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Songs of the Earth

Sunday 28th January 2024

Performed by: Mark Padmore, Roger Vignoles & Hazel Holder

As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse
Billy Collins

I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.
I get a glass from a cabinet,
open a bottle of wine,
then I sit in a ladder-back chair,
a benevolent god presiding
over a miniature creation myth,
and I begin to sing
a homemade canticle of thanks
for this perfect little arrangement,
for not making the earth too hot or cold
not making it spin too fast or slow
so that the grove of orange trees
and the owl become possible,
not to mention the rolling wave,
the play of clouds, geese in flight,
and the Z of lightning on a dark lake.
Then I fill my glass again
and give thanks for the trout,
the oak, and the yellow feather,
singing the room full of shadows,
as sun and earth and moon
circle one another in their impeccable orbits
and I get more and more cockeyed with gratitude.

Im Abendrot
Franz Schubert/Karl Lappe

Original Text

O wie schön ist deine Welt,
Vater, wenn sie golden strahlet!
Wenn dein Glanz herniederfällt,
Und den Staub mit Schimmer malet;
Wenn das Rot, das in der Wolke blinkt,
In mein stilles Fenster sinkt!
Könnt’ ich klagen, könnt’ ich zagen?
Irre sein an dir und mir?
Nein, ich will im Busen tragen
Deinen Himmel schon allhier.
Und dies Herz, eh’ es zusammenbricht,
Trinkt noch Glut und schlürft noch Licht.


English Translation

How lovely is your world,
Father, in its golden radiance
when your glory descends
and paints the dust with glitter;
when the red light that shines from the clouds
falls silently upon my window.
Could I complain? Could I be apprehensive?
Could I lose faith in you and in myself?
No, I already bear your heaven
here within my heart.
And this heart, before it breaks,
still drinks in the fire and savours the light.

Mysteries, Yes
Mary Oliver

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvellous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft
Gustav Mahler/Friedrich Rückert

Original Text

Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft!
Im Zimmer stand
Ein Zweig der Linde,
Ein Angebinde
Von lieber Hand.
Wie lieblich war der Lindenduft!
Wie lieblich ist der Lindenduft!
Das Lindenreis
Brachst du gelinde;
Ich atme leis
Im Duft der Linde
Der Liebe linden Duft


English Translation

I breathed a gentle fragrance!
In the room stood
A spray of lime,
A gift
From a dear hand.
How lovely the fragrance of lime was!
How lovely the fragrance of lime is!
The spray of lime
Was gently plucked by you;
Softly I breathe
In the fragrance of lime
The gentle fragrance of love.

Robert Schumann/Joseph von Eichendorff

Original Text

Es war, als hätt’ der Himmel,
Die Erde still geküßt,
Daß sie im Blütenschimmer
Von ihm nur träumen müßt.

Die Luft ging durch die Felder,
Die Ähren wogten sacht,
Es rauschten leis die Wälder,
So sternklar war die Nacht.

Und meine Seele spannte
Weit ihre Flügel aus,
Flog durch die stillen Lande,
Als flöge sie nach Haus.


English Translation

It was as if the sky
Had quietly kissed the earth,
So that, glistening with blossoms,
She must only dream of him.

The breeze wafted through the fields,
The ears of corn waved gently,
The forests rustled faintly,
So sparkling clear was the night.

And my soul stretched
its wings out far,
Flew through the still lands,
as if it were flying home.

Perfect Day
Kathleen Jamie

I am just a woman of the shore
wearing your coat against the snow
that falls on the oyster-catcher’s tracks
and on our own; falls
on the still grey waters
of Loch Morar, and on our shoulders
gentle as restraint: a perfect weight
of snow as tree-boughs
and fences bear against a loaded sky:
one flake more, they’d break.

Silent Noon
Ralph Vaughan Williams / Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Your hands lie open in the long fresh grass, –
The finger-points look through like rosy blooms:
Your eyes smile peace. The pasture gleams and glooms
‘Neath billowing skies that scatter and amass.
All round our nest, far as the eye can pass,
Are golden kingcup fields with silver edge
Where the cow-parsley skirts the hawthorn hedge.
‘Tis visible silence, still as the hour glass.
Deep in the sunsearched growths the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky: –
So this winged hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.

Nature, the gentlest mother
Aaron Copland/Emily Dickinson

Nature, the gentlest mother
Impatient of no child,
The feeblest or the waywardest,—
Her admonition mild
In forest and the hill
By traveller is heard,
Restraining rampant squirrel
Or too impetuous bird.
How fair her conversation,
A summer afternoon,—
Her household, her assembly;
And when the sun goes down
Her voice among the aisles
Incites the timid prayer
Of the minutest cricket,
The most unworthy flower.
When all the children sleep
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light her lamps;
Then, bending from the sky,
With infinite affection
And infiniter care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.


The Sprinkling of Gardens
Hanns Eisler

O sprinkling of gardens
O sprinkling to encourage green
watering the thirsty bushes
give more than enough
and do not forget the shrubbery
even if it bears no fruit
and is worn out
do not forget between the flowers
the weeds for they too feel thirst
Now you may water just the precious plants or what’s just very scorched
and the naked ground, refresh the naked ground.

