Song Texts

Robert Schumann | 5 Lieder Op. 40

Märzveilchen

Hans Christian Andersen, translated by Adelbert von Chamisso

Der Himmel wölbt sich rein und blau,

Der Reif stellt Blumen aus zur Schau.

Am Fenster prangt ein flimmernder Flor.

Ein Jüngling steht, ihn betrachtend, davor.

Und hinter den Blumen blühet noch gar

Ein blaues, ein lächelndes Augenpaar.

Märzveilchen, wie jener noch keine gesehn.

Der Reif wird angehaucht zergehn.

Eisblumen fangen zu schmelzen an,

Und Gott sei gnädig dem jungen Mann.

Muttertraum

Die Mutter betet herzig und schaut

Entzückt auf den schlummernden Kleinen.

Er ruht in der Wiege so sanft und traut.

Ein Engel muß er ihr scheinen.

Sie küßt ihn und herzt ihn, sie hält sich kaum.

Vergessen der irdischen Schmerzen,

Es schweift in die Zukunft ihr Hoffnungstraum.

So träumen Mütter im Herzen.

Der Rab indes mit der Sippschaft sein

Kreischt draußen am Fenster die Weise:

Dein Engel, dein Engel wird unser sein!

Der Räuber dient uns zur Speise!

Der Soldat

Es geht bei gedämpfter Trommel Klang;

Wie weit noch die Stätte! der Weg wie lang!

O wär er zur Ruh und alles vorbei!

Ich glaub’, es bricht mir das Herz entzwei.

Ich hab’ in der Welt nur ihn geliebt,

Nur ihn, dem jetzt man den Tod doch gibt.

Bei klingendem Spiele wird paradiert,

Dazu bin auch ich kommandiert.

Nun schaut er auf zum letztenmal

In Gottes Sonne freudigen Strahl,—

Nun binden sie ihm die Augen zu,—

Dir schenke Gott die ewige Ruh!

Es haben dann Neun wohl angelegt,

Acht Kugeln haben vorbeigefegt;

Sie zittern alle vor Jammer und Schmerz—

Ich aber, ich traf ihn mitten in das Herz.

Der Spielmann

Im Städtchen gibt es des Jubels viel,

Da halten sie Hochzeit mit Tanz und mit Spiel,

Dem Fröhlichen blinket der Wein so rot,

Die Braut nur gleicht dem getünchten Tod.

Ja tot für den, den nicht sie vergißt,

Der doch beim Fest nicht Bräutigam ist;

Da steht er inmitten der Gäste im Krug,

Und streichet die Geige lustig genug!

Er streichet die Geige, sein Haar ergraut,

Es schwingen die Saiten gellend und laut,

Er drückt sie ans Herz und achtet es nicht,

Ob auch sie in tausend Stücke zerbricht.

Es ist gar grausig, wenn einer so stirbt,

Wenn jung sein Herz um Freude noch wirbt;

Ich mag und will nicht länger es sehn!

Das möchte den Kopf mir schwindelnd verdrehn.—

Wer heißt euch mit Fingern zeigen auf mich?

O Gott—bewahr uns gnädiglich,

Daß Keinen der Wahnsinn übermannt;

Bin selber ein armer Musikant.

March violets 

English translation © Richard Stokes

The sky arches clear and blue;

The hoar-frost fashions flowers.

The window-pane gleams with shimmering blossom,

A young man stands there, looking on.

And blossoming behind those flowers

Is a pair of smiling blue eyes.

March violets, sweeter than he’d ever seen.

A single breath will melt the frost.

The icy flowers begin to thaw—

May the Lord have mercy on that young man.

A mother's dream

A mother prays fervently and looks

With joy at her little slumbering son;

He sleeps in the cradle all snug and warm,

To her he must seem like an angel.

She kisses and hugs him; can hardly restrain herself,

Forgetting all her earthly sorrows;

Her hopes and dreams hover in the future;

That’s how all mothers dream in their hearts.

The raven meanwhile with its brood

Croaks this tune outside the window:

Your angel, your angel shall be our prey!

We shall peck at the robber as food!

The Soldier

He walks to the sound of the muffled drum;

How far away the place! how long the way!

