Shakespeare Modern Translations

“Ah Robin” round by William Cornish (d. 1523)

Hey, Robin, gentle Robin,

Tell me how your lady is.

And I’ll tell you of my lady.

My lady’s mean, and that’s a fact.

Oh, (alarm), why is she mean?

She loves someone else who is better than I

And yet she denies it.

I don’t know of women with such duplicity

I find them to be honest.

My lady surely loves me,

And wouldn’t trade me for a new lover.

You are happy while they are true

But I have found.

That a woman’s heart is like a breeze

that changes with the wind.

“Three Merry Men” – anon

Three light-hearted men,

Yes, we are three carefree men.

I’m hanging out in the forest, he’s on the ground,

And Jack is taking a nap in a tree.

Romeo and Juliette 1.5

Did my heart ever love

anyone before this moment?

My eyes were liars, then, because

I never saw true beauty before tonight.

“Where the Bee Sucks” Robert Johnson (ca. 1583-1633)

Where the bee drinks, I drink dew.

I lie in the cup of a cowslip flower.

I sleep there when the owls hoot.

I fly on a bat’s back, following the summer.

Happily, happily I will live now

Under the blossom that hangs on the branch.

“It Was a Lover and his Lass”  by Thomas Morley (ca. 1557-1602)

There was a lover and his girl,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no,

Who walked through the cornfield

In the springtime, the only proper wedding time,

The time when birds sing, Hey ding-a-ding-ding.

Sweet lovers love the spring.

They wrote this song at that time,

With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no,

About how life was as short-lived as a flower

In the springtime, the only proper wedding time,

The time when birds sing, hey ding-a-ding-ding.

Sweet lovers love the spring

“Fancy Bred” by Elliot Sneider

Tell me where do our desires start,

In the heart or in the head?

How are they created, how sustained?

Answer me, answer me.

Desires start in the eyes,

Sustained by gazing,

but desires die very early.

Let’s all mourn our dead desires.

I’ll begin—Ding, dong, bell.

“Take, O Take Those Lips Away” by Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927)

Take away those lips

That gave promises you renounced bitter-sweetly

And the eyes, beautiful as dawn

Filled with light, but deceived hope.

But kissing you brings once more

Promises of love, but futile promises.

“Farewell Dear Heart” by Robert Jones (ca. 1577 – 1617)

Goodbye, dearest,

I must leave you now.

His eyes show that his life is almost over.

But I will never die.

Yet, Sir Toby, that’s a lie.

Should I tell him to go?

What if you do?

Should I tell him to go, and be harsh with him?

Oh no, no, no, no, don’t you dare.

“O Mistress Mine” by Matthew Harris (b. 1956)

Oh my lady, where are you going?

Stay and listen! Your true love’s coming,

the one who can sing both high and low:

Do not travel any further, pretty darling.

Your journey ends at meeting your lover,

as every wise man’s son knows.

What is love? It is not in the future.

You’re having fun now, you’re laughing now!

The future is unsure,

and there’s no comfort in waiting.

Come kiss me while you are twenty.

Youth will not last forever.

“Loath to Depart” anon

I sing with my mouth,

And my heart,

We were true friends,

I dislike saying goodbye,

Our friendship with each other,

will not last,

Yet I hate to say goodbye,

But I’ll sing it again

“Come Away Death” by Ralph Vaughn Williams (ca. 1872-1958)

Come and leave, let me die now

And put my body in a dark coffin.

My breath leaves me.

I’ve been killed by a beautiful girl.

Prepare my shroud of white,

Adorned with sprigs of yew-tree.

I’m the most faithful person

Who ever lived or died.

Don’t scatter sweet flowers

on my black coffin.

Don’t let my friends

See my poor corpse.

I don’t want to hear sad sighs,

So bury me where no sad true lover

can find my grave to weep over.


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