Robert Hugill - Winter Journey for baritone and piano

Text by Rowan Williams, 'Winterreise: for Gillian Rose, 9 December 1995'

From The Poems of Rowan Williams, by permission of Carcanet Pres




The flat fields tramp towards the Severn.

I know there is no cliff to drop from

at their edge, only the sand and the wet still sheets.


This morning, though, the thick and chest-constricting

light, the level, rose-grey clouds and the remains

of icy fog stand between fields and water.


And the horizon has to be a steep edge, has to be

the cliff where Gloucester fell that never-to-be measured

drop from his body to the ground.


And down, a long way down, below the frost,

must be soft embers sending up the light

from fires the night-fog has muffled but not killed.




Still, where you were concerned, we always

arrived too late; too late, myopic, short of sleep,

with fingers stumbling to decipher messages

you left for us, engraved in a hard surface.

It was a distant relative of yours who drove

his lawyer's reed into the black Sinai basalt

till the calligraphy of little streams broke out

to age the hopeless rock as if with history,

as if with words; another kinsman, distant or not too distant,

writing in falling sweat on stone, body to ground, something

his friends never quite managed to read. Tracing, unthinkingly,

a pattern of spilled wine on the dayroom table,

never quite managing to meet each other's eyes, not for long,

we test the feel of an unyielding difficulty, not yet sure

of handling this, of finding where the streams combine,

reading what the wet fingertips decode.




Dying by degrees, perhaps, is a winter journey:

connections cancelled unexplained, the staff,

their patience ebbing, closing amenities, one by one, around you.


The temperature falls, and for an hour you sit

on a plastic bench, aching for sleep,

under the surly light that strips you


For some always-delayed inspection; so even,

so hard, that for so long you cannot see the dark:

the homely dark, with its fierce small fires.



Robert Hugill - Four Songs to Texts by A.E.Housman for baritone and piano

Texts taken from 'More Poems' and 'Additional Poems'


He looked at me


 He looked at me with eyes I thought

   I was not like to find,

 The voice he begged for pence with brought

   Another man to mind.


 Oh no, lad, never touch your cap;

   It is not my half-crown:

 You have it from a better chap

   That long ago lay down.


 Turn east and over Thames to Kent

   And come to the sea's brim,

  And find his everlasting tent


He would not stay for me


He would not stay for me, and who can wonder?

  He would not stay for me to stand and gaze.

I shook his hand, and tore my heart in sunder,

  And went with half my life about my ways.


Because I liked you better


Because I liked you better

  Than suits a man to say,

It irked you, and I promised

  To throw the thought away.


To put the worl d between us

  We parted, stiff and dry;

`Good-bye,' said you, `forget me.'

  `I will, no fear', said I.


If here, where clover whitens

  The dead man's knoll, you pass,

And no tall flower to meet you

  Starts in the trefoiled grass,


Halt by the headstone naming

  The heart no longer stirred,

And say the lad that loved you

  Was one that kept his word.


A.J.J – When he's returned


When he's returned I'll tell him -- oh,

  Dear fellow, I forgot:

Time was you would have cared to know,

  But now it matters not.


I mourn you, and you heed not how;

  Unsaid the word must stay;

Last month was time enough, but now

  The news must keep for aye.


Oh, many a month before I learn

  Will find me starting still

And listening, as the days return,

  For him that never will.


Strange, strange to think his blood is cold

  And mine flows easy on:

And that straight look, that heart of gold,

  That grace, that manhood gone.


The word unsaid will stay unsaid

  Though there was much to say;

Last month was time enough: he's dead,

  The news must keep for aye.



Robert Hugill - When Summer's end is nighing

Text by A.E. Housman from Last Poems (1922)


When summer's end is nighing

   And skies at evening cloud,

I muse on change and fortune

   And all the feats I vowed

   When I was young and proud.


From hill and cloud and heaven

   The hues of evening died;

Night welled through lane and hollow

   And hushed the countryside,

   But I had youth and pride.


The year might age, and cloudy

   The lessening day might close,

But air of other summers

   Breathed from beyond the snows,

   And I had hope of those.


They came and were and are not

   And come no more anew;

All the years and seasons

   That ever can ensue

   Must now be worse, worse and few.


So here's an end, an end to roaming

   On eves when autumn nighs;

The ear too fondly listens

   For summers parting sighs,

   And then the heart replies.



