I’ve been planning for a while to start putting together a book of songs for the solo SCA singer.  Mainly because there doesn’t seem to be much singing happening in the Northern Reaches that I’ve seen, and those songs I have heard around and about seem to be focussed on the Known Words that Eric the Fruitbat put together (you can find it here).  This is a lovely text, but there is little in the way of actual period material in there.  It would, I think, be nice to have a one-stop-shop of period and near-period lyrics whose tunes are easy to find online.

I have no intention of putting songs into this text unless I know them.  Thus I am starting a second challenge, where I will attempt to gather together 50 period or near-period songs, learn each by heart, and track the origins of the song as well as possible.  I will do this with only the aid of the internet, as I don’t read music.

Today I’m learning “Adam Lay I-Bownden“.  The lyrics come from a Sloan manuscript, held by the British Museum, who have dated the work from c.1400.

Adam lay i-bowndyn,
bowndyn in a bond,
Fowre thowsand wynter
thowt he not to long

And al was for an appil,
an appil that he tok.
As clerkes fyndyn wretyn
in here book.

Ne hadde the appil take ben,
the appil taken ben,
Ne hadde never our lady
a ben hevene quen.

Blyssid be the tyme
that appil take was!
Therfore we mown syngyn
Deo gracias!

These words are the ones I’ve transcribed directly from Wikipedia, the original Middle English version.

The original tune for these lyrics is lost.  However, there have been a number of performers who have come up with their own tunes.  I found a lovely version of this on YouTube, performed by “The Medieval Babes”, this is the version I’m learning.  I have only one criticism of their performance.  They pronounce “app-le” rather than “app-il”.  I can understand the pronunciation if they were working on a transcribed version which spelled apple in the modern way, however, the original seems to offer a different pronunciation.

I like this tune mainly for its simplicity and its constant beat pattern.  To hear my rendition of this song, please click on the link below.   I don’t mind if people download it for their own usage, just please don’t publish it elsewhere without checking with me first.

Adam Lay I-Bownden

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