Poulenc never wrote a more austere song than this, and none that looked more like Stravinsky on the printed page; from the eighth bar the accompaniment is laid out in an unnecessarily complex arrangement in three staves with a pile-up of bass-clef chords that adds to a feeling of doleful lugubriousness. The vocal line is also untypical with a succession of difficult intervals; it is as if singer and pianist have been invited to take part in a ritual of grave importance, but first have to decipher the secret of the message to be relayed. Fortunately the poem is a very fine one, short and succinct, and there is no doubt of the depth of Poulenc’s feeling. The result is a profound song in every sense; true to its title this is an epitaph short enough to be engraved on a headstone with every word chiselled in musical marble. In JdmM Poulenc compares the song to a piece of the architecture of Louis XIII and directs that it should be sung 'without bombast'.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013