The Second Book of Songs

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The Second Book of Songs (alternative title: The Second Booke of Songs or Ayres of 2, 4 and 5 parts: with Tableture for the Lute or Orpherian, with the Violl de Gamba[1]) is a book of songs composed by Renaissance composer John Dowland and published in London in 1600. He dedicated it to Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford.

The music is often described as lute songs, but this is somewhat misleading. The title page offer options regarding the instruments to be used. Also, Dowland tends to offer options as regards whether his songs are for a solo singer or not. All the songs in his First Booke of 1597 can be performed in a four-part version. Some of the songs in the Second Book can be sung in a variety of arrangements,[2] although others are through-composed solo songs.


Many of the lyrics are anonymous. There has been speculation that Dowland wrote some of his own lyrics, but there is not any firm evidence for this. Fine knacks for ladies, in which the anonymous poet takes on the role of a pedlar, has been anthologised as an example of Elizabethan verse, for example in The Norton Anthology of Poetry.[3]

Publication history[edit]

Dowland's first book had been printed by Peter Short. For the second book, Dowland turned to a different team - the publisher was George Eastland of Fleet Street (an obscure figure who appears to have known the Dowland family) and the printer was Thomas East, an experienced music printer. A fee had to paid to Thomas Morley, who held a patent (a monopoly of music printing) from 1598. Eastland was hoping for better sales than actually materialised. The First Booke had been a commercial success, going into several editions, while the Second Booke appears to have been less successful, at any rate it was not reprinted by Thomas East. However, it includes songs which have become among the best known among the composer's output.

On the title-page Dowland is correctly described as lutenist to the king of Denmark. The manuscript was delivered by Mrs Dowland, but as Dowland was living abroad, he was not able to liaise with the printer, and the proofs were read by two composers who were in London at the time, John Wilbye and Edward Johnson.[4]

Song Titles[edit]

  1. I saw my Lady weepe
  2. Flow my tears
  3. Sorrow Stay
  4. Die not before the day
  5. Mourn, day is with darkness fled
  6. Time's eldest son, Old Age
  7. Then sit thee down
  8. When others sing Venite
  9. Praise blindness eyes
  10. O sweet woods
  11. If floods of tears
  12. Fine knacks for ladies
  13. Now cease my wand'ring eyes
  14. Come ye heavy states of night
  15. White as lilies was her face
  16. Woeful heart
  17. A Shepherd in a shade
  18. Faction that ever dwells
  19. Shall I sue
  20. Toss not my soul
  21. Clear or cloudy
  22. Humour say what mak'st thou here (a Dialogue)


  1. ^ The Second Book of Songes (Dowland, John)
  2. ^ "Fine Knacks for Ladies". Victoria and Albert Museum. 2013. Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  3. ^ Rumens, Carol (21 July 2008). "Poem of the Week: Fine Knacks for Ladies". Books Blog ( Retrieved 22 December 2013. 
  4. ^ Because of litigation between printer and publisher, there are detailed records of the circumstances regarding the publication. (See: Smith, J. Thomas East and Music Publishing in Renaissance England. OUP)
  • Nadal, David (1997). Lute Songs of John Dowland: The Original First and Second Books/ Transcribed for Voice and Guitar. Dover Publications Inc. ISBN 0-486-29935-X.

External links[edit]

The Second Book of Songes: Scores at the International Music Score Library Project (IMSLP)