pastime with good company

King Henry the VIII was to become proficient in many skills such as hunting, fencing, jousting, archery writing poetry, singing as well as learning to play several musical instruments. Henry developed a life-long love of listening to, performing and composing music. He built an extensive collection of musical instruments over the years including some 78 flutes, 76 recorders, 10 trombones, 14 trumpets, 5 bagpipes.
An extraordinary collection of his music is today kept at the British Library in London; the so-called Henry VIII’s Songbook. This book contains over 100 secular compositions by contemporary Tudor composers, 33 of which were written by the King himself. Beautifully notated and illuminated by one of his inner circle onto parchment, this manuscript gives us an amazing insight into the developing composer. Contained in this collection is Henry’s greatest success, a song written in 1509 shortly after his coronation entitled Pastime with Good Company. So popular was this catchy tune with its raucous lyrics, that it quickly spread through England becoming a national hit



Henry VIII – Pass time with good company

Pastime with good company
I love and shall unto I die;
Grudge who list, but none deny,
So God be pleased thus live will I.
For my pastance
Hunt, sing, and dance.
My heart is set:
All goodly sport
For my comfort,
Who shall me let?

Youth must have some dalliance,
Of good or illé some pastance;
Company methinks then best
All thoughts and fancies to dejest:
For idleness
Is chief mistress
Of vices all.
Then who can say
But mirth and play
Is best of all?

Company with honesty
Is virtue vices to flee:
Company is good and ill
But every man hath his free will.
The best ensue,
The worst eschew,
My mind shall be:
Virtue to use,
Vice to refuse,
Shall I use me, Henry VIII Songbook c.1518 © British Library


Pastime with good company – The King’s Singers