An early song; ‘English May’

While Ireland’s songs are generally among his most personal and reflective works, the early pieces are much less introspective, and share common traits with other songs of the Edwardian period. One such is the 1903 setting of ‘English May’, sung here by Benjamin Luxon. It starts 4 minutes into the youtube clip:

Dante Gabriel Rossetti (engraving)

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Rossetti’s sonnet expresses the wistful, nature-related sentiments that run through the outputs of composers such as Vaughan Williams. You may also have noticed the uncomplicated major-key tonality, rich chordal accompaniment and the simple melody. A similar style of piano writing and lyrical vocal line can be seen in ‘Silent noon’,  or Quilter’s ‘To daisies’:

Ireland’s ‘English May’ thus belongs very much to this first decade of the twentieth century, a time when he was experimenting and finding his feet as a composer.



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