Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fair Phyllis I Saw Sitting All Alone - John Farmer

Fair Phyllis I saw sitting all alone
Feeding her flock near to the mountain side.
The shepherds knew not,
They knew not whither she was gone,
But after her lover Amyntas hied,
Up and down he wandered
Whilst she was missing;
When he found her,
O then they fell a-kissing.

Not strictly a poem, but rather an English madrigal, Fair Phyllis is one of my favorites, a delightfully playful, slightly ribald, and undeniably summer-y text and tune.  To understand the text, you really must hear it, so I present to you the King's Singers singing Farmer's work:

The story of the text is simple:  Amyntas, a shepherd, is looking for his love, Phylis.  He's not sure where she went, nor are the shepherds, but he hurried (hied), wandering all over, until he found her, and they started kissing (all over!).

The clever, bawdy twist in the lyrics comes from "up and down."  In its first instance, it's clear that Amyntas is looking all over.  However, the second time it's repeated, it follows kissing, creating new lines, "they fell a-kissing up and down" and "kissing up and down he wandered."  It's clever and naughty and you can't help but smile at the image of two young lovers having a bit of a roll in the hay near the mountain side.  Really, I just wanted an excuse to post one of my favorite madrigals.


  1. I truly believe these sounds are a beautiful, awww yeah these sounds are surrounding and cleansing my body I shall worship them... OOOOOPS I accidentally opened the gates to hell AAAAAAAAAHHAHHHHHHH!!