On Receiving News of the War


On Receiving News of the War - (2013)    

Isaac Rosenberg

for medium voice and piano


Snow is a strange white word.
No ice or frost
Has asked of bud or bird
For Winter's cost.

Yet ice and frost and snow
From earth to sky
This Summer land doth know.
No man knows why.

In all men's hearts it is.
Some spirit old
Hath turned with malign kiss
Our lives to mould.

Red fangs have torn His face.
God's blood is shed.
He mourns from His lone place
His children dead.

O! ancient crimson curse!
Corrode, consume.
Give back this universe
Its pristine bloom.

3 pages, circa 3' 30"

Isaac Rosenberg


The text which is marked "Capetown, 1914" is found in Poems by Isaac Rosenberg, Heinemann, 1922.



This disarming portrait begins with imagery of nature, quickly turned into a metaphor for the "Winter" of war occurring in "Summer," each capitalized. The setting then begins with a sweet gesture, then touched with dissonance. The major triads turn to minor as a thematic element in the storytelling, to underscore that war's Winter colors Summer.




The setting accelerates with dissonances as the picture of "red fangs" tearing at war's victims tells the whole of the "bloody" sentiment, as the poet reminds us how often in human hearts such sentiment finds a place. A return to the opening gestures withers, as the gestures drop octaves away from the airy opening of Summer and the dynamic fades into quiet.



The score for On Receiving News of the War 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.


On Receiving News of the War