Wednesday, December 18, 2013

December 19

a leaf from William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and Experience",
which is now held at the Library of Congress

The Lamb
poem written by William Blake in 1789, 
with music composed by Sir John Tavener
and performed by Tenebrae

Little lamb, who made thee 
Dost thou know who made thee 
Gave thee life, & bid thee feed. 
By the stream & o’er the mead; 
Gave thee clothing of delight, 
Softest clothing, woolly bright; 
Gave thee such a tender voice, 
Making all the vales rejoice! 
Little lamb, who made thee 
Does thou know who made thee

Little lamb, I’ll tell thee, 
Little lamb, I’ll tell thee! 
He is called by thy name, 
For He calls Himself a Lamb: 
He is meek, & He is mild, 
He became a little child: 
I a child & thou a lamb, 
We are called by His name. 
Little lamb, God bless thee! 
Little lamb, God bless thee! 

"Songs of Innocence" and "Songs of Experience" were poems that were, of course, written with the intention of having them sung.  Sadly, the original music scores of these anthologies have been lost, but several different composers have set selected works to music.  

The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the most famous to attempt this particular poem, but he described it as "... a horrible little lamb- a poem that I hate."  


Luckily for us, however, one of my favourite composers, the late Sir John Tavener, took a car trip with his mother from South Devon to London one day.  "It came to me fully grown, so to speak," wrote Tavener.  "It was written in an afternoon...  All I had to do was write it down."

He dedicated the piece to his three-year-old nephew, Simon.

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