by Anonymous / Unidentified Author and sometimes misattributed to Thomas Campion (1567 - 1620)

What if a day, or a month, or a yeare
Language: English 
Available translation(s): ITA
What if a day, or a month, or a yeare
Crown thy delights with a thousand sweet contentings?
Cannot a chance of a night or an howre
Crosse thy desires with as many sad tormentings?
Fortune, honor, beauty, youth
Are but blossoms dying;
Wanton pleasure, doating love,
Are but shadowes flying.
All our joyes are but toyes,
Idle thoughts deceiving;
None have power of an howre
In their lives bereaving.

Earthes but a point to the world, and a man
Is but a point to the worlds compared centure:
Shall then a point of a point be so vaine
As to triumph in a seely points adventure?
All is hassard that we have,
There is nothing biding;
Dayes of pleasure are like streames
Through faire meadowes gliding.
Weale and woe, time doth goe,
Time is ever turning:
Secret fates guide our states,
Both in mirth and mourning

About the headline (FAQ)

Confirmed with Richard Alison’s An Howres Recreation in Musicke, 1606.

Most likely misattributed to Campion, as discussed in A. E. H. Swan's 1907 paper "The Authorship of 'What if a Day,' and Its Various Versions" (Modern Philology, vol. 4, no. 3, Jan. 1907, pp. 397-422). Swan cites the first known appearance of the text in the Scottish Metrical Psalter, published in 1566 (one year before Campion was born), held by the British Museum (add. 33,933, fol. 81b)


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Antonio Zencovich) , "Cosa vuol dire se un giorno, un mese o anche un anno?", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Antonio Zencovich , Garrett Medlock [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website: 2017-02-09
Line count: 24
Word count: 147