Ah, were he at rest and all this done!

My heart, I think, will break in two.

None but him in the world have I loved,

Him, who now they’re putting to death.

The firing squad parades will full band,

I too am detailed for the task.

Now he takes his last look

At the joyous rays of God’s sun,—

Now they’re blindfolding him,—

May God grant you eternal peace!

The nine of us took good aim,

Eight bullets whistled wide of the mark;

Every man shook with pity and grief—

But I, I shot him clean through the heart.

The Fiddler

In the little town there’s much rejoicing,

They’re holding a wedding with music and dance,

The happy man quaffs the glinting red wine,

But the bride is as pale as death.

She is dead for the one she cannot forget,

Who’s at the feast but not as the groom;

He stands among the guests at the inn,

And plays his fiddle gaily enough!

He plays his fiddle, his hair turns grey,

The strings resound shrill and loud,

He presses the fiddle to his heart, heedless

If it shatters in a thousand pieces.

It’s hideous for a man to die in this way,

When his heart’s still young and striving for joy;

I cannot and will not watch any more!

My head might reel in a fatal whirl.—

Who said to point a finger at me?

O God—have mercy,

Let none of us go mad;

I too am just a poor musician.

Lili Boulanger | Clairières Dans le Ciel

Nous nous aimerons 

Francis Jammes

Nous nous aimerons tant que nous tairons nos mots,

en nous tendant la main, quand nous nous reverrons.

Vous serez ombragée par d’anciens rameaux

sur le banc que je sais où nous nous assoierons.

Donc nous nous assoierons sur ce banc tous deux seuls …

D’un long moment, ô mon amie, vous n’oserez …

Que vous me serez douce et que je tremblerai …

Vous m’avez regardé avec toute votre âme.

Vous m’avez regardé avec toute votre âme.

Vous m’avez regardé longtemps comme un ciel bleu.

J’ai mis votre regard à l’ombre de mes yeux …

Que ce regard était passionné et calme …

We shall love each other 

English translation © Richard Stokes

We shall love each other so, that we shall be silent

as we hold out hands when we next meet.

You will be shaded by old branches

on the bench where I know we shall both sit down.

And so we shall sit down on this bench, we two alone...

For a long while, my friend, you will not dare...

How gentle you will be with me and how I shall tremble...

You gazed at me with you soul.

You gazed at me with you soul.

You gazed at me long like a blue sky.

I set your gaze in the shade of my eyes...

How this was passionate and calm...

Modest Mussorgsky | Songs and Dances of Death 

Trepak

 

Arseny Golenischev-Kutuzov

Les da poljany, bezljud'e krugom.

V'juga i plachet i stonet,

Chujetsja, budto vo mrake nochnom,

Zlaja, kogo-to khoronit;

Gljad', tak i jest'! V temnote muzhika

Smert' obnimajet, laskajet,

S p'janen'kim pljashet vdvojom trepaka,

Na ukho pesn' napevajet:

Oj, muzhichok, starichok ubogoj,

P'jan napilsja, popljolsja dorogoj,

A mjatel'-to, ved'ma, podnjalas', vzygrala.

S polja v les dremuchij nevznachaj zagnala.

Gorem, toskoj da nuzhdoj tomimyj,

Ljag, prikorni, da usni, rodimyj!

Ja tebja, golubchik moj, snezhkom sogreju,

Vkrug tebja velikuju igru zateju.

Vzbej-ka postel', ty mjatel'-lebjodka!

Gej, nachinaj, zapevaj pogodka!

Skazku, da takuju, chtob vsju noch' tjanulas',

Chtob p'janchuge krepko pod nejo zasnulos'!

Oj, vy lesa, nebesa, da tuchi,

Tem', veterok, da snezhok letuchij!

Svejtes' pelenoju, snezhnoj, pukhovoju;

Jeju, kak mladenca, starichka prikroju...

Spi, moj druzhok, muzhichok schastlivyj,

Leto prishlo, rascvelo!

Nad nivoj solnyshko smejotsja da serpy gljajut,

Pesenka nesjotsja, golubki letajut...

Trepak

English Translation © Philip Ross Bullock

Forests and glades, not a soul in sight.

