Poets, Bards, and Singers of Song

Owain Phyfe

 1. ... Special Province ... (0:17)
 2. Ja Nus Hons Pris (4:29)
 3. Fa La La Lan (3:26)
 4. Worldes Blis (2:05)
 5. El Rey De Francia (6:28)
 6. L'Amor Dona Ch'io Te Porto (2:37)
 7. O Che Diletto (3:20)
 8. My Fate (3:45)
 9. Pucelete (1:52)
10. Una Matika (4:47)
11. Mes Pas Semez (3:38)
12. Alle, Psallite Cum Luya (1:21)
13. A Health To The Company (5:23)


Twilight gave way to the realm of shadows and a domain governed by word-
paintings and music.  Soft upward flames swirled together with the ascending
voice of a singer.  From across space and time the strange ancient poetry,
completely foreign to me, was somehow as familiar as if mother-spoken.  The
mystery of this paradox was short-lived.  I had, within the mirror of a song,
found a portrait of the aspirations of my own beating heart.

Cast of Players:

Owain Phyfe - Vocals, Chitarra Battente
Judy Plester - Violin
Sasha Raykov - Bass Viola de Gamba, Recorders, Percussion, Guitar
Terry Herald - Arch Guitar, Vihuela, Lute, Classical Guitar, Cello
Kiri Tolaksen - Corneto
Alice Lenaghan - Baroque Flute
Ceci Webster - Harp
Dave Holt - Bass
Terence McKinney - Illan Pipes
Rio Blue - Percussion
Glenn Schultz - Gypsy Guitar
Chorus: Bocca Musica: JJ Ryan, Kevin Starnes, Deanna Doubler, Delores Reyes, Angie Touchette

Track: 1  

Title: ... Special Province ... (prose introduction)

Track: 2  

Title: Ja Nus Hons Pris

Richard the Lion Heart, 12th Century

In the tradition of the song of the troubadour warrior-poet, Ja Nus Hons Pris records the Austrian
captivity of its author, England's crusading King Richard I, a.k.a.: The Lion-Heart, Duke of Aquitaine.
The poem dates from 1194 C.E., composed in ancient French.  King Richard didn't speak English.

My friend and fellow musician, Malcolm Smith, the late New World Renaissance Band fiddler, recommended
for many a year, that I add it to my reperetoire.  I am indebted for his advice.

Ja nus hons pris ne dira sa raison
adroitement, se dolantement non;
mes par confort puet il fere chancon.
moult ai amis, mes povre sont li don;
honte en avront, se por ma reancon
sui ces deus yvers pris.

Ce sevent bien mi honme et mi baron,
Englois, Normant, Poitevin et Gascon,
que je n'avoie si povre compaignon,
cui je laissasse por avoir en prixon.
Je nei di pas por nule retracon,
mes encor sui ge pris.

English translation:

No prisoner ever tells his story objectively;
rather, it is cloaked in sorrow.
To comfort himself, however,
he may write a song:
I have many friends, but their gifts are few.
Dishonor will be theirs if I remain in prison
these two winters; my ransom unpaid.

My men and my barons,
from England, Normandy, Poitou, and Gascony,
know that I would never forsake
even the least of my friends.
I do no say this as a reproach.
Still... I remain a prisoner.

Track: 3  

Title: Fa La La Lan

Anon., 15 Century, Lyrics attributed to Juan Del Encina

Although the melody's author remains anonymous, the poetry of Fa la la lan, (Spanish) written around
1500 C.E., is attributed to one of my favorite creators of Renaissance songs, Juan del Encina.  In this song,
Juan records the musings of an optimistic everyday shepherd boy and his youthfully delusional imagination.

Fa la la lan, fa la, fa la la lera
fa la la lan, de la guarda riera

Cuando yo me vengo de guardo ganado,
Todos me lo dizen; Chico el desposado.
A la he', si soy con la hija de nostramo,
qu'esta sortijuela ella me la diera.

Alla  riba, en Vall de Roncales
tengo yo mi esca y mis pedernales,
y mi curroncito de ciervos ciervales
hago yo mi lumbre, sientiome doquiera.

Viene la Cuarresma, yo no como nada,
ni como sardina, ni cosa salada;
de cuanto yo quiero no se haze nada;
migas con azeite hazen me dentera.

English translation:

When I come down from tending the herd
everybody calls me `the newly-wed.'
I tell you, if I were with the bosses' daughter,
she would have been the one to give me this ring.

