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  • Writer's pictureTim Braithwaite

To Mr. Henry Lawes, who had then newly set a Song of mine in the Year, 1635.

Updated: Apr 4, 2022

Verse makes Heroick Vertue live,

But you can life to Verses give:

As when in open aire we blow

The breath (though strain'd) sounds flat and low,

But if a Trumpet take the blast,

It lifts it high, and makes it last:

So in your Ayres our Numbers drest

Make a shrill sally from the Brest

Of Nymphs, who singing what we pen'd,

Our Passions to themselves commend,

While Love Victorious with thy Art

Governs at once their Voyce and Heart.

You by the help of Tune and Time

Can make that Song which was but Rime.

NOY pleading, no man doubts the Cause,

Or questions Verses set by LAWES.

For as a window thick with paint

Lets in a light but dim and faint,

So others with Division hide

The Light of Sense, the Poets Pride,

But you alone may truly boast

That not a syllable is lost;

The Writer's and the Setter's skill

At once the ravish't Eare do fill.

Let those which only warble long,

And gargle in their throats a Song,

Content themselves with Ut, re, mi,

Let words and sense be set by Thee.

Ed. Waller; Esquire



From Henry Lawes, Ayres and Dialogues, for One, Two, and Three Voyces, The first booke (London: T. H. for John Playford, 1653).

The painting below is known as ‘Three Musicians (Allegory of Hearing)’ from ‘The Series of the Five Senses’ by Rembrandt. Each of the paintings in the series features three characters who focus on a shared experience, in this instance the act of singing from an open music book, in a dark, undefined space.

‘In this joyful image, two elderly singers, one male and one female, are joined by a young man who peers down over their shoulders at the large open music book. The bald man, with pronouncedly wrinkled forehead and eyeglasses balanced on the tip of his nose, guides their song with the beat of his raised hand as the old woman, with an equally wrinkled face, leans forward enthusiastically to join him in song. The comedy here resides in the advanced age of the two primary singers, for generally images of Allegory of Hearing depict young lovers singing and playing instruments together. Even at their advanced age, however, the couple’s full engagement in the music seems to allude to the ideals of living a balanced and harmonious life. The man’s fur-lined tabard and the woman’s colourful turban are not contemporary attire, and help indicate the allegorical character of the scene.’

Libby, Alexandra, Ilona van Tuinen, and Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. “Allegory of Hearing, Allegory of Smell, Allegory of Touch, from The Series of the Five Senses” (2017). In The Leiden Collection Catalogue, 3rd ed. Edited by Arthur K. Wheelock Jr. and Lara Yeager-Crasselt. New York, 2020–. (accessed March 19, 2022).

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