William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience (2004)

by Victor Vertunni

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about

This "hauntingly beautiful" album was recorded in 2004, but never officially released until now. A new version is coming soon in spring 2011.

Music, song-writing and singing were a vital part of the visionary artist William Blake’s creative process.
He recited and sang his poems to enraptured gatherings of artists, radical thinkers and patrons. Sadly there is no trace of those tunes...

But his exquisite words and images have inspired others to take up the challenge…

credits

released March 7, 2011

Music and Vocals: Victor Vertunni
Lyrics: William Blake
Arrangement of "The Little Black Boy": Carlo Gizzi

Recorded and mixed by Giacomo Lampugnani in Italy in 2004 © 2004 Victor Vertunni, © 2010 Victor Vertunni. The copyright in this recording is owned by Victor Vertunni. All rights reserved. Officially released 11 December 2010

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about

Victor Vertunni London, UK

"A small masterpiece of musical invention...Truly inspired". Massimo Marchini, Rockerilla

Victor is a singer, songwriter and actor. He is particularly noted for his melodic adaptations of William Blake's "Songs of Innocence and of Experience". He is the artistic director and founder of Theatre of Eternal Values, an international touring theatre company.
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Track Name: A Little Boy Lost
A Little Boy Lost

"Nought loves another as itself,
  Nor venerates another so,
Nor is it possible to thought
  A greater than itself to know.

"And, father, how can I love you
  Or any of my brothers more?
I love you like the little bird
  That picks up crumbs around the door."

The Priest sat by and heard the child;
  In trembling zeal he seized his hair,
He led him by his little coat,
  And all admired the priestly care.

And standing on the altar high,
  "Lo, what a fiend is here! said he:
"One who sets reason up for judge
  Of our most holy mystery."

The weeping child could not be heard,
  The weeping parents wept in vain:
They stripped him to his little shirt,
  And bound him in an iron chain,

And burned him in a holy place
  Where many had been burned before;
The weeping parents wept in vain.
  Are such thing done on Albion's shore?

William Blake (Songs of Innocence)
Track Name: The Chimney Sweeper (from Songs Innocence)
The Chimney Sweeper

When my mother died I was very young,
And my father sold me while yet my tongue
Could scarcely cry "Weep! weep! weep! weep!"
So your chimneys I sweep, and in soot I sleep.

There's little Tom Dacre, who cried when his head,
That curled like a lamb's back, was shaved; so I said,
"Hush, Tom! never mind it, for, when your head's bare,
You know that the soot cannot spoil your white hair."

And so he was quiet, and that very night,
As Tom was a-sleeping, he had such a sight! —
That thousands of sweepers, Dick, Joe, Ned, and Jack,
Were all of them locked up in coffins of black.

And by came an angel, who had a bright key,
And he opened the coffins, and let them all free;
Then down a green plain, leaping, laughing, they run,
And wash in a river, and shine in the sun.

Then naked and white, all their bags left behind,
They rise upon clouds, and sport in the wind;
And the Angel told Tom, if he'd be a good boy,
He'd have God for his father, and never want joy.

And so Tom awoke, and we rose in the dark,
And got with our bags and our brushes to work.
Though the morning was cold, Tom was happy and warm:
So, if all do their duty, they need not fear harm.

William Blake (from Songs of Innocence)
Track Name: Laughing Song
Laughing Song

When the green woods laugh with the voice of joy,
And the dimpling stream runs laughing by;
When the air does laugh with our merry wit,
And the green hill laughs with the noise of it;

when the meadows laugh with lively green,
And the grasshopper laughs in the merry scene,
When Mary and Susan and Emily
With their sweet round mouths sing "Ha, ha he!"

When the painted birds laugh in the shade,
Where our table with cherries and nuts is spread:
Come live, and be merry, and join with me,
To sing the sweet chorus of "Ha, ha, he!"

William Blake (Songs of innocence)
Track Name: Nurse's Song
NURSE'S SONG
 
 

When the voices of children are heard on the green,
   
And laughing is heard on the hill,
 
My heart is at rest within my breast,
   
And everything else is still.
 

"Then come home, my children,
the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
 
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away,
   
Till the morning appears in the skies."
 


