On the Death of a Politician - (2009)
for medium voice and piano
Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept : for I had longed to see him hanged.
[ 2 pages, circa 1' 15" ]
The recent news has brought politics to the forefront of many discussions I have had, and generated song settings and rhymes of recent days and weeks. The subject of ridiculing politicians themselves is nothing new nor extraordinary [ 1 ]. This text is one such ridicule of a politician. One notes that the politician is not named in the text, nor the political affiliation. It is, amusingly, a multi-purpose bit of fluff by which to express content at the one "Politician," as the text has the word capitalized, while referring to more than one, perhaps all. The original title is "Epitaph on the Politician Himself." I chose to use the above title after another composer also chose the same, having found the text first through Emily Ezust's invaluable web site, The Lied and Art Song Texts Page.
Marked appropriately pomposo, the opening gesture of this funeral oration with its raised fourth draws a large arch away from its original G major to E major, just as discussions of politics often draw someone away from truths into Gordian-knotted rhetoric designed to obscure facts in favor of argument and the acquisition and application of sheer power. Thus the vocal part beginning on the original tonic is forced easily into E major, as the opening vocal line falls into the false tonic.
This simple song setting for such a short text returns to G, and again the opening fanfare-like celebration of a political figure clarion-like and fortissimo sings out to the final cadence of this funeral "oration." It can no longer sink into the secondary tonic as before, duly pomposo but staying buried in G.
The score for On the Death of a Politician 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 the Death of a Politician
[ 1 ] Another of Belloc's gems tells us his view of critics: "May all my enemies go to hell, / Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel."
Lord Byron shows what ridicule in death might be with his observation of an Anglo-Irish politician, in his short Epitaph: "Posterity will ne'er survey / A nobler grave than this: / Here lie the bones of Castlereagh / Stop traveller, and piss."
Kipling gives us yet another fouling of the politician, in A Dead Statesman: ""I could not dig: I dared not rob: / Therefore I lied to please the mob. / Now all my lies are proved untrue / And I must face the men I slew. / What tale shall serve me here among / Mine angry and defrauded young?"
Poets have throughout time expressed a rather cynical yet consistent disregard for politicians, in large part, I believe, because politics acts against individuality, and if there is one thing which unites artists across time, it is not politics. It is skepticism of and freedom from politics.
Carl Sandburg shows us this contempt in his marvelous portrait of The Mayor of Gary, one in a larger opus of his poems critical of politicians.
For such reasons, I penned my own view, I shall not join the party.
It is always amusing to note how the party in power at any given time finds the "opposition" it plays when not in power offensive and unfair when the "other" party plays by the same rules. Of course. This is the essence of modern politics.