April's Lambs - (2009)
William Henry Davies
for baritone and piano
Though I was born in April's prime,
With many another lamb,
Yet, thinking now of all my years,
What am I but a tough old ram?
"No woman thinks of years," said she,
"Or any tough old rams,
When she can hear a voice that bleats
As tenderly as any lamb's."
[ 2 pages, circa 1' 20" ]
William Henry Davies
W. H. Davies (1871-1940) was a Welsh poet and writer, who traveled for a large part of his life as a "tramp" in the United States and United Kingdom, explaining his work, The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp (1908). A crippling accident while dismounting a freight train in Ontario, Canada, changed his life's direction. His first book of poetry was published in 1905 drew little notice, but Arthur Adcock, a journalist with the Daily Mail, thereafter by Edward Thomas, literary critic for the Daily Chronicle in London, and finally George Bernard Shaw's interest in the "Super-Tramp" brought Davies to the public eye. Though not soon financially successful, Davies appeared with such others as Hillaire Belloc and W. B. Yeats, and then societal names and eventually Edith Sitwell as well took an interest in what became his sizeable body of work.
The poem seems sweet, until one comes to the fourth-line self-confession of the speaker being "a tough old ram." For this the contrast between springtime lambs and old rams makes for an amusing image, especially as "she" is noted as quickly forsaking the "old ram" for the "voice" of youth. The parallel triads clash lightly with as they play out their occasional sevenths, ninths and elevenths against an underlying root and through a light syncopation as the opening rhythms suggest Davies' April lambs, and the abrupt final cadence without a sentimental ritardando plays out as "tough" in that context.
The score for April's Lambs 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.