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Welcome to Hyperion Records, an independent British classical label devoted to presenting high-quality recordings of music of all styles and from all periods from the twelfth century to the twenty-first.
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Proud Maisie is in the wood, Walking so early, Sweet Robin sits on the bush, Singing so rarely.
“Tell me, thou bonny bird, When shall I marry me?” “When six braw gentlemen Kirkward shall carry ye.”
“Who makes the bridal bed, Birdie, say truly?” “The grey-headed sexton That delves the grave duly.
“The glow-worm o’er grave and stone Shall light thee steady; The owl from the steeple sing, ‘Welcome, proud lady’.”
Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Set V of the English Lyrics, published in 1902 and dedicated to Parry’s youngest half-sister Hilda, contained several songs of a much earlier date, one of which was Proud Maisie written most probably during the 1880s. Scott’s poem (taken from chapter 40 of The Heart of Midlothian) is based on a well-defined dialogue between Maisie and the Robin which is underpinned by a tonal fluctuation of F major (symbolizing ‘proud’) and D minor (‘mortal’). This element is already anticipated in microcosm in the piano’s introductory bars which encapsulate both the sprightly and ironic sentiments of the text.
Lay a garland on my hearse, Of the dismal yew, Maidens, willow branches bear, Say I died true.
My love was false, but I was firm From my hour of birth; Upon my buried body lie Lightly, gentle earth.
Francis Beaumont (1584-1616)
The miniature scale of Lay a garland on my hearse has Wolfian affinities, particularly the postlude in the tonic major. However, one wonders whether Parry is perhaps making reference to Purcell’s lament ‘When I am laid in earth’ (the sound of which is actually concealed in bars 2-4) where the fullest pathos is reserved for the postlude. It is a tempting parallel, not least because Parry had paid much attention to Purcell in 1895 during the composer’s tercentenary; but the use of the tonic major in this context is pure Romanticism, as is the prominent Brahmsian harmony (‘My love was false’) at the climax.