The Cudgel'd Husband - (2006)
tenor and piano
As Thomas was cudgel'd one day by his wife,
He took to his heels and fled
for his life:
Tom's three dearest friends came by in the squabble,
saved him at once from the shrew and the rabble;
Then ventured to give
him some sober advice-
But Tom is a person of honor so nice,
to take counsel, too proud to take warning,
That he sent to all three a
challenge next morning.
Three duels he fought, thrice ventured his life;
Went home, and was cudgeled again by his wife.
[ 3 pages, circa 1' 20" ]
This charming little tale reminds of the adage, "the enemy of my friend is
my enemy" is true within the family as well. But there is more to the tale,
as defending one's own situation against good counsel sometimes simply
places one back into a poor situation. Such foibles of mankind are food for
the storyteller in every generation and time. And for this reason, I edit
Swift's poem by restating the open two lines, thus making the anecdote's
storytelling end with Thomas' having "fled for his life" yet again. I will
leave it to the interpreter of this setting to answer the question of
whether this second time was permanent.
The tessitura is limited, and though intended for tenor, any voice might
venture this tale. The emphasis on the raised fourth of the scale for
certain melodic purposes is not reflected in a change of modes, for the
setting is decidedly in E major. Rather the chromaticism is meant as
"strife" within the tonal region.
As Thomas fights duels with "three dearest friends," these short chromatic
outbursts indicate no prolonged battle, but quick work of these "duels,"
only to have this life-threatening loyalty repaid by yet another bout with
his wife, to whom Swift does not dignify by giving a name in this tale.
Therefore, I reprise a falling gesture, "Thomas," which could represent the
three friends, or Swift's view of Thomas' predicament, but surely mine as
The score is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial
performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement
composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
The Cudgel'd Husband