Keys to the Door
Robin Robertson

I loved your age of wonder: your third and fourth
and fifth years spent astonished,
widening your eyes
at each new trick of the world – and me standing there,
solemnly explaining how it was
done. The moon and stars,
rainbows, photographs, gravity, the birds in the air,
the difference between blood and water,
In true life? you would say, looking up
and I would nod, like some broken-hearted sage,
knowing there would be no answers soon
to all the big questions that were
left, to cruelty and fear,
to age and grief and death, and no words either
And you, like me, will sit and shake your head,
In true life? Yes, my sweet, strong daughter, I’m afraid
there is all this as well, and this is it: true life.

Gabriel Fauré / Paul Verlaine

Original Text

Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit,
Si bleu, si calme!
Un arbre, par-dessus le toit,
Berce sa palme.
La cloche, dans le ciel qu’on voit,
Doucement tinte.
Un oiseau sur l’arbre qu’on voit

Chante sa plainte.
Mon Dieu, mon Dieu, la vie est là,
Simple et tranquille.
Cette paisible rumeur-là
Vient de la ville.
– Qu’as-tu fait, ô toi que voilà
Pleurant sans cesse,
Dis, qu’as-tu fait, toi que voilà,
De ta jeunesse?


English Translation

The sky above the roof –
So blue, so calm!
A tree, above the roof,
Waves its crown.

The bell, in the sky that you see,
Gently rings.
A bird, on the tree that you see,
Plaintively sings.

My God, my God, life is there,
Simple and serene.
That peaceful murmur there
Comes from the town.

O you, what have you done,
Weeping without end,
Say, what have you done
With your young life?

Going, going
Philip Larkin

I thought it would last my time—
The sense that, beyond the town,
There would always be fields and farms,
Where the village louts could climb
Such trees as were not cut down;
I knew there’d be false alarms

In the papers about old streets
And split level shopping, but some
Have always been left so far;
And when the old part retreats
As the bleak high-risers come
We can always escape in the car.

Things are tougher than we are, just
As earth will always respond
However we mess it about;
Chuck filth in the sea, if you must:
The tides will be clean beyond.
— But what do I feel now? Doubt?

Or age, simply? The crowd
Is young in the M1 cafe;
Their kids are screaming for more—
More houses, more parking allowed,
More caravan sites, more pay.
On the Business Page, a score

Of spectacled grins approve
Some takeover bid that entails
Five per cent profit (and ten
Per cent more in the estuaries): move
Your works to the unspoilt dales
(Grey area grants)! And when

You try to get near the sea
In summer . . .
It seems, just now,
To be happening so very fast;
Despite all the land left free
For the first time I feel somehow
That it isn’t going to last,

That before I snuff it, the whole
Boiling will be bricked in
Except for the tourist parts—
First slum of Europe: a role
It won’t be hard to win,
With a cast of crooks and tarts.

And that will be England gone,
The shadows, the meadows, the lanes,
The guildhalls, the carved choirs.
There’ll be books; it will linger on
In galleries; but all that remains
For us will be concrete and tyres.

Most things are never meant.
This won’t be, most likely; but greeds
And garbage are too thick-strewn
To be swept up now, or invent
Excuses that make them all needs.
I just think it will happen, soon.

Chanson d’Automne
Reynaldo Hahn / Paul Verlaine

Original Text

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l’automne
Blessent mon coeur
D’une langueur
Tout suffocant
Et blême, quand
Sonne l’heure,
Je me souviens
Des jours anciens
Et je pleure;
Et je m’en vais
Au vent mauvais
Qui m’emporte
Deçà, delà,
Pareil à la
Feuille morte.


English Translation

With long sobs
The violins
Of autumn
Wound my heart
With languorous
All choking
And pale, when
The hour sounds,
I remember
Departed days
And I weep;
And I go
Where ill winds blow,
To and fro,
Like a
Dead leaf.


Destroying Beauty
Tansy Davies/John Clare

troubling the cornfields with destroying beauty
the different greens of the woodland trees
the dark oak, the paler ash,
the mellow Lime, the white poplars peeping above the rest
like leafy steeples,
the grey willow shining chilly in the sun
as if morning mist lingered in its cool green

Lines Written in Early Spring
William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

At day-close In November
Benjamin Britten / Thomas Hardy

The ten hours’ light is abating,
And a late bird wings across,
Where the pines, like waltzers waiting,
Give their black heads a toss.
Beech leaves, that yellow the noontime,
Float past like specks in the eye;
I set every tree in my June time,
And now they obscure the sky.
And the children who ramble through here
Conceive that there never has been
A time when no tall trees grew here,
That none will in time be seen.

Seamus Heaney

I thought of walking round and round a space
Utterly empty, utterly a source
Where the decked chestnut tree had lost its place
In our front hedge above the wallflowers.
The white chips jumped and jumped and skited high.
I heard the hatchet’s differentiated
Accurate cut, the crack, the sigh
And collapse of what luxuriated
Through the shocked tips and wreckage of it all.
Deep-planted and long gone, my coeval
Chestnut from a jam jar in a hole,
Its heft and hush become a bright nowhere,
A soul ramifying and forever
Silent, beyond silence listened for.

The Auld Aik
Benjamin Britten / William Soutar

The auld aik’s doun
The auld air’s doun
Twa hunner year it stüde, or mair
But not it’s doun, doun.

The auld aik’s doun
The auld aik’s doun
We were sae shair it would aye be there,
But noo, it’s doun, doun,
But noo it’s doun, doun, doun.

Please continue here for the second half of this concert’s texts.


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