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Pastime with Good Company

[ Roud V9345 ; Henry VIII; British Library Additional Ms. 31922, ff.14v-15]

Gryphon played the tune of Pastime with Good Company in 1973 on their eponymous Transatlantic album Gryphon. This track was also included in 1975 on Karl Dallas’ seminal Island/Transatlantic anthology Electric Muse: The Story of Folk into Rock and in 1976 on the Transatlantic anthology Folk Festival. Gryphon noted on their album:

This song mas supposedly written by King Henry VIII, our very own super-versatile, whizz-kid monarch. However we know that he swiped the tune from a French folk-song (whose name eludes us) which at the time was floating around on the Burgundian singer-songwriter scene. But—and this is a sackbut—Henry did actually write the words, which we have chosen to omit in our version.

Joshua Burnell sang Pastime with Good Company on his 2019 album The Road to Horn Fair. He noted:

Henry VIII’s “hit” single (if indeed he actually wrote it…?) In a nutshell, it’s saying, “Yes, we’re having a wonderful, lavish time here in the palace spending all the tax payers’ dosh, but it’s better to be occupied than being bored and getting up to naughty behaviour.” Still didn’t stop him cutting his wives’ head off did it?


Pastime with Good Company by Henry VIII

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, song, 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.