Felix Randal - (1999)
Gerard Manley Hopkins
for medium voice and piano
for Elizabeth Connell
Felix Randal the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?
Sickness broke him. Impatient he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!
This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;
How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!
[ 5 pages, circa 4' 55" ]
Gerard Manley Hopkins
This and a cycle, Four Songs of Gerard Manley Hopkins, are dedicated to Liza Connell, a fine soprano, as to her mother, also an Elizabeth. Notes on these other songs and the author are found there.
The theme for this setting is laid out in the first gesture, a chromatic set of descending seconds, the two voices separated by a fourth. The octave voicing which follows under the solo singer repeats the motive in shifting tonal regions as the chromaticism unfolds. An answering gesture rises, as if a dialogue between gestures of descent and ascent, as is the underlying subject of the text.
As the notion of redemption becomes apparent and the more important theme of the text, a broadening of the pianistic texture and open chords make spacious what was closed in voicing and harmonic strutcure.
The final statement resolves the many measures of shifting chromaticism with a quiet E major towards which the opening's seemingly faux dominant proves functional across the larger structure.
The score to Felix Randal 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.