Ralph Vaughan Williams: Rest


Composed in 1902, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ choral work, Rest, is scored for a mixed SATB choir without accompaniment. Lyrics were written by English poet, Christina Rosetti, and were part of her set of poetry, Goblin Market and Other Poems (1865). 


The Words


O Earth, lie heavily upon her eyes;

Seal her sweet eyes weary of watching, Earth;

Lie close around her; leave no room for mirth

With its harsh laughter, nor for sound of sighs.

She hath no questions, she hath no replies,

Hushed in and curtained with a blessed dearth

Of all that irked her from the hour of birth;

With stillness that is almost Paradise.

Darkness more clear than noon-day holdeth her,

Silence more musical than any song;

Even her very heart has ceased to stir:

Until the morning of Eternity

Her rest shall not begin nor end, but be;

And when she wakes she will not think it long.


The Music

Atmospheric and full of rich harmony throughout, Rest, is a great example of how Vaughan Williams began pushing the boundaries of mixed voice choirs. Largely focusing on upper voices in the beginning, the lower voices soon play an integral part to the harmony. Vaughan Williams uses nuanced word painting to create interest, for example on the word ‘Sigh’, it drops downward and the ensemble sound like they are sighing. The voices are delicately woven together by Vaughan Williams, and when they split into upper and lower voices in the central section, there is a noticeable shift in feeling. Although the dynamic reaches up near the end of the song, Rest ends with a soft long note on the word ‘long.’


Ⓒ Alex Burns 

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