Godard here shows his debt to Saint-Saëns, one of his early mentors; indeed Godard was the grateful heir to Saint-Saëns’s relatively hidebound conservatism—a cast of mind that Fauré, a closer protégé of Saint-Saëns, took care to avoid. A melody in slow note values (dotted minims and dotted crotchets) unfolds over a tonic pedal and demonstrates Godard’s considerable harmonic ingenuity. For the second strophe the accompaniment quickens with left-hand semiquavers. The poem is from Hugo’s Les contemplations
(1856). Saint-Saëns had set the same poem as a solo song in 1855 and as a vocal duet in 1885. Delibes had set the poem in 1863. Pierné was to write a song on this text in 1880, and Caplet, in a version that includes a flute obbligato, in 1900.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006
English: Richard Stokes