By the North Gate
(2006, reworked 2016)
SATB chorus, organ (6’)
For By the North Gate I used the poem Lament of the Frontier Guard, by Ezra Pound, after the Chinese poet Rihaku.
It describes the end of war, from the point of view of the defeated, and is full of sadness, resignation, anger and bleakness. Of course it is, as the title suggests, a lament, and shows us the “dreary sorry” of war.
By the North Gate was composed for Hackney Singers, and conducted by Dan Ludford-Thomas at the Union Chapel in 2006. I have since reworked and developed it, adding an organ accompaniment.
Score on request.
Poem used with permission from New Directions Publishing Company.
Lament of the Frontier Guard
By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass? Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku’s name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.