Requiescat - (2009)    

Oscar Wilde

for baritone and piano


Tread lightly, she is near
    Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
    The daisies grow.

All her bright golden hair
    Tarnished with rust,
She that was young and fair
    Fallen to dust.

Lily-like, white as snow,
    She hardly knew
She was a woman so
    Sweetly she grew.

Coffin-board, heavy stone,
    Lie on her breast.
I vex my heart alone,
    She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
    Lyre or sonnet,
All my life's buried here,
    Heap earth upon it.

[ 3 pages, circa 4' 00" ]

Oscar Wilde


The annotation, "Avignon," is attached to this early poem in my published collection. While the various critics have attacked Wilde for various faults in poems -- something the many critics who themselves did not write any, much or well while opining so harsh and long on others' work -- I find this poem especially poignant when one reads of the death in 1867 at age eight of Wilde's younger sister, Isola. Wilde would have been about thirteen, an impressionable age to be sure. The experience of death within a family has great consequence, of course, and for a young poet, the realities of such a scene must have found their way into his imagery herein. That other girls and women of his circle too would die, and that loss would be among his literary themes, gives greater character and depth to the images themselves, of the funeral as of a life's continuing experience of and empathy with human loss. The poem is a memory, and our own losses should therefore also color Wilde's imagery of loss -- and of the twice-mentioned peace.



The underlying gesture, after the opening gambit, is the continuing pendulum between IV 9 and ii m7, as a lyric vocal line intones the text with slight syncopations against the slow duple meter. The first and fourth verses of the text and second and fifth verses are similar in vocal shapes, playing out over the harmonic background, as it avoids settling on the tonic.



The fulcrum of the setting is the treatment of the three stanza, as for a moment the imagery of the lost love becomes more concrete. After this the opening gesture in the piano invites the setting back to the shapes of the first stanza's setting, and thence to a lingering cadence in which only the voice rests easily as the root of the tonic chord, finally reached.



The score for Requiescat 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.