Friday, March 13, 2015

The Silver Swan - Orlando Gibbons

The silver swan, who living had no note,
When death approached, unlocked her silent throat;
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
Thus sung her first and last, and sung no more:
"Farewell, all joys; Oh death, come close mine eyes;
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise."

Gibbons was known mostly as a composer in late 1500s and early 1600s England.  This text is from his most famous madrigal (a through-sung composition for multiple voices) and deals with the beauty of how ephemeral things are, and how beauty leaves the world.  Even in the early 17th century, the notion that there were more idiots than not was prevalent.  It's a simple, beautiful poem, a sophisticated heartbreak image represented by a swan singing out a single, pure beautiful note.

Here's the music.  Enjoy!

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