Acquainted with the Night, is a cycle of six songs, for alto and strings, harp and tympani. The texts are all concerned with different aspects of night. The first song, ‘Lullaby’ to a poem by Beaumont and Fletcher, seeks to evoke the ‘care-charming’ powers of sleep. The second, a setting of Robert Frost’s ‘Acquainted with the night’, is concerned with the lonely world of a strange city at night and the music is characterised by an insistently repeated figure in the accompaniment. The third song contrasts the calmness of the night with the turbulence in a lover’s mind - the poem is by the Earl of Surrey. ‘Out in the dark’ a poem by Edward Thomas, is the text of the fourth song. It is in the form of a scherzo and deals with the mystery and strangeness of night, and, as the poet puts it, the ‘might’ of night. It is, as the poet says, a hymn to night and the chordal nature of the accompaniment suggests this quality. This song leads directly into the last, which is in fact a reprise of the opening ‘Lullaby’ so completing the cycle.
Acquainted with the Night
Come, sleep, and with thy sweet deceiving
Lock me in delight awhile:
Let some pleasing dreams beguile
All my fanices, that from thence
There may steal an influence,
All my powers of care bereaving.
Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain – and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat,
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet,
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from anther street.
But not to call me back or say goodbye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been acquainted with the night.
A Complaint by Night of the Lover not Beloved
Alas so all thinges nowe doe holde their peace.
Heaven and earth disturbed in nothing;
The beastes, the ayer, the birdes their song doe cease:
The nightes chare the stares aboute dothe bring:
Calme is the Sea, the waves worke lesse and lesse:
So am not I, whm love alas doth wring.
Bringing before my face the great encrease
Of my desires, whereat I wepe and syng,
In joye and wo, as in a doutfull ease.
For my swete thoughtes somertyme doe pleasure bring:
But by and by the cause of my disease
Geves me a pang, that inwardly dothe sting,
When that I thinke what griefe it is againe,
To live and looke the thing should ridde my paine.
Earl of Surrey
Out in the Dark
Out in the dark over the snow
The Fallow fawns invisible go
With the fallow doe;
And the winds blow
Fast as the stars are slow.
Stealthily the dark haunts round
And, when the lamp goes, without sound
At a swifter bound
Than the swiftest hound,
Arrives, and all else is drowned;
And star and I and wind and deer,
Are in the dark together - near,
Yet far, - and fear
Drums on my ear
In that sage company drear.
How weak and little is the light,
All the universe of sight,
Love and delight,
Before the might,
If you love it not, of night.
This shall be a hymn
When the house is asleep.
Silence shall hear it: the dim
Lamp, the dull fire, the deep
Owl-sentried darkness beyond
The panes, the orchard, the pond;
These shall hear it, further it
With hissing of wick,
Falling of charcoal stick,
With mousing beak,
And then, since it is human and weak,
Benight it, smother it.