About this work
John Dowland's Lachrimæ or Seven Teares, published in 1604 in London, consists of arrangements of earlier works for five viols and lute. The 11th piece in the volume is entitled The King of Denmark's Galliard and is an expansion of a galliard for lute known as the Battle Galliard. The name change was undoubtedly made to please his employer, the King of Denmark, probably because Dowland had spent a year away from his post and found himself in debt.
Dowland's Battle Galliard is one of many works in a tradition that began with Clément Janequin's (c.1485 - 1558) La Guerre, first printed in 1529. Matthias Werrecore's La Battaglia taliana (1544) was also influential. These two works were the first to use onomatopoeic words or sounds that attempt to evoke the sounds of battle. Trumpet calls, imitations of kettle drums, and even quotes of battle songs appear in the pieces. Such a piece by William Byrd (1543 - 1623), entitled The Battle, uses these devices and includes a melodic fragment that was associated with these martial works, a four-fold repetition of the first note of a phrase followed by four stepwise descending notes at twice the speed. John Bull's (1562 - 1628) Battle and No Battle contains the same motive.
Traditional aspects of the galliard, which originated in Italy in the early sixteenth century, appear in most of Dowland's galliards, particularly the triple meter and their three distinct phrases, or strains of eight, 12 or 16 measures. Traditionally, each of these strains is repeated, but in Dowland's galliards, the repetition is a variation of the strain. All of Dowland's galliards are polyphonic; King of Denmark is in four voices with the primary material in the upper voice.
Dowland's Battle Galliard, and thus his The King of Denmark, His Galliard, begins with this very motive. Unlike some of its predecessors, it remains in the major mode, and the faster, descending notes have been altered, the last one leaps upward instead of continuing down. This is the primary idea of the first strain. Dowland's second strain also starts with one note per beat in the triple meter, but this is a more rounded tune, with rhythmic variety, including dotted notes and a rapid flourish at the end of the phrase. In the next passage, beginning with a rising sequence of dotted figures, Dowland again seems to be borrowing from Byrd, this time from his The marche of horsmen. The only significant difference between the galliard for lute and the consort version is a thickening of texture. In both versions, dotted rhythms and repeated notes imitate drums and marching soldiers.