Category Archives: Housman settings

The Carpenter’s Son [instrumental version]

Copyright David Harley, 1976. All rights reserved.

This is an instrumental version of my setting from a poem from ‘A Shropshire Lad’. The song was originally intended to be sung unaccompanied, but it somehow developed a guitar accompaniment with a slight Middle Eastern feel, and the first section is very much based on that.

The faster second section was meant to have a more medieval feel, and includes an overdubbed bouzouki. Cittern would have been more appropriate, perhaps, but I didn’t have one to hand. Strangely, it seems to have finished up sounding a bit like the Philip Glass Ensemble (but with much less time between changes), but I like it. Still a work in progress.

I’ll upload it shortly, but for the moment here’s a link to the MP3 on Soundcloud.

Same version uploaded to one of my blogs:

David Harley

Breathe My Lute [demo]

One of my Housman settings. However, this one isn’t from A Shropshire Lad.

Every so often, a tune just pops into my head and demands to be written. Strange how often that’s happened when reading Housman…

This is the latest version, including a guitar part.

The  poem was apparently written by a very young Housman (15) for a play, as a song to be sung by Lady Jane Grey while in prison awaiting execution. It somewhat resembles a lyric by Louisa McCartney Crawford (1790–1858) set to music by George Arthur Barker as part of a sequence of Songs of Mary Queen of Scots – The Captivity opens with the line ‘Breathe, breathe my Lute that melting strain My soul delights to hear’. Clearly there are parallels in the context of the two lyrics. It also reminds me somewhat of Byron’s We’ll go no more a-roving.

Breathe, my lute, beneath my fingers
One regretful breath,
One lament for life that lingers
Round the doors of death.
For the frost has killed the rose,
And our summer dies in snows,
And our morning once for all
Gathers to the evenfall.

Hush, my lute, return to sleeping,
Sing no songs again.
For the reaper stays his reaping
On the darkened plain;
And the day has drained its cup,
And the twilight cometh up;
Song and sorrow all that are
Slumber at the even-star.

David Harley

When I was one and twenty [demo]

Actually a setting of two verses from ‘A Shropshire Lad’:  XVIII (Oh, When I Was In Love With You) and XIII (When I Was One and Twenty). There are already demo recordings on this site of the two individual settings, which use the same tune, but this is a sketch for a more ambitious orchestral arrangement that combines the two. Sadly, I didn’t have an orchestra handy, so the strings here come courtesy of a Yamaha keyboard. The guitar part is actually a guitar, though. 🙂

[Cleaned up the vocal a bit on the first section.]

  XVIII

          Oh, when I was in love with you,
           Then I was clean and brave,
          And miles around the wonder grew
           How well did I behave.

          And now the fancy passes by,
           And nothing will remain,
          And miles around they'll say that I
           Am quite myself again.
 XIII

          When I was one-and-twenty
           I heard a wise man say,
          "Give crowns and pounds and guineas
           But not your heart away;
          Give pearls away and rubies
           But keep your fancy free."
          But I was one-and-twenty,
           No use to talk to me.

          When I was one-and-twenty
           I heard him say again,
          "The heart out of the bosom
           Was never given in vain;
          'Tis paid with sighs a plenty
           And sold for endless rue."
          And I am two-and-twenty,
           And oh, 'tis true, 'tis true.

A Shropshire Lad XLVII (The Carpenter’s Son)

A Shropshire Lad XLVII (The Carpenter’s Son)
Words by A.E. Housman, musical setting by David Harley, copyright 1977. All rights reserved.

This is still a demo version but now has an updated version of the guitar part. [updated 23-5-2015]

And here’s a purely instrumental version:

The poem itself is reproduced below from Martin Hardcastle’s page here.

`Here the hangman stops his cart:
Now the best of friends must part.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.

`Oh, at home had I but stayed
‘Prenticed to my father’s trade,
Had I stuck to plane and adze,
I had not been lost, my lads.

`Then I might have built perhaps
Gallows-trees for other chaps,
Never dangled on my own,
Had I left but ill alone.

`Now, you see, they hang me high,
And the people passing by
Stop to shake their fists and curse;
So ’tis come from ill to worse.

`Here hang I, and right and left
Two poor fellows hang for theft:
All the same’s the luck we prove,
Though the midmost hangs for love.

`Comrades all, that stand and gaze,
Walk henceforth in other ways;
See my neck and save your own:
Comrades all, leave ill alone.

`Make some day a decent end,
Shrewder fellows than your friend.
Fare you well, for ill fare I:
Live, lads, and I will die.’

David Harley
Small Blue-Green World