June 1, 2014

'Five Mystical Songs' by Ralph Vaughan Williams with words by George Herbert

George Herbert - Courtesy of Wikipedia

Five Mystical Songs is a song cycle by Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958). Written between 1906 and 1911, it was commissioned by the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, where it debuted in 1911 with Vaughan Williams conducting. The work is a setting of four poems ('Easter' is divided in two) by George Herbert (1593–1633). They were published posthumously in 1633 as part of the collection, The Temple. None of Herbert's poems were published during his lifetime and much of his other writings are believed to have been lost as a result of the English Civil War (1642–1651). Though born of noble parentage, a facility member at Cambridge, and a Member of Parliament; he left these things and chose the life of a humble country clergyman of the Church of England as his vocation. He died of tuberculosis at the age of 39. All four poems (EasterLoveThe Call, and Antiphon) are included in the Religious Poetry Appendix of the Divine Office (1974).

Songs 1 and 2 - Performed by Thomas Allen

1. RISE HEART ('Easter' - Part I)

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
          Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
          With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.
Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
          With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
          Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
          Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts vied
          And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

2. I GOT ME FLOWERS ('Easter' - Part II)

I got me flowers to strew thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, and th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Songs 3, 4, and 5 - Performed by Thomas Allen


Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
          Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
          From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
          If I lack'd anything.

'A guest,' I answer'd, 'worthy to be here';
          Love said, 'You shall be he.'
'I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
          I cannot look on thee.'
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
          'Who made the eyes but I?'

'Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
          Go where it doth deserve.'
'And know you not,' says Love, "who bore the blame?'
          'My dear, then I will serve.'
'You must sit down,' says Love, "and taste my meat.'
          So I did sit and eat.


Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.

Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.

Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.


Chorus: Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
                         My God and King.

Verse: The heav’ns are not too high,
           His praise may thither flie:
           The earth is not too low,
           His praises there may grow.

Chorus: Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
                        My God and King.

Verse: The church with psalms must shout,
           No doore can keep them out:
           But above all, the heart
           Must bear the longest part.

Chorus: Let all the world in ev’ry corner sing,
                         My God and King.

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