Movement 1: Prayer I Jesu that dost in Mary dwell
Movement 2: Rosa mystica In the gardens of God, in the daylight divine
Movement 3: God's grandeur The world is charged with the grandeur of God
Movement 4: Prayer II Thee, God, I come from, to thee go
Movement 5: O Deus, ego amo te O God, I love thee
Movement 6: The soldier Yes. Why do we all, seeing a soldier, bless him?
Movement 7: Heaven-Haven I have desired to go
The initials ‘A.M.D.G.‘ stand for a famous motto of the Jesuits (Ad maiorem Dei gloriam—‘to the greater glory of God’), a sect which Hopkins had joined in his early twenties. Several of Hopkins’s poems, including O Deus, ego amo te (set by Britten), bear this motto in their manuscripts. (None of Hopkins’s poetry appeared in print before his death in 1889, and it was not until 1918 that Robert Bridges supervised the publication of the first collected edition.) Britten’s setting of Prayer I (‘Jesu that dost in Mary dwell’) indulges in a harmonic richness absent from some of the other more frugal settings, and is followed by Rosa mystica, a ternary waltz in which parallel thirds are set against a pedal point in ostinato rhythms. God’s grandeur contains fugal elements and graphic chromatic depiction of the words ‘bleared’ and ‘smeared’. The preoccupation of Prayer II (‘Thee, God, I come from, to thee go’) is simple octave doublings, and this directness is maintained in O Deus, ego amo te, where the music consists almost entirely of root-position major triads in unmeasured speech rhythms. The interval of a third returns to dominate the march-like setting of The soldier, and the final song (Heaven- Haven) sets one of Hopkins’s earliest poems to music of the utmost simplicity.
from notes by Mervyn Cooke © 2001