Dowland – Can she excuse my wrongs?

Song Information

Title: Can she excuse my wrongs?

Music: John Dowland (1563-1626)

Text: possibly John Dowland (1563-1626)

Sheet Music

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Audio Files


  • The accompaniment can be heard on Guitar thanks to Jon Sayles


Song Text

Can she excuse my wrongs with Virtue’s cloak?
Shall I call her good when she proves unkind?
Are those clear fires which vanish into smoke?
Must I praise the leaves where no fruit I find?
No, no; where shadows do for bodies stand,
That may’st be abus’d if thy sight be dim.

Cold love is like to words written on sand,
Or to bubbles which on the water swim.
Wilt thou be thus abused still,
Seeing that she will right thee never?
If thou canst not o’ercome her will,
Thy love will be thus fruitless ever.

Was I so base, that I might not aspire
Unto those high joys which she holds from me?
As they are high, so high is my desire,
If she this deny, what can granted be?
If she will yield to that which reason is,
It is reason’s will that love should be just.

Dear, make me happy still by granting this,
Or cut off delays if that I die must.
Better a thousand times to die
Than for to love thus still tormented:
Dear, but remember it was I
Who for thy sake did die contented.