Agnes to become an expert in the historical performance practice of singing, and she actively applies historical gesture, pronunciation, and ornamentation to her performances. Agnes teaches voice privately and at Wellesley High School. An enthusiastic pedagogue, she loves making vocal technique and musicianship accessible and rewarding for all ages.  After graduating summa cum laude in Music at Yale, Agnes studied voice, historical performance practice, and pedagogy at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis in Basel, Switzerland, where her teacher and mentor was Evelyn Tubb. When she is not singing, Agnes can be found baking, knitting, or spotting turtles along the Mystic River.

Mezzo-soprano Sophie Michaux was born in London and raised in the French Alps. Now based in Boston, she is recognized as a particularly versatile singer, performing as a soloist in a wide variety of genres from Opera to French Cabaret songs. She was noted as a “warm and colorful mezzo” (Opera News) and as “a study in color.…Michaux’s expressive quality and variety is remarkable” (Arts Impulse). She made her Boston Symphony Orchestra solo debut in 2019 in Puccini’s Suor Angelica, under the direction of Andris Nelsons. On stage, her roles include Ceres in the Boston Early Music Festival’s production of Lalande’s chamber opera Les Fontaines de Versailles, and the title role in Handel’s Rinaldo (Boston Opera Collaborative), for which she was nominated Best Female Performer in an Opera for the 2015 ArtsImpulse Theatre Awards. Sophie is active in oratorio, ensemble and chamber music and has collaborated with Blue Heron, A Far Cry, and Palaver Strings. She is a core member of the Lorelei Ensemble, Boston’s critically-acclaimed women’s vocal ensemble. She was scheduled to perform a solo recital at the Fondazione Giorgio Cini in Venice, Italy, in March 2020. (We don’t know the status of this endeavor.) Sophie belongs to Beyond Artists, a coalition of artists that donates a percentage of their concert fees to organizations they care about. Through her performances, she supports The Ocean Clean Up, (Climate Change), and Give Directly, an organization that sends money directly to people living in extreme poverty. In her spare time, she likes to play the accordion, and she enjoys hiking, cooking, and spending time in cafés around the Cambridge and Somerville area!

Corey Dalton Hart, tenor, is an active performer of opera, oratorio, and song repertoire as well as an eager chamber musician. With a passion for American song, he is a regular recitalist along the east coast, having premiered new works in both New York City and Boston. Corey’s opera credits include works by Mozart, Bizet, Ravel, and Knussen. On the concert stage, he has been a featured soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Bard Baroque Ensemble, and The Orchestra Now. As a chamber musician, Corey performs with the Boston Baroque Ensemble, Renaissance Men, The Ashmont Bach Project, and the renowned choir at the Church of the Advent. He was also recently named an American Scholar of VOCES8, one of the world’s most versatile vocal ensembles. Corey holds degrees from Furman University and the Bard College Conservatory of Music and is currently working on his doctor of musical arts degree in vocal performance and pedagogy from the New England Conservatory of Music. When Corey is not singing, you might find him in search of the best Indian food in town, dominating (or not) a local trivia game, or making informal music with his not-twin but look-alike brother.

Adam Jacob Simon is a composer and singer active in the Boston area. He has enjoyed many recent performances and commissions from nationally acclaimed ensembles including A Far Cry, Lorelei Ensemble, Conspirare, Seraphic Fire, Palaver Strings, WordSong Boston, and the Oriana Consort. As a vocal soloist, he has recently performed the tenor solos in Mozart’s Mass in C Minor with the Onion River Chorus in Montpelier, Vermont; in Boston, he has performed the tenor Evangelist in Arvo Pärt’s “Passio” and the baritone in Duruflé’s Requiem with the Trinity Church Choirs, where he serves as a staff singer. His voice is described as having a “wonderful romantic lyricism” and “reassuring warmth” – Times Argus (Vermont). He is an avid folk music singer as well, performing frequently with the world folk ensemble Culomba and the Vermont-based vocal ensemble Northern Harmony, traveling widely in Europe, South Africa and the U.S. Adam is currently pursuing a master’s degree in composition at Tufts University, studying with Boston composer John McDonald. He completed his undergraduate studies in composition and piano at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying composition with Howard Frazin, and music theory with Judy Ross. Reach Adam at

Nathaniel Cox enjoys a varied career as a multi-instrumental early music specialist. After earning bachelor’s degrees in trumpet performance and Russian literature from Oberlin College and Conservatory, Nathaniel was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study cornetto with Bruce Dickey at the Schola Cantorum in Basel, Switzerland. While in Basel, he also taught himself to play theorbo, and was quickly in high demand as a continuo player. Since moving back to the United States in 2014, he has performed with some of North America’s leading early music ensembles, including Apollo’s Fire, The Toronto Consort, Ensemble Caprice, Bach Collegium San Diego, and the Dark Horse Consort. He is now based in Boston where he appears regularly with such groups as Les Enfants d’Orphée, The Boston Camerata, Ensemble Origo, Sarasa Chamber Ensemble, and Seven Times Salt, among many others. He has performed many times at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including a solo recital as part of their exhibit “Valentin de Boulogne: Beyond Caravaggio.” Nathaniel teaches cornetto privately and at the Amherst Early Music Festival.

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