Break now my heart, and die
Free Vocal Sheet Music
Free vocal sheet music from the English Renaissance: "Break now my heart, and die..." by Thomas Campion.
This brisk minor song can be sung by male or female vocalists, by substituting "he" for "she," and "his" for "her," etc.
I first heard this energetic English Renaissance song in college.
A very beautiful performance:
This piano accompaniment was adapted from lute tablature by Frederick Keel:
Please scroll down the page for the links to the vocal PDFs.
Difficult passages in this song
The range of "Break now my heart, and die" is an octave plus a third (a 10th). Though the melody is made up primarily of scale steps, there are some tricky thirds for the singer because the chord changes are frequent.
That also makes the piano accompaniment a bit of a handful. You are going to want a pianist who is good with chords for this one -- don't let it drag!
The time signature changes in measures 18 through 20 require careful counting... they will not feel natural at first.
Here is another video, VERY SLOW, but rather beautiful:
Interpreting this song
At every phrase, the singer first despairs at the futility of his love, and then reconsiders why he should persevere.
He chides himself that the loss (of her love) is surely an easy burden if all it takes is a smile to fix it! Indeed, someone else would be just as good, if she were as pretty.
What is the singer TALKING about?
In the second verse, the singer alludes to classical mythology, which is much less familiar to our modern students than it would have been to singers of Elizabethan music of the English Renaissance.
"The Grecian" who was "enchanted in all parts but the heel", the mighty hero Achilles, was finally brought down by an arrow -- to his heel. So might the heart of the singer's beloved eventually be touched, in spite of "ribs of steele".
What's wrong with Thomas Campion's spelling?
The old style of spelling might be confusing to non-English speakers, or even for those who speak and read English well, but for whom English is not the first language.
This song was written before spelling was standardized; the poet John Donne, a contemporary of Thomas Campion, enjoyed trying out different spellings of his own name.
A famous poem of his, talking about his secret marriage to the daughter of his employer, which resulted in their impoverishment for many years, goes like this:
I hope you and your students enjoy this beautifully-crafted song, "Breake now my heart, and die," from Elizabethan England!
The links to the vocal music:
Download free vocal sheet music "Break now my heart" in Am
Download Elizabethan music in Key of Em
Download music from the English Renaissance in Gm
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A good choice for a singing story-teller, an operatic group, a short theater production, or a class of children!
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And when they start reading white-key notes on the staff, this is a fun easy resource to say each week, "Choose a new black-key song at home this week and figure it out to show me next lesson!" They will be spending more time at the piano.
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About the Author
Hi, I'm Dana! (Say that like "Anna".) I'm the owner of Music-for-Music-Teachers.com, and a newer site, SingTheBibleStory.com.
Like some of you, I've been playing the piano since early childhood, and have added a few other instruments along the way, plus an interest in arranging and composing music.
You can find out more about me and the reason for this website at my About Me page.