Considered one of the most beautiful and perfectly composed songs in the English language, exquisitely matching the text to the music, this piece is also one of my favorites to perform. It was part of a comedy play written by Ben Johnson called, The Devil is an Ass, and was performed by The King's Men, the theatre company that performed Shakespeare's plays. Another Johnson, Robert Johnson, was the composer for the music of "White Lily", and he is also the only composer known to have composed the original settings of Shakespeare's lyrics. "White Lily" was originally performed by a tenor in the play, and, as it was composed in 1616, Shakespeare quite probably didn't live long enough to hear his colleague Ben's piece performed.


Have you seen but a white lily grow, before rude hands have touch’d it?
Have you mark’d the fall of the snow, before the soil hath smuch’d it.
Have you felt the wool of beaver, or swan’s down ever?
Have you smelt of the bud of the briar or the nard of the fire?
Have you tasted the bag of the bee?
Oh so white, Oh so soft, Oh so sweet is she!