SONGS with piano

above: the composer in the Black Mountains, photographed by Dave Brook 

The five songs collected as Mysteries of Time were written over a period of more than twenty years, all originally as independent songs. But they do have a similarity of theme which makes for some validity as a cycle, although they are clearly designed for different voices. The opening song, The Mystery, uses a theme originally composed for an unfinished Requiem in the late 1960s, and which eventually found a home in the second scene of Beren and Lúthien. The second song, Cywydd, was commissioned by Rhys Morris who gave the first performance in Welsh (the English translation is by the composer). The third song, Graveyard, was written specifically at the request of Allison Reynolds, who was the author of the words. The fourth song, adapted from Yeats’s The seven woods of Coole, was written as a competition entry for Classic CD magazine (who insisted on the use of ‘seven’ as a theme), but the poem had been earmarked as a potential setting many years before.  The final song, The Queen of Air and Darkness, was originally designed as a mini-cantata for three voices with strings and harp accompaniment, but remained unfinished until the revised version for single voice was written to form a conclusion to this cycle. It may be noted that the dance of the Outlings is closely derived from the similar dance of the elves in the final scene of Fire and Water written some ten years before. The harmonies in this song reflect the conflict between the different worlds; the alien Queen is represented by open fourths and fifths, the mortal ranger whom she seeks to entice by minor thirds which constantly attempt to rise towards the fourth through the major third, but inevitably settle back into the minor again.

The Mystery                                            Ralph Hodgson

He came and took me by the hand       

up to a red rose tree;                 

he kept its meaning to himself,               

but gave a rose to me.                              


I did not pray him to lay bare

its mystery to me;

enough the rose was heaven to smell,

         and his own face to see.

Cywydd                                             Gerard Manley Hopkins, English translation by the composer


Y mae’n llewyn ym’an llon                                                   The hill hallow’d here is hail’d

a ffrydon llawer ffynon.                                                        with flowing-fairly fountains.

Wlau new wlith, ni chai wlad braidd,                                 Rain and dew enrich the dales,

tan rod sydd fal hon irraid.                                                  and green grass grows in verdant vales..

Gwan ddŵr a ddŵg, nis dwg dyn,                                     Fast-flowing, frail, the streams flow,

dyst ffyddlon am ein dyffryn;                                            as faith in fearful souls below;

hen ddaiar ddenhys a’i gwadd                                          e’en elder earth in sight

ran ddragwyddol o rinwedd;                                             bears witness to its weak-saving might;

ni ddyfig ond naws ddynol,                                               man only is out of tune,;

dyn dydd yn unig yn ol.                                                     faithless and fickle as the moon..


Graveyard                                                                  Alison Reynolds

Written upon seeing discarded ships rotting on the banks of the River Waveney between Oulton Broad and Lowestoft in Suffolk


Gaunt and green are the dead ships,

lying forgotten on the low-tide shore.

Their skeletons racked and riddled with disease,

the canker of dark decay, the dank death of Time.


Their grave the green mud, their shroud the green weed.

Their requiem eternal by gulls chanted,

who sit on ragged ribs that once were stately bows.

None need set a stone against this shore;

they are their own memorial.

The Seven Woods of Coole                          William Butler Yeats


I walked among the seven woods of Coole,

where enchanted eyes have seen immortal proud shadows walk;

seven odours, seven murmurs, seven woods.

And more I may not write of, for they that cleave

the waters of sleep can make a chattering tongue

heavy like stone, their wisdom being half silence.

How shall I name you, immortal, mild, proud shadows?

I only know that all we know comes from you,

and that you come from Eden on flying feet.

Is Eden far away, or do you hide from human thought,

as hares and mice and coneys that run before the reaping hook

and lie in the last ridge of the barley? Do our woods

and winds and ponds cover more quiet woods,

more shining winds, more star-glimmering ponds?

Is Eden out of time and out of space?

And do you gather around us when pale light

shining on water and fallen among leaves,

and winds blowing from flowers, and whirr of feathers,

and the green quiet, have uplifted the heart?
The Queen of Air and Darkness                                   Poul Anderson

It was the ranger Arvid

rode homeward through the hills,

among the shadowy, shimmering leaves,

along the shining rills.

The night wind whispered about him

with scent of brock and rue.

The moon shone high above him

and hills aflash with dew.


And, dreaming of that woman

who waited in the sun,

he stopped, amazed by starlight,

and so he was undone.

For there, beneath a barrow

that bulked athwart the moon,

the Outling folk were dancing

in glass and golden shoon.


The Outling folk were dancing

like water, wind and fire,

to frosty-ringing harpstrings,

and never did they tire.

To Arvid there came striding,

from where she watched the dance,

the Queen of Air and Darkness

with starlight in her glance.


With starlight, love and terror

in her immortal eye,

the Queen of Air and Darkness

cried softly under sky:

Light down, you ranger Arvid,

and join the Outling folk;

you need no more be mortal,

which is a heavy yoke.


He dared to give her answer:

I can do nought but run.

A maiden waits me, dreaming

in lands beneath the sun.

And likewise wait me comrades

and tasks I would not shirk;

for what is ranger Arvid

if he lays down his work?


