Saturday, January 05, 2008

Two More from RVW...

...with the second one tomorrow.

The true quiet gem in Hodie is this little two-stanza chorale, sung unaccompanied by the SATB chorus and in the beyond-unlikely key of C-flat (which sounds exactly as if it were written in the more civilized B-major; I invite a comment from anyone who can suggest a reason for this). The first half is from an anonymous medieval text. The second half was supplied (perhaps at his desperate request?) by his wife, Ursula Wood Vaughan Williams, who was already established as a poet when they married (for the second time each) relatively late in their lives. I am particularly taken with the simple mystical power of the final two lines.

No sad thought his soul affright
Sleep it is that maketh night;’
Let no murmur nor rude wind
To his slumbers prove unkind:
But a quire of angels make
His dreams of heaven, and let him wake
To as many joys as can
In this world befall a man.

Promise fills the sky with light,
Stars and angels dance in flight;
Joy of heaven shall now unbind
Chains of evil from mankind,
Love and joy their power shall break,
And for a new born prince’s sake;
Never since the world began
Such a light such dark did span.

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