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Songs of the Spirit

Songs of the Spirit

Wertsch, Nancy


  • Text: William Blake
  • Language: English
  • Ensemble: Mixed Choir, a cappella
  • Accompaniment: a cappella
  • Genre: Sacred
  • Grade: 4
  • Duration: 11.0 minutes
  • Page Count: 20
  • Catalog Number: NWC-169

The Tyger, The Sick Rose and The Lamb were written for my daughter’s high school choir. She was one of the choir soloists and I wrote the solos in The Tyger and The Lamb for her.

The first three poems are taken from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience, while Memory, Hither Come comes from Poetical Sketches, a compilation of his youthful works. Mysticism as a constant undercurrent in all of Blake’s work led me to the collect these poems under the title Songs of the Spirit.

The Tyger - The poem strikes me as stark and fierce which inspired me to set it with a very forceful driving rhythm. This rhythm stops briefly for the solo which asks the question, “Did he smile his work to see?” and the chorus continues with “Did he who made the lamb make thee?” The driving rhythm picks up again and continues to the end. The Sick Rose - This is a musical depiction of a sickness that destroys from the inside. One can hear the unrest in the open fifths, starkness in the parallel octaves, and the whole piece has a warped quality as if illness prevented the sick one from perceiving the world in a normal fashion.

The Lamb - This poem speaks of the lamb as being the beautiful and innocent Christ child. I set it with tenderness and utter simplicity.

Memory, Hither Come - I composed this much later than the other Blake pieces even though I had chosen the text at the same time as the others. The text led me to write the piece in 5/8 time which actually works beautifully and provides a unique contrast with the other settings.

Songs of the Spirit
Four poems by William Blake (1757-1827)

The Tyger (from Songs Of Experience)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art.
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

The Sick Rose

O Rose, thou art sick!
The invisible worm
That flies in the night,
In the howling storm,

Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

The Lamb

    Little Lamb, who made thee?
    Dost thou know who made thee?
Gave thee life, and bid thee feed
By the stream and o'er the mead;
Gave thee clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gave thee such a tender voice,
Making all the vales rejoice?

     Little Lamb, who made thee?
     Dost thou know who made thee?
    Little Lamb, I'll tell thee,
    Little Lamb, I'll tell thee:

He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb.
He is meek, and he is mild;
He became a little child.
I a child, and thou a lamb.
We are called by his name.

    Little Lamb, God bless thee!
    Little Lamb, God bless thee!

Memory, hither come

Memory, hither come,
    And tune your merry notes;
And, while upon the wind
    Your music floats,
I'll pore upon the stream
    Where sighing lovers dream,
And fish for fancies as they pass
    Within the watery glass.
I'll drink of the clear stream,
    And hear the linnet's song;
And there I'll lie and dream
    The day along:
And, when night comes, I'll go
    To places fit for woe,
Walking along the darken'd valley
    With silent Melancholy.

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