• Thea Musgrave
  • On the Underground Set No. 1 (On gratitude, love & madness) (1994)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by Canzonetta, with funds from Sainsbury Choir of the Year Competition

  • SATB
  • 10 min
  • James Berry, Sheenagh Pugh, W B Yeats, Stevie Smith, Adrienne Rich, Emily Dickinson

Programme Note


There is one unexpected pleasure taking the London Underground (and, more recently, also the New York City subway): one's eye may alight on a poem placed amongst the pervasive and numbing advertisements, and, for a moment, the imagination takes wing.

The six poems selected for this work are all to be found in 100 Poems on the Underground. The first and last, Benediction by James Berry and Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh are expressions of gratitude. The second poem Her Anxiety by Yeats, describes the inevitable death of true love. In the third poem Stevie Smith's Lady Singleton follows her own very eccentric ways, in contrast to Adrienne Rich's Aunt Jennifer of the fifth poem, who is trapped by the deadly weight of convention. In the third poem, Much Madness is divinest Sense, Emily Dickinson tells of how anybody flouting the majority opinion is "straightway dangerous and handled with a chain".