Biographical account of the life and works of the 16th-century composer Thomas Campion.

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Thomas Campion (Campian) (1567-1620)

Born Feb. 12, 1567, London

Died March 1, 1620, London

Thomas Campion, also spelled Campian, was an English poet, composer, musical and literary

theorist, physician, and one of the outstanding English songwriters of the late 16th and early 17th

centuries. His poetry, with its musical intonations of rhythm and melody, also reflects his outstanding musical abilities.

Little is known about Thomas Campion's early life. Thomas was the son of the attorney and diplomatic courier John Campion, and was raised in luxury in a very well-to-do family. He attended the University of Cambridge from 1581-84, and afterwards studied law in London, but was never called to the bar. After leaving university Campion joined Gray's Inn, a gentleman's society that engaged in amateur and semi-professional music-making. There he composed and performed masques and other music for noble and royal audiences, including Queen Elizabeth.

Campion's first publication was five sets of verses appearing anonymously in the pirated 1591 edition of Sidney's Astrophel and Stella.

In 1595 his Poemata (Latin epigrams) appeared, and in 1601 he co-write A Booke of Ayres with Philip Rosseter, in which the musical accompaniment and the verses of the songs were Campion's. He wrote a masque in 1607 and in 1613 he wrote three more, as well as two Bookes of Ayres. The third and fourth Booke of Ayres came out in 1617, followed by an essay on musical counterpoint. In 1606, Campion became a doctor. (He had studied medicine in France and Holland.) He practiced medicine from 1606 until his death in 1620.

Campion's poetry and his songs for lute accompaniment are widely regarded as his best works. His music, usually written for "ayres" and not madrigals, is delicate, memorable, and expressive. Though he didn't write much on musical theory, he...