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James Joyce at the Piano in Paris, 1939 James Joyce: Music in the Novels and Poems
CD #2 Song List
Artwork for CD #2 cover

James Joyce Quote
There are several passages in the Joyce corpus where Stephen Dedalus (like the real-life Joyce) displays a knowledge of, and fondness for, older English music.
James Joyce Unquote

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Suite of Stephen's
Piano Improvisations

Loath to Depart / The Agincourt Carol / Greensleeves
Original improvisations by Mr. Ralph Richey

About the Compositions

These three songs date back to Elizabethan times or earlier, and so they have been ascribed to that most prolific of composers, Anonymous. Below is some discussion about the provenance of these antique melodies.

Loath to Depart

This popular English air is 6/4 time in F Major. A "loath to depart" was a common term for a song or a tune played when saying farewell to friends. It can be found in Chappell's Popular Music of the Olden Times, Vol. 1, 1859; p. 102.

The Agincourt Carol

This English folk song (sometimes known as the Agincourt Song, the Agincourt Hymn, or by its chorus and central words, Deo gratias Anglia) was written some time in the early 15th century. It recounts the 1415 Battle of Agincourt, in which the English army led by Henry V defeated the French forces of Charles VI in what is now the Pas-de-Calais region of France (Strait of Dover). The carol is featured in Laurence Olivier's 1944 film Henry V. The words to the song can be read here.


Several allusions to this traditional English folk song can be found in The Merry Wives of Windsor (ca. 1602), suggesting that it was well known in Shakespeare's time. Earliest surviving printings of the song come from various late 16th-century and early 17th-century sources, such as Ballet's MS Lute Book and Het Luitboek van Thysius. Legend has it that the song was composed by King Henry VIII (1491-1547) for his lover and future queen consort, Anne Boleyn. This is most unlikely, however, as the song is written in a style that was not known in England until after Henry died. Many surviving sets of lyrics were written to this tune; but the best-known version can be read here.

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