Solitude - (2014)
for baritone and piano
I love the stillness of the wood:
I love the music of the rill:
I love to couch in pensive mood
Upon some silent hill.
Scarce heard, beneath yon arching trees,
The silver-crested ripples pass;
And, like a mimic brook, the breeze
Whispers among the grass.
Here from the world I win release,
Nor scorn of men, nor footstep rude,
Break in to mar the holy peace
Of this great solitude.
Here may the silent tears I weep
Lull the vexed spirit into rest,
As infants sob themselves to sleep
Upon a mother's breast.
But when the bitter hour is gone,
And the keen throbbing pangs are still,
Oh, sweetest then to couch alone
Upon some silent hill!
To live in joys that once have been,
To put the cold world out of sight,
And deck life's drear and barren scene
With hues of rainbow-light.
For what to man the gift of breath,
If sorrow be his lot below;
If all the day that ends in death
Be dark with clouds of woe?
Shall the poor transport of an hour
Repay long years of sore distress-
The fragrance of a lonely flower
Make glad the wilderness?
Ye golden hours of Life's young spring,
Of innocence, of love and truth!
Bright, beyond all imagining,
Thou fairy-dream of youth!
I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
For one bright summer-day.
5 pages, circa 5' 45"
Lewis Carroll with members of the MacDonald Family
While solitude may be seen as sometimes being alone, working or perhaps just musing while apart from others, there is a solitude of which Carroll writes, full of imagery but with memory which we each have all to ourselves. Memories of childhood, he tells, are something to be revisited, if only in imagination "to be once more a little child for one bright summer-day." For this, the photo of Charles Dodgson with members of the McDonald family speak of solitude within the circle of family friends and their children. He testifies that solitude is our antidote from the "scorn of men" and "rude" footsteps, a truth worth noting in our time.
The setting of this text, dated 16 March 1853, is imagined in shades of piano and pianissimo, an intimate sotto voce for the vocal part and gentle sostenuto blurring in the accompaniment. The ten stanzas are treated with some repetition and variation, and the overall feeling is one of being let in on a musing -- something common to many -- within our own imaginations of pleasant thoughts from our own childhood.
The score for Solitude 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. For other settings of Lewis Carroll's texts, click here.