Robert Hugill - Winter Journey for baritone and piano
Text by Rowan Williams, 'Winterreise: for Gillian Rose, 9 December 1995'
From The Poems of Rowan Williams, by permission of Carcanet Pres
The flat fields tramp towards the Severn.
I know there is no cliff to drop from
at their edge, only the sand and the wet still sheets.
This morning, though, the thick and chest-constricting
light, the level, rose-grey clouds and the remains
of icy fog stand between fields and water.
And the horizon has to be a steep edge, has to be
the cliff where Gloucester fell that never-to-be measured
drop from his body to the ground.
And down, a long way down, below the frost,
must be soft embers sending up the light
from fires the night-fog has muffled but not killed.
Still, where you were concerned, we always
arrived too late; too late, myopic, short of sleep,
with fingers stumbling to decipher messages
you left for us, engraved in a hard surface.
It was a distant relative of yours who drove
his lawyer's reed into the black Sinai basalt
till the calligraphy of little streams broke out
to age the hopeless rock as if with history,
as if with words; another kinsman, distant or not too distant,
writing in falling sweat on stone, body to ground, something
his friends never quite managed to read. Tracing, unthinkingly,
a pattern of spilled wine on the dayroom table,
never quite managing to meet each other's eyes, not for long,
we test the feel of an unyielding difficulty, not yet sure
of handling this, of finding where the streams combine,
reading what the wet fingertips decode.
Dying by degrees, perhaps, is a winter journey:
connections cancelled unexplained, the staff,
their patience ebbing, closing amenities, one by one, around you.
The temperature falls, and for an hour you sit
on a plastic bench, aching for sleep,
under the surly light that strips you
For some always-delayed inspection; so even,
so hard, that for so long you cannot see the dark:
the homely dark, with its fierce small fires.
Robert Hugill - Four Songs to Texts by A.E.Housman for baritone and piano
Texts taken from 'More Poems' and 'Additional Poems'
He looked at me
He looked at me with eyes I thought
I was not like to find,
The voice he begged for pence with brought
Another man to mind.
Oh no, lad, never touch your cap;
It is not my half-crown:
You have it from a better chap
That long ago lay down.
Turn east and over Thames to Kent
And come to the sea's brim,
And find his everlasting tent
He would not stay for me
He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?
He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.
I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,
And went with half my life about my ways.
Because I liked you better
Because I liked you better
Than suits a man to say,
It irked you, and I promised
To throw the thought away.
To put the worl d between us
We parted, stiff and dry;
`Good-bye,' said you, `forget me.'
`I will, no fear', said I.
If here, where clover whitens
The dead man's knoll, you pass,
And no tall flower to meet you
Starts in the trefoiled grass,
Halt by the headstone naming
The heart no longer stirred,
And say the lad that loved you
Was one that kept his word.
A.J.J – When he's returned
When he's returned I'll tell him -- oh,
Dear fellow, I forgot:
Time was you would have cared to know,
But now it matters not.
I mourn you, and you heed not how;
Unsaid the word must stay;
Last month was time enough, but now
The news must keep for aye.
Oh, many a month before I learn
Will find me starting still
And listening, as the days return,
For him that never will.
Strange, strange to think his blood is cold
And mine flows easy on:
And that straight look, that heart of gold,
That grace, that manhood gone.
The word unsaid will stay unsaid
Though there was much to say;
Last month was time enough: he's dead,
The news must keep for aye.
Robert Hugill - When Summer's end is nighing
Text by A.E. Housman from Last Poems (1922)
When summer's end is nighing
And skies at evening cloud,
I muse on change and fortune
And all the feats I vowed
When I was young and proud.
From hill and cloud and heaven
The hues of evening died;
Night welled through lane and hollow
And hushed the countryside,
But I had youth and pride.
The year might age, and cloudy
The lessening day might close,
But air of other summers
Breathed from beyond the snows,
And I had hope of those.
