PROGRAMME NOTES

Outcry

SATB Chorus, mezzo solo and orchestra (1986)

Outcry is a protest against the maltreatment of the animal kingdom by man, expressed through settings of 
poems by William Blake (1757-1827), Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) and John Clare (1797-1864). It was 
commissioned by the Coventry Philharmonic Society, with Arts Council funds, and first performed on May 
l0th, 1969, with Meriel Dickinson as soloist. Outcry is a kind of ritual with stark, sometimes minimal gestures 
suited to performance in resonant buildings. It was written at the same time as a setting of the mass and, 
although the poems do not exactly correspond, there are deliberate connections:

  • (i) From Auguries of Innocence (Blake) cites examples of cruelty to birds and animals, lamented in the 
soloist's refrain: it functions as a kind of Kyrie. 

  • (ii) The Blinded Bird (Hardy) deals with a specific act, the blinding of a caged bird, but its suffering is given 
a wider connotation through the movement's relationship with the Agnus Dei. 

  • (iii) Badger (Clare) is a graphic description of a badger hunt to the kill. Realism is present through the 
repetitive nature of such obsessional violence. The movement is related to the Gloria in excelsis Deo - 
but as a kind of black mass. 

  • (iv) Horses Aboard (Hardy) is another specific example of cruelty - horses used in man's conflicts on the 
battlefield. 

  • (v) Nature's Hymn to the Deity (Clare) rather simplistically finds the whole of nature at one with God - but 
man at odds with his Creator and the universe he dominates. This Hymn is related to the Sanctus and 
Benedictus as nature's affirmation, but the soloist brings back the lament from the first movement 
when man is identified as the outlaw and the outsider. 

Outcry is recorded by the London Concert Choir, Meriel Dickinson (mezzo-soprano) and the City of London Sinfonia under Nicholas Cleobury on Albany TROY 360

 

1. FROM AUGURIES OF INNOCENCE (WILLIAM BLAKE)
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders Hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to Heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.

The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from Hell a human soul.
The wild deer, wandering here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misused breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.

2. THE BLINDED BIRD (THOMAS HARDY)
So zestfully can’st thou sing?
And all this indignity,
With God’s consent, on thee!
Blinded ere yet a-wing
By the red-hot needle thou,
I stand and wonder how
So zestfully thou canst sing!

Resenting not such wrong,
Thy grievous pain forgot,
Eternal dark thy lot,
Groping thy whole life long,
After that stab of fire;
Enjailed in pitiless wire;
Resenting not such wrong!

Who hath charity? This bird.
Who suffereth and is kind,
Is not provoked, though blind
And alive ensepulchred?
Who hopeth all things?
Who thinketh no evil, but sings?
Who is divine? This bird.

3. BADGER (JOHN CLARE)
When midnight comes a host of dogs and men
Go out and track the badger to his den,
And put a sack within the hole, and lie
Till the old grunting badger passes bye.
He comes and hears - they let the strongest loose.
The old fox hears the noise and drops the goose.
The poacher shoots and hurries from the cry,
The old hare half wounded buzzes bye.
They get a forked stick to bear him down
And clap the dogs and take him to the town,
And bait him all the day with many dogs,
And laugh and shout and fright the scampering hogs.
He runs along and bites at all he meets:
They shout and hollo down the noisy streets.

He turns around to face the loud uproar
And drives the rebels to their very door.
The frequent stone is hurled where¹ere they go;
When badgers fight then everyone¹s a foe.
The dogs are clapt and urged to join the fray;
The badger turns and drives them all away.
Though scarcely half as big, demure and small,
He fights with dogs for bones and beats them all.
The heavy mastiff, savage in the fray,
Lies down and licks his feet and turns away. 
The bulldog knows his match and waxes cold,
The badger grins and never leaves his hold.
He drives the crowd and follows at their heels
And bites them through - the drunkard swears and reels.

The frightened women take the boys away,
The blackguard laughs and hurries on the fray.
He tries to reach the woods, an awkward race.
But sticks and cudgels quickly stop the chace.
He turns agen and drives the noisy crowd
And beats the many dogs in noises loud.
He drives away and beats them every one,
And then they loose them all and set them on.
He falls as dead and kicked by boys and men,
Then starts and grins and drives the crowd agen;
Till kicked and torn and beaten out he lies
And leaves his hold and cackles, groans and dies.

4. HORSES ABOARD (THOMAS HARDY)
Horses in horsecloths stand in a row
On board the huge ship that at last lets go.
Whither are they sailing? They do not know,
Nor what for, nor how. -
They are horses of war,
And are going to where there is fighting afar;
But they gaze through their eyeholes unwitting they are,
And that in some wilderness, gaunt and ghast,
Their bones will bleach ere a year has passed,
And the item be as ‘war-waste’ classed. - 
And when the band booms, and the folk say ‘Goodbye!’
And the shore slides astern, they appear wrenched awry
From the scheme Nature planned for them, -
wondering why.

5. NATURE’S HYMN TO THE DEITY (JOHN CLARE)
All nature owns with one accord
The great and universal Lord:
The sun proclaims him through the day,
The moon when daylight drops away,
The very darkness smiles to wear
The stars that show us God is there,
On moonlight seas soft gleams the sky
And ‘God is with us’ waves reply.

Winds breathe from God’s abode ‘we come’,
Storms louder own God is their home,
And thunder yet with louder call,
Sounds ‘God is mightiest over all’;
Till earth right loath the proof to miss
Echoes triumphantly ‘He is’;
And air and ocean make reply,
’God reigns on earth, in air and sky’.

All nature owns with one accord
The great and universal Lord:
Insect and bird and tree and flower -
The witnesses of every hour - 
Are pregnant with his prophesy
And ‘God is with us’ all reply.
The first link in the mighty plan
Is still - and all upbraideth man.

© 2008-17 Peter Dickinson

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