So wreak your spells, you Outling,

and cast your wrath on me;

though maybe you can slay me,

you’ll not make me unfree.

The Queen of Air and Darkness

stood wrapped about with fear

and northlight flames and beauty

he dared not come too near.


Until she laughed like harp-string

and said to him in scorn:

I do not need a magic

to make you always mourn.

I send you home with nothing

except your memory

of moonlight, Outling music,

night-breezes, dew and me.


And that will run behind you,

a shadow on the sun,

And that will lie beside you

when every day is done.

In work and play and friendship

your grief shall strike you dumb

For being what you are,

and what you might have become.


Your dull and foolish woman

treat kindly as you can.

Go home now, ranger Arvid,

set free to be a man!

In flickering and laughter

the Outling folk were gone.

He stood alone by moonlight

and wept until the dawn.
sound sample:
The Song of the Eagle: orchestral version [see The Lord of the Rings: fragments and episodes
the relevant passage is highlighted in red is below

The Seven Tolkien Songs were written (and re-written) during the early 1970s and were all conceived as part of an extensive cycle on The Lord of the Rings.  They have all been subsequently orchestrated and in this form are included in the Episodes and Fragments published in 2001.  Quite apart from their existence as fragments of The Lord of the Rings, a number have also found further employment elsewhere. Strider is developed as part of the conclusion of the one-act episode Tom Bombadil; the Song of the Eagle is found in a transposed version for violin and harp (or oboe and piano) as one of the Three Romances; the Song of the Wanderer became the third of the same Romances, and also exists as the final scene of Fire and Water; the Drinking Song was incorporated into the central section of Mead beneath the leaves, the third of the Four winds for chamber ensemble; and the Song of the Prisoner was incorporated, in an altered version, into Beren and Lúthien, as are quotations from Farewell to Lórien (which is set to Tolkien’s own improvised tune).




All that is gold does not glitter,

not all those who wander are lost;

the old that is strong does not wither,

deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,

a light from the shadows shall spring;

renewed shall be blade that was broken,

the crownless again shall be King.


Song of the Eagle


Sing and be glad, ye people of the Tower of Anor,

for the Realm of Sauron is ended for ever,

and the Dark Tower is thrown down.


Sing and rejoice, ye people of the Tower of Guard,

for your watch hath not been in vain,

and the Black Gate is broken,

and your King hath passed through,

and he is victorious.


Sing and be glad, all ye children of the West,

for your King shall come again,

and he shall dwell among you all the days of your life.

And the Tree that was withered shall be renewed,

and he shall plant it in the high places,

and the City shall be blessed.


Sing, all ye people!


Fisherman’s Song


Alive without breath,

as cold as death;

never thirsty, ever drinking,

clad in mail never clinking.

Drowns on dry land,

thinks an island

is a mountain;

thinks a fountain

is a puff of air.

So sleek, so fair!

What a joy to meet!

We only wish to catch a fish,

so juicy-sweet!


Farewell to Lórien


Ai! laurië lantar lassi súrinen,

yéni únótimë ve rámar aldaron!

Yéni ve lintë yuldar avánier

mi oromardi lissë miruvóreva.

Andúnë pella, Vardo tellumar

nu luini yassen tintilar i eleni

ómaryo airetári lírinen.

Sí man i yulma nin enquantuva?


An sí Tintallë Varda Oiolossëo

ve fanyar máryat Elentári ortanë

ar ilyë tier undulávë lumbulë;

ar sindanóriello caita mornië

i falmalinnar imbë met, ar hísië

untúpa Calciryo míri oilalë.

Sí vanwar ná, Rómello vanwa, Valimar!

Namárië! Nai hiruvalyë Valimar.

Nai elyë hurivar.  Namárië!


Drinking Song


Ho! ho! ho! to the bottle I go

to heal my heart and drown my woe.

Rain may fall and wind may blow,

and many miles be still to go;

but under a tall tree will I lie,

and let the clouds go sailing by.


Song of the Prisoner


In Western lands beneath the sun

the flowers may rise in spring.

The trees may bud, the waters run,

the merry finches sing.

Or there maybe ’tis cloudless night

and swaying beeches bear

the elven-stars as jewels bright

beneath their branching hair..


Though here at journey’s end I lie

in darkness buried deep,

beyond all towers strong and high,

beyond all mountains steep,

beyond all shadows rides the Sun,

and stars for ever dwell.

I will not say the day is done,

nor bid the stars farewell.


Song of the Wanderer


Roads go ever ever on,

under rock and under tree,

by caves where never sun has shone,

by streams that never find the sea;

over snows by winter sown,

and through the merry flowers of June,

over grass and over stone

and under mountains in the moon.


Roads go ever ever on,

under cloud and under star,

yet feet that wandering have gone

turn at last to home afar.

Eyes that fire and sword have seen

and horror in the halls of stone

look at last on meadows green

and trees and hills they long have known.

The short cycle to epigrams by Hilaire Belloc Sundials was originally planned in the late 1970s but I was unable to bring it to a satisfactory conclusion for many years.  At one time I experimented with a set of variations on a single theme, but found that it was extremely difficult to reflect the differing moods of twelve independent and very short poems by these means. This final version makes one concession only to the unity of the cycle, by employing the same material for the first and last of the songs.



