That's about like asking my to list my favorite songs period... how can I cut it down? I will try, though, to keep this entry from growing insanely long. No particular order; I don't think I can rank them, and given the context of the discussion, just songs with lyrics.
- Adriaan Willaert, "O Dolce Vita Mia." By all means get the Early Music Consort of London album for which it is the title cut. It's worth it for this track alone, but they're all gorgeous. (Do also consider the King's Singers collaboration with Tragicomedia, La Dolce Vita, which also includes this song.)
- Adam de la Halle, "Tant Con Je Vivrai." (Francophones: honest, I looked it up, and that's the title.) A simple and beautiful trouvere song.
- Guillaume de Machaut, "Rose, liz, printemps." Take your pick of Gothic Voices' The Mirror of Narcissus (which is all-Machaut and all vocal) or the Waverly Consort's Douce Dame album (which is not all Machaut, and mixes voice and instruments); either is gorgeous.
- Martin Codax, "Quantas Sabedes." Owain Phyfe and the New World Renaissance Band make no claims of authenticity, but they touch modern audiences deeply with music of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance using folk music performance practice. This song is the last track on their Odyssey album, and it will lull you into a relaxed (and as Phyfe says when introducing the song in performance, gently erotic) mood.
- Thomas Morley, "Nolo mortem peccatoris." This isn't a flighty madrigal or canzonet of the sort Morley is best known for, but a beautiful and heart-rending choral work.
- John Bennet, "Weep, O Mine Eyes." OK, I'm showing my tendency toward melancholy music here.
- John Dowland, "Lachrymae." OK, I'm really showing my tendency toward melancholy music now! Let's fix that...
- Thomas Weelkes, "Come, Sirrah Jack, Ho." This, along with Tobias Hume's "Tobacco," are sort of the druggie music of the English Renaissance, as the lyrics will show. (Nowadays people think the Ars Nova "fumeurs" weren't necessarily on anything.) If you ever saw Reefer Madness, you'll think of the "Faster, louder!" scene when you hear "Fill the pipe once more; my brains dance Trenchmore" ("Trenchmore" was a lively dance of the time).