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This setting of the poem by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) was written for a CD project being undertaken by soprano Morag Atchison. With the CD including works back to the earliest days of my compositional career, I felt it would be good to have something right up to date.
Farjeon was an English author of children's stories and plays, poetry, biography, history and satire. She is perhaps best-known these days as the author of the poem "Morning has Broken", a major popular song hit of the 1960s, although the text dates from 1931.
The setting is lyrical and strongly tonal throughout. The flute and voice often engage in a kind of dialogue against the piano's insistent rhythmic ideas.
Over the sounding sea,
Off the wandering sea
I smelt the smell of distance
And longed for another existence.
Smell of pineapple, maize, and myrrh,
Parrot-feater and monkey-fur, Brown spice,
Fields of tobacco and tea and rice,
And soundless snows,
And snowy cotton,
Otto of rose
Incense in an ivory palace,
Jungle rivers rich and rotten,
And frozen fountains,
Black molasses and purple wine,
Coral and pearl and tar and brine,
The smell of panther and polar-bear
Came from the four-cornered distance,
And I longed for another existence.
-- Eleanor Farjeon --
Text by Eleanor Farjeon