They came and were and are not
And come no more anew;
All the years and seasons
That ever can ensue
Must now be worse, worse and few.
So here's an end, an end to roaming
On eves when autumn nighs;
The ear too fondly listens
For summers parting sighs,
And then the heart replies.
Robert Hugill - Quickening
A song cycle for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano to poems by Christina Rossetti
When I am dead, my dearest
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet:
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not fear the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on as if in pain.
And dreaming through the twilight
that doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.
Bitter for Sweet
Summer is gone with all its roses,
Its sun and perfumes and sweet flowers,
Its warm air and refreshing showers;
And even Autumn closes.
Yea, Autumn's chilly self is going,
And winter comes which is yet colder;
Each day the hoarfrost waxes bolder,
And the last buds cease blowing.
A voice said, "Follow, follow": and I rose
And followed far into the dreamy night,
Turning my back upon the pleasant light.
It led me where the bluest water flows,
And would not let me drink: where corn grows
I dared not pause, but went uncheered by sight
Or touch, until at length in evil plight.
It left me, wearied out with many woes.
Some time I sat as one bereft of sense:
But soon another voice, from very far
Called, "Follow, follow": and I rose again.
Now on my night has dawned a blessed star:
Kind steady hands my sinking steps sustain,
And will not leave me till I shall go hence.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann'd:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
Fade, tender lily,
Fade, O crimson rose,
Fade every flower,
Sweetest flower that blows.
Go, Chilly autumn,
Come, O winter cold;
Let the green stalks die away
Into common mould.
Birth follows hard on death,
Life on withering;
Hasten, we will come the sooner
Back to pleasant spring.
The First Spring Day
I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,
If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,
If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun
And crocus fires are kindling one by one:
Sing, robin, sing
I still am sore in doubt concerning spring.
I wonder if the Springtide of this year
Will bring another Spring both lost and dear;
If heart and spirit will find out their spring,
Or if the world alone will bud and sing;
Sing hope to me;
Sweet notes, my hope, soft notes for memory
The sap will surely quicken soon or late,
The tardiest bird will twitter to a mate;
So spring must dawn again with warmth and bloom,
So spring must dawn, must dawn again,
dawn again with warmth and bloom,
Or in this world or in the world to come;
Sing, voice of Spring
Till I too blossom and rejoice and sing.
Robert Hugill - Four Songs to Texts by Ivor Gurney for baritone and piano
By permission of Carcanet Press
My heart makes songs on lonely roads
to comfort me while you are away
and strives with lovely sounding words
its crowded tenderness to say
Yet I am glad that love has come
to bind me fast, and try my worth
for love's a powerful lord and gives
his friends dominion over the earth
I walk deserted ways and see
against the forward dark your face
Pale glimmering against the dark:
Your face I see with pride, and pain
So that, one turn, I did desire
Never to see that face again.
Pour out your light, O stars, and do not hold
Your loveliest shining from earth's outworn shell -
Pure and cold your radiance, pure and cold
My dead friend's face as well.
Pour out your bounty, moon of radiant shining
On all this shattered flesh, these quiet forms;
For these were slain, so quiet, still reclining,
In the noblest cause was ever waged with arms.
To His Love
He's gone and all our plans
are useless indeed.
We'll walk no more on Cotswold
where the sheep feed
quietly and take no heed.
His body that was so quick
is not as you
knew it, on Severn river
under the blue
driving our small boat through.
You would not know him now...
but still he died
nobly, so cover him over
with violets of pride
Purple from Severn side.
Cover him, cover him soon!
and with thickset
masses of memoried flowers
hide that red wet
thing I must forget.
Song and Pain
Out of my sorrow have I made these songs,
out of my sorrow;
Though somewhat of the makings eager pain
from joy did borrow.
Some day, I trust, God's purpose of pain for me
shall be complete,
And then to enter in the house of joy...
Prepare, my feet.
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