Pelham Humfrey (±1648 —1 674): Sleep downy sleep come close mine eyes

Pelham Humfrey was one of the ‘for­wardest & brightest’ boys re­cruited for the Chapel Royal as part of Char­les II’s to re­store En­glish Church Music to its form­er glory1. Sadly he died young but during his short career he produced some excellent music including songs such as Sleep downy sleep come close mine eyes which you can hear below. His chief importance is that he abandoned the traditional practice of just tacking together the vocal and instrumental components of his music and instead wrote music in which the two were organically linked. His musical language was vivid with lots of madrigalian writing to add further interest and colour, both Blow and Purcell learnt a lot from him.


Pelham Humfrey (±1648 —1 674): Sleep downy sleep come close mine eyese

Sleep, downy sleep, come close mine eyes,
Tired with beholding vanities;
Welcome, sweet sleep, that drives away
The toils and follies of the day;

On thy soft bosom will I lie,
Forget the world and learn to die.
O Israel’s watchful Shepherd, spread
Teams of angels round my bed.

Let not the spirits of the air,
Whilst I slumber, me ensnare.
But guard thy suppliant free from harms,
Clasped in thy everlasting arms.

Clouds and thick darkness is thy throne,
Thy wonderful pavilion:
O dart from thence a shining ray,
And then my midnight shall be day.

Thus, when the morn in crimson drest
Breaks through the windows of the east,
My hymns of thankful praises shall arise
Like incense, or the morning sacrifice.

(Author unknown)

Performers: The Symphony of Harmony and Invention – The Sixteen – Conducted By Harry Christophers – (solo: Simon Berridge)

  1. I have a somewhat fuller biography of him here: Pelham Humfrey (±1648 —1 674): By the waters of Babylon | Saturday Chorale – mfi

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