Two poems by Thomas Traherne
The work was commissioned for the 1987 Traherne festival and marks the 350th anniversary of the poet’s birth. It is dedicated to the Revd. George Usher and the parish of Credenhill, Hereford.
The two songs that comprise the work,The Rapture and Bells, set words from two poems with the same titles.
The Rapture (a setting of all 4 verses)
O fire of Heaven! O Sacred Light!
How Fair and Bright!
How Great am I,
Whom all the World doth magnifie!
O Heavenly Joy!
O Great and Sacred Blessedness,
Which I possess!
So great a Joy
Who did into my Armes convey!
From GOD abov
Being sent, the Heavens me enflame,
To prais his Name.
The Stars do move!
The Burning Sun doth shew his Love.
O how Divine
Am I! To all this Sacred Wealth,
This Life and Health,
Who raisd? Who mine
Did make the same? What Hand Divine!
Bells (a setting of verses 1,2 and 3)
Hark! hark, my Soul! the bells do ring,
And with a louder voice
Call many Families to sing
His publick Praises, and rejoice:
Their shriller Sound doth wound the Air,
Their grosser Strokes affect the Ear,
That we might thither all repair
And more Divine ones hear.
If Lifeless Earth
Can make such Mirth,
What then shall Souls abov the starry Sphere!
Bells are but Clay that men refine
And rais from duller Ore;
Yet now, as if they were divine,
They call whole Cities to adore;
Exalted into Steeples they
Disperse their Sound, and from on high
Chime-in our Souls; they ev’ry way
Speak to us throu the Sky:
Their iron Tongues
Do utter Songs,
And shall our stony Hearts make no reply!
From darker Mines and earthy Caves
At last let Souls awake,
And rousing from obscurer Graves
From lifeless Bells example take;
Lifted abov all earthly Cares,
Let them (like these) rais’d up on high,
Forsaking all the baser Wares
Of dull Mortality,
His Praises sing,
In a less Distance from the peaceful Sky.
The premiere of this work was given on 13th September,1987 at the Traherne festival by Diane Walker (mezzo soprano) and the Ladies of the Hereford Chamber Choir, directed by David Briggs. A second performance was given on 29th June, 1991 at the Traherne festival by Lucy Bowen and the Hereford Chamber Choir under Richard Errington.
Bells was performed by Hereford Cathedral choir at evensong on Trinity Sunday, 6th June 1993, again as part of a Traherne festival.