I recommend, however ; that you listen to it performed by Alfred Deller, the man behind the resurrection of the counter-tenor voice. No-one sings this music like Deller, who has his faults, but whose voice can translate instantly the most subtle, changeable nuances of emotion into song.
"My young love said to me, my mother won't mind,
And my father won't smite you for your lack of kind.
And she stepped away from me, and then she did say,
It will not be long, love, 'til our wedding day.
She stepped away from me, and she moved through the fair,
And fondly I watched her move here and move there,
And then she went homeward, with one star awake,
As the swan in the evening moves over the lake.
Last night she came to me, she came softly in,
So softly she came that her feet made no din,
And she laid her hand on me, and this she did say,
It will not be long, love 'til our wedding day."
This song is pretty straightforward, isn't it ?
But... do you UNDERSTAND it ?
When my mother married my father in 1952 she was a virgin. I know because she told me so, and knowing her the way I did, I know that she wasn't lying...
My father was an Ivy League military man who had fooled around with the Ivy League girls at school, but when he married, he wanted a virgin. He didn't really respect a woman (Ivy League or not...) who had slept around before her wedding. And both of them warned ME to be careful about sleeping around. They didn't approve of it at all. Basically, because they wanted to protect ME. Because they felt that in these circumstances, the WOMAN ends up getting hurt more often than the man. Biology oblige, as the French say.
The above is to indicate just how fast things have changed. The idea that I would be a virgin at my wedding was already unthinkable for me at 18.
But when I hear the song, I get a wistful feeling, thinking about how much I, WE have lost with our new sexual "freedom". I can hear, taste the desire between man and woman in the song. And their desire is not that cheap, tawdry ersatz that sells cars on the billboards, you can be sure of that...
And when I hear the song, I also understand, or think I understand just WHY some of the Muslim women are picking up the veil to hide their hair. Did you know that in Western Europe the women during the Middle Ages wore a form of veil ? The Middle Ages, when women in many cases enjoyed a freedom that they STILL have not attained in modern western society (re Regine Pernoud, a French historian who began dusting off the Middle Ages for us in France in the 1970's). And, ironically, Dink, the Catholic church was an institution that guaranteed women this freedom. It was not necessarily the oppressor that our one dimensional understanding of history, reduced to propaganda disseminated "en masse" by the history manuals, has led us to believe...
With any luck, you might be able to find Alfred Deller singing this song on youtube, where apparently you can find everything. If not, Harmonia Mundi has issued a coffret with most of his recordings. Enjoy !