• Geoffrey Burgon
  • A Vision (1991)

  • Chester Music Ltd (World)

Commissioned by The London Mozart Players.

  • str
  • tenor
  • 25 min

Programme Note

A Vision was written for the tenor Anthony Rolfe Johnson and commissioned by the London Mozart Players. The first performance was at the Gregynog Festival in June 1991. Geoffrey Burgon has set 7 poems of John Clare (1793-1846) and the poems that Burgon has chosen were all written whilst Clare was in Northampton Asylum. The work is scored for tenor and string orchestra. There is a prominent part for solo violin, which reflects Clare’s love of that instrument and upon which he would play folk tunes and dances.

Peter Porter

A Vision

I. A Vision

I lost the love of heaven above
I spurned the lust of earth below
I felt the sweets of fanciful Love
And hell itself my only foe.

I lost earth’s joys but felt the glow
Of heaven’s fame abound in me
Till loveliness and I did grow
The bard of immortality.

I loved but woman fell away
I hid me from her faded fame
I snatched the sun’s eternal ray
And wrote till earth was but a name.

In every language upon earth
On every shore, o’er every sea,
I gave my name immortal birth,
And kept my spirit with the free.

II. The Daisy-Button Tipp’d Wi’ Dew

The daisy-button tipped wi’ dew Green like the grass was sleeping
On every thing ‘neath heaven blue In moonlight dew was weeping
In dark wood sung the Nightingale The moon shone round above me
My arms were clasped round Mary Gale My dearest do you love me?

Her head a woodbine wet wi’ dew Held in the moonlight sleeping
And two in one together grew Wi’ daisy-buds a weeping
O’ Mary Gale sweet Mary Gale How round and bright above thee
The moon looks down on grassy vale My dearest can you love?

How sweet the moonlight sleeps and still Firdale and hedge-row brere
The molewarp’s mound and distant hill Is moonlight everywhere
The totter-grasses’ pendulums Are still as night above me
The bees are gone and nothing hums My dearest do you love me?

The moonlight sleeps o’er wood and wall Sweet Mary while you’re nigh me
Can any charm o’ courtship fail And any joy pass by me?
The gossamer all wet wi’ dew Hung on the brere above me
She leaned her cheek and said ‘I do, And ever mean to love thee.’

III. Last Day

There is a day a dreadfull day
Still following the past
When the sun and moon are passed away
And mingle with the blast
There is a vision in my eye
A vacuum o’er my mind
Sometimes as on the sea I lye
Mid roaring waves and wind

When valleys rise to mountain-waves
And mountains sink to seas
When towns and cities temples graves
All vanish like a breeze
The skys that was are past and o’er
That almanack of days
Year-chronicles are kept no more
Oblivion’s ruin pays

Pays in destruction, shades, and hell
Sin goes in darkness down
And therein sulphur’s shadows dwell
Worth wins and wears the crown
The very shore, if shore I see,
All shrivelled to a scroll
The Heavens rend away from me
And thunder’s sulphurs roll

Black as the deadly thunder-cloud
The stars shall turn to dun
And heaven by that darkness bowed
Shall make day’s light be done
When stars and skys shall all decay
And earth no more shall be
When heaven itself shall pass away
Then thou’lt remember me

IV. An Invite to Eternity

Wilt thou go with me sweet maid
Say maiden wilt thou go with me
Through the valley-depths of shade
Of night and dark obscurity
Where the path hath lost its way
Where the sun forgets the day
Where there’s nor life nor light to see
Sweet maiden wilt thou go with me

Where stones will turn to flooding streams
Where plains will rise like ocean-waves
Where life will fade like visioned dreams
And mountains darken into caves
Say maiden wilt thou go with me
Through this sad non-identity
Where parents live and are forgot
And sisters live and know us not

Say maiden wilt thou go with me
In this strange death of life-to-be
To live in death and be the same
Without this life or home or name
At once to be and not to be
That was and is not - yet to see
Things pass like shadows - and the sky
Above, below, around us lie.

The land of shadows wilt thou trace
And look nor know each other’s face
The present mixed with seasons gone
And past and present all as one
Say maiden can thy life be led
To join the living with the dead
Then trace thy footsteps on with me
We’re wed to one eternity.

V. Clock-A-Clay

In the cowslip’s peeps I lye
Hidden from the buzzing fly
While green grass beneath me lies
Pearled wi’ dew like fishes’ eyes
Here I lie a Clock-a-clay
Waiting for the time o’ day

While grassy forest quake surprise
And the wild wind sobs and sighs
My gold home rocks as like to fall
On its pillar green and tall
When the pattering rain drives by
Clock-a-Clay keeps warm and dry

Day by day and night by night
All the week I hide from sight
In the cowslip’s peeps I lie
In rain and dew still warm and dry
Day and night and night and day
Red black-spotted Clock-a-clay

My home it shakes in wind and showers
Pale green pillar topt wi’ flowers
Bending in the wild wind’s breath
Till I touch the grass beneath
Here still I live lone Clock-a-clay
Watching for the time of day

VI. Song’s Eternity

What is song’s eternity?
Come and see
Can it noise and bustle be?
Come and see
Praises sung or praises said,
Can it be?
Wait awhile and these are dead
Sigh sigh
Be they high or lowly bred
They die

What is song’s eternity?
Come and see
Melodys of earth and sky
Here they be
Sings once sung to Adam’s ears
Can it be?
- Ballads of six thousand years
Thrive thrive
Songs awakened with the spheres

Mighty songs that miss decay
What are they?
Crowds and citys pass away
Like a day
Books are writ and books are read
What are they?
Years will lay them with the dead
Sigh sigh
Trifles unto nothing wed
They die

Dreamers list’ the honey bee
Mark the tree
Where the blue cap, tootle tee,
Sings a glee
Sung to Adam and to Eve
Here they be
When floods covered every bough
Noah’s ark
Heard that ballad singing now
Hark hark

Singeth here
Songs I’ve heard and felt and seen
Songs like the grass are evergreen
The giver
Said live and be, and they have been
For ever

Tootle tootle tootle tee
Can it be
Pride and fame must shadows be?
Come and see
Every season own her own
Bird and bee
Sing creation’s music on
Nature’s glee
Is in every mood and tone

The eternity of song
Liveth here
Nature’s universal tongue.

VII. Song

Where the ash-tree weaves
Shadows over the river
And the willow’s grey leaves
Shake and Quiver –
Meet me and talk, love,
Down the grasshopper’s baulk, love
And then love forever.

There meet me and talk, love,
Of love’s inward feelings
Where the clouds look like chalk, love,
And the huts and the shielings
Lie like love o’er the river
Here talk of love’s feelings
And love on for ever.

Where the bee hums his ballads
By the river so near it
Round docks and wild salads
While all love to hear it,
We’ll meet by the river
And by the old willow-pollards
Bid love live for ever.


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