"Pastime with Good Company"
, also known as "The King's Ballad"
("The Kynges Balade"), is an English folk song written by King Henry VIII
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...
in the first years of the 16th century, shortly after being crowned. It is regarded as the most famous of his compositions, and it became a popular song in England and other European countries during Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...
times. It is thought to be written for Catherine of Aragon
Catherine of Aragon , also known as Katherine or Katharine, was Queen consort of England as the first wife of King Henry VIII of England and Princess of Wales as the wife to Arthur, Prince of Wales...
The early years of Henry VIII's reign marked a distinctive character of exuberance and extravagances in the English court, made possible by the political stability of the kingdom and wealth of the state's finances. Royal banquets and feasts were held on a continual basis, as were outdoor sports and pastimes, such as hunting, hawking, and jousting
Jousting is a martial game or hastilude between two knights mounted on horses and using lances, often as part of a tournament.Jousting emerged in the High Middle Ages based on the military use of the lance by heavy cavalry. The first camels tournament was staged in 1066, but jousting itself did not...
and archery tournaments. The young King himself was a skilled sportsman, excelling in horse riding, archery, wrestling and real tennis
Real tennis – one of several games sometimes called "the sport of kings" – is the original indoor racquet sport from which the modern game of lawn tennis , is descended...
. The song was penned during this period, and presents a general praise to all these entertainments and diversions, depicting the general state of mind of leisure and unconcern that prevailed in the royal court at the time. At the same time, the text provides a moral justification for all this merriment: company is preferable to idleness; for the latter breeds vice.
As with every man of noble birth in Renaissance times, Henry VIII was expected to master many skills, including fencing, hunting, dancing, writing poetry, singing, and playing and composing music, and was educated accordingly as a prince. Henry was considered a talented composer and poet by his contemporaries.
The song is supposed to have been played in court, along with all the other of the King's compositions. However, due to its simple and catchy melody, it became a popular tune and was soon afterwards interpreted frequently at English fairs, taverns and events. It is also believed to have been one of the favourite musical pieces of Queen Elizabeth I. The song is referred to in a number of contemporary documents and publications, attesting to its popularity, and was subject of a wide number of variants and instrumental rearrangements by different musicians in the following years. In the 1548 work The Complaynt of Scotland
The Complaynt of Scotland is a book printed in 1549 and is an important work of the Scots language.The book is a continuation of the war of words between Scotland and England in the sixteenth century...
, the anonymous author mentions "Passetyme with gude companye," as being among the popular songs within the kingdom of Scotland
The Kingdom of Scotland was a Sovereign state in North-West Europe that existed from 843 until 1707. It occupied the northern third of the island of Great Britain and shared a land border to the south with the Kingdom of England...
in the early part of the 16th century.
The oldest known version is part of the Henry VIII Manuscript (c. 1513), a collection of 14 works of his authorship currently preserved at the British Library (BM Addl. MSS. 31,922; Addl. MSS. 5,665; MSS. Reg. Appendix 58), which are signed: "By the King's Hand". The manuscript also includes two mass
The Mass, a form of sacred musical composition, is a choral composition that sets the invariable portions of the Eucharistic liturgy to music...
es, a motet
In classical music, motet is a word that is applied to a number of highly varied choral musical compositions.-Etymology:The name comes either from the Latin movere, or a Latinized version of Old French mot, "word" or "verbal utterance." The Medieval Latin for "motet" is motectum, and the Italian...
, an anthem
The term anthem means either a specific form of Anglican church music , or more generally, a song of celebration, usually acting as a symbol for a distinct group of people, as in the term "national anthem" or "sports anthem".-Etymology:The word is derived from the Greek via Old English , a word...
, and other songs and ballads, both vocal and instrumental.
"Pastime with Good Company" remains a favourite piece in choral repertoires, and has been recorded in many variants that include lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....
The recorder is a woodwind musical instrument of the family known as fipple flutes or internal duct flutes—whistle-like instruments which include the tin whistle. The recorder is end-blown and the mouth of the instrument is constricted by a wooden plug, known as a block or fipple...
The trombone is a musical instrument in the brass family. Like all brass instruments, sound is produced when the player’s vibrating lips cause the air column inside the instrument to vibrate...
, percussion and flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...
, among other instruments. Because of its distinctive early Renaissance melody, it has also been included in different movies and documentaries based on the figure of Henry VIII and the Tudor era
The Tudor period usually refers to the period between 1485 and 1603, specifically in relation to the history of England. This coincides with the rule of the Tudor dynasty in England whose first monarch was Henry VII...
The song was also subject of numerous contemporary versions in recent times. Renamed as "Past Time with Good Company", it was included as the third track on Under a Violet Moon
Under a Violet Moon is a Blackmore's Night's second album released in May 25, 1999 through Edel Music. Under a Violet Moon won the New Age Voice award for the best vocal album of the year.-Track listing:...
