Musical Settings of Chamber Music
Strictly speaking, the poems that make up this early volume by Joyce do not fall into the category of "musical allusions," but rather are themselves "songs" (albeit without musical notes) that have been set to music and performed by a variety of composers and artists over the years.
Of the manuscript of poems that were to make up James Joyce's second (and final) book of poetry, Pomes Penyeach, his friend Ezra Pound had not much good to say, suggesting to the author that this verse more properly belonged "in the Bible or in the family album with the portraits." About the poems in Joyce's first published work, on the other hand, Pound's enthusiasm was considerable.
The musicality of Joyce's verse was noted early on; and the first composer to appreciate their suitability for musical interpretation was the Irish composer Geoffrey Molyneux Palmer (1882-1957), who with Joyce's encouragement began in 1907 to set the songs to music of his composition (he set 32 of the 36 poems). In the decades following publication of the book, many other modern composers have followed suit. One of the most distinguished of these is Ross Lee Finney, who set the entire suite of poems to music in 1951-1952. Five of those settings are performed on our second volume of Joycean recordings, MORE Music from the Works of James Joyce.
This song appears as Poem xi in the suite of lyrical poems Joyce entitled Chamber Music. Many of the poems were set to music and are familiar on the concert stage. In the last chapter of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man Stephen sings "a dainty song of the Elizabethans" for E.C., and his rendition of "the happy air" of "Greensleeves" is meant to please her. Poem XI of Chamber Music reflects Joyce's propensity in the suite to Elizabethan language, particularly in the use of the "thees" and "thous" of the King James Bible tradition. This is the only poem generally thought to have been set to music by Joyce himself.
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