Expectans Expectavi - (2018)   

Charles Hamilton Sorley

for medium voice and piano


From morn to midnight, all day through,
I laugh and play as others do,
I sin and chatter, just the same
As others with a different name.

And all year long upon the stage
I dance and tumble and do rage
So vehemently, I scarcely see
The inner and eternal me.

I have a temple I do not
Visit, a heart I have forgot,
A self that I have never met,
A secret shrine—and yet, and yet

This sanctuary of my soul
Unwitting I keep white and whole,
Unlatched and lit, if Thou should'st care
To enter or to tarry there.

With parted lips and outstretched hands
And listening ears Thy servant stands,
Call Thou early, call Thou late,
To Thy great service dedicate.

3 pages, circa 3' 15"


Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895-1915) was born in Aberdeen, Scotland, and served in the British Army, killed in action at the Battle of Loos. His poetry was published posthumously as Marlborough and Other Poems (Cambridge University Press, 1916). He is noted as one among several highly talented poets cut down so early in life. The title mirrors Psalm 39, which begins "Exspectans exspectavi Dominum, et intendit mihi."


That psalm text prefigures such a tragedy as this young poet's death in war, as one reads later in the text, "...my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before thee: verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity." The Latin text has been set many times, from Orlando de Lassus and Palestrina to text used in the second movement of Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, the opening fugue subject to which I extended into a work for organ in 2010, a Fantasia and Fugue on a Theme of Stravinsky .


"I waited patiently for the Lord" is a sentiment of great meaning to many.



The hymn-like setting treats four of the five strophes in like manner, related to the initial gestures in motet-like fashion.



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 art song score.


Expectans expectavi