Requiescat - (2009)
for baritone and piano
Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
bright golden hair
Tarnished with rust,
was young and fair
Fallen to dust.
white as snow,
She hardly knew
She was a woman so
Sweetly she grew.
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast.
I vex my heart alone,
She is at
Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon
[ 3 pages, circa 4' 00" ]
The annotation, "Avignon," is attached to this early poem in my published
collection. While the various critics have attacked Wilde for various faults
in poems -- something the many critics who themselves did not write any,
much or well while opining so harsh and long on others' work -- I find this
poem especially poignant when one reads of the death in 1867 at age eight of
Wilde's younger sister, Isola. Wilde would have been about thirteen, an
impressionable age to be sure. The experience of death within a family has
great consequence, of course, and for a young poet, the realities of such a
scene must have found their way into his imagery herein. That other girls
and women of his circle too would die, and that loss would be among his
literary themes, gives greater character and depth to the images themselves,
of the funeral as of a life's continuing experience of and empathy with
human loss. The poem is a memory, and our own losses should therefore also
color Wilde's imagery of loss -- and of the twice-mentioned peace.
The underlying gesture, after the opening gambit, is the continuing pendulum
between IV 9 and ii m7, as a lyric vocal line intones the text with slight
syncopations against the slow duple meter. The first and fourth verses of
the text and second and fifth verses are similar in vocal shapes, playing
out over the harmonic background, as it avoids settling on the tonic.
The fulcrum of the setting is the treatment of the three stanza, as for a
moment the imagery of the lost love becomes more concrete. After this the
opening gesture in the piano invites the setting back to the shapes of the
first stanza's setting, and thence to a lingering cadence in which only the
voice rests easily as the root of the tonic chord, finally reached.
The score for Requiescat 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.