• Michael Blake Watkins
  • Spirit of the Universe (1978)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the City Music Society


Unavailable for performance.

  • fl.ob.clvn.va.vc
  • soprano
  • 15 min

Programme Note

Michael Blake Watkins: The Spirit of the Universe

The work is scored for solo soprano, flute, oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and cello. It is in one continuous movement consisting of four clearly defined sections entitled The Unseen Power, The White Radiance of Eternity, The Figured Curtain of Sleep and The Spirit of the Universe, interspersed with three instrumental interludes. Each interlude features a short central cadenza played by one of the strings, and this is framed by a quartet for one of the woodwind players accompanied by the string trio, thus highlighting all the instruments in turn.

The Spirit of the Universe was commissioned by the City Music Trust for Jane Manning and members of the Nash Ensemble.


The Unseen Power

The awful shadow of some unseen Power
Floats though unseen among us; visiting
This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower.
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,
It visits with inconstant glance
Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,
Like clouds in starlight widely spread,
Like memory of music fled,
Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery

Percy Bysshe Shelly – Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

……..the impalpable thin air
And the all-circling sunlight were transformed,
As if the sense of love dissolved in them
Had folded itself round the sphered world.
My vision then grew clear, and I could see
Into the mysteries of the universe:

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Prometheus Unbound Act III, Sc. IV

The White Radiance of Eternity

There is a pleasure in the pathless woods
There is a rapture on the lonely shore
There is society where none intrudes
By the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but Nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I maybe, or have been before,
To mingle with the Universe, and feel
What I can ne’er express, yet cannot all conceal.

Lord Byron – Childe Harold

Glorious shapes have life in thee –
Earth, and all earth’s company;
Living globes which ever throng
Thy deep chasms and wildernesses;
And green worlds that glide along;
And swift stars with flashing tresses;
And icy moons most cold and bright
And mighty suns beyond the night,
Atoms of intensest light.

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Ode to Heaven

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of eternity.

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Adonais

The Figured Curtain of Sleep

And, as those married lights, which from the towers
Of Heaven look forth and fold the wandering globe
In liquid sleep and splendour, as a robe;
And all their many-mingled influence blend,
If equal, yet unlike, to one sweet end.

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Epipsychidion

The Spirit of the Earth is laid asleep,
And you can see its little lips are moving,
Amid the changing light of their own smiles,
Like one who talks of what he loves in dream.

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Prometheus Unbound Act IV

How sweetly did they float upon the wings
Of silence, through the empty-vaulted night,
At every fall smoothing the raven down
Of darkness till it smiled!

John Milton – Comus

The voice of the Spirits of Air and of Earth
Have drawn back the figured curtain of sleep
Which covered our being and darkened our birth
In the deep.

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Prometheus Unbound Act IV

The Spirit of the Universe

Wisdom and Spirit of the Universe!
Thou soul that art the Eternity of thought!
And giv’st to forms and images a breath
And everlasting motion!

William Wordsworth – The Prelude

From birth to death, from death to birth,
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
Till glimpses more sublime
Of things, unseen before,
Unto his wondering eyes reveal
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel.
Turning for evermore
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow – Rain in Summer