Can she excuse my wrongs?

This lute piece by John Dowland was the first Elizabethan song I recorded (for Hidden Gold). The lute part here was played by Dave Lambert, and the recorder quarter was played by Master Arden of Icomb (aka Paul Butler). Over time, I have learned to accompany myself on it, as shown below.

My research into and experience with this piece are discussed in the following A&S Journey blog entries:

  1. Overview, sources, and first experience: includes preparing and singing the piece at King’s & Queen’s Bardic Championships in 2014
  2. Analysis of the lyrics
  3. The lute arrangement: includes my first public lute performance (in a simplified arrangement, for King’s & Queen’s Bardic Champions in 2016 – YouTube here)

Performance for the Journeymen’s Concert in second Ethereal Bardic Symposium, January 2021
Can she excuse my wrongs?

Music by John Dowland, lyrics Anonymous
(song #5 from The Firste Booke of Songes or Ayres, 1597)

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 abus’d if thy sight be dimmed
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 cans’t not o’ercome her will
Thy love will be thus fruitless ever (2x)

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
Than for to live thus still tormented
Dear, but remember it was I
Who for thy sake did die contented (2x)


Facsimile of the 3rd Edition folio page for “Can she excuse?”


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