Four Songs of Gerard Manley Hopkins
for soprano and piano
for our friend and colleague, soprano Elizabeth Connell
to Liza, in memoriam (2012)
i. Pied Beauty
[ circa 2' 10" ]
Glory be to God
for dappled things -
For skies of couple-colour as a brindled cow;
rose-moles in all stipple upon trout that swim;
chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced - fold,
fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle,
freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
ii. God's Grandeur
[ circa 4' 05" ]
The world is
charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod,
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell; the soil
Is bare, nor can
foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last
lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward,
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm
breast and with ah ! bright wings.
[ circa 3' 15" ]
Nothing is so
beautiful as Spring
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and
Thrush's eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like
lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
the racing lambs too have their fling.
What is all this juice and all
A strain of the earth's sweet being in the beginning
garden. - Have, get, before it cloy,
Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and
sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
maid's child, thy choice and worthy the winning.
iv. To Call Thee Love
circa 2' 15" ]
Let me be to Thee as the circling bird,
Or bat with tender and
That shapes in half-light his departing rings,
both of whom a changeless note is heard.
I have found my music in a
Trying each pleasurable throat that sings
praisèd sequence of sweet strings,
And know infallibly which I preferred.
The authentic cadence was discovered late
Which ends those only strains
that I approve,
And other science all gone out of date
sweetness scarce made mention of:
I have found the dominant of my range
and state -
Love, O my God, to call Thee Love and Love.
Total duration [ circa 11' 45" ]
Gerard Manley Hopkins
Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) was an English poet and Jesuit priest,
one of the most individual of Victorian writers who also was amateur
painter and composer late in his life. His poetry was not published in
collected form until 1918, but it influenced many leading 20th-century
poets. Hopkins' philosophy emphasized the individuality of every natural
thing, which he called "inscape."
For Hopkins, each sensuous impression had its own elusive "selfness."
Each scene was to him a "sweet especial scene." His exploitation of the
verbal subtleties and music of English, of the use of echo,
alliteration, and repetition, and a highly compressed syntax were all in
the interest of projecting deep personal experiences, including his
sense of God's mystery, grandeur, and mercy, and his joy in "all things
counter, original, spare, strange" as he wrote in "Pied Beauty" which
opens this cycle of four songs with "Glory be to God...."
These texts were suggested by Liza Connell, South African soprano well
known for her performances of Isolde, Leonora and so many other lead
roles in the dramatic Fach. In appreciation for her work and for
pleasant time spent together in San Francisco and on days off touring the Monterey
Peninsula, I offered to compose songs to some of her favorite texts. She
recalled her youthful education in a Catholic school where she had
become acquainted with the poet, and presented me only a day later with an anthology of
Gerard Manley Hopkins. She had checked off several titles in the table of
contents, and penned a sweet note about her favorite texts. I chose these four for a cycle for her, and
Randal" for a separate
setting, so different is its mood from these uplifting texts.
In the course of the years, we saw Liza frequently, last
time having her over for lunch and a gossip fest during her work at the
Staatsoper unter den Linden. Liza passed away in London,
and this re-engraving is to honor her memory.
The last text, "To Call Thee Love," is set for SATB chorus as well, so
apt do its sense and words match that sound.
is available as a free PDF
download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work
is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the
graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
Four Songs of Gerard Manley Hopkins