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The Way of the Cross: Text used for Anthony Ritchie's Symphony No. 4


Lyrics libretti


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Poems by Bernadette Hall, from The Way of the Cross. Bracketed text is omitted. Some stations include only one line of text, and others are orchestral only.

First Station I am very small, you are very big. I am lost here. You have a lot to lose. You lift me on your mocking, stabbing, [querulous] finger. You are sick and tired

of all the drama, the fuss. Life after all is too short for this sort of nonsense. Before you I am a small boy, my head full of dreams as is the way with small boys

who walk sometimes into lamp-posts distracted by their dreams. The thing that stirs in me is bigger than my fear. You want to stub it out. It is too simple,

too weird for you. I am the next country you must invade, bringing down the walls and the roof, scattering the flock. Your boots are planted. My feet are bare.

Yet you fear me. I am a small animal backed into a cave. You will have me hounded with sticks and whips and wood. [My fine pelt slung on a crossbeam.]

Second Station - “My Terrors” (Orchestra only: sub-title from Lamentations 2:22)

Third Station I am a man who wakes up from a dream and finds the weight of it Still heavy on his shoulders

I am a man staggering under a sack of grain that will be poured out On the ground and wasted.

I am running into trouble, running out of time, the wood pressing Down on my neck.

My body is being shaped by the wood, blood bursting in my ears, My ragged breathing.

I wrap my arms around the wood as a man might wrap his arms around his child

to piggyback them safe across a swollen river. I am being swept off my feet.

Like a swimmer pulled down under the water, I fling up my hand. I am drowning alone.

Fourth Station “She weepeth sore in the night and her tears are on her cheeks.” (Orchestra only: sub-title from Lamentations 1:2)

Fifth Station “The young men have ceased from their musick” (Orchestra only, with vocalizing: sub-title from Lamentations 5:14)

Sixth Station “Wide eyed, I have looked into the abyss” (Orchestra only: sub-title from the first line of the poem)

Seventh Station My back curves like a whale breaching.

I lift my right foot. I am walking, still capable of walking upright [or nearly]. I am folding down like a landslip, like a collapsing building.

I have grown big in their minds, too big.

Like a tree I am shading them, bleaching out their dreams. They have no idea what to do with me. They cannot imagine any alternative.

I am a strong man, being cut down like a kauri.

Eighth Station “The women are like a halo around me” (Orchestra only: sub-title from the first line of the poem)

Ninth Station The wood is a hammer that drives me into the ground. I am brought to my knees

like a broken animal. [For a moment I can rest propped up on my arm

Like a banqueter.] But the food is bitter, my mouth dry, my tongue swollen.

The wood is a fist that grinds my face in the dust. The wood is an assassin.

[What is to be given birth to here?]

Tenth Station Now I am as when I entered this world.

They try to shame me but they are the ones who are shamed. I am become as a child to them, or rather, a criminal, a slave. They look on my innocence with hard eyes. They mock my simplicity.

My arms are open. I shall not close them again.

[My garment is a sail, my right hand an oar, my body the boat that will take me to a holy place.]

Eleventh Station “My arm is a road through suffering and pain” (Orchestra and soprano singing one line from the poem)

Twelfth Station “Why have you abandoned me?” (Orchestra and soprano singing one line from the poem)

Thirteenth Station For one split second everything holds its breath. The heavens darken, clouds are torn asunder,

no-body smiles. It is the end, as they say, of a very unfortunate episode.

Then the world resumes its busyness.

His friends arrive. They weep, they are distressed as a woman in childbirth is distressed. They climb the ladder.

They gather him up in their arms like blossom, [like a harvest of sweet plums.]

Fourteenth Station “light flickering on the horizon” (Orchestra and soprano singing one line from the poem)