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Seven Partsongs

Word count: 1090

Song Cycle by Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934)

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1. Say who is this?

Say who is this with silvered hair, 
So pale and worn and thin, 
Who passeth here, and passeth there, 
And looketh out and in ? 

That useth not our garb nor tongue, 
And knoweth things untold : 
Who teacheth pleasure to the young, 
And wisdom to the old? 

No toil he maketh his by day, 
No home his own by night ; 
But wheresoe'er he take his way, 
He killeth our delight. 

Since he is come there's nothing wise 
Nor fair in man or child, 
Unless his deep divining eyes 
Have looked on it and smiled. 

Whence came he hither all alone 
Among our folk to spy? 
There's nought that we can call our own, 
Till he shall hap to die. 

And I would dig his grave full deep 
Beneath the churchyard yew, 
Lest thence his wizard eyes might peep 
To mark the things we do.

2. O Love, I complain

O Love, I complain, 
Complain of thee often, 
Because thou dost soften 
My being to pain : 

Thou makest me fear 
The mind that createth, 
That loves not nor hateth 
In justice austere ; 

Who, ere he make one, 
With millions toyeth, 
And lightly destroyeth 
Whate'er is begun. 

An' wer't not for thee, 
My glorious passion, 
My heart I could fashion 
To sternness, as he. 

But thee, Love, he made 
Lest man should defy him, 
Connive and outvie him, 
And not be afraid : 

Nay, thee, Love, he gave 
His terrors to cover, 
And turn to a lover 
His insolent slave.

3. Angel spirits of sleep

Angel spirits of sleep,
White-robed, with silver hair,
In your meadows fair,
  Where the willows weep,

And the sad moonbeam
On the gliding stream
  Writes her scatter'd dream:

Angel spirits of sleep,
Dancing to the weir
In the hollow roar
  Of its waters deep;

Know ye how men say
That ye haunt no more
Isle and grassy shore
  With your moonlit play;

That ye dance not here,
White-robed spirits of sleep,
All the summer night
  Threading dances light?

4. When first we met we did not guess

When first we met, we did not guess
    That Love would prove so hard a master;
Of more than common friendliness
When first we met we did not guess.
Who could foretell the sore distress,
    This irretrievable disaster,
When first we met? -- We did not guess
    That Love would prove so hard a master.

5. Sorrow and joy

Sorrow and joy, two sisters coy,
Ay, for our hearts are fighting:
The half of our years are teen and tears,
And half are mere delighting.

So when joy's cup is brimm'd full up,
Take no thought o' the morrow:
So fine's your bliss, ye shall not miss
To have your turn wi' sorrow.

And she with ruth will teach you truth,
She is man's very med'cin:
She'll drive us straight to heav'ns high gate,
Ay, she can stuff our heads in.

Blush not nor blench with either wench,
Make neither brag nor pother:
God send you, son, enough of one
And not too much o' t'other.

6. Love on my heart from heaven fell

Love on my heart from heaven fell,
Soft as the dew on flow'rs of Spring,
Sweet as the hidden drops that swell
Their honey-throated chalicing.

Now never from him do I part,
Hosana evermore I cry,
I taste his savour in my heart,
And bid all praise him as do I.

Without him noughtsoever is,
Nor was... afore, nor e'er shall be:
Nor any other joy than his
Wish I for mine to comfort me.

7. Assemble all ye maidens

Assemble, all ye maidens, at the door,
And all ye loves, assemble; far and wide
Proclaim the bridal, that proclaimed before
Has been deferred to this late eventide:
      For on this night the bride,
    The days of her betrothal over,
  Leaves the parental hearth for evermore;
To-night the bride goes forth to meet her lover.

Reach down the wedding vesture, that has lain
Yet all unvisited, the silken gown:
Bring out the bracelets, and the golden chain
Her dearer friends provided: sere and brown
      Bring out the festal crown,
    And set it on her forehead lightly:
  Though it be withered, twine no wreath again;
This only is the crown she can wear rightly.

Cloak her in ermine, for the night is cold,
And wrap her warmly, for the night is long;
In pious hands the flaming torches hold,
While her attendants, chosen from among
      Her faithful virgin throng,
    May lay her in her cedar litter,
  Decking her coverlet with sprigs of gold,
Roses, and lilies white that best befit her.

Sound flute and tabor, that the bridal be
Not without music, nor with these alone;
But let the viol lead the melody,
With lesser intervals, and plaintive moan
      Of sinking semitone;
    [And, all]1 in choir, the virgin voices
  Rest not from singing in skilled harmony
The song that aye the bridegroom's ear rejoices.

Let the priests go before, arrayed in white,
And let the dark-stoled minstrels follow slow,
Next they that bear her, honoured on this night,
And then the maidens, in a double row,
      Each singing soft and low,
    And each on high a torch upstaying:
  Unto her lover lead her forth with light,
With music, and with singing, and with praying.

'Twas at this sheltering hour he nightly came,
And found her trusty window open wide,
And knew the signal of the timorous flame,
That long the restless curtain would not hide
      Her form that stood beside;
    As scarce she dared to be delighted,
  Listening to that sweet tale, that is no shame
To faithful lovers, that their hearts have plighted.

But now for many days the dewy grass
Has shown no markings of his feet at morn:
And watching she has seen no shadow pass
The moonlit walk, and heard no music borne
      Upon her ear forlorn.
    In vain [she has]2 looked out to greet him;
  He has not come, he will not come, alas!
So let us bear her out where she must meet him.

Now to the river bank the priests are come:
The bark is ready to receive its freight:
Let some prepare her place therein, and some
Embark the litter with its slender weight:
      The rest stand by in state,
    And sing her a safe passage over;
  While she is oared across to her new home,
Into the arms of her expectant lover.

And thou, O lover, that art on the watch,
Where, on the banks of the forgetful streams,
The pale indifferent ghosts wander, and snatch
The sweeter moments of their broken dreams, --
      Thou, when the torchlight gleams,
    When thou shalt see the [slow]3 procession,
  And when thine ears the fitful music catch,
Rejoice, for thou art near to thy possession.

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Holst: "All, all"
2 Holst: "has she"
3 Holst: "sad"

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