Talk:John Dowland

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I have been playing Dowland's music for 20 years and have never heard his name pronounced to rhyme with "Roland". I've always pronounced it to rhyme with "cow-land" or, more like "cow-lnd", without much of a vowel in the second syllable. Is it possible that I have been getting it wrong all this time and that everyone I speak to is just humouring me by adopting my incorrect pronunciation too? Or are there several different pronunciations in use around the world....and is there evidence for which one is 'correct'?

FWIW, I've also known and played his music for quite a long time, and I've never once heard Dowland rhyme with Roland. It's done either to rhyme with "Cowland", or pronounced "Doo-land" (I've noticed radio announcers are starting to do it this way). Antandrus (talk) 15:44, 12 October 2005 (UTC)
In the booklet of a CD that I own, it is claimed that his name was at that time pronounced to rhyme with Roland, enabling him – who always wallowed in self-pity for his unfortunate life – for his kind of wordplay in the title "Semper Dowland semper dolens". Does make sense to me.
Moreover, I reckon Lachrimae antiquae to not be based on Flow my teares, but just the other way around. He had this one original Lachrimae pavan and later added six more to it to form the Seven Teares, additionally writing Flow my teares and I Saw my lady weepe, which are supposed to belong together.
Interesting! My comment was based on an earlier version of this article which began with the statement "John Dowland (pronounced to rhyme with "Roland")" which is quite a sweeping statement to make without any supporting evidence. I think there are two considerations: one is the accepted modern pronunciation in the English-speaking world, and the other is how it was pronounced in Elizabethan times. With regard to the former, there is plenty of evidence for "non-Roland" pronunciation. In England, where I live, I generally hear his name rhyming with "cow-land" (though with a very weak vowel sound in the second syllable) and have certainly heard that usage on the BBC radio (who usually take a lot of care over pronunciation). I have even heard it used by people speaking the "Semper Dowland semper dolens" quote, too! I have also heard Doo-land, which Antandrus mentions, above. With regard to the Elizabeth pronunciation, that is more difficult, owing to the vowel shift that has taken place since that time. I'm certainly no expert in this area, but I understood that -ow- was pronounced more like -oo-, or possibly as a dipthong -uh-oo-. (Actually, in the fairly rural part of England where I live, the local accent still does this: "now" is pronounced "nuh-oo".) To cut a long story short, my vote would be to omit any reference to the pronunciation: I think the alternative would be to give a serious discussion on the subject, which would detract from the focus on the man and his music. Bluewave 09:51, 29 November 2005 (UTC)
My family pronounce it cow-land also -- although many phone callers assume "dough-lund" and similar. Jon Dowland 22:34, 19 January 2006 (UTC)

The name dowland is pronounced "dow" just like you would hear "dow jones" in the stock market or "dow" in endowment. It does ryhme with cow. The ending vowel is pronounced but it is used mildly. Similar to "lind" Joeldowland (talk) 14:25, 23 November 2007 (UTC)

  • For what it's worth, when I've heard this question discussed by programmers on NPR classical music stations in California, the "Cow-land" variant has generally been disparaged, with opinions split on the other two. So it's interesting and amusing to see that there is so much support here for "Dow-land". I guess we shall have to ask Dr. Who to drop in on Mr. Dowland and get it straight from the horse's mouth. :) Cgingold (talk) 12:25, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
  • The "Cow-land" pronunciation is certainly the prevalent version amongst musicians in England, though that does not make it historically correct, just as the modern pronunciation of [Henry Purcell]'s surname is generally thought to be wrong. The question of how the first syllable in "Dowland" corresponds to that of "dolens" is interesting, since this is usually pronounced "dollens" by English classicists. Semper "Dolland" semper "dollens" seems unlikely, however. TFM04 (talk) 11:14, 5 June 2008 (UTC)
I'll step in and muddy the waters by pointing out that pronouncing Dowland to rhyme with 'dolens' in the 'semper dowland semper dolens' phrase hinges upon how precisely the word 'dolens' was pronounced in the 16th century (and by which group of Latinists), and this is a highly contentious issue! InfernoXV (talk) 12:58, 6 June 2008 (UTC)
Well, then that's the source of the answer. Dowland is known to have signed himself as "Jo:dolandi de Lachrimae", suggesting that he did, in fact, rhyme is name with "dolens". He was in Nuremberg at the time. TFM04 (talk) 15:38, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
Err, sorry, I don't quite follow what you mean. Yes, we know he pronounced his name to rhyme with 'dolens', but how 'dolens' was pronounced at his time will depend on place. InfernoXV (talk) 19:00, 7 June 2008 (UTC)
I mean that the source of the answer is how "dolens" was pronounced in the courts of northern Europe at the turn of the 17th century TFM04 (talk) 13:37, 25 June 2008 (UTC)

