Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

Haiku Wednesday: John Dowland, Cut-up


John Dowland

What can stay my thoughts?
Shall I straight yield to despair
Wherein I suffer?

Never may my woes
Be relieved, pity is fled,
Exiled forever.

Poor souls sigh and weep.
Who giveth all hath nothing;
My fortune is thrown.

Should I aggrieved then
In deadly pain and mis’ry
Still on sorrow feed?

Of all joys deprived,
Gone are all my joys at once.
Let me live forlorn.

Woeful wretched wight!
Love and I shall die together.
Let me living die.

Following upon Monday’s musical mash-up, I present today’s haiku cut-up. To craft today’s haiku, I printed out lines of John Dowland’s songs that have 5 or 7 syllables and cut them up so that I could rearrange them. [1]

Want to play along? I’ve set up a page with 5-syllable (plain) and 7-syllable (Italic) lines that you can cut out to make your own sigh-swoll’n despairful haiku. You can find it by hovering over the words More Useful Stuff at the top of the web page. Feel free to share your creations as a comment!

One could hardly call John Dowland a cut-up, or comedian, judging by his music. In fact his personal motto was Semper Dowland semper dolens [always Dowland, always Doleful]. His songs tend to be mournful affairs of love gone wrong or unrequited. And they’re wonderful.

My favorite recording of John Dowland’s songs is by British tenor Mark Padmore and Elizabeth Kenny (lute). The disk also includes Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal after John Dowland performed by Craig Ogden (guitar). Here is an article Padmore wrote on Dowland’s music.

Many artists have recorded Dowland songs, including, surprisingly, Sting and Elvis Costello.

Here is Dowland’s In Darkness Let Me Dwell performed by soprano Ellen Hargis with Jacob Heringman (lute) and Mary Springfels (viol).

1. This isn’t my first mash-up. Back in high school I recombined lines from the poetry of John Donne to retell the story of Hamlet from Hamlet’s perspective….hey, it was a small town, not much to do!


3 thoughts on “Haiku Wednesday: John Dowland, Cut-up

  1. Nice! Hard to imagine he was as depressive a character as his music suggests; but of course tragedy sells, as he knew very well. (“Dying is easy- comedy is hard”, right? Edmund Gwenn, as I recall). But I don’t actually know any jolly Dowland songs. (It’s pronounced “Douland,” of course, which makes his famous pun even neater). And as we all know, “die” has a double meaning for the Elizabethans (recall “Come again, sweet love doth now invite”). Lots of great Dowland recordings! Love to see the Donne/Hamlet mashup- super idea!



    • From what I’ve read, it sounds like he was more prickly than pensive. He took it poorly that his monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, didn’t snap him up as a court musician when a vacancy arose, and he felt under-appreciated. You’d think being an extravagantly paid lutenist at the court of Denmark’s Christian IV would have made up for it, yet he was fired from that position, apparently due to extended absences from the court.

      I was aware of the double meaning (as in Arcadelt’s “Il bianco e dolce cigno”) but chose to overlook it for the benefit of any younger readers.


  2. Of all joys deprived
    Tears, sighs, groans, my weary days . . .
    Come, O Sleep, come!

    Fits my sleep deprived week . . .

    Liked by 1 person

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