In soft deluding lies let fools delight.

A shadow marks our days, which end in Night.




I am a sundial, and I make a botch

of what is done far better by a watch.




I that still point to one enduring star

abandoned am, as all the constant are.




Creep, shadows, creep; my aging hours tell.

I cannot stop you, so you may as well.




Here in a lonely glade, forgotten, I

mark the tremendous progress of the sky.

So does your inmost soul, forgotten, mark

the dawn, the noon, the coming of the dark.




Save only on the rare occasions when the sun

is shining, I am only here for fun.



How slow the shadow creeps; but when ’tis past

how fast the shadows fall!  How fast!  How fast!




Stealthy the silent hours advance, and still;

and each may wound you, and the last shall kill.




I am a sundial, turned the wrong way round.

I cost my foolish mistress fifty pound.




Loss and Possession, Death and Life are one.

There falls no shadow where there shines no sun.




I am a sundial.  Ordinary words

cannot express my thoughts on birds.




Ephemeral mortal, mark my emblem well;

I tell the Time, and Time in time will tell.

The Three Songs of Faith  to words by John Bunyan were commissioned by Christine Barrodale for church performance, but although a number of copies of the score were prepared these have all subsequently been lost.  The reconstruction included in the collected edition was made from a recording by Sheila Searchfield of the first concert performance at Wortley Hall, Sheffield in 1976, but the opportunity was taken to make a number of small amendments to the original score. The final song was largely incorporated into the eighth scene of Beren and Lúthien; but even at that time the original copies had been lost, and the final version owes much more to the Beren adaptation than to the original as heard on the recording.




Let the most blessed be my guide,

if’t be His blessed will,

up to His gates, into His halls,

up to His holy hill.


And let Him never suffer me

to swerve or turn aside

from his free grace and holy will,

whate’er shall me betide.


And let Him gather them of mine

that I have left behind.

Lord, let them pray they may be thine,

with all their heart and mind.




Behold ye, how these crystal streams do glide,

to comfort pilgrims by the highway side;

the meadows green, beside their fragrant smell,

yield dainties for them; and he that can tell

what pleasant fruits, yea sweets, these trees do yield,

will soon sell all he hath that he may buy this field.




He that is down need fear no fall;

he that is low, no pride;

he that is humble, ever shall

have God to be his guide.


I am content with what I have,

little be it or much,

and Lord, contentment still I crave,

because thou savest such.


Fullness to such a burden is,

that go on pilgrimage,

here little, and hereafter bliss,

is best from age to age.


to listen to a performance given by Sheila Searchfield (mezzo-soprano) and Philip Berg (piano)





These four epigrams are mere jeux d’esprit, all written on the same harmonic sequence. The third of them, with its ironic quotation of a Jewish religious chant, might perhaps be regarded as highly politically incorrect; but it has been left to stand, as I cannot now find anything suitable to replace it.




Treason doth never prosper; what the reason?

For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.                        Sir John Harington




When I am dead, I hope it may be said:

His sins were scarlet, but his books were read.            Hilaire Belloc




How odd of God

To choose the Jews.                                                          W N Ewer




I hardly ever ope my lips, one cries:

Simonides, what think you of my rule?

—If you’re a fool, I think you’re very wise;

if you are wise, I think you are a fool.                        Richard Garnett


The three songs grouped together for publication under the heading of Early songs date in fact from quite a wide period.  The first and second are notable for the use made of their themes in later works: the Song of nationalism later emerges in the Akallabêth and then again in The Silmarillion, while Those dancing days are gone becomes the scherzo movement of the Saxophone Sonata. 

The final song, One came back, is the only arrangement included in this collection; it was originally written as an exercise at the instigation of Alan Bush.


A song of nationalism                    First World War traditional


God heard the embattled nations sing and shout:

Gott strafe England – God save the King –

God this – God that – and God the other thing.

“My God,” said God, “I’ve got my work cut out.”


Those dancing days are gone        William Butler Yeats


Come, let me sing into your ear;

those dancing days are gone,

all that silk and satin gear,

crouch upon a stone,

wrapping that foul body up

in as foul a rag:

I carry the sun in a golden cup,

the moon in a silver bag.


Curse as you may I sing it through,

what matter if the knave

that the most could pleasure you,

the children that he gave,

are somewhere sleeping like a top

under a marble flag?

I carry the sun in a golden cup,

the moon in a silver bag.


I thought it out this very day,

noon upon the clock,

a man may put pretence away

who leans upon a stick,

may sing, and dance until he drops,

whether to maid or hag:

I carry the sun in a golden cup,

the moon in a silver bag.


One came back                            arrangement of a verse and melody by Olive Gaunt


Yon pit-lad with his pony,

right well he’ll groom and tend.

They talk to one another

as friend to loyal friend.


In Stanley pit down in bye

died nigh two hundred men.

Of all the putters, yonder lad

alone came up again.


They bade him keep his pony

all for his very own;

he brought that pony safe to bank,

when he came up alone.