Elm Trees - Philip Wilson Steer
Elm Trees - P.W. Steer

Alfred Edward Housman is one of the most widely read English poets, at least during the first half of the 20th century. He is also one of the most musicalized poets, hundreds of songs have been composed upon virtually all of the poems in his collection A Shropshire Lad. This collection, published by Housman in 1896, became known shortly after, during the Second Boer War, and became indispensable during the Great War. Perhaps, among other reasons because it talked about things that were close to the people, things that belonged to a world that became extinct.

The poem that begins with the verse “With rue my heart is laden” is an elegy  about dead friends. We heard a while ago the musical version by George Butterworth, included in the collection Bredon Hill and other songs from A Shropshire Lad, from 1911; today we're listening to Ralph Vaughan Williams' song, composed in the 1920s. It is a part of Along the Field, a cycle premiered in 1927 that I introduced you to some time ago; you may remember it when I tell you it's written for voice and violin.

Along the field is a cycle of eight songs, all with poems by A. E. Housman from both A Shropshire Lad and Last poems, his second collection; With rue my heart is laden is the last song of the cycle. When we listened to Butterworth's song, I told you it was really beautiful, and Vaughan Williams's is no less; our performance is that of Patrice Michaels and Elliot Golub. I hope you'll enjoy both of them. It may be worth remembering that the composers were best friends until Butterworth died at the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

After four weeks, this is the end of the series “The same poem, one more song,” at least for a while. It is very likely that we will get it back eventually. 

And, from the next week on, it's time for the Schubertíada!


With rue my heart is laden

With rue my heart is laden
For golden friends I had,
For many a rose-lipt maiden
And many a lightfoot lad.

By brooks too broad for leaping
The lightfoot boys are laid;
The rose-lipt girls are sleeping
In fields where roses fade.


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