A worthy wyght

Goe Nightly CaresFretwork, Michael Chance, Christopher Wilson, Elizabeth Liddle

…Tallis is dead, and Music dies…

This is part of Byrd’s Ye Sacred Muses, a lament on the death of his mentor, friend, colleague and the godfather of his son Thomas (no doubt called after his illustrious namesake). Many of the details of Tallis’s life are obscure. He seems to have been born during the latter part of the reign of Henry VII, and his (approximately) eighty years of existence meant that he lived through the entire Tudor dynasty (Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth).

Despite the constantly vacillating religious affiliations of the times, Tallis – at some personal risk – remained a Catholic; his music, however, adapted to whatever was the prevalent dogma — his settings of the Book of Common Prayer vying with the Latin of the Catholic liturgy.

He died in Greenwich and was buried in St. Alfege Church, though the exact location has been lost. It is claimed that in the eighteenth century a brass plate was discovered there with the following verse:

“Entered here doth ly a worthy wyght,
Who for long tyme in musick bore the bell:
His name to shew, was THOMAS TALLYS hyght,
In honest virtuous lyff he dyd excell.

“He serv’d long tyme in chappel with grete prayse
Fower sovereygnes reygnes (a thing not often seen);
I meane Kyng Henry and Prynce Edward’s dayes,
Quene Mary, and Elizabeth oure Quene.

“He mary’d was, though children he had none,
And lyv’d in love full thre and thirty yeres
Wyth loyal spowse, whose name yclypt was JONE,
Who here entomb’d him company now beares.

“As he dyd lyve, so also did he dy,
In myld and quyet sort (O happy man!)
To God ful oft for mercy did he cry,
Wherefore he lyves, let deth do what he can.”

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