22 July 2008

Songs Sacred and Profane

I've been meaning to look this up for some time and finally got round to it this morning. A couple of weeks ago, we sang "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross" in church (this Youtube video has the lyrics in subtitles plus a very informative description of the history of the words and music -- click where it says 'more info').

For some reason, this hymn always reminds me of I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls. I'd heard of this song long before Enya recorded it, but I think her version was the first time I'd actually heard it performed. I'd always thought of it as a music-hall song, but it turns out it comes from an 1844 opera composed by Michael Balfe with the libretto by an early Victorian impresario called Alfred Burn. The Youtube version I've chosen is illustrated by paintings from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and Alma-Tadema (one of my favourite artists), plus some other paintings I don't think I've seen before.

Looking at the lyrics side by side and listening to the music of one immediately after the other, I can't think why these two pieces are linked in my mind, but they definitely are.

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