In So we’ll go no more a-roving
the sinewy passion of Byron’s extremely famous lyric belies the poet’s claim that his youth is over (he was twenty-nine) and that ‘the sword outwears the sheath’. The redoubtable Maude Valérie White was certainly not the composer to illustrate graceful renunciation, all passion spent. On the contrary, this music has a melodic sweep and energy that is entirely characteristic of someone who was admired by her elders, including Arthur Sullivan, as well as by younger composers like Vaughan Williams and Percy Grainger. In her hands the vocal ballad far transcends any Victorian cliché of parlour music in the faded Mendelssohnian manner; her choice of text, often from the very best poets, is impeccable, and the musical response is far more muscular, original and downright stirring than that of most male composers in the England of the 1880s. Her wide-ranging culture and musical education (she was born in Dieppe and was bi-lingual) is evident from the lack of any provincial inhibition in her music; she was fluent in Italian and Spanish and her settings of Heine and other German poets are idiomatic and affecting. The generous scope of White’s pianism, far more inventive and extrovert than most English song accompaniments of the period, is indicative of someone who expressed passion easily—probably far more easily in musical than personal terms. Byron wrote this poem in 1824 and it was published posthumously by his friend Thomas Moore. The poem has been set in modern times by Joan Baez and Leonard Cohen among many others.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2012