Thursday, 22 December 2011

Shakespeare's Songs from the plays: Full fathom five

Vaughan Williams 'Full Fathom Five' (from Three Shakespeare Songs) Performed by Sonitus Chamber Choir

Ariel's song from Shakepeare's 'The Tempest' in Peter Greenaway's 'Prospero's Books'. Music by Michael Nyman, vocal by Sarah Leonard.

      Here, said she,
Is your card, the drowned Phoenician Sailor,
(Those are pearls that were his eyes. Look!)
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations. 50
Here is the man with three staves, and here the Wheel,
And here is the one-eyed merchant, and this card,
Which is blank, is something he carries on his back,
Which I am forbidden to see. I do not find
The Hanged Man. Fear death by water.
I see crowds of people, walking round in a ring....


'You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

        I remember
Those are pearls that were his eyes.
'Are you alive, or not? Is there nothing in your head?'

Full flotsam firth, thy feathers lour / fool flitter fro, thy fillies lay / flee fellows fro, thy fervent lure...

Ariel's song from the play that is most thoroughly a poem. Yes, I know about the colonial aspect and how, in some readings, you might regard Caliban, the slave, as the true hero. You might do that, though a heavily polemical reading sets you facing one way only. Magic and manipulation, the ideal society, lost and usurped power, the ceremony of innocence that is almost drowned, the opposition of mischievous spirit and lusting flesh... All that and more is in there because it is poetry as well as action and idea.

The idea that we become exotic, rich and strange, with pearls for eyes - even to ourselves, at the end - is important to the poem / song. We are, after all strange, very strange, most of all to ourselves. We may drown but we get the music and the pearls.


Keiron Pim said...

How beautiful, thank you George... for a different take, try this rather obscure Nick Drake recording from a 1972 educational LP called Interplay One. The vocals are by a Vivian Fowler, but the minor key guitar arpeggios are unmistakable and very reminiscent of his better known recordings of the same period. Gorgeous stuff.

George S said...

That is lovely, Keiron. Many thanks. I have just picked up your comment that was, for some reason, lying in the to be approved list. I never know how that works, ion what principle, etc.