Songs More Sweet Than Possible Things

The Soldier's Tale.jpg
Graphics by Clive Hicks-Jenkins, 2013


by Wilfred Owen (1893 – 1918)

I have been urged by earnest violins
And drunk their mellow sorrows to the slake
Of all my sorrows and my thirsting sins.
My heart has beaten for a brave drum’s sake.
Huge chords have wrought me mighty: I have hurled
Thuds of gods’ thunder. And with old winds pondered
Over the curse of this chaotic world,-
With low lost winds that maundered as they wandered.

I have been gay with trivial fifes that laugh;
And songs more sweet than possible things are sweet;
And gongs, and oboes. Yet I guessed not half
Life’s symphony till I had made hearts beat,
And touched Love’s body into trembling cries,
And blown my love’s lips into laughs and sighs.

Igor Stravinsky’s L’Historie du Solat was first performed in 1918, the year that Wilfred Owen died.  It was written in collaboration with the Swiss writer C. F. Ramuz. The Soldier’s Tale is part ballet, part drama, part chamber music, performed by three or seven instruments.  Here is one of several outstanding recordings that can be found on YouTube. What’s soldier’s tales are in your family that Stravinsky reflects between the camaraderie of the violin and the clarinet?


Uploaded by The Ducasse Trio, March 3, 2016.