"Time past can never come again."
- Olinda in the Shades Unseen, Anonymous
"Let not youth fly away without contenting, Age will come time enough for your repenting."
- How blest are Shepherds, from King Arthur, John Dryden
Winter Words ends with the anguished cries of "E'er nescience shall be reaffirmed, How long?" – how long until we return to that blissful, pure ignorant oblivion of innocence? How long until we die?
How to answer that question?
Musically speaking, the obvious choice of an answer was to return to a musical nescience of some sort. I wondered for awhile about programming some folksongs – music in one of it's most pure, unadulterated forms. Instead, though, I chose to look at Purcell – the inspiration and musical nescience for a lot of Britten's vocal writing. In the three songs of Purcell that I chose, I found not only a musical response to the experience of Winter Words, but also an answer to Hardy's tortured and impatient question, how long? It turns out, all too soon.
We traverse our paths through life, stumbling, taking seemingly wrong turns, and feeling lost along the way. Yet, as Olinda discovers in her shades unseen, time past can never come again, and we, as the shepherd from King Arthur implores us, must not let our precious time on this beautiful planet pass without enjoying every moment of it.
Someone told me last night