As I went to Walsingham: introduction and index to arrangements for lute by various composers

As I went to Walsingham: introduction and index to arrangements for lute by various composers A few days ago I was transcribing John Dowland’s lute piece A galliard on Walsingham and found that a number of his contemporaries had also arranged this piece for lute. This blog page will serve as an introduction and index to the transcriptions I have subsequently made.

The remains of Walsingham Abbey
(Photo from Visit Norfolk)


The song

The melody, in Am.

As I went to Walsingham was a simple 8-bar ballad referring to a popular pilgrimage site at Walsingham Abbey. The Abbey was destroyed in 1538 during the Reformation, so the song must have been composed well before then.

I have lifted the following brief quotation from Diana Poulton’s biography of Dowland:

The pilgrimages undertaken on pretence of religion, were often productive of affairs of gallantry, and led the votaries to no other shrine than that of Venus.

(Bishop Percy, 1765).

It is ostensibly a love song, in the spirit of the above quotation, but may also have had a hidden political meaning for recusant Catholics, who had to be very careful at this time.

The words (cut and pasted from www.canfolkmusic.ca):

As I went to Walsingham, to the shrine with speed,
Met I with a jolly palmer there, in a pilgrim’s weed.

“As you came from the holy-land of Walsingham,
Met you not with my true love by the way as you came?”

“How should I know your true love, that have met many a one,
As I came from the holy-land, that have come, that have gone?”

“She is neither white nor brown, but as the heavens fair;
There is none hath a form so divine, on the earth, in the air.”

“Such a one did I meet, good sir, with angel-like face,
Who like a queen did appear in her gait, in her grace.”

“She hath left me here all alone, all alone and unknown,
Who sometimes lov’d me as her life, and call’d me her own.”

“What’s the cause she hath left thee alone, and a new way doth take,
That sometime did love thee as her life, and her joy did thee make?”

“I loved her all my youth, but now am old, as you see;
Love liketh not the fallen fruit, nor the withered tree.

“For love is a careless child, and forgets promise past;
He is blind, he is deaf, when he list, and in faith never fast.

“For love is a great delight, and yet a trustless joy;
He is won with a word of despair, and is lost with a toy.

“Such is the love of womankind, or the word abus’d,
Under which many childish desires and conceits are excus’d.

“But love is a durable fire, in the mind ever burning;
Never sick, never dead, never cold, from itself never turning.”

(Diana Poulton wrote that the exact text of the song is uncertain, but that there were derived versions by Sir Walter Ralegh, and printed by Thomas Deloney. I have done no further “research” than what you see here.)

You can download a pdf of the air in Gm and Am here… and the TablEdit file is here.

Arrangements for lute

The tune was adapted most famously by William Byrd for keyboard, but as stated above a number of other composers made arrangements, for lute, in the late 1500s. They often adhered closely to the melody at the beginning of their pieces, although notes 2 & 3 of the second and similar bars were frequently buried in the harmonies. They did not keep to the strict Aeolian mode of the melody, but sharpened the 7th of the scale in places, and ended on a chord of the tonic major – the tierce de Picardie. They would also modulate, for example into the relative major and into the tonic major too. They might also increase the length of all variations, or of the the final variation, from 8 to 12 bars.
At the end of each 4-bar line they often just wrote a single chord, which can sound a bit abrupt, and particularly on the ukulele which does sustain as long as the lute. Lute players seemed capable of extensive improvisation, and I imagine that they would play fill-ins wherever appropriate – we could try the same.

I will post the transcriptions over the coming days, and more if I find them. There are five alone in the Mathew Holmes Lute Book Dd.2.11. You can see high quality facsimilies of the Lute Books at the website of the Cambridge University Library. I found more information in English Lute Manuscripts and Scribes 1530-1630: book version of a doctoral dissertation by Julia Craig-McFeely, awarded by Oxford in 1993, available online here. As usual, I am grateful to individuals and organisations who make their work so accessible.


I think that you will find that the pieces are of varying quality and playability, but I will blog all the transcriptions that I make without fear or favour, but with a degree of ignorance. 

Click the active links below to go to the appropriate blog page. The codes for the Holmes MSS refer to the shelf numbers at Cambridge, and to the page numbers:

r = recto (front),
v = verso (back),
/number = item no. on page.

We need these to avoid confusion, with so many pieces having similar names (or no name), and with several versions by some composers.



Arrangements in Gm on the ukulele:

John Johnson (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.2.11 98r)
Francis Cutting (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.2.11 96r)
Francis Cutting (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.5.78.3 50v, 51r/1) [Having just transcribed this piece, without checking first, I find that it is almost identical to the previous version, and there is little point in posting it. Grrrrr!]
Anthony Holborne (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.5.78.3 12r)
Edward Collard  (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.5.78.3 96v, 97r/1)

Arrangements in Am on the ukulele:

Anonymous (from the Wickhambrook Lute Book (1592))
John Dowland (short) (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.2.11 82v/1)
John Dowland (short) (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.5.78.3 37r)
    (I have used the transcription by Poulton and Lamb made from the above two MS versions)
John Dowland (long) (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.9.33 67v, 68r)
John Marchant (short) (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.9.33 21r)
John Marchant (long) (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Dd.9.33 26v – 28r/1)

Arrangements in Dm on the ukulele

Anon (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Nn.6.36 19r)
Anon (Matthew Holmes Lute Books Nn.6.36 20v, 21r/1)

The is a whole book on the subject of Walsingham, should you want to follow it up:
Walsingham in Literature and Culture from the Middle Ages to Modernity.

Tags: #arrangements #composers #index #introduction #various #walsingham

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