The first two volumes of Parry’s twelve volumes of English Lyrics
were written between 1874 and 1885, but the main body of his song output dates from the mid-1890s with the publication by Novello of volumes three and four. Armida’s Garden
, composed at sea in March 1908 (and revised soon after) was published in 1909 as part of volume nine and was the fifth of seven settings of Mary Coleridge (the daughter of Arthur Duke Coleridge, a friend and amateur singer) who had died in 1907. Coleridge, who had been encouraged by Bridges, published her first set of verse, Fancy’s Following
, in 1896 from which the poem for this song was taken. At its heart is the burning Victorian issue of eschatology, of the life hereafter, the bliss of an ideal love, and of melancholy in the inevitable parting of lovers. Parry’s setting captures this sense of mystery and enchantment, but most importantly the heavily modified second verse embodies that implicit questioning (note, for example, the gentle yet arresting progressions at the end of the first line) which provokes a mood of passionate yearning at the climax and a quizzical ending for the voice (‘than “Alas”’).
from notes by Jeremy Dibble © 2001