Cousin Kate - (2016)   

Christina Rossetti

for soprano and piano


I was a cottage maiden
Hardened by sun and air,
Contented with my cottage mates,
Not mindful I was fair.
Why did a great lord find me out,
And praise my flaxen hair?
Why did a great lord find me out,
To fill my heart with care?
He lured me to his palace home -
Woe's me for joy thereof -
To lead a shameless shameful life,
His plaything and his love.
He wore me like a silken knot,
He changed me like a glove;
So now I moan, an unclean thing,
Who might have been a dove.
O Lady Kate, my cousin Kate,
You grew more fair than I:
He saw you at your father's gate,
Chose you, and cast me by.
He watched your steps along the lane,
Your work among the rye;
He lifted you from mean estate
To sit with him on high.
Because you were so good and pure
He bound you with his ring:
The neighbors call you good and pure,
Call me an outcast thing.
Even so I sit and howl in dust,
You sit in gold and sing:
Now which of us has tenderer heart?
You had the stronger wing.
O cousin Kate, my love was true,
Your love was writ in sand:
If he had fooled not me but you,
If you stood where I stand,
He'd not have won me with his love
Nor bought me with his land;
I would have spit into his face
And not have taken his hand.

Yet I've a gift you have not got,
And seem not like to get:
For all your clothes and wedding-ring
I've little doubt you fret.
My fair-haired son, my shame, my pride,
Cling closer, closer yet:
Your father would give his lands for one
To wear his coronet.

7 pages, circa 5' 45"

Christina Rossetti


Christina Rossetti (1830-1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of devotional writing including carols, and children's poetry including nursery rhymes. Her best known collection is Goblin Market and Other Poems. London: Macmillan, 1862.



 The opening is of harsh, polytonal colors, as an emotional outburst which quickly is restrained. The first strophes are treated in a repeated verse form of two parts, with the next two in similar relationship. Thereafter the themes and textures are used in quasi-structural fashion to make lyric the increasingly personal revelations in this text of the woman set aside for her cousin.




The score 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.


Cousin Kate