, the second album by Renaissance-inspired folk rock
Folk rock is a musical genre combining elements of folk music and rock music. In its earliest and narrowest sense, the term referred to a genre that arose in the United States and the UK around the mid-1960s...
group Blackmore's Night
Blackmore's Night is an English-American traditional folk rock duo led by Ritchie Blackmore and Candice Night .-Early:...
. The song was also played by folk rock band Jethro Tull
Jethro Tull are a British rock group formed in 1967. Their music is characterised by the vocals, acoustic guitar, and flute playing of Ian Anderson, who has led the band since its founding, and the guitar work of Martin Barre, who has been with the band since 1969.Initially playing blues rock with...
, and appears on the remastered CD Stormwatch
Stormwatch is the twelfth studio album by the rock group Jethro Tull. It is considered the last in the trilogy of folk-rock albums by Jethro Tull...
and The Best Of Acoustic Jethro Tull
The Best of Acoustic is a greatest hits album by Jethro Tull. It includes some of the band's biggest acoustic hits from 1969 to the present day.-Track listing:#"Fat Man" - 2:51#"Life Is A Long Song" - 3:18#"Cheap Day Return" - 1:22...
bearing the name "King Henry's Madrigal". Additionally, the song was arranged and played by English progressive
Progressive rock is a subgenre of rock music that developed in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility." John Covach, in Contemporary Music Review, says that many thought it would not just "succeed the pop of...
/folk rock band Gryphon
Gryphon were a British progressive rock band of the 1970s, best known for their unusual Medieval sound and instrumentation.-Career:Multi-instrumentalist Richard Harvey and his fellow Royal College of Music graduate Brian Gulland, a woodwind player, began the group as an all-acoustic ensemble that...
, appearing on their 1973, self-titled album
Gryphon is the debut album by the progressive rock band Gryphon. It was originally released in 1973 by Transatlantic, catalogue number TRA 262....
| Original spelling as in MS 31922 (Early Modern English
Early Modern English is the stage of the English language used from about the end of the Middle English period to 1650. Thus, the first edition of the King James Bible and the works of William Shakespeare both belong to the late phase of Early Modern English...
| Modern English
Modern English is the form of the English language spoken since the Great Vowel Shift in England, completed in roughly 1550.Despite some differences in vocabulary, texts from the early 17th century, such as the works of William Shakespeare and the King James Bible, are considered to be in Modern...
(based on MS 31922)
| Paſtyme wt good companye
|| Pastime with good company
| I loue & ſhall vntyll I dye
|| I love and shall until I die
| gruche who luſt but none denye
|| grudge who lust but none deny
| ſo god be pleſyd þus leve wyll I
|| so God be pleased thus live will I
| for my paſtāce
|| for my pastance
| hūt ſyng & dance
|| hunt sing and dance
| my hart is ſett
|| my heart is set
| all goodly ſport
|| all goodly sport
| for my cōfort
|| for my comfort
| who ſhall me let
|| who shall me let
| youthe muſt haue ſū daliance
|| youth must have some dalliance
| off good or yll ſū paſtance.
|| of good or ill some pastance
| Company me thynkſ then beſt
|| Company me thinks then best
| all thoughtſ & fanſys to deieſt.
|| all thoughts and fancies to digest.
| ffor Idillnes
|| for Idleness
| is cheff maſtres
|| is chief mistress
| of vices all
|| of vices all
| then who can ſay.
|| then who can say.
| but myrth and play
|| but mirth and play
| is beſt of all.
|| is best of all.
| Company wt honeſte
|| Company with honesty
| is vertu vices to ffle.
|| is virtue vices to flee.
| Company is good & ill
|| Company is good and ill
| but eûy man hath hys fre wyll.
|| but every man has his free will.
| the beſt enſew
|| the best ensue
| the worſt eſthew
|| the worst eschew
| my mynde ſhalbe.
|| my mind shall be.
| vertu to vſe
|| virtue to use
| vice to refuce
|| vice to refuse
| thus ſhall I vſe me.
|| thus shall I use me.
- Viva l’amore. Bassano, 1999, Flanders Recorder Quartet
The Flanders Recorder Quartet is a professional recorder group whose members are Bart Spanhove, Tom Beets, Joris van Goethem and Paul van Loey. The quartet is one of a handful of ensembles inspiring a recorder renaissance...
and Capilla Flamenca
Capilla Flamenca is a vocal and instrumental early music consort based in Leuven, Belgium. The group specialises in 14th to 16th Century music from Flanders and takes its name from the choir of the court chapel of Emperor Charles V...
, 1999 (OPS 30-239). Contains a recording of Pastime with good company.
- Pastyme With Good Companye. Music at the Court of Henry VIII, Ensemble Dreiklang Berlin, 2004 (CHAN 0709).
- La Leggenda Del Block Editio Seconda, Traite Pour Marbre Neon Harpe Et Voix, The Zarjaz, 2009, Basilica Records (BA005).
- The Works of Henry VIII. Includes MIDI files and other multimedia. Accessed on April 27, 2007.
- Choral Wiki, Pastime with good company (Henry VIII). Includes scores for different versions and MIDI files. Accessed on April 27, 2007.