A blizzard wails and howls.

In the darkness of night,

It is as if someone is being buried by some evil force:

Just look – it is so! In the darkness,

Death tenderly embraces a peasant,

Leading the drunken man in a lively dance,

And singing this song in his ear:

‘Oh, poor peasant, pitiful old man,

Drunk and stumbling on your way,

And the blizzard, like a witch, rose up and raged,

Driving you by chance from the field into the deep woods.

Oppressed by grief and sadness and want,

Lay down, rest and sleep, my dear!

I will warm you, my friend, with a cover of snow,

Weaving a great game around you.

Whip up a bed, oh swan-like snowstorm!

Hey, you elements, strike up a song,

Spin a tale that will last all night,

So that that old drunk might sleep soundly to its strains!

Hey, you woods and heavens and storm clouds,

Darkness and winds and driving snow!

Spin him a shroud of downy snow,

And I will swathe the old man, like a new-born child…

Sleep, my friend, you fortunate peasant,

Summer has come, all in bloom!

The sun smiles down on the cornfield and the sickles glimmer,

A song wafts across the air and the doves are flying…’

Henry Purcell, arr. Benjamin Britten | Let The Night Perish (Job's Curse)

Jeremy Taylor

Let the night perish; cursed be the morn

Wherein 'twas said: there is a man-child born!

Let not the Lord regard that day, but shroud

Its fatal glory in some sullen cloud.

May the dark shades of an eternal night

Exclude the least kind beam of dawning light;

Let unborn babes, as in the womb they lie,

If it be mentioned, give a groan, and die.

No sounds of joy therein shall charm the ear,

No sun, no moon, no twilight stars appear

But a thick veil of gloomy darkness wear.

Why did I not, when first my mother's womb

Discharg'd me thence, drop down into my tomb?

Then had I been as quiet, and mine eyes

Had slept, and seen no sorrow; there the wise

And subtle counsellor, the potentate,

Who for themselves built palaces of state,

Lie hush'd in silence; there's no midnight cry

Caus'd by oppression and the tyranny

Of wicked rulers; there the weary cease

From labour, there the pris'ner sleeps in peace;

The rich, the poor, the monarch and the slave

Rest undisturb'd and no distinction have

Within the silent chambers of the grave.

Samuel Barber | Bessie Bobtail from Three Songs Op. 2

James Stephens

As down the road she wambled slow,

She had not got a place to go:

She had not got a place to fall

And rest herself - no place at all!

She stumped along, and wagged her pate;

And said a thing was desperate.

 

Her face was screwed and wrinkled tight

Just like a nut - and, left and right,

On either side, she wagged her head

And said a thing; and what she said

Was desperate as any word

That ever yet a person heard.

 

I walked behind her for a while,

And watched the people nudge and smile:

But ever, as she went, she said,

As left and right she swung her head,

"O God He knows: And, God He knows!

And, surely God Almighty knows!"

Rebecca Clarke | The Seal Man (1922)

John Masefield

And he came by her cabin to the west of the road, calling.

There was a strong love came up in her at that,

and she put down her sewing on the table, and "Mother," she says,

"There's no lock, and no key, and no bolt, and no door.

There's no iron, nor no stone, nor anything at all

will keep me this night from the man I love."

And she went out into the moonlight to him,

there by the bush where the flow'rs is pretty, beyond the river.

And he says to her: "You are all of the beauty of the world,

will you come where I go, over the waves of the sea?"

And she says to him: "My treasure and my strength," she says,

"I would follow you on the frozen hills, my feet bleeding."

Then they went down into the sea together,

and the moon made a track on the sea, and they walked down it;

it was like a flame before them. There was no fear at all on her;

only a great love like the love of the Old Ones,

that was stronger than the touch of the fool.

She had a little white throat, and little cheeks like flowers,

and she went down into the sea with her man,

who wasn't a man at all.

She was drowned, of course.

It's like he never thought that she wouldn't bear the sea like himself.

She was drowned, drowned.

Michael Tippett | Full Fathom Five from Songs for Ariel

William Shakespeare

Full fathom five thy father lies;

Of his bones are coral made;

Those are pearls that were his eyes:

Nothing of him that doth fade

But doth suffer a sea-change

Into something rich and strange.

Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell

Hark! now I hear them, – Ding-dong, bell.

Tansy Davies | Destroying Beauty (2008)

John Clare

troubling the cornfields with destroying beauty; the different greens of the woodland trees, the dark oak, the paler ash, the mellow lime, the white poplars peeping above the rest like leafy steeples, the grey willow shining in the sun, as if the morning mist still lingered on its cool green.  .

Sally Beamish | Hoopoe from Four Songs from Hafez

Jila Peacock, after Hafez

O Hoopoe of the east wind, To Sheba I shall send you.

Take heed from where to where

I shall send you

 

Pity a bird like you Lodged in a well of sorrow. From here, to the nest of devotion

I shall send you

In quest of love There is no near or far but only now.

I see you whole, and my fealty I shall send you

 

Whispering in the winds

Each dawn and dusk,

Convoys of sweet invocations

I shall send you

 

Love’s face

Reveals the joy of all Creation

In the God-reflecting mirror

I shall send you

Gustav Holst | On Betelgeuse from Twelve Humbert Wolfe Songs 

Humbert Wolfe

On Betelgeuse

the gold leaves hang in golden aisles

for twice a hundred million miles,

and twice a hundred million years

they golden hang and nothing stirs,

on Betelgeuse.

 

Space is a wind that does

not blow on Betelgeuse,

and time - oh time - is a bird,

whose wings have never stirred

the golden avenues of leaves

on Betelgeuse.

 

On Betelgeuse

there is nothing that joys or grieves

the unstirred multitude of leaves,

nor ghost of evil or good haunts

the gold multitude

on Betelgeuse.

 

And birth they do not use

nor death on Betelgeuse,

and the God, of whom we are

infinite dust, is there

a single leaf of those gold leaves

on Betelgeuse.

Sir Harrison Birtwistle | from Songs of the Same Earth

David Harsent

I

Silence of slow water, silence of the rose

that burdened the summer, silence of the still unopened book.

 

No returning to this, or to the stall and stoop

of the falcon through sunlight

 

as the cloud broke on a morning of nerveless drift,

you still carrying the threads of a dream

 

in which a figure cut from black stood on the edge of things,

one arm raised to greet or else to warn.

 

Your voice and mine through the night,

something heartfelt, some account of solitude…

 

The spaces between us are delicate:

bird-tracks on ice, scentless depth of water below;

 

and nothing is accident: your face

in the mirror when the silvering slips, the raised arm

 

of the dreamscape silhouette, the tiercel that hunts

from high-rise city blocks in a slipstream of dead air.

 

VIII

A storm coming in off the skyline and you in the full of it,

the glare and roar, the crash of atoms,

 

and a wheel of birds in the still eye, barely turning,

like you in your strange, grave dance.

 

Will your life never settle round you—will you be found

dining in the park, a place set there for the uninvited guest,

 

his appetite bound to bring a smudge of blood

to your silk, and a spillage of salt? Later, there’ll be a wind

 

to wash you naked, and what the downpour left

in the garden drills, as you lick your fingertip to dip the salt.

 

IX

You are here and nowhere else despite your dreaming

and there’s something in the room like smother and smoke…

 

It’s never been enough to lock the doors

or close the blinds in that moment just before dawn.

 

You draw down the worst of the past

in which you are bait, your old loves nudging and feeding.

 

X

When the entire flock lifted as one:

when you began to lose the light: when the moon

 

tipped up on the skyline; when the river

glossed along its length; when you walked back, when you walked

 

that needless mile, trying to empty your mind;

when you seemed to catch night’s rhythm coming in,

 

a long, slow, seismic pulse; when you knew

there were words you would never speak or want to hear; when rain

 

started up from the earth, a whisper in the grass;

when you called out, when you called

 

to clear the air and nothing more; when you crossed the line

that keeps what’s yours from what the world holds back, then—

 

this bird-skull, eaten clean, eye-sockets clean,

dome and beak intact, a talisman to see you home, to watch the door…

 

My last sight of you will come as you pass the window,

your look-and-look-away a sudden gleam in the glass.

 

2013 © David Harsent