To Lizbie Browne - (2003)
for tenor and piano
Dear Lizbie Browne,
Where are you now?
In sun, in rain? -
Past joy, past pain,
Dear Lizbie Browne?
Sweet Lizbie Browne,
How you could smile,
How you could sing! -
How archly wile
Sweet Lizbie Browne!
And, Lizbie Browne,
Who else had hair
Bay-red as yours,
flesh so fair
Bred out of doors,
Sweet Lizbie Browne?
When, Lizbie Browne,
You had just begun
To be endeared
stealth to one,
My Lizbie Browne!
Ay, Lizbie Browne,
So swift your life,
And mine so slow,
were a wife
Ere I could show
Love, Lizbie Browne.
Still, Lizbie Browne,
You won, they said,
The best of men
you were wed….
Where went you then,
O Lizbie Browne?
Dear Lizbie Browne,
I should have thought,
'Girls ripen fast,'
And coaxed and caught
You ere you passed,
Dear Lizbie Browne!
But, Lizbie Browne,
I let you slip;
Shaped not a sign;
never your lip
With lip of mine,
Lost Lizbie Browne!
So, Lizbie Browne,
When on a day
Men speak of me
As not, you'll
'And who was he?' -
Yes, Lizbie Browne!
[ 6 pages, circa 4'30" ]
A shy and reclusive man, Thomas Hardy was born near in Higher
Brockhampton near Dorchester in Dorset, in the southwest of England, in
1840. He studied in Dorchester and later in London, was apprenticed to
an architect, and began writing only at the age of twenty-seven.
His first book was rejected by publishers and destroyed, but Far from
the Madding Crowd (1874) was his first truly successful work popular
with the public. After its publication he became a full-time author.
With the publication of Tess of the D'Urbervilles (1891) and
Jude the Obscure (1895), he gave up writing novels which he thought
most people did not truly understand, but continued writing poetry, his
first and last love, until his death in 1928. His work includes almost
one thousand poems in eight volumes written between 1898 and 1928. His
ashes are interred in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey among many
greats of English literature.
Originally conceived for tenor and piano, this setting of nine stanzas
moves from the lower tessitura of the piano through to successive octave
transpositions alongside a continuing development of the accompaniment's
gestures, until a break with this "falling" motive. As the text is
essentially a reflective dirge for the elusive, lost love, each entry of
the opening gesture breaks out anew in a forte before subsiding
into a diminuendo.
At the seventh verse, the unresolved and rhetorical questions are
abandoned for his overt statement of grief and anger for not having made
suit to this potential mate. His anger is, of course, with himself. For
this, the opening gesture is also abandoned for a syncopated, driving
In continuing this angry self-reflection, the vocal line rises to its
highest tessitura, before the last stanza settles back again into the
opening dirge and a final resolution to an odd D major, decorated with E
major above, after nine stanzas of resolute D minor.
The score to To Lizbie Browne 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.
To Lizbie Browne
8 ½ x 11 format