Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


The Cudgel'd Husband -  (2006)    

Jonathan Swift

for tenor and piano


As Thomas was cudgel'd one day by his wife,
He took to his heels and fled for his life:
Tom's three dearest friends came by in the squabble,
And saved him at once from the shrew and the rabble;
Then ventured to give him some sober advice-
But Tom is a person of honor so nice,
Too wise to take counsel, too proud to take warning,
That he sent to all three a challenge next morning.
Three duels he fought, thrice ventured his life;
Went home, and was cudgeled again by his wife.

[ 3 pages, circa 1' 20" ]

Jonathan Swift


This charming little tale reminds of the adage, "the enemy of my friend is my enemy" is true within the family as well. But there is more to the tale, as defending one's own situation against good counsel sometimes simply places one back into a poor situation. Such foibles of mankind are food for the storyteller in every generation and time. And for this reason, I edit Swift's poem by restating the open two lines, thus making the anecdote's storytelling end with Thomas' having "fled for his life" yet again. I will leave it to the interpreter of this setting to answer the question of whether this second time was permanent.



The tessitura is limited, and though intended for tenor, any voice might venture this tale. The emphasis on the raised fourth of the scale for certain melodic purposes is not reflected in a change of modes, for the setting is decidedly in E major. Rather the chromaticism is meant as "strife" within the tonal region.



As Thomas fights duels with "three dearest friends," these short chromatic outbursts indicate no prolonged battle, but quick work of these "duels," only to have this life-threatening loyalty repaid by yet another bout with his wife, to whom Swift does not dignify by giving a name in this tale. Therefore, I reprise a falling gesture, "Thomas," which could represent the three friends, or Swift's view of Thomas' predicament, but surely mine as well.



The score 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.


The Cudgel'd Husband