The Debt Unpayable -
Francis William Bourdillon
for medium voice and piano
What have I given,
Bold sailor on the sea?
In earth or heaven,
That you should die for me?
What can I give,
O soldier, leal and
Long as I live,
To pay the life you gave?
Can I return to thee,
O stricken heart,
shouldst break for me?
The wind of Death
For you has slain
(God grant) all weeds in ours.
[ 3 pages, circa 3' 50" ]
Christ Church, Oxford, War Memorial Gardens
A late Victorian English poet, scholar and translator from Sussex, Francis
William Bourdillon (1852 - 1921) was educated at Worcester College, Oxford,
and tutored the the sons of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein at
Cumberland Lodge, and tutored also at the University of Eastbourne in
Sussex. His work spans over 500 poems in 13 volumes, as well as editions of
poems and chronicles from Old French. He translated Aucassin et Nicolette
(1887), wrote a scholarly work The Early Editions of the Roman de la Rose
(1906), Russia Reborn (1917), and published a number of essays with
the Religious Tract Society.
poem is itself a war memorial, much like the many memorials which fill the
world, such as that above at Bourdillon's Oxford University. Given the
seemingly modern sense of protests against both the arguably just wars of
the modern era, it remains a demonstration of astounding double standards
that the modern Western political Left manages to reserve its vehemence for
the just wars, while so consistently ignoring -- or at the minimum paying
empty and cynical lip service to protests against -- the many unjust wars
which dotted the last century's history. The fact of freedom is that it has
been delivered to the world by millions of anonymous soldiers and sailors
whose valor valor so exceeds the self-absorbed narcissism and utterly
inconsistent philosophy of the anti-war movement as evidences over decades.
Freedom is advanced by fighting for it, sad to say.
The four stanzas are set as an A-A'-B-A' form, in which the harmonic
emphasis is one the tonic minor moving with a repetitive insistence to the
The third stanza begins on the subdominant minor as a relief from the
previous gestures and patterns. The high point dramatically occurs at the
end of this stanza, before a return to the A section for the last stanza of
The score for The Debt Unpayable 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.
The Debt Unpayable