Fair Phyllis

I often wonder if the musicians of today think that they are being very risque and modern about sex.  I wonder if they have any idea that in the 16th century the songs and madrigals of the day were very naughty indeed.  Most of it was tongue in cheek, but when you think about it, not a lot was hidden in the lyrics.

“Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone, feeding her flock upon the mountainside, the shepherds knew not whither she had gone, but after her lover Amyntas hied, and he wandered up and down, whilst she was missing,  and when he found her, then they fell a kissing,” *1

Now this may not seem to be as naughty as all that when it is put to you straight like that, but when in a 4 part madrigal with lines being repeated it ends up that:

“Then they fell a kissing and he wandered up and down, up and down he wandered, Kissing up and down  . . .”

Have you ever wondered why all the men and women in these songs are always dying?  They are not literally dying, they are just having sex and climaxing.

Dainty fine bird that art encaged there, Alas how like thine and my fortunes are. Both prisoners be, and both singing thus strive to please her that hath imprisoned us. Only thus we differ, thou and I, Thou liv’st singing, but I sing and die.” *2

Or they are just more that frolic in the meadows.

“Flora gave me fairest flowers, none so fair in Flora’s treasure, These I placed on Phyllis’ bowers, she was pleased and she my pleasure, Smiling meadows seem to say, Come ye wantons here to play.” *3

More sex and pleasure.  It seems that those Phyllises in the 16th century were getting very busy in the outdoors.

I am now thinking that I have my sex talks already planned when Aidan is a teenager.  I will use madrigals and Shakespeare to illustrate, hum, well maybe not.  This may need a little more time to germinate.  At least Aidan asked Anthony all about the box of tampons he read while in the bathroom the other day. I am not sure there are any appropriate madrigals to answer that one.

*1 John Farmer, “Fair Phyllis I Saw”

*2 Orlando Gibbons, “Dainty Fine Bird”

*3 John Wilbye, Flora Gave Me Fairest Flowers”

4 comments to Fair Phyllis

  • I had to chuckle reading this. My last brush with madrigals involved singing them in a boys’ washroom in my high school.

    As part of a quartet ensemble, we had performed a madrigal and our teacher immediately took us to the washroom to sing it again with more appreciative acoustics. This of course drew a crowd and soon we were pontificating on whatever the song was about to the sweet chimes of urinals flushing.

    True story.
    .-= Stephanie´s last blog ..A House is Not A Home =-.

  • LOVE madrigals. Favourite one “Four Arms, Two Necks” by Thomas Willks. Whenever we sang them in choir, our conductor would always remind us that the “fa la la”-ing was code for SEX. haha.

    Four arms, two necks, one wreathing
    Two pair of lips, one breathing.
    Fa la la la la la,
    Two hearts that multiply sighs interchangeably,
    Fa la la la la la,

    The thought of this confounds me,
    and as I speak it wounds me
    Fa la la la la la,
    It cannot be express’d, Good help me while I rest,
    Fa la la la la la

    Bad stomachs have their loathing,
    and O this all is nothing,
    Fa la la la la la
    This so with griefs doth prove,
    report oft turns in love.
    Fa la la la la la

    Fa la la la la la,
    Two hearts that multiply sighs interchangeably,
    Fa la la la la la,

    The thought of this confounds me,
    and as I speak it wounds me
    Fa la la la la la,
    It cannot be express’d, Good help me while I rest,
    Fa la la la la la

    Bad stomachs have their loathing,
    and O this all is nothing,
    Fa la la la la la
    This so with griefs doth prove,
    report oft turns in love.
    Fa la la la la la

    =)
    .-= Colette´s last blog ..My Own Boss =-.

  • Whoops. didn’t mean to post the lyrics 3 times! Don’t knwo how to take out my own comment! haha.
    .-= Colette´s last blog ..My Own Boss =-.

  • Gwynedd

    And then there’s this:

    “The dark is my delight
    So is the nightingale’s.
    My music’s in the night,
    So, so is the nightingale’s.
    My body is but little, but little (but little),
    So is the nightingale’s,
    I love to sleep against the prick, oh the prickle,
    So! So doth the nightingale.”

    And the Purcell catches… :)