Robert Hugill - Quickening

A song cycle for mezzo-soprano, viola and piano to poems by Christina Rossetti




When I am dead, my dearest

 Sing no sad songs for me;

Plant thou no roses at my head,

 Nor shady cypress tree:

Be the green grass above me

 With showers and dewdrops wet:

And if thou wilt, remember,

 And if thou wilt, forget.


I shall not see the shadows,

 I shall not fear the rain;

I shall not hear the nightingale

 Sing on as if in pain.

And dreaming through the twilight

 that doth not rise nor set,

Haply I may remember,

 And haply may forget.


Bitter for Sweet


Summer is gone with all its roses,

 Its sun and perfumes and sweet flowers,

 Its warm air and refreshing showers;

  And even Autumn closes.


Yea, Autumn's chilly self is going,

 And winter comes which is yet colder;

 Each day the hoarfrost waxes bolder,

  And the last buds cease blowing.


Two Pursuits


A voice said, "Follow, follow": and I rose

 And followed far into the dreamy night,

 Turning my back upon the pleasant light.


It led me where the bluest water flows,

And would not let me drink: where corn grows

 I dared not pause, but went uncheered by sight

 Or touch, until at length in evil plight.


It left me, wearied out with many woes.

Some time I sat as one bereft of sense:

 But soon another voice, from very far

  Called, "Follow, follow": and I rose again.

 Now on my night has dawned a blessed star:

  Kind steady hands my sinking steps sustain,

And will not leave me till I shall go hence.




Remember me when I am gone away,

 Gone far away into the silent land;

 When you can no more hold me by the hand,

Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.


Remember me when no more day by day

 You tell me of our future that you plann'd:

 Only remember me; you understand

It will be late to counsel then or pray.


Yet if you should forget me for a while

 And afterwards remember, do not grieve:

 For if the darkness and corruption leave

 A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,

Better by far you should forget and smile

 Than that you should remember and be sad.




Fade, tender lily,

 Fade, O crimson rose,

Fade every flower,

 Sweetest flower that blows.


Go, Chilly autumn,

 Come, O winter cold;

Let the green stalks die away

 Into common mould.


Birth follows hard on death,

 Life on withering;

Hasten, we will come the sooner

 Back to pleasant spring.


The First Spring Day


I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,

If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,

If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun

And crocus fires are kindling one by one:

 Sing, robin, sing

I still am sore in doubt concerning spring.


I wonder if the Springtide of this year

Will bring another Spring both lost and dear;

If heart and spirit will find out their spring,

Or if the world alone will bud and sing;

 Sing hope to me;

Sweet notes, my hope, soft notes for memory


The sap will surely quicken soon or late,

The tardiest bird will twitter to a mate;

So spring must dawn again with warmth and bloom,

So spring must dawn, must dawn again,

dawn again with warmth and bloom,


Or in this world or in the world to come;

 Sing, voice of Spring

Till I too blossom and rejoice and sing.


Robert Hugill - Four Songs to Texts by Ivor Gurney for baritone and piano

By permission of Carcanet Press




My heart makes songs on lonely roads

to comfort me while you are away

and strives with lovely sounding words

its crowded tenderness to say


Yet I am glad that love has come

to bind me fast, and try my worth

for love's a powerful lord and gives

his friends dominion over the earth


I walk deserted ways and see

against the forward dark your face

Pale glimmering against the dark:

Your face I see with pride, and pain

So that, one turn, I did desire

Never to see that face again.





Pour out your light, O stars, and do not hold

Your loveliest shining from earth's outworn shell -

Pure and cold your radiance, pure and cold

My dead friend's face as well.



Pour out your bounty, moon of radiant shining

On all this shattered flesh, these quiet forms;

For these were slain, so quiet, still reclining,

In the noblest cause was ever waged with arms.


To His Love


He's gone and all our plans

 are useless indeed.

We'll walk no more on Cotswold

 where the sheep feed

 quietly and take no heed.


His body that was so quick

 is not as you

knew it, on Severn river

 under the blue

 driving our small boat through.


You would not know him now...

 but still he died

nobly, so cover him over

 with violets of pride

 Purple from Severn side.


Cover him, cover him soon!

 and with thickset

masses of memoried  flowers

 hide that red wet

 thing I must forget.


Song and Pain


Out of my sorrow have I made these songs,

out of my sorrow;

Though somewhat of the makings eager pain

from joy did borrow.


Some day, I trust, God's purpose of pain for me

shall be complete,

And then to enter in the house of joy...

Prepare, my feet.





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