• Bryan Kelly
  • At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners (1972)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)
  • str
  • SATB
  • tenor
  • 18 min
  • John Donne, Thomas Campion, Phineas Fletcher, William Dunbar
  • English

Programme Note

Bryan Kelly: At the Round Earth's Imagin'd Corners

At the round earth's imagin'd corners was written in 1977. I had been saddened at this time by the deaths of two close friends, and when I received a commission from the Sheffield Bach Choir for a short choral work, my mind turned automatically to mystical texts.

The first movement, for choir with tremolo strings, and a fanfare theme, is mainly extrovert in character, but ends with a hymn-like epilogue. The next movement, the first of two for tenor solo, is a simple setting, which, however, uses the full range of the voice. The third, for choir, is dominated by an agitated quaver motion in the orchestra, and the fourth, for tenor solo, a reflective elegy, contrasts markedly with the next Dunbar movement with its colourful metaphors and angular verse.

The cantata ends with a plain non-contrapuntal setting in the style of a chorale.
© Bryan Kelly

I CHOIR At the round earth's imagin'd corners, blow
Your trumpets, Angells, and arise, arise
From death, you numberlesse infinities
Of soules, and to your scattred bodies goe,
All whom the flood did, and fire shall o'erthrow,
All whom warre, dearth, age, agues, tyrannies,
Despaire, law, chance, hath slaine, and you whose eyes,
Shall behold God, and never taste death's woe.
But let them sleep, Lord, and mee mourne a space,
For, if above all these, my sinnes abound,
'Tis late to aske abundance of thy grace,
When wee are there; here on this lowly ground,
Teach mee how to repent; for that's as good
As if thou had'st seal'd my pardon, with thy blood.
John Donne (1573-1631)

II TENOR SOLO Never weather-beaten
Sail more willing bent to shore,
Never tired
Pilgrim's limbs affected slumber more,
Than my wearied sprite now longs to fly out of my troubled breast.
O come quickly, sweetest Lord, and take my soul to rest.
Ever-looming are the joys of Heav'n's high paradise,
Cold age deafs not there our ears, nor vapour dims our eyes:
Glory there the sun outshines, whose beams the blessed only see;
O come quickly, glorious Lord, and raise my sprite to thee.
Thomas Campion (1567-1620)

III CHOIR Oh my blacke Soule! now thou art summoned
By sicknesse, death's herald and champion;
Thou art like a pilgrim, which abroad hath done
Treason, and durst not turne to whence hee is fled,
Or like a thiefe, which till death's doome be read,
Wisheth himselfe delivered from prison;
But damn'd and hal'd to execution,
Wisheth that still he might be imprisoned;
Yet grace, if thou repent, thou canst not lacke:
But who shall give thee that grace to beginne?
Oh, make thyselfe with holy mourning blacke,
And red with blushing, as thou art with sinne;
Or wash thee in Christ's blood, which hath this might
That being red, it dyes red soules to white.
John Donne (1573-1631)

IV TENOR SOLO Drop, drop slow tears, and bathe those beauteous feet,
Which brought from heav'n the news and Prince of peace:

Cease not, wet eyes, his mercies to intreat;
To crie for vengeance sinne doth never cease:

In your deep floods drown all my faults and fears;
Nor let his eye see sinne, but through my tears.
Phineas Fletcher (1582-1650)

TENOR SOLO Done is battell on the dragon blak,
Our campioun Chryst confountet hes his forces;
The yettis* of hell ar brokin with a crak, *gates
The signe of triumphall rasit is of the croce,
The divillis trymillis with hiddous voce,
The saulis are borrowit and to the blis can goe,
Chryst with blud our ransonis dois indoce:

Surrexit dominus de sepulchro.

Dungin* is the deidly dragon Lucifer, *struck down
The crewall serpent with the mortall stang,
The auld kene tegir with his teith on char* *ajar
Quhilk in a wait he lyne for us so lang,
Thinking to grip us in his clowis strang:
The mercifull lord wald nocht that it wer so,
He maid him for to felye of that fang:* *fail of his booty

Surrexit dominus de sepulchro.

He for our saik that suffiret to be slane
And lyk a lamb in scarifice wes dicht,* *made ready
Is lyk a lyone rissin up agane,
And as a gyane raxit him* on hicht: *raised himself up
Sprungin is Aurora radius and bricht,
On loft is gone the glorious Appollo,
The blissfull day depairtit fro the nycht:

Surrexit dominus de sepulchro.
William Dunbar (1465?-1520?)

AND CHOIR Wilt thou forgive that sin, where I begun,
Which is my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive those sinns through which I runn
And doe them still, though still I doe deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin, by which I'have wonne
Others to sin, and made my sin their dore?
Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shunne
A yeare or twoe, but wallowed in a score?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

I have a sin of feare that when I have spun
My last thred, I shall perish on the shore;
Sweare by thy self that at my Death thy Son
Shall shine as he shines nowe, and heretofore;
And having done that, thou hast done,
I have no more.
John Donne (1573-1631)