Up there in the Valley of Roncales,
I have my rations and my flints,
and my herd of deer.
I light my fire and I sit down wherever I like.

When Lent comes, I'm going to fast;
no sardines and no salt.
I'll get control of my desires.
Bread crumbs with oil will be all I want.

Track: 4  

Title: Worldes Blis

Anon., 13th Century, England

This 13th Century, Middle-English song, Worldes blis, presents a message of Medieval hopelessness
which, for me, serves, by contrast, to paint an even brighter picture of the Renaissance.  I have found its
enduring melodic beauty to ultimately contradict the despairing words within.

Worldes blis ne last no throwe;
it went and wit awey anon.
The langer that ich hit iknowe,
the lass ich finde pris tharon;
for al it is imeind mid care,
mid serwen and mid evel fare,
and atte laste povre and bare
it lat man, wan it ginth agon.
Al the blis this heer and thare
bilucth at ende weep and mon.

English translation:

Worldly bliss lasts but a moment;
it is here then it disappears.
The longer I experience it,
the less value I find in it.
For it is mingled with cares,
with sorrows, and with failures;
and in the end it leaves man poor and naked
when it departs.
All the bliss here and there
amounts, in the end, to weeping and moaning.

Track: 5  

Title: El Rey De Francia

Traditional Sephardic

The origins of El Rey De Francia, as with other Sephardic music, lie most likely in 13th or 14th
Century Andalusia with versions of this gentle erotic song having surfaced in countries all across
Mediterranean Europe and Turkey.  The poetry is Ladino.

The song was taught to me by Sasha Raykov during one of our long roadtrips south to Miami's Vizcaya
Renaissance Festival.  I am privileged to have Sasha, on bass viola de gamba, perform this piece with me
on this recording.

El Rey de Francia
Tres hijas tenia
La una lavrava
La otra cuzia

La mas chica de ellas
Bastidor hazia
Lavrando lavrando
Sueno le caia

Su madre que la via
Aharvar la queria
`No m'aharvex mi madre
Ni m'aharvariax

Un sueno me sonava
Bien y alegria'
`Sueno vos sonavax
Yo vo lo soltaria'

`M'apari a la puerta
Vide la luna entera
M'apari a la ventana
Vide la estrella Diana

M'apari al pozo
Vide un pilar d'oro
Con tres paxaricos
Picando el oro'

`La luna entera
Es la tu suegra
La estrella Diana
Es la tu cunada

Los tres paxaricos
Son tus cunadicos
Y el pilar d'oro
El hijo del Rey, tu novio

English translation:

The King of France
Had three daughters.
One of them embroidered.
Another one sewed.

The youngest daughter
Embroidered a tapestry.
Stitch, after stitch, after stitch,
She drifted into sleep.

Her mother, upon seeing this
Was prompted to wake her.
`Don't speak to me, mother.
Don't interrupt me now.

I am in the middle of a dream
So wonderful.'
`A dream?
I will interpret it for you.'

`I appeared at the door
And I saw the full moon.
I appeared at the window
And I saw the star of Diana.

I appeared at the well
And I saw a golden pillar
With three little birds
Pecking the gold.'

`The full moon
Is your mother-in-law (to be).
The star of Diana
Is your sister-in-law (to be).

The three little birds
Are your brothers-in-law (to be).
And the golden pillar
Is the son of the King, your
(future) husband.'

Track: 6  

Title: L'Amor Dona Ch'io Te Porto

Anon., 16th Century, Italian

A manuscript of the 16th Century Italian song, L'Amor, Dona, Ch'io Te Porto survives, designated as
#91 (of over 500), from the so-called Cancionero de Palacio (`Palace Songbook') at the royal palace in
Madrid, Spain.  The name of its composer, however, has been lost.

L'amor, dona, ch'io te porto
Volentier voria scoprire,
El mio affanno voria dire
Che per te pena soporto.

Io non so come ti posa
Descoprir l'ardente foco
Che me bruza fino al ossa
E non vede tempo e loco;
E che, haime, bruzo infocho
Senza aver alcun conforto.

Non me fido a mandar meso,
Per che temo esser gabato;
S'io te passo per apreso
Tu te volti in altro lato;
Chiusi son piu giorni stato
E son anche a pergior porto.

English translation:

The love, my lady, that I bear for you
I would willingly reveal;
the desire to tell of my love sickness
has left me breathless.

I know not how to
reveal to you the passions
that burn deep within me.
Mindless of time and place,
the fire inside of me
rages with no relief.

