Before and After Summer

Overlooking the River Stour

The swallows flew in the curves of an eight
Above the river-gleam
In the wet June’s last beam:
Like little crossbows animate
The swallows flew in the curves of an eight
Above the river-gleam.

Planing up shavings of crystal spray
A moor-hen darted out
From the bank thereabout,
And through the stream-shine ripped his way;
Planing up shavings of crystal spray
A moor-hen darted out.

Closed were the kingcups; and the mead
Dripped in monotonous green,
Though the day’s morning sheen
Had shown it golden and honeybee’d;
Closed were the kingcups; and the mead
Dripped in monotonous green.

And never I turned my head, alack,
While these things met my gaze
Through the pane’s drop-drenched glaze,
To see the more behind my back . . .
O never I turned, but let, alack,
These less things hold my gaze!

Words by Thomas Hardy 

Set to music by Gerald Finzi, in his collection of 10 songs for baritone and piano “Before and after Summer.”

Finzi had a special feeling for Hardy’s poetry and set more of him than any other poet.   Today I have been listening to a CD of Finzi’s Hardy songs recorded in the late ’60s by John Carol Case & Robert Tear with Finzi’s friend Howard Ferguson at the piano.

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1915 – In Time Of ‘The Breaking Of Nations’

Only a man harrowing clods
In a slow silent walk
With an old horse that stumbles and nods
Half asleep as they stalk.

Only thin smoke without flame
From the heaps of couch-grass;
Yet this will go onward the same
Though Dynasties pass.

Yonder a maid and her wight
Come whispering by:
War’s annals will cloud into night
Ere their story die.

Words by Thomas Hardy

Music by Gerald Finzi

Requiem da Camera