Ironic Poem about Prostitution - (2009)
for baritone and piano
When I was young and had no sense
In far-off Mandalay
I lost my heart to a Burmese girl
As lovely as the day.
Her skin was gold, her hair was jet,
Her teeth were ivory;
I said, “for twenty silver pieces,
Maiden, sleep with me”.
She looked at me, so pure, so sad,
The loveliest thing alive,
And in her lisping, virgin voice,
Stood out for twenty-five.
[ 3 pages, circa 1' 30" ]
George Orwell (1903-1950) was born as Eric Blair, Orwell being a pseudonym he adopted later in life based on the patron saint of England as well as the king at that time, George, and the river Orwell in Suffolk, a locale he favored. He is renown for his seminal works, Animal Farm and 1984, as well as a larger body of work, and gave the English language such now-often used jargon as "Big Brother," "doublethink," "thought police" and "newspeak." While the commentary still interests academics who argue political jargon, the simple fact is that Orwell saw "greater" government as a greater evil.
This juvenile poem was published under Orwell's birth name, though I ascribe it herein to his chosen nom de plume. Like E. E. Cummings' examination of prostitution, as in "wanta" (also known as "IX" in Experiments With Typography, Spacing and Sound, 1916-17), Orwell finds "negotiation" ironic as he juxtaposes it against words of love and beauty.
The accompaniment is wholly in pentatonic, as is the vocal line to reflect the Asian venue for this irony in three stanzas. The pianist may blur the gestures with sostenuto a piacere, but the accompaniment throughout is meant to be evocative and delicate.
The last stanza builds to a forte before falling back into a softer ending, suggested to be without a ritardando.
The score for Ironic Poem about Prostitution 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.
Ironic Poem about Prostitution