Friday 29 September 2023

Faire is the Heaven

'Faire is the Heaven'
Music Composed by Sir William Henry Harris (1925).

Faire is the heauen, where happy soules haue place,
In full enioyment of felicitie,
Whence they doe still behold the glorious face
Of the diuine eternall Maiestie;
Yet farre more faire be those bright Cherubins,
Which all with golden wings are ouerdight,
And those eternall burning Seraphins,
Which from their faces dart out fierie light;
Yet fairer then they both, and much more bright
Be th’Angels and Archangels, which attend
On Gods owne person, without rest or end.
These thus in faire each other farre excelling,
As to the Highest they approch more neare,
Yet is that Highest farre beyond all telling,
Fairer then all the rest which there appeare,
Though all their beauties ioynd together were:
How then can mortall tongue hope to expresse,
The image of such endlesse perfectnesse?
The text is from Edmund Spenser’s ‘An Hymne of Heavenly Beautie’, lines 78-81 and 92-105. Sir Harris omits 10 lines where Spenser’s veers off into Platonic mystical abstraction and Pseudo-Dionysian Celestial Hierarchy. The arrangement is so beautiful that one often fails to notice that the grammatical reorganisation suggests that ‘those bright Cherubins’ are 'more faire' than ‘the glorious face of the diuine eternall Maiestie’, though the final lines offer a corrective.

Listen here (whilst the link stays).