song-cycle for mezzo-soprano & piano on poems by John Donne
1. I wonder, by my troth
2. ‘Tis true, ’tis day
3. Come live with me, and be my love
4. So, so, breake off this last lamenting kiss
5. Now thou hast lov’d me one whole day
The Good-morrow, which was written in 1971, is a setting for mezzo-soprano and piano of five poems by John Donne. These are not songs in the closed sense: the settings deliberately blur one poem into the next, so as to form a little musical drama about a passionate but light-hearted love-affair between two highly-sexed young people. My aim was to bring to musical life the character of the woman, of her lover, and of their relationship. It may seem strange that I have set these poems for female voice, rather than male; but the quality of Donne’s poetry which interests me is not his gender, nor even his sexiness, but his view of the oneness of the physical and spiritual: his celebration of the body is illuminated from within by an awareness of what lies beyond. Unlike poets such as Carewe and Suckling, he never treats the lover as a mere sex-object; this metaphysical approach to the physical world is what links the “naughty” poetry of his youth with the religious solemnities of his later years. The model for this piece was the beautiful song-cycle The voice of love (1966) by Nicholas Maw, who was my teacher from 1968 until 1971, and whose influence upon my development was both strong and helpful. My debt of gratitude to Maw (who died in 2009) is great, and this song-cycle was a conscious acknowledgement of it.
Giles Swayne 2009