1867 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

William Byrd

Thomas Corser, in Collectanea Anglo-Poetica III (1867) 215-16.



William Byrd, or Bird, is supposed to have been the son of Thomas Byrd, one of the gentlemen of the Royal Chapel of Edward VI., in which he was himself one of the singing boys, and in 1554 was Senior Chorister of St. Paul's Cathedral, being then probably about fifteen years old. He was a pupil of the celebrated Talis. His earliest attempts at musical composition were portions of the Romish Ritual, which he frequently set to music. In 1563 he became organist of Lincoln Cathedral, where he continued till 1569, when he was appointed one of the gentlemen of the Chapel Royal, succeeding Robert Persons, and in 1575 became organist to Queen Elizabeth. His name first appeared publically as a musical writer in 1575, when along with his master, Tallis, he published the Cantione Sacrae, and in 1588 appeared the present volume [Psalmes, Sonnets, Songs]; besides which he wrote some other works, the last of them being in 1611. There is a large collection of his productions in the library of Christ Church College, Oxford, bequeathed by Dr. Aldrich. Byrd was the composer of the Carman's Whistle, Fortune, and other tunes, and is generally believed to have been the author of the celebrated canon, Non nobis Domine. He resided opposite to Crosby Hall, and died July 4th, 1623, at an advanced age, surviving his master, Tallis, thirty-eight years, and in good estimation as an amiable, pious and moral character.