War-time Cradle Song


War-time Cradle Song- (2022)   

Scharmel Iris

for mezzo soprano and piano


The king sent out your father to war
As once he sent my father before.
My wedding ring and the gold on my ear
Today have I bartered for bread, my dear.
The moon is dying, her throat is red,
The wind is crying, “Your father’s dead.”

The holy priest for saying a mass
Will take our gentle ox and our ass,
And we must give our cow away
To a man who digs the grave today.
The king has given us a reward—
A medal of bronze, and your father’s sword.

Grain there is none on the granary floor.
The lean wolf, Misery, howls at our door—
Until I wake and cut off my hair.
My son, I will keep you strong and fair,
For soon you shall take your father’s sword
And bring me the king’s head for reward.

4 page, circa 3' 00"


Scharmel Iris (1889–1967) was an Italian-American, A life of repeated attempts at fame and fortune was his, remarkably like many today seeking approbation through fraud and misrepresentation. This did not win him a happy life, experiencing bankruptcy and public shame. Nonetheless, the mythic quality of this storytelling and the overall rhyme moved me to set the text in a dramatic manner. The text is found in "Poetry: A Magazine of Verse. 1912–22." Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).



The opening gesture sets a lightly militant tone for this "cradle song." The chord successions used throughout are not functional but gestural, in the sense as Schoenberg used in his texts.





The last two lines of each stanza are treated as if a refrain. though the texts are each time new. Over the tonic minor outlined in the bass, the four triads traverse the entire twelve-tones, as C minor, E major in second inversion, D minor, and G-flat major in second inversion. Phrasing is as groups of two as the vocal line above conforms to the 3/4 meter. A short coda and last repetition of the text's "bring me the king’s head for reward." Such is the nature of those regimes throughout history which spawned an enemy by their actions.



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 art song score.


War-time Cradle Song