This month’s carillon tune commemorates the Anglican Church’s February 27th feast day of metaphysical poet George Herbert. Herbert was born in Wales in 1593, and became one of the most influential British devotional writers in history. As a student at Trinity College in Cambridge, he reveled in language, rhetoric, and music, attracting the attention of King James I. Later in his short life, Herbert was ordained to the priesthood and served a small parish church in Bremerton, Salisbury.
Throughout his life, Herbert composed poetry characterized by profound imagery, metrical versatility, and uniquely intentional language. Many of his poems have lived on in musical settings and as hymns, and all of his poetry was published upon his death in 1633 as a volume called “The Temple.”
Possibly the most noteworthy of the musical settings is English composer Ralph Vaughan William’s “Five Mystical Songs,” which sets four Herbert texts in sweeping musical melody. This month’s carillon tune is Vaughan William’s tune for “The Call,” the most intimate and straightforward of the “Five Mystical Songs.” The poem reads:
Come, my Way, my Truth, my Life:
Such a Way, as gives us breath:
Such a Truth, as ends all strife:
Such a Life, as killeth death.
Come, my Light, my Feast, my Strength:
Such a Light, as shows a feast:
Such a Feast, as mends in length:
Such a Strength, as makes his guest.
Come, my Joy, my Love, my Heart:
Such a Joy, as none can move:
Such a Love, as none can part:
Such a Heart, as joyes in love.
One can hear a performance of Vaughan Williams’ musical setting here:
Or, a performance of all “Five Mystical Songs” here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZiMSGq_fOk (Part 1)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pZ_p5lrZMhw (Part 2)