• Brian Elias
  • I saw a peacock (2020)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

for James Newby

  • Bar; pf
  • Bar
  • 21 min
  • Anon, Edward Thomas, Frederic Myers, George Peele and William Blake
  • English

Programme Note

For many years I have wanted to set I Saw a Peacock, a poem that is usually anthologised as a nursery rhyme. Far from being a happy story, it is extraordinary in its apocalyptic and almost biblical imagery. It is a “trick poem”, and if the lines are punctuated with commas, it can be read in two different ways:

I saw a Peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a Comet drop down hail
I saw a Cloud with Ivy circled round


I saw a Peacock
With a fiery tail I saw a Comet
Drop down hail I saw a Cloud

There are six songs in this work in which I have chosen poems that are about dreams and visions. There are strong musical similarities that run throughout the piece but there are no direct thematic connections except for the third song, The Angel, which is a kind of re-working of the first song. The second, fourth and last song (Were the Bright Day, Bethsabe and Will You Come) attempt to evoke a similar atmosphere of dream-like longing.

I Saw a Peacock was completed in August 2020 and lasts approximately 21 minutes.

Brian Elias
10th September 2020