"No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
   
And we cannot go to sleep;
 
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
   
And the hills are all covered with sheep."
 

"Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
   
And then go home to bed."
 
The little ones leaped, and shouted, and laughed,
   
And all the hills echoed.

William Blake (Songs of Innocence)
Track Name: The Little Black Boy
The Little Black Boy

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but oh my soul is white!
White as an angel is the English child,
But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree,
And, sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And, pointed to the east, began to say:

"Look on the rising sun: there God does live,
And gives His light, and gives His heat away,
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

"And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love
And these black bodies and this sunburnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

"For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear,
The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,
Saying, 'Come out from the grove, my love and care
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice',"

Thus did my mother say, and kissed me;
And thus I say to little English boy.
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy

I'll shade him from the heat till he can bear
To lean in joy upon our Father's knee;
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him, and he will then love me.

William Blake (Songs of Innocence)
Track Name: The Chimney Sweeper (from Songs of Experience)
The Chimney Sweeper
(from Songs of Experience)

A little black thing among the snow:
Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!
Where are thy father & mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.

Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smil'd among the winters snow:
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

And because I am happy & dance & sing,
They think they have done me no injury:
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King,
Who make up a heaven of our misery.
Track Name: London & The Little Vagabond
London & The Little vagabond

I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet,
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every black'ning Church appalls;
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most, thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new born Infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

A Little Vagabond

Dear mother, dear mother, the Church is cold;
But the Alehouse is healthy, and pleasant, and warm.
Besides, I can tell where I am used well;
Such usage in heaven will never do well.

But, if at the Church they would give us some ale,
And a pleasant fire our souls to regale,
We’d sing and we’d pray all the livelong day,
Nor ever once wish from the Church to stray.

Then the Parson might preach, and drink, and sing,
And we’d be as happy as birds in the spring;
And modest Dame Lurch, who is always at church,
Would not have bandy children, nor fasting, nor birch.

And God, like a father, rejoicing to see
His children as pleasant and happy as He,
Would have no more quarrel with the Devil or the barrel,
But kiss him, and give him both drink and apparel.
Track Name: The Fly
The Fly

Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance,
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath,
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly.
If I live,
Or if I die.
Track Name: The School Boy
The Schoolboy

I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me:
O what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn,—
O it drives all joy away!
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning’s bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring?

O father and mother, if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care’s dismay,—

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?
Track Name: Ah! Sun-Flower
Ah! Sun-Flower

Ah, sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!
Track Name: A Poison Tree
A Poison Tree

I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.

And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears;
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.

And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine,

And into my garden stole
When the night had veil'd the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretch'd beneath the tree.
Track Name: The Tyger
The Tyger

Tyger. burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat.
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp.
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?

Tyger Tyger burning bright.
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye.
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
Track Name: Night
Night

The sun descending in the west,
The evening star does shine;
The birds are silent in their nest,
And I must seek for mine.
The moon, like a flower
In heaven’s high bower,
With silent delight,
Sits and smiles on the night.

Farewell, green fields and happy groves,
Where flocks have took delight.
Where lambs have nibbled, silent moves
The feet of angels bright;
Unseen, they pour blessing,
And joy without ceasing,
On each bud and blossom,
And each sleeping bosom.

They look in every thoughtless nest
Where birds are covered warm;
They visit caves of every beast,
To keep them all from harm:
If they see any weeping
That should have been sleeping,
They pour sleep on their head,
And sit down by their bed.

When wolves and tigers howl for prey,
They pitying stand and weep;
Seeking to drive their thirst away,
And keep them from the sheep.
But if they rush dreadful,
The angels, most heedful,
Receive each mild spirit,
New worlds to inherit.

And there the lion’s ruddy eyes
Shall flow with tears of gold,
And pitying the tender cries,
And walking round the fold,
Saying: ‘Wrath, by His meekness,
And, by His health, sickness
Is driven away
From our immortal day.

‘And now beside thee, bleating lamb,
I can lie down and sleep;
Or think on Him who bore thy name,
Graze after thee and weep.
For, wash'd in life’s river
My bright mane for ever
Shall shine like the gold
As I guard o’er the fold.’