For soprano, tenor, bass and lute


February 1, 2005

Gavin’s Notes:

Text of Third Book of Madrigals nos. 10-17

10. He is jealous of the Heavens and the Earth

What a grudge I am bearing the earth that has its arms about her, and is holding that face away from me, where I was finding peace from great sadness.

      What a grudge I am bearing the Heavens that are after taking her, and shutting her in with greediness, the Heavens that do push their bolt against so many.

       What a grudge I am bearing the blessed saints that have got her sweet company, that I am always seeking; and what a grudge I am bearing against Death, that is standing in her two eyes and will not call me with a word.


11. The fine time of the year increases Petrarch’s sorrow

The south wind is coming back, bringing the fine season, and the flowers, and the grass, her sweet family, along with her. The swallow and the nightingale are making a stir, and the spring is turning white and red in every place.

            There is a cheerful look on the meadows, and peace in the sky, and the sun is well pleased, I’m thinking, looking downward, and the air and the waters and the earth herself are full of love, and every beast is turning back looking for its mate.

            And what a coming to me is great sighing and trouble, which herself is drawing out of my deep heart, herself that has taken the key of it up to Heaven.

            And it is this way I am, that the singing birds, and the flowers of the earth, and the sweet ladies, with the grace and comeliness, are the like of a desert to me, and wild beasts astray in it.


12. He understands the great cruelty of Death (tenor solo)

My flowery and green age was passing away, and I feeling a chill in the fires had been wasting my heart, for I was drawing near the hillside that is above the grave.

       Then my sweet enemy was making a start, little by little, to give over her great wariness, the way she was wringing a sweet thing out of my sharp sorrow. The time was coming when Love and Decency can keep company, and lovers may sit together and say out all things are in their hearts. But Death had his grudge against me, and he got up in the way, like an armed robber, with a pike in his hand.


13. The sight of Laura’s house reminds him of the great happiness he has lost (tenor solo)

Is this nest in which my Phoenix put on her feathers of gold and purple, my Phoenix that did hold me under her wing and she drawing out sweet words and sighs from me? Oh, root of my sweet misery, where is that beautiful face, where light would be shining out, the face that did keep my heart like a flame burning? She was without a match upon the earth, I hear them say, and now she is happy in the Heavens.

            And she has left me after her dejected and lonesome, turning back all times to the place I do be making much of for her sake only, and I seeing the night on the little hills where she took her last flight up into the Heavens, and where one time her eyes would make sunshine and it night itself.


14. He sends his rhymes to the tomb of Laura to pray her to call him to her (tenor solo)

Let you go down, sorrowful rhymes, to the hard rock is covering my dear treasure, and then let you call out till herself that is in the heavens will make answer, though her dead body is lying in a shady place.

            Let you say to her that it is tired out I am with being alive, with steering in bad seas, but I am going after her step by step, gathering up what she let fall behind her.

            It is of her only I do be thinking, and she living and dead, and now I have made her with my songs so that the whole world may know her, and give her the love that is her due.

            May it please her to be ready for my own passage that is getting near: may she be there to meet me, herself in the Heavens, that she may call me, and draw me after her.


15. Only he who mourns her and Heaven that possesses her knew her while she lived

Ah, Death, it is you that have left the world cold and shady, with no sun over it. It’s you have left Love without eyes or arms to him, you’ve left liveliness stripped, and beauty without a shape to her, and all courtesy in chains, and honesty thrown down into a hole. I am making lamentation alone, though it isn’t myself only has a cause to be crying out; since you, Death, have crushed the first seed of goodness in the whole world, and with it gone what place will we find a second?

            The air and the earth and the seas would have a good right to be crying out – and they pitying the race of men that is left without herself, like a meadow without flowers, or a ring robbed of jewellery.

            The world didn’t know her the time she was in it, but I myself knew her – and I left now to be weeping in this place; and the Heavens knew her, the Heavens that are giving an ear this day to my crying out.


16. Petrarch is unable to contain his grief

There was one time maybe when it was a sweet thing to love – though I would be hard set to say when it was – but now it is a bitter thing and there is nothing bitterer. The man who is teaching a truth should know it better than any other, and that is the way I am with my great sorrow.

       Herself that was the honour of our age; [and] now is in the heavens where all cherish her, made my [times of ease] in her days short and rare, and now she has taken all rest from me.

       Cruel Death has taken every good thing from me, and from this out no good luck could make up for the loss of that beautiful spirit that is set free.

       I used to be weeping and making songs, and I don’t know at this day what way I’d turn a verse, but day and night the sorrow that is banked up in my heart, breaks out on my tongue and through my eyes.


17. Laura waits for him in heaven

The first day she passed up and down through the Heavens, gentle and simple were left standing, and they in great wonder, saying one to the other:

       ‘What new light is that? What new beauty at all? The like of herself hasn’t risen up these long years from the common world.’

       And herself, well pleased with the Heavens, was going forward, matching herself with the most perfect that were before her, yet one time, and another, waiting a little, and turning her head back to see if myself was coming after her. It’s for that I’m lifting up all my thoughts and will into the Heavens, because I do hear her praying that I should be making haste forever.

(Text by Petrarch, translated by J. M. Synge)

Gavin Bryars