Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


The Little Creature - (2009)    

Walter de la Mare

for medium voice and piano


Winkum, twankum, twirlum and twitch --
My great grandam -- She was a Witch;
Mouse in wainscot, Saint in niche --
My great grandam -- She was a Witch ;
Deadly nightshade flowers in a ditch --
My great grandam -- She was a Witch;
Long though the shroud, it grows stitch by stitch --
My great grandam -- She was a Witch ;
Wean your weakling before you breech --
My great grandam -- She was a Witch ;
The fattest pig 's but a double flitch --
My great grandam -- She was a Witch ;
Nightjars rattle, owls scritch --
My great grandam -- She was a Witch.

Pretty and small,
A mere nothing at all,
Pinned up sharp in the ghost of a shawl,
She 'd straddle her down to the kirkyard wall,
And mutter and whisper and call,
And call. . .';

Red blood out and black blood in,
My Nannie says I 'm a child of sin.
How did I choose me my witchcraft kin?
Know I as soon as dark's dreams begin
Snared is my heart in a nightmare's gin ;
Never from terror I out may win ;
So dawn and dusk I pine, peak, thin,
Scarcely beknowing t' other from which
My great grandam -- She was a Witch.

[ 6 pages, circa 3' 50" ]

Walter de la Mare


The text is drawn from from Down-adown-derry; a book of fairy poems, with illus. by Dorothy P. Lathrop" London, Constable Co. Ltd., 1922. De la Mare's fascination with the phantasmagorical is let reign in a number of poems from this collection. The use of repetition is and long list of similar rhymes gives the impression of a dark liturgy of sorts as background to the overarching imagery. What is this little creature? Who? That is left to the imagination.



The setting in thoroughly in B minor with many occurrences of tonic major and tonic minor -- and the dominant as well -- alternating in the same gesture, as at measure 18. An opening insistence on the tonic minor as answered by a short wandering progression as the running sixteenths disappear into in arpeggios and thence to the longer note gestures up to the cadence, a dominant-over-tonic Klang. The vocal repetitions of "My great grandam -- She was a Witch" should seem like a child's dark fantasy.




The middle section after the seeming litany of the opening section is in triple time and l'isstesso tempo. The description of "this little creature" is quite loving, familial and the dark words of the witch's spell play out also as a child's fantasy game.



The score for The Little Creature 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 Little Creature