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Five songs from A E Housman for tenor and piano

Version of 15 September 2020.

The sound file was generated with software using synth choral ah voices as a demo, even though the vocal is supposed to be solo.

Audio file and score display available at: YouTube Five songs from A E Housman for tenor and piano.

Score pdf available from Sheet Music Plus.

The lyrics are in the score, but for convenience I give them below.

Comments always welcome.

Five songs by A. E. Housman

i

On your midnight pallet lying,
listen and undo the door;
lads that waste the light in sighing i
n the dark should sigh no more;
night should ease a lover's sorrow;
therefore, since I go tomorrow,
pity me before.

In the land to which I travel,
the far dwelling, let me say,
once, if here the couch is gravel,
in a kinder bed I lay,
and the breast the darnel smothers
rested once upon another's
when it was not clay.

Ii

Say, lad, have you things to do?
Quick then, while your day's at prime.
Quick, and if 'tis work for two,
Here am I, man: now's your time.

Send me now, and I shall go;
call me, I shall hear you call;
use me ere they lay me low
where a man's no use at all;

Ere the wholesome flesh decay,
and the willing nerve be numb,
and the lips lack breath to say,
"No, my lad, I cannot come."

iii

From far, from eve and morning
and yon twelvewinded sky,
the stuff of life to knit me
blew hither: here am I,
blew hither: here am I.

Now, for a breath I tarry
nor yet disperse apart,
take my hand quick and tell me,
what have you in your heart,
what have you in your heart.

Speak now, and I will answer,
how shall I help you, say;
ere to the wind's twelve quarters
I take my endless way,
I take my endless way.

Iv

If truth in hearts that perish
could move the powers on high,
I think the love I bear you
should make you not to die.

Sure, sure, if steadfast meaning,
if single thought could save,
the world might end tomorrow,
you should not see the grave.

This long and sure set liking,
this boundless will to please,
Oh, you should live for ever
if there were help in these.

But now since all is idle,
to this lost heart be kind,
ere to a town you journey
where friends are ill to find.

v

You smile upon your friend today,
today his ills are over;
you hearken to the lover's say,
and happy is the lover.

'Tis late to hearken, late to smile,
but better late than never:
I shall have lived a little while
before I die forever.

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Please note that while this composition is based on poems in the public domain, my arrangement of them is an original creative work under copyright. You may feel free to share or link to it by the usual means. For performance permission, please see my permissions page.

Image: Grave of A. E. Housman. Photo by Jon Corelis.

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Hi John.

I can see that this has been a labour of love for you. Like the choice of material.

One thing I have done with settings is not to be worried about breaking up the structure of the lines.

”On—- your mid-night pa-let ly——-ing, ly’n and lis-ning for the door”.

This is very nice work. Would be better if you had a real tenor to sing it. I think this would bring out the real feel of it personally.

Thanks for the reply.  I thought it was important to keep the structure since both lyrics and melody are strongly stanzaic.

Michael Lofting said:

Hi John.

I can see that this has been a labour of love for you. Like the choice of material.

One thing I have done with settings is not to be worried about breaking up the structure of the lines.

”On—- your mid-night pa-let ly——-ing, ly’n and lis-ning for the door”.

Yes:  I write for performance, the computer generated audio being only a demo to suggest what a performance would sound like.  I originally scored this for baritone, but I decided a younger sounding voice was more suited.

Timothy Smith said:

This is very nice work. Would be better if you had a real tenor to sing it. I think this would bring out the real feel of it personally.

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