Ale - (2011)    

William Henry Davies

for baritone and piano


Now do I hear thee weep and groan,
Who hath a comrade sunk at sea?
Then quaff thee of my good old ale,
And it will raise him up for thee;
Thoul't think as little of him then
As when he moved with living men.

If thou hast hopes to move the world,
And every effort it doth fail,
Then to thy side call Jack and Jim,
And bid them drink with thee good ale;
So may the world, that would not hear,
Perish in hell with all your care.

One quart of good ale, and I
Feel then what life immortal is:
The brain is empty of all thought,
The heart is brimming o'er with bliss;
Time's first child, Life, doth live; but Death,
The second, hath not yet his breath.

Give me a quart of good old ale,
Am I a homeless man on earth?
Nay, I want not your roof and quilt,
I'll lie warm at the moon's cold hearth;
No grumbling ghost to grudge my bed,
His grave, ha! ha! holds up my head.

[ 3 pages, circa 2' 35" ]

W. H. Davies


The drinking song has had a marvelous history, being included in folk anthologies, art songs and opera. As to this particular drink, ale -- a drink brewed from rapid fermentation of malt and hops --  came to define countryside festivals in which the beverage was a principal "ingredient." Davies offers us sardonic truths about life and death within this fine little verse.



The setting is an AABA form, the first two rollicking verses set as a four line hymn followed by a couplet of commentary in a contrasting texture.



The setting for Davies' third verse switches from 6/8 to 3/4, as the poem turns to considering matter of life and death. Intended with rubato a piacere, the dynamics also lessen with the tempo, until a sharp reaffirmation of the opening gambit tears away the seriousness in favor of stomping its feet towards a rousing end.




The score for Ale 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.