I dare not send word to you
for fear of being mocked,
for when I have come close to you,
you turn in another direction.
When I stay away for many days,
my love sickness only grows

Track: 7  

Title: O Che Diletto

Giovanni Gastoldi, 16th Century, Italian

I can imagine this 16th Century song, O Che Diletto, by Giovanni Gastoldi, being offered, like a bouquet of
flowers, up to the waiting embrace of a deserving young lady on her balcony in the warm, Italian, evening air.

O che diletto
M'ingombr'il petto
Mentr'io ti vagheggio.
Vorrei cent'occh'haver
Quand'io ti sto a veder.
Quel di ch'io non ti veggio
Per gran dolor mi manca il cor.
S'hor non vuoi dar mi duol,
Fa ch'io ti vegga o mio bel sol.

O che contento
Nel cor mi sento
Quand'io ti rimiro.
Perche mai sempre te
Veder non posso ohime:
Da te lontan sospiro,
Et al martir.
Ma fa morir
S'hor vivo mi vuoi tu
Da me non star lontana piu.

English translation:

Oh what delight fills me when I see you.
Would that I had one hundred eyes to look upon
you; for the day that I do not see you
leaves my heart in great sadness.
If you desire not to grieve me,
let me look upon you, my beautiful bright sun.

Oh, how happy my heart feels to admire you.
Alas, why must it be that I do not see you always.
From far away I yearn for you, in misery.
As I may die; if you now wish me to live,
do not stay away from me any longer.

Track: 8  

Title: My Fate

Poem by Abraham Cowley, set by William King, 17th Century, England

My Fate is one of the eighty-four love poems of Abraham Cowley, published in London, in 1647,
from his collection entitled The Mistress.  Cowley's book, which opened up to the masses, the heretofore
`secrets' of courtly love, became the rage of all London.  His contemporary, William King, set the
poem to music.  For proper artistic impact, I urge the listener to attend the playing of this song with a
parallel reading of the printed word. (3 of 5 verses)

Go bid the needle: his dear north forsake;
to which with trembling reverence, it doth bend.
Go bid the stones: a journey upwards make.
Go bid the ambitious flames: no more to ascend.
And, when these false to their own motions prove,
Then shall I cease, thee alone to love.

You, who men's fortunes in their faces read;
to find out mine, look not, alas, on me;
but mark her face and all the features heed;
for only there is writ my destiny.
Or, if stars show it, gaze not on the skies;
but study the astrology of her eyes.

If thou find there kind and propitious rays,
what Mars and Saturn threaten, I'll not fear.
Per chance the fate of mortal man
is writ in heaven, but O, my heaven is here.
What can men learn from stars they scarce can see.
Two great lights rule the world;
and her two, me.

Track: 9  

Title: Pucelete

Anon., 13th Century, French

This anonymously written 13th Century French song, Pucelete, is strangely attractive to me for its
odd angular style.  I encountered it while researching music from the time of Joan of Arc.  Although the
song was written perhaps some two hundred years before Joan lived, it continues, at least in name, to
remind me of her story.  She was referred to, quite simply, as La Pucelle (the Maid).  There is some speculation,
in fact, that, Joan's story being so out of the ordinary and difficult to explain, the French word
pucelle became the foundation for the English word puzzle.

Pucelete, bele et avenant
Joliete, polie et pleisant
La sadete que je desir tant
Mi fait lies, joli,
Envoisies et amant,
N'est en Mai einsi gai rousignolet chantant
S'amerai de cuer entierement
M'amiete la brunete jolietement.
Bele amie qui ma vie en vo baillie aves tenuetant,
Je vos cri merci en soupirant.

English translation:

Beautiful and gracious maiden,
so pretty, so courtly, so pleasing,
this charming one that I long for
makes me happy
festive and loving.
Even in May, no nightingale can sing so cheerfully.
I will love with my whole heart
my dark-haired, lovely companion.
My sweet one, who has long held my life in her
command, show me compassion, I cry, sighing.

Track: 10  

Title: Una Matika

Traditional Sephardic, Bosnia

Una Matika, also referred to as the wedding song, is from the Sephardic traditional repertoire,
rooted in pre-1500 Andalusia, with lyrics in the Spanish dialect known as Ladino.  The modern relevance
of this sensual melody is accentuated when the listener learns that the song comes to us from the
region known today as Bosnia.

Una matika de ruda,
una matika de flor,
me la dio un manseviko,
ke de mi s'enamoro.

