To the Blackbird, Another Version of WoO 155 Nr. 20, Hess 206 (mp3)
Performer: Mark S. Zimmer
Author: Mark S. Zimmer
This is a setting of lyrics by David ap Gwillim for James Thomson, a publisher in Scotland. It is one of the very first folk melodies arranged by Beethoven for Thomson. We can see that Beethoven was still feeling his way for the best way of providing an accompaniment for these songs; the piano and the violin both double the vocal line for much of the piece, which seldom occurs in later arrangements. The same melody was set by Beethoven, in a much different version, as one of the 26 Welsh Folk Songs, WoO 155 Nr. 20 in 1813. The reason for the new setting was Thomson's complaint regarding the difficulty of the instrumental accompaniment. Thomson wrote Beethoven: "In this country there is not one pianist in a hundred who could make the two hands go well together in the first ritornello, that is to say, play four notes of one hand and three notes of the other at the same time." The introduction does pose substantial difficulties, setting eighth and 16th notes in the right hand of the piano part against triplet 8th notes in the left. Beethoven complained that he had not been given any instructions about level of difficulty, but nevertheless composed an entirely new version of the song for Thomson. Beethoven's correspondence with Thomson indicates that the repeats of the first section of this and several other songs are optional, depending upon whether other words are available for these repeats. We have given the song in full, using all repeats.
To the Blackbird Sweet warbler of a strain divine, What woodland note can equal thine? No hermit's matins hail the day More pure than fine from yonder spray. Thy glossy plumes of sable hue, Retiring from the searching view, Protect the like, the leafy screen Beneath whose shade thou sing'st unseen. What ermin vest was e'er so warm As plumes of down that cloth thy form! Thy graceful crest, thy sparkling eye, And slender bill of coral dye, Are still less charming than thy song, Which echoes through the woods prolong: They mellow strain delights the ear Of the sweet maid my soul holds dear. Thou to the poet art allied, Be then thy minstrelsy my pride: Thy poet then, thy song I'll praise, Thy name shall grace my happiest lays; To future lovers shall proclaim Thy worth, thy beauty, and thy fame, And when they hear thee in the grove, They'll own thee for the bird of love. David ap Gwillim, trans. by Rev'd Roberts of Pentre The Welsh original (which Rev'd Roberts very loosely translated) follows: Y Ceiliog Mwyalch Y ceiliog mwyalch balchbwyll, Dawn i'th dal, a Duw ni'th dwyll. Cyfion mewn glyn d'emyn di, Cyson o union ynni. Crefyddwr wyd anwydawl, Cerdi fi, croyw yw dy fawl. Gwisgaist, enynnaist annerch, Gwisg ddu, nid er selu serch, Gwisg a ddanfones Iesu Is dail it o sae du, A dwbwl gwell no deuban, Mawr ei glod, o'r mwrrai glan; Sidan gapan am gopa Yn ddu rhoed yn ddiau'r ha', Dwbled harddgled mewn rhedyn Blac-y-lir uwch glandir glyn. Muchudd dy ddeurudd eirian, Pig cwrel gloyw, angel glan. Prydydd wyd medd proffwydi, Cywyddol maenol i mi, Awdur cerdd adar y coed, Esgud cyw mwyndrud meindroed. Os gwyddost yn osgeiddig Annerch gwen dan bren a brig, Os gwn innau o newydd, Sgwir gwawd, ysgwier y gwydd, Ganu moliant a'i wrantu I ti, y ceiliog, wyt du. Du yw dy gwfwl, da ion, A'th gasul, edn iaith gyson. Mydriwr wyd a broffwydais, Medrud son uwch Medrod Sais. Duw a'th gatwo, tro traserch, Adain syw, edn y serch. ----From Dafydd ap Gwilym Apocrypha, (1996), The Welsh Classics.