Robert Coningsby Clarke: The Blind Ploughman

6 04 2009

Let the little birds of faith come and nest therein

"Let the little birds of faith come and nest therein"

This gem be Robert Coningsby Clarke (or possibly Conigsby Clarke) may be his only musical legacy — he is not even mentioned in Baker’s Biographical Dictionary, which is usually exhaustive. Regardless, it is one of my favorite pieces to give baritones early in their study. The text is inspirational and the music is dramatic and compelling.

There are few recordings of this, and I find Robeson’s to be the best, with Eddy’s a close second. Though expressive, Feodor Chaliapin’s voice and English leave something to be desired, but I feel I should mention it because of his phenomenal career on stage and screen.

I’ve submitted the text to recmusic.org, but until it’s published, I present it here.

Set my hands upon the plough, my feet upon the sod:

Turn my face towards the east, and praise be to God!

Ev’ry year the rains do fall, the seeds they stir and spring;

Ev’ry year the spreading trees shelter birds that sing.

From the shelter of your heart, brother drive out sin.

Let the little birds of faith come and nest therein

God has made His sun to shine on both you and me;

God, who took away my eyes, that my soul might see.

–Marguerite Radclyffe-Hall (1880-1943)

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