Perhaps I am punchy, a little, from a busy day of writing and editing and the ongoing situation with my brother-in-law and his illness. In fact, I am quite sure it is because I am thinking of him, and my sister and their children, that this Robert Louis Stevenson lyric, set to music by Vaughan Williams and sung by Bryn Terfel, grabbed my heart and left me somewhat undone, this afternoon.
Youth and Love
To the heart of youth the world is a highwayside.
Passing for ever, he fares; and on either hand,
Deep in the gardens golden pavillions hide,
Nestle in orchard bloom, and far on the level land
Call him with lighted lamp in the eventide.
Thick as stars at night when the moon is down,
Pleasures assail him. He to his nobler fate
Fares: and but waves a hand as he passes on,
Cries but a wayside word to her at the garden gate
Sings but a boyish stave and his face is gone.
You can hear a snippet of it here but a snippet won’t do justice to it, not when this piece ends on such a phrase of sweet empathy, compassion and fragility.
This is absurd genius.
There are many fine singers out there, but I think the reason I am repeatedly bowled over by Terfel is because he respects the word as much as the music, the rest as much as the run. That would appeal to me, given my love of language. No other singer seems to have the Terfel’s sublime grasp of lyric, the ability to dive into a poem’s meaning and find blossoms which might otherwise go unsniffed. Perhaps it is a Welsh, or Celtic, thing – this attention to not just melody and dynamic and vowel and consonant, but to meaning, and depth of feeling.
A wonderful album. I’ll throw it into The Bookshelf.
A Musical Occasion of Sin