A Solitary Triumph - (2008)
P. G. Wodehouse
for tenor or baritone and piano
Statistics show that the number of criminal women is considerably less in proportion than that of male criminals. [ 1 ]
Oh, the progress of Woman has really been vast
Since Civilization began.
She's usurped all the qualities which in the past
Were reckoned peculiar to Man.
She can score with a bat, use a rod or a cue;
Her tennis and golf are sublime.
Her aim with a gun is uncommonly true,
But Man beats her hollow at crime.
The strings to her bow are both varied and quaint;
There are maids who can work with the pen,
There are maids who can handle the palette and paint
With a skill that's not given to men.
There are ladies who preach, lady doctors there are,
MPs will be ladies in time, [ 2 ]
And ladies, I hear, practise now at the Bar --
But Man holds the record for crime.
So it's hey for the jemmy, and ho for the drill, [ 3 ]
And hurrah for the skeleton keys.
Oh, to burgle a house or to rifle a till!
I am more than her equal at these.
She may beat me at home, she may beat me afield;
In her way I admit she is prime.
But one palm at least I compel her to yield: [ 4 ]
I can give her a lesson in crime.
[ 5 pages, circa 2' 00" ]
P. G. Wodehouse
After setting The Gourmet's Love Song (see that page for more information on Wodehouse), I have become ever more a fan of this humorist's work. His early verse is in the public domain, and perhaps I will set yet more as time goes by. This setting is a man's to perform, as it is a comic and yet in its time pointed confession of the equalities and similarities between men and women in so many things. Almost a century later, one finds even in the "field" of crime, women are taking their place, albeit not as yet equally, which is of course the larger point of this verse.
tessitura for tenor and baritone editions
The architectural duple lilt of 6/8 time is offset by the occasional 3/4 measure between introduction and verses. The wholly parallel four-note seven chords which accompany the opening lines are broken only by some filigree and the next single-measure citation of 3/4.
A restatement of the admission "at crime" rises the octave to stress this, the topic and point of the poem. The second verse of the poem is a variant setting of the first as the accompaniment descends into the bass clefs rather than rise as did the first; again the consistency of the chord form appearing in parallel is retained.
The beginning of Wodehouse's third stanza is not a beginning to another restatement of the setting's verse form, but provides a bridge, as the vocal line rises to its highest point at "hurrah for the skeleton keys." Thereupon the "third" verse of the setting begins anew in the middle of Wodehouse's third stanza, with a brilliant, pianistic gesture to underscore the final admission of the text.
The score for A Solitary Triumph is available in editions for tenor and baritone as free PDF downloads, 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.
A Solitary Triumph
Edition for tenor and piano
A Solitary Triumph
Edition for baritone and piano
[ 1 ] The commentary which Wodehouse printed above his verse holds true today, does it not?
[ 2 ] "MPs" - Members of Parliament. This has of course transpired, with women taking their places across the political spectrum, from small-government advocates to socialists of varying degrees. From Golda Meir of Israel to Margaret Thatcher of Great Britain, and now to Angela Merkel in Germany, women are showing themselves to have broken this so-called "glass ceiling" as well. Another "glass ceiling" of sorts, too, has been broken, as women find themselves represented statistically with the same diseases as men in positions of power and influence had once evidences as a "gender" difference, one now fading away.
[ 3 ] "Jemmy" is a British spelling, alternatively called a "jimmy" in the US, and is in this sense a short steel pry bar or crowbar used, especially by burglars, for forcing doors and windows. The word is used as both noun and verb.
[ 4 ] "But one palm at least I compel her to yield" refers to that emblem, insignia or portion thereof representing a leaf or branch worn on certain military decorations as well as that which makes up the sports victor's crown of palm leaves. One notes the European film prize is also a "Palme d'Or."