On the Death of a Politician - (2009)
for medium voice and piano
Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept : for
I had longed to see him hanged.
[ 2 pages, circa 1' 15" ]
The recent news has brought politics to the forefront of many discussions I
have had, and generated song settings and rhymes of recent days and weeks.
The subject of ridiculing politicians themselves is nothing new nor
extraordinary [ 1 ].
This text is one such ridicule of a politician. One notes that the
politician is not named in the text, nor the political affiliation. It is,
amusingly, a multi-purpose bit of fluff by which to express content at the
one "Politician," as the text has the word capitalized, while referring to
more than one, perhaps all. The original title is "Epitaph on the Politician
Himself." I chose to use the above title after another composer also chose
the same, having found the text first through Emily Ezust's invaluable web
The Lied and Art Song Texts Page.
Marked appropriately pomposo, the opening gesture of this funeral
oration with its raised fourth draws a large arch away from its original G
major to E major, just as discussions of politics often draw someone away
from truths into Gordian-knotted rhetoric designed to obscure facts in favor
of argument and the acquisition and application of sheer power. Thus the
vocal part beginning on the original tonic is forced easily into E major, as
the opening vocal line falls into the false tonic.
This simple song setting for such a short text returns to G, and again the
opening fanfare-like celebration of a political figure clarion-like and
fortissimo sings out to the final cadence of this funeral "oration." It can
no longer sink into the secondary tonic as before, duly pomposo but
staying buried in G.
The score for On the Death of a Politician 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.
On the Death of a Politician
[ 1 ] Another
of Belloc's gems tells us his view of critics: "May all my enemies go to
hell, / Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel."
Lord Byron shows what ridicule in death might be with his
observation of an Anglo-Irish politician, in his short
Epitaph: "Posterity will ne'er survey / A nobler grave than
this: / Here lie the bones of Castlereagh / Stop traveller, and
Kipling gives us yet another fouling of the politician, in
A Dead Statesman: ""I could not dig: I dared not rob: / Therefore I
lied to please the mob. / Now all my lies are proved untrue /
And I must face the men I slew. / What tale shall serve me here
among / Mine angry and defrauded young?"
Poets have throughout time expressed a rather cynical yet
consistent disregard for politicians, in large part, I believe,
because politics acts against individuality, and if there is one
thing which unites artists across time, it is
not politics. It is skepticism of and freedom from
Carl Sandburg shows us this contempt in his marvelous portrait
The Mayor of Gary, one in a larger opus of his poems critical
For such reasons, I penned my own view,
I shall not join the party.
It is always amusing to note how the party in power at any given
time finds the "opposition" it plays when not in power offensive
and unfair when the "other" party plays by the same rules. Of
course. This is the essence of modern politics.