A very brief note about Byrd’s “Nightingale”

The indefatigable John Harley has forwarded a piece of information to me. It is not relevant to his current project (which has to do with by Byrd’s The Barley Break) but neither of us have noticed it in Byrd literature, so to mark the passing of Early Music Review  and to continue its support of Byrd scholarship to the end, most notably in accommodating my Annual Byrd Newsletter  for ten fruitful years, I am offering this admittedly very slight item here as a fond and respectful farewell.

Byrd’s song in three parts The nightingale  is number 9 in his Songs of sundrie natures  (London: Thomas East, 1589), and the text begins “The nightingale so pleasant and so gay”. On page [3] of Lyrical poems, selected from musical publications between the years 1589 and 1600, edited by J. Payne Collier (London: Percy Society, 1844) Collier reproduces the text (having misspelt the East’s name as Este on page [1], though it appears elsewhere spelt this way) under the title “The Nightingale and the Lover”, and in footnote * states that “In a MS. of the time, in the possession of the Editor, the words are, “so gladsome  and so gay.” No author’s name nor initials are appended to the song.” The entry for this publication at page 1181 in the catalogue of Collier’s works in volume 2 of John Payne Collier: scholarship and forgery in the nineteenth century  by Arthur Freeman and Janet Ing Freeman (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004) states that “We have not encountered this reading elsewhere, nor identified Collier’s MS.” Fantasy? Forgery? Or, just to be fair, gone astray?

Richard Turbet

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