This is a re-work of a post that first appeared on here in April of 2014.
When I think of England I always think of the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958). To me he put the very essence of the English countryside into music.
One of my favourite sounds of the countryside is that of a skylark, trilling away at its song, high above me. If I’m having a rough day, I’ll likely head out to the fields to see if I can hear my avian tranquilizer.
Click here to watch a short film showing the skylark, with the fabulous Chris Packham and lovely Kate Humble, of BBC Springwatch fame. Click on the last film, entitled Idyllic Countryside.
When I’m unable to walk in the fields, or the skylark is likely to be absent from them (winter months), I listen to this piece of music, one of my favourites . I dream about long, warm days, spent walking in the meadows, as Chris and Kate did in the film: and the gorgeous sound of these amazing birds . I also wish I had learnt to play the violin: I might have to rectify that one!
The Lark Ascending by Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Performed by Nicola Benedetti.
A bit of background information.
Vaughan Williams took The Lark Ascending by George Meredith ( 1828-1909) as his inspiration for this work.
Here is the poem, all 122 lines of it!
He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,
All intervolved and spreading wide,
Like water-dimples down a tide
Where ripple ripple overcurls
And eddy into eddy whirls;
A press of hurried notes that run
So fleet they scarce are more than one,
Yet changeingly the trills repeat
And linger ringing while they fleet,
Sweet to the quick o’ the ear, and dear
To her beyond the handmaid ear,
Who sits beside our inner springs,
Too often dry for this he brings,
Which seems the very jet of earth
At sight of sun, her music’s mirth,
As up he wings the spiral stair,
A song of light, and pierces air
With fountain ardour, fountain play,
To reach the shining tops of day,
And drink in everything discerned
An ecstasy to music turned,
Impelled by what his happy bill
Disperses; drinking, showering still,
Unthinking save that he may give
His voice the outlet, there to live
Renewed in endless notes of glee,
So thirsty of his voice is he,
For all to hear and all to know
That he is joy, awake, aglow;
The tumult of the heart to hear
Through pureness filtered crystal-clear,
And know the pleasure sprinkled bright
By simple singing of delight;
Shrill, irreflective, unrestrained,
Rapt, ringing, on the jet sustained
Without a break, without a fall,
Sweet-silvery, sheer lyrical,
Perennial, quavering up the chord
Like myriad dews of sunny sward
That trembling into fulness shine,
And sparkle dropping argentine;
Such wooing as the ear receives
From zephyr caught in choric leaves
Of aspens when their chattering net
Is flushed to white with shivers wet;
And such the water-spirit’s chime
On mountain heights in morning’s prime,
Too freshly sweet to seem excess,
Too animate to need a stress;
But wider over many heads
The starry voice ascending spreads,
Awakening, as it waxes thin,
The best in us to him akin;
And every face to watch him raised,
Puts on the light of children praised;
So rich our human pleasure ripes
When sweetness on sincereness pipes,
Though nought be promised from the seas,
But only a soft-ruffling breeze
Sweep glittering on a still content,
Serenity in ravishment
For singing till his heaven fills,
‘Tis love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup,
And he the wine which overflows
To lift us with him as he goes:
The woods and brooks, the sheep and kine,
He is, the hills, the human line,
The meadows green, the fallows brown,
The dreams of labour in the town;
He sings the sap, the quickened veins;
The wedding song of sun and rains
He is, the dance of children, thanks
Of sowers, shout of primrose-banks,
And eye of violets while they breathe;
All these the circling song will wreathe,
And you shall hear the herb and tree,
The better heart of men shall see,
Shall feel celestially, as long
As you crave nothing save the song.
Was never voice of ours could say
Our inmost in the sweetest way,
Like yonder voice aloft, and link
All hearers in the song they drink.
Our wisdom speaks from failing blood,
Our passion is too full in flood,
We want the key of his wild note
Of truthful in a tuneful throat;
The song seraphically free
Of taint of personality,
So pure that it salutes the suns
The voice of one for millions,
In whom the millions rejoice
For giving their one spirit voice.
Yet men have we, whom we revere,
Now names, and men still housing here,
Whose lives, by many a battle-dint
Defaced, and grinding wheels on flint,
Yield substance, though they sing not, sweet
For song our highest heaven to greet:
Whom heavenly singing gives us new,
Enspheres them brilliant in our blue,
From firmest base to farthest leap,
Because their love of Earth is deep,
And they are warriors in accord
With life to serve, and, pass reward,
So touching purest and so heard
In the brain’s reflex of yon bird:
Wherefore their soul in me, or mine,
Through self-forgetfulness divine,
In them, that song aloft maintains,
To fill the sky and thrill the plains
With showerings drawn from human stores,
As he to silence nearer soars,
Extends the world at wings and dome,
More spacious making more our home,
Till lost on his aerial rings
In light, and then the fancy sings.
So, what do you think? Can you hear the skylark in William’s music and does the poem place you in a beautiful spring meadow, with a skylark serenading you? It does me. I love all of these reminders of one of my favourite birds.
Spring isn’t that far way and in the meantime there are lots of other things to lift our souls. Each season brings its own magic! But, it is good to have memories of the seasons passed.
Incidentally, the featured image at the top of this post, was found on heart-to-art.com on Pinterest. The artist is Lucy Grossmith. You can click on my Pinterest and find more stunning pictures by her.
Thanks for dropping by here today.
Until the next time.