King Henry VIII Tudor
King Henry VIII Tudor, "Pastime with Good Company"
The Renaissance Man—that high ideal of a life lived well: to strive to become a man with talents, skills, and accomplishments in many fields. Henry VIII was that kind of man: athlete, poet, writer, composer—Henry was all these. He started his reign with great promise (if only he could have fulfilled that promise). The ideal of the Renaissance Man included being able to cook, but I have not found any reference to Henry's skills with kitchen knives or stew pots. Of all his accomplishments, Henry himself prized most his music. He truly was a gifted composer, and his songs became popular not just in England, but throughout Europe, including "Pastime with Good Company." Henry composed the music and wrote the lyrics for this song. You can find recordings of it played on period instruments, sung by small groups or by choirs, and even "updated" by Jethro Tull. Here are Henry's lyrics:
Pastime with good company
I love and shall unto I die;
Grudge who list, but none deny,
So God be pleased thus live will I.
For my pastance
Hunt, song, and dance.
My heart is set:
All goodly sport
For my comfort,
Who shall me let?
Youth must have some dalliance,
Of good or illé some pastance;
Company methinks then best
All thoughts and fancies to dejest:
Is chief mistress
Of vices all.
Then who can say
But mirth and play
Is best of all?
Company with honesty
Is virtue vices to flee:
Company is good and ill
But every man hath his free will.
The best ensue,
The worst eschew,
My mind shall be:
Virtue to use,
Vice to refuse,
Shall I use me.
I take the meaning of this song to be that to enjoy company is better than to be alone, even if one is just having fun (alone, one might fall into vice, or become despondent)—and to enjoy good company is best of all.
Here is a link to the Canadian tenor Tom Kines singing "Pastime with Good Company," from his album Songs from Shakespeare's Plays and From His Time:
Britain has had a long history of rulers and politicians who were Renaissance men and women—Winston Churchill, for example, with his remarkable watercolors and his influential histories. In 1982, I heard Michael Foot, then leader of Britain's Labor Party, lecture on William Hazlitt at the annual Wordsworth Conference in Grasmere. Foot was one of the world's leading experts on Hazlitt, the Romantic-era essayist and critic. Mr. Foot greeted us Americans at the conference warmly, and I remember thinking he was a good man, and that Britain, with a wise man like him leading it, was enviable.
Here is a link to The Tudors Wiki, which includes extensive information on King Henry VIII, his music and writings. Here, you can listen to today's song in many different performances, and to other songs of Henry's, as well.
I was surprised to learn, doing research for this post, that Henry VIII is not now considered to have composed "Greensleeves"; rather, it is believed to have come to England from Italy during Elizabethan times, shortly after the death of Henry. Shakespeare mentions "Greensleeves," and it is performed in his play The Merry Wives of Windsor. Here is a link to a masterful performance of it on the guitar by Cesar Medel, from his album Grand Solo:
I wrote above about Henry being a Renaissance man. The term Renaissance woman means exactly the same thing—"a woman who has acquired profound knowledge or proficiency in more than one field" (definition from Dictionary.com). It is an enduring ideal for everyone.
I created "Day Star Arise," the image above, on my computer in 2006. It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from 2 Peter 1:19 (KJV): "Ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."