Dowland – 2 – Fine Knacks For Ladies


AG: Connected to that (“Weep You No More Sad Fountains“)  is (John Dowland‘s) “Fine Knacks  For (The) Ladies“.  (one page before, page 111)

[At approximately sixty-one minutes in (and concluding at approximately  sixty-two-and-three-quarter minutes in) , Allen plays a recording of  John Dowland’s  “Fine Knacks For Ladies” – (“Though all my wares be trash, the heart is true” – “Sing it to Andy Warhol!” – “the orient’st pearl we find” – “orient’st”)

Fine knacks for ladies, cheap, choice, brave and new!
Good pennyworths – but money cannot prove.
I keep a fair but for the fair to view.
A beggar may be liberal of love.
Though all my wares be trash, the heart is true,
The heart is true.

Great gifts are guiles and look for gifts again;
My trifles come as treasures from my mind,
It is a precious jewel to be plain,
Sometimes in shell the orient’st pearl we find,
Of others take a sheaf, of me a grain.
Of me a grain.

Within this pack pins, points, laces and gloves,
And divers toys fitting a country fair,
But in my heart, where duty serves and loves,
Turtles and twins, court’s brood, a heavenly pair
Happy the heart that thinks of no removes!
Of no removes.

 [At approximately sixty-two-and-three-quarter minutes in (by way of contrast) AG suggests – “Do you want go back and hear that “..Sad Fountains..” one more time?” – AG lines up Campion recording – ” I was digging syllables here too” – “Well”,  (at approximately sixty-seven minutes), “the last note was great”, – “So that goes to “Fine Knacks..”..”There’s another version of “Fine Knacks..”, Do you want to hear it?” –
AG plays a second sprightly version of “Fine Knacks..”]

Here is Alfred Deller‘s version

AG: That’s a  tenor, male tenor, a lute, (and bass-viol).  One other great tune I’d like to play. The same song done..done (by) another group …the..(choral)…

That’s a totally different arrangement. I gather that the original was done for four parts and they’re interchangeable. Yeah?

Student: I’m really curious about the “Weep You No More Sad Fountains“, if the poet wrote the piece with music in mind because.. the music just does not seem to get the words at all.

AG: Well, who wrote this? Does anybody know who wrote the words? (that’s listed in our anthology as “Anonymous”, but it’s obviously a song) – And the music is by Dowland, right?
(It’s) of the time.  I think what seems unfitting..  While I was listening to that I was thinking that the modern renditions don’t sound like the great John Dowland going around with a lute from court to court in Europe singing these words. I thought he had some other muscle, or vigor, or spring in his voice, and in his time too. That was my guess.

[AG turns to Student (Pat)] Do you anything about (this)…? These modern versions are..

Student (Pat) : They do tend to attempt a fidelity to what they considera scholarly fidelity, and to reduce everything to the least common denominator, so..

AG: Yeah, there’s something a little obnoxious about the pronunciation and the style’s very (old)..

Student (Pat): Some of the words…

AG: I mean, compared to, compared to, say, (Basil) Bunting’s voice on those, the arty-ness of the.. (Bunting’s true artfulness).. the arty-ness of these renditions are academic-sounding.  Still, they give you the notes. That’s what I’m interested in.
But, sure, it was meant to sing.

Student: So, when they, when they repeat those lines at the ends of those poems, does that come with the musical arrangements or is that because of the..

AG: It’s just like (Bob Dylan“The answer my friend is blowing in the wind, the answer is blowing in the wind” – “It’s blowing in the wind”. It’s a repeat, a refrain, that’s called the refrain. And they can improvise.

Student: I was wondering if it was on the page like that?

AG: Oh, probably. I don’t know. I don’t have the music here. It probably was..The music might be in the Elizabethan (to) find.. what was that? “Weep You No More, Sad Fountain“? – There are a a couple of books here.

Student [looking through the book]: It doesn’t look like it was written by Anonymous. Anonymous is not here..

Student: Allen, it’s interesting because Celia Zukofsky, when she does a lot of (Louis) Zukofsky‘s poems to music does them in round form like that with the voice…

AG: Uh-huh, Four-part?

Student; Yeaj, I’d never understood it until…

AG: Yeah, well, they’re going back to this era, this time. This is a.. I think it was ..the title given at the time was The First Booke of Songs or Ayres of Foure Parts (“Ayres”, I think, meaning a mode, or key, actually, in that sense)

Student: It doesn’t have it as mode here..

AG: Well, it does, when I was looking it up in the dictionary. And it has, in the original. “Ayre” also would be a mode – The First Booke of Songs or Ayres of Four Parts with Tableture For The Lute..” (so that, so made), that all the parts together or each of them separately may be sung to the lute, Orpherion or viola da gamba“)  – And then, in this case, I guess, they took all four parts and just put it to voice for that version. Dowland’s original, and left out the..

The question there was whether the refrains were repeated? in the original?
Student:  (And) “lies/Sleeping”, “lies/Sleeping”.
AG: You’re talking about “Fine Knacks..”?
Student: Well, the last line doesn’t follow the poetic line. She (He) repeats it one more time. I was a little curious..
Student: “That now lies sleeping” “That now lies sleeping”
AG: Just once (there)
Student: Oh, yes AG: Okay, Our time is up.

To conclude with two distinct renditions. Here‘s the eminent British tenor (Benjamin Britten‘s companion) Peter Pears and lutenist Julian Bream (from 1959)

and the rock star Sting (from his 2006 album, Songs from the Labyrinth)

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at the end of the tape]

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