John Dowland (1563-1626) was an English late 

John Dowland - "In Darkness"

John Dowland - "In Darkness"

Dowland: In Darkness let me dwell

Renaissance composer, singer, and lutenist most known for his melancholy compositions.

His work, "In Darkness let me dwell" written in 1610, was based off of a poem also written by Dowland.

"In darkness let me dwell, the ground shall sorrow be, The roof despair to bar all cheerful light from me,   The walls of marble black that moisten'd still shall weep, My music hellish jarring sounds, to banish friendly sleep. Thus wedded to my woes, and bedded to my tomb,

O, let me, living, living, die, till death do come."


A link to the full score can be found here: Dowland: In Darkness.

"In Darkness" was a through-composed lute song. What makes this work particularly interesting, was the fact that the lute part was more important than the vocal line both structurally and harmonically. Dowland was quite the famous lutenist, and this piece definitely reflected that. In the vocal melody, the text can very easily be heard and understood. What gives this piece its melancholy (and rather depressing) character was the complex relationship between the two parts. The emotion in this piece was illustrated by the dissonances and harmonic instability. The ending of this work was particularly interesting with the very inconclusive ending in the vocal melody. The piece closes with a drawn out cadential figure of an F Major chord leading down to an E Major triad with the vocal part ending solely on the third of the chord. Meanwhile, this was all taking place within a pitch center of A minor. Ending (with what we would analyze as the leading tone today) and not having any resolution afterwards was very unsettling.


I decided to compare this work to another of Dowland's more famous lute songs, "Flow my Tears." What I immediately noticed was that the lute was more of an accompanimental instrument, rather than driving the harmony as seen in "In Darkness." The ending to "Flow my Tears" also had the cadences I expect to hear at this period in the Renaissance. Although these were both lute songs and written by the same composer, the compositional style in which Dowland wrote these songs was extremely different.


I absolutely thought that this work was chilling to the core. It was very unique to analyze this lute song, and it turned out to be extremely different from everything else happening in the Renaissance. Also, the rise of instrumental music was not far from Dowland. I believe his many lute songs played a role in that development.


Dowland, John. "Dowland - Flow My Tears" (video). Accessed February 18, 2014.

Dowland, John. "Flow my Tears."

Dowland, John. "John Dowland - In Darkness" (video). Accessed February 18, 2014.

Dowland, John. "In Darkness let me dwell."

Holman, Peter and Paul O'Dette. "Dowland, John." Grove Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed February 18, 2014.