Ija mia mi kerida,
no t'eches ala perdisiyon,
mas vale un mal marido,
ke mijor de nuevo amor.

Mal marido, el mi padre,
no ay mas maldisyon.
Nuevo amor, el mi padre,
la mansana i el limon.

English translation:

A sprig of rue,
a flowering sprig,
it was given to me by a young man
who has fallen in love with me.

My beloved daughter,
don't throw yourself to ruin,
even a bad husband is better
than the best of love elsewhere.

A bad husband, my father,
would be the greatest curse.
A new love, my father,
may prove to be like an apple... or like a lime.

Track: 11  

Title: Mes Pas Semez

Adrian Le Roy, 1555, France

From Spain to Italy, then north to France, the melodic form known as the Folia found its way to
publisher Adrian Le Roy.  In 1555, this haunting song, Mes Pas Semez was brought to print.  Like much
ancient music, it bears the name of its publisher rather than the name of its composer. (3 of 6 verses)

Mes pas semez et loing allez
Par divers solitaires lieux:
Sont de pensers entremellez,
Qui rendent humides mes yeux,
Et tant plus j'ay ma voix haucee,
Tant moins je me sens exaucee.
Et si ne scay quand j'aurais mieux.

Je n'ai tenu mes pas si chers,
Ny mon esprit tant andormy,
Que par montaignes et rochers
Je n'aye cherche mon amie:
L'oeil au guet, l'aureille ententive,
La parolle prompte et naisve,
Mais d'elle n'ay mot ne demy.

Respondant a plusieurs parleures,
Je n'en ay sceu trouver aucune,
Qui s'aprochast de tes valeurs:
Pour cela j'entretiens chacune,
C'est en attendant ta presence:
Car je suis en ferme constance,
Parler a touts, et n'aimer qu'une

English translation:

My scattered, aimless steps
Through so many lonely places
Are mingled with thoughts
That bring tears to my eyes,
And the more I called out
The less I feel I've been heard.
Yet, I don't know when I will have it better.

I have not held my steps so precious
Nor my spirit so numb
As through the barren mountains and rocks
Of the search for my beloved.
My eyes and ears are sharp,
My speech is quick and open,
But from my beloved, not so much as half a word

My reaction to others
Has been that there is no one
Who comes close to your value.
I am patient with all others;
but, it is for you that I wait.
So, in this I am resolved:
To respect all, but to love only one.

Track: 12  

Title: Alle, Psallite Cum Luya

Anon., 13th Century French Motet, Latin text

Alle, Psallite Cum Luya is one of the very few pieces of music from my repertoire that possesses religious
lyric, I choose to keep it for its remarkable combination of simplicity and grandeur.  The text is Latin.

Alle, Psallite cum luya;
Alle, concrepando psallite cum luya
Alle corde voto Deo toto psallite cum luya!

Track: 13  

Title: A Health To The Company

Traditional Irish

Many a modern day, North American, `Renaissance Festival' concludes at eventide with a singing of
the Irish, traditional A Health To The Company.  I learned the song from New World Renaissance Band
woodwind master, Bob Bielefeld; and, have since added some personal lyric.  The words inevitably
assume greater meaning with the passing of each year.

Here's a health to the company
and one to my lass.
Let us drink and be merry
all out of one glass.
Let us drink and be merry
all grief to refrain;
for we may or might never
all meet here again.

Kind friends and companions
come join in my rhyme;
and lift up your voices
in chorus with mine.
Let us drink and be merry
all grief to refrain;
for we may or might never
all meet here again.

Our ship lies at harbor;
she's ready to dock.
I wish her safe landing
without any shock.
And if ever we meet again
on land or on sea,
I will always remember
your kindness to me.

My footsteps may falter
my wit, it might fail.
My course may be challenged
by November gale.
E'er fortune shall prove
to be friend or be foe,
you will always be with me
wherever I go.

Recorded at: RGM Stidio, Oakland, MI

Cover art paintaing: Soul Love (1900) by Jean Deville (1867-1953),
Musee d'Ixelles, Brussels, Belgium

Photography: Judy Roberts, Photography Unlimited, Macomb, MI

Produced by Owain Phyfe

Assistant Producer: Terry Herald

Recording, Mixing, Assembly, Pre-Mastering and Mastering: Terry Herald

Artistic Consultant: Sasha Raykov

Arrangement Consultant: Terry Herald

Package Design: Owain Phyfe

Inspirational Muse: Lady Paula

Special Thanks: Jane Owen