Though many of Benjamin Britten’s songs were inspired by tenor Peter Pears, the song cycle “On This Island” (op. 11) was dedicated to noted English soprano Sophie Wyss. This early work is comprised of five settings of poems from W.H. Auden’s collection “Look, Stranger.” Britten set several other poems by Auden as well, but “Nocturne” is arguably the most effective of welding of Britten’s music and Auden’s unique voice. Click here for a performance of “Nocturne” by ARIEL PISTURINO, from our recent “Britten in Song” concert. Krystof van Grysperre at the piano.
Now through night’s caressing grip
Earth and all her oceans slip,
Capes of China slide away
From her fingers into day
And th’Americas incline
Coasts towards her shadow line.
Now the ragged vagrants creep
Into crooked holes to sleep:
Just and unjust, worst and best,
Change their places as they rest:
Awkward lovers like in fields
Where disdainful beauty yields:
While the splendid and the proud
Naked stand before the crowd
And the losing gambler gains
And the beggar entertains:
May sleep’s healing power extend
Through these hours to our friend.
Unpursued by hostile force,
Traction engine, bull or horse
Or revolting succubus;
Calmly till the morning break
Let him lie, then gently wake.