Sunday, November 22, 2020

Cecilia, Patron Saint of Music

Feast Day of St. Cecilia ~ November 22
Saint Cecilia and an Angel
Painting by Orazio Gentileschi (1563–1639)
and Giovanni Lanfranco (1582 - 1647)

A Hymn for Saint Cecilia

Sing for the morning’s joy, Cecilia, sing,
in words of youth and praises of the Spring,
walk the bright colonnades by fountains’ spray,
and sing as sunlight fills the waking day;
till angels, voyaging in upper air,
pause on a wing and gather the clear sound
into celestial joy, wound and unwound,
a silver chain, or golden as your hair.

Sing for your loves of heaven and of earth,
in words of music, and each word a truth;
marriage of heart and longings that aspire,
a bond of roses, and a ring of fire.
Your summertime grows short and fades away,
terror must gather to a martyr’s death;
but never tremble, the last indrawn breath
remembers music as an echo may.

Through the cold aftermath of centuries,
Cecilia’s music dances in the skies;
lend us a fragment of the immortal air,
that with your choiring angels we may share,
a word to light us thro’ time-fettered night,
water of life, or rose of paradise,
so from the earth another song shall rise
to meet your own in heaven’s long delight.

by Ursula Vaughan Williams
Set to music in 1960,
by English composer Herbert Howells (1892-1983)

Some background on the writer Ursula Vaughan Williams and
her husband, composer Ralph Vaughan Williams:
Joan Ursula Penton (1911 - 2007)

married first, in 1933, to Michael Forrester Wood (b? - d 1942)

married second, in 1953, to Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958)

who had been married first, in 1897, to Adeline Fisher (1870 - 1951)
Ursula met Ralph in 1938, and became the caregiver for his wife Adeline, who was suffering from severe arthritis. Ursula and Ralph began an affair at this time, while married to their respective spouses.

They eventually married in February 1953, when Ralph was 81 and Ursula 42. She encouraged him to resume his music, assisted in his composition, and wrote his definitive biography; she also wrote her own autobiography, several novels, and numerous poems, including the above "Hymn for St. Cecilia."

Ursula and Ralph were on my mind when I read Alex Clark's article in the Guardian: "Never date a poet. They’ll always do the dirty on you " - about T.S. Eliot.
Eliot (1888 – 1965) dated Emily Hale (1891 - 1969) from 1912 - 1914.

He was married to Vivienne Haigh-Wood (1888 - 1947) from 1915 - 1933)

He maintained a correspondence with Emily Hale between 1932 and 1947.

He married Esmé Valerie Fletcher (1926 - 2012) in 1957, when he was 68 years old and she was 30. She "devoted her life to the remainder of his and the subsequent management of his legacy."

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