Sorry to be blunt, but this discussion is going nowhere. Until somebody can provide hard evidence about how Dowland's name was pronounced, the article will continue to omit any guide to the pronunciation of its name. It's no good saying that Dowland's name rhymed with another word the pronunciation of which we are equally ignorant about. I will personally go on pronouncing his name as though it rhymes with 'COW-lənd', but that's just the way I pronounce it. Incidentally, I grew up in the Dublin village (Dalkey) that Dowland is sometimes erroneously supposed to have come from. In a park in Dalkey, a mosaic embedded in a rocky outcrop commemorates Dowland, who we can be reasonably sure didn't come from there and who probably never came within miles of the place. Lexo (talk) 00:05, 5 July 2008 (UTC)

I caught the end of a 'making-of' doco on STing's album, which featured Sting, Karamazov, and some others. To my ears, it sounded like 'Darlen', but there were accents everywhere... (talk) 23:49, 1 September 2008 (UTC)

There can be no doubt about the correct (i.e. continental) pronunciation of the latin word dolens in the 16th Century. It was as in the English words "dole, doleful" (as in "go"). If Dowland himself wrote "Jo:dolandi" when staying in Germany, he must have pronounced "dolandi" in the continental way. Therefore, "Semper Dowland semper dolens" makes a perfect rhyme. Dowland most certainly wasn't a cow, he was a bow and arrow, piercing our hearts with his wonderful music. —Preceding unsigned comment added by DA (talk) 19:40, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

…and yet his name was most certainly given to him before he was a famous musician, such that the correct pronunciation, and indeed the name's derivation, have nothing to do with his profession, bows, arrows or anything of the sort. (talk) 11:02, 7 January 2012 (UTC)

Of the three major English treatises on orthographic reform written during Dowland's lifetime, all of which urged that written English be changed to more accurately reflect its pronunciation, none provide any rendering of ow which maps to the modern pronunciation of "cow":

  • In De recta et emendata linguae Anglicae scriptione (1568), Sir Thomas Smith renders "bow" (flectere, genuflect, bend, persuade, etc.), "mow" (meta foeni, haystack), "sow" (sus femina, a female pig) as differing from "bow" (arcus, arc, coil, arch), "mow" (metere, to reap, cut down) and "sow" (seminate, to plant seeds; and also suere, to sew) only in the duration of the first vowel in the diphthong, not the sound used to produce it (fo.17r). The first vowel in the diphthong was that which Smith called O Latina, which in its longa form was the same sound as in "go", and in its brevis form was only a shorter version thereof (fo.11v).
  • In An Orthographie (1569), John Hart (who of the three came the closest to a system like the IPA, where each letter represented only one sound, with diacriticals under the vowels to indicate duration) consistently renders ow diphthongs as starting with the vowel sound contained in "go" - with the exceptions of "yowe", which he renders ieu, and "bowy", rendered buei - neither of which is even close to the modern sound of "cow" (ff.39v, 40r). Regarding the sound of o, Hart indicates that it is the same sound as in Latin principio and Italian riputatione, and further indicates that it has the same sound as in Spanish and German (ff.34r,v). For that matter, Hart rendered the word "vowel" (which in modern times has the same ow sound as "cow") as voel (fo.47r) - /ˈvoʊəl/, rather than /ˈvaʊəl/ as it is pronounced today.
  • Most tellingly, in Bullokars Booke at large, for the Amendment of Orthographie for English speech (1580), William Bullokar quite helpfully instructs that "When :w: is in diphthong with any vowell before it, then is the vowell perfectly sounded, and :w: is lightly touched, except in :ew: where bothe are like sounded" (p.24) - which is to say, that following any vowel with the letter w does not change the pronunciation of the vowel from its "perfect" (Latinate) form; and greater emphasis is given to the sound of the vowel than to the w, the latter letter contributing little to the sound of the diphthong.

All of these sources rather strongly indicate that Dowland's name was pronounced to rhyme with "Roland", rather than "Cowland". (talk) 16:04, 8 December 2008 (UTC)

  • English was pronounced differently then, than now. Back then although John Dowland might have pronounced his name [dəulənd], ie. to our ears "Doland", it is most "accurate" to simply pronounce Dowland as it looks to be pronounced, since his and our accents are different by a few hundred years. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:04, 31 October 2019 (UTC)

Erroneous portrait[edit]

Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury by John De Critz the Elder, NPG 1115

According to File:Dowland.jpg the pictured man is not John Dowland at all, and this is a common misattribution. For additional evidence, see File:Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury by John De Critz the Elder.jpg and its source website. Should we modify the caption or remove the image accordingly, or is there disagreement over this? Dcoetzee 02:51, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

Death date needs clarification[edit]

The way it reads now is, "(1563 – buried 20 February 1626)." (emphasis mine). This suggests that there is no record for his actual date of death. It would help if the article reflects/explains this (or anything about his life aside from his reputation as a composer). Wellesradio (talk) 19:39, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Groves Dictionary says "His court pay ceased on 20 January 1626, which suggests that that was the day he died, but there was apparently an error of some sort, for his burial at St Ann Blackfriars was not recorded until a month later, on 20 February." Very likely these are the only sources of evidence of his date of death...unless anyone knows otherwise... Bluewave (talk) 20:55, 10 August 2009 (UTC)

Source for year of birth[edit]

If we know next to nothing about his early life, including not even being sure whether he was born in London or Dublin, how does anyone know he was born in 1563?

Should this perhaps read c. 1563? -- Jack of Oz [pleasantries] 19:13, 25 March 2015 (UTC)

His wife[edit]

Do we know who she was? Barbara Touburg (talk) 20:26, 3 December 2015 (UTC)

According to Diana Poulton's authoritative biography (second edition, University of California Press, 1982, p. 28), there is a "complete mystery that surrounds the identity of Mrs. Dowland."—Jerome Kohl (talk) 01:22, 4 December 2015 (UTC)
Thank you, Jerome. Barbara Touburg (talk) 19:30, 20 December 2015 (UTC)

Complete Catalogue?[edit]

The article states "There is no complete catalogue of Dowland's works" but lists several artists as having "recorded the complete works of John Dowland" *I paraphrase). How can this be? Stub Mandrel (talk) 16:30, 5 March 2017 (UTC)

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'The Orpheus Books'[edit]

I am in the process of reading it, but I can't seem to find out any information regarding 'The Orpheus Books', supposedly discovered behind a mantlepiece in Ireland which contained old books and a letter addressed to 'Rob D' and written by John Dowland. Is this a work of fiction, or an actual thing that happened? I would love to know more, as I remember my sister telling me the story of the 'doscovery' when I was a child and I have been fascinated ever since. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2A02:C7F:DA06:FF00:39A5:845E:84C9:9941 (talk) 18:04, 27 August 2017 (UTC)

Move discussion in progress[edit]

There is a move discussion in progress on Talk:Dowland (disambiguation) which affects this page. Please participate on that page and not in this talk page section. Thank you. —RMCD bot 18:05, 20 January 2019 (UTC)

Pilgrimes Solace not more contrapuntal, though he complains about new music in preface[edit]

Hello, this phrase is demonstrably untrue: Pilgrimes Solace 'seems have been conceived more as a collection of contrapuntal music than as solo works' since 7 of the 21 songs in the book are for solo voice, sometimes with an obligato viol, or have long sections for one voice with a chorus - that's 7 more solo songs than the 1st and 3rd Books and I think only one less than the 2nd Book. Additionally, songs in PS like Disdaine me still and Sweet stay are very declamatory. I think whoever wrote these words in the over half a century old The New Oxford History of Music, Volume IV: The Age of Humanism 1540–1630 has read the 'address to the reader' and not, you know, counted the solo songs. I will take this out in a couple of weeks despite having a footnote, as long as nobody objects. I could footnote 7 different links to descriptions of the songs Poulton's book but that does seem like overkill. It does seem that taking as 'authorities' things written over half a century when there's been rather a lot of work done on early music in the intervening period might be something to not do.Je9671111 (talk) 22:02, 24 August 2019 (UTC)

End matter[edit]

Currently there is a section entitled "Notes" which includes a mixture of footnotes (particularly (1) and (4)), hand coded short references ("Warlock 1970, p.32"), citations ("Mathew Spring ...") and a bare URL (though this latter is a dead URL). The next section entitled "Bibliography" is mainly title-first, hand coded and not in order. I would like to:

  1. Rename "Notes" to be "References" and create a new section "Notes" to hold the extended footnotes using the {{efn}} mechanism.  Done
  2. Convert the Bibliography to use citation templates and put it in alphabetical order.  Done
  3. Move citations from the references list into the bibliography.
  4. If, and only if, consensus can be achieved, convert the references to use the {{sfn}} mechanism.


  1. Separates additional information from the purely mechanistic sourcing of statements. The page layout is improved and the reader can see at a glance what the sections are offereing.
  2. Some sorting is essential. Trying to resolve "Warlock" for instance takes quite a bit of hunting. Most bibliographies use author-first (and indeed last,first), and this is the form in which the references link to the citations. Sorting is thereby easier to do and to use.
  3. This should be the least contentious move. There is a mixture of methods where there should by only one within the page.
  4. I know some people dislike {{sfn}}, though I've never understood why. Personally I find it much easier, but I am aware that there are alternatives: <ref>{{harv|...}}</ref> and hand coding. If I'm giving the page a thorough gnomish revision I'd like to do the job properly.


This represents a change in citation method and so WP:CITEVAR applies and consensus is required. Martin of Sheffield (talk) 10:22, 6 September 2019 (UTC)

  • Concur (reluctantly). Your problem, Martin, is that you are not only completely sensible, but also scrupulous about seeking consensus. I have wracked my brain, but I cannot think of a single thing in your proposal to which I can object. Perhaps another editor will succeed where I have failed.—Jerome Kohl (talk) 16:23, 6 September 2019 (UTC)