(8 Shakespeare sonnets)
soprano, tenor, speaking voice, bass clarinet/ clarinet; electric/ acoustic guitar; percussion (vibes, cimbalom, untuned percussion), piano, 2 violas, cello, double bass
First performance The Courtyard Theatre Stratford on Avon, February 24
Anna Maria Friman, John Potter, Gavin Friday
Opera North Ensemble, dir. James Holmes
Structure of Nothing like the Sun
I A Sonnet 60 (spoken)
I B Sonnet 60 (soprano and tenor)
II A Sonnet 123 (spoken)
II B Sonnet 123 (tenor solo)
III A Sonnet 128 (spoken)
III B Sonnet 128 (soprano solo) followed by postlude
IV A Sonnet 94 (spoken)
IV B Sonnet 94 (soprano and tenor)
V A Sonnet 102 (spoken)
V B Sonnet 102 (soprano solo)
VI A Sonnet 146 (spoken)
VI B Sonnet 146 (soprano and tenor) followed by postlude
VII A Sonnet 55 (spoken)
VII B Sonnet 55 (tenor solo)
VIII A Sonnet 64 (spoken)
VIII B Sonnet 64 (soprano and tenor) followed by epilogue
Text of Nothing like the Sun
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope, my verse shall stand
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.
No! Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change
Thy pyramids built up with newer might
To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;
They are but dressings of a former sight.
Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire
What thou dost foist upon us that is old,
And rather make them born to our desire
Than think that we before have heard them told.
Thy registers and thee I both defy,
Not wond’ring at the present or the past;
For thy records and thee and what we see doth lie,
Made more or less by thy continual haste.
This I do vow and this shall ever be:
I will be true, despite thy scythe and thee.
How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless’d than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.
They that have pow’r to hurt, and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who moving others are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptations slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense.
They are the lords and owners of their faces;
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer flow’r is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die.
But if that flow’r with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity.
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
My love is strengthened, though more weak in seeming;
I love not less, though less the show appear.
That love is merchandised whose rich esteeming
The owner’s tongue doth publish everywhere.
Our love was new, and then but in the spring,
When I was wont to greet it with my lays,
As Philomel in summer’s front doth sing,
And stops his pipe in growth of riper days.
Not that the summer is less pleasant now
Than when her mournful hymns did hush the night,
But that wild music burthens every bough,
And sweets grown common lose their dear delight.
Therefore, like her, I sometime hold my tongue,
Because I would not dull you with my song.
Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
These rebel powers that thee array,
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? Is this thy body’s end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant’s loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shall thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there’s no more dying then.
Not marble nor the gilded monuments
Of princes shall outlive this pow’rful rhyme,
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone, besmeared with sluttish time.
When wasteful war shall statues overturn,
And broils root out the work of masonry,
Nor Mars his sword, nor war’s quick fire, shall burn
The living record of your memory.
‘Gainst death and all oblivious enmity
Shall you pace forth; your praise shall still find room
Even in the eyes of all posterrity
That wear this world out to the ending doom.
So till the judgment that yourself arise,
You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.
When I have seen by Time’s fell hand defac’d
The rich proud cost of outworn buried age;
When sometime lofty towers I see down-raz’d,
And brass eternal slave to mortal rage;
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
Advantage on the kingdom of the shore,
And the firm soil win of the watery main,
Increasing store with loss, and loss with store;
When I have seen such interchange of state,
Or state itself confounded to decay;
Ruin hath taught me thus to ruminate
That Time will come and take my love away.
This thought is as a death which cannot choose
But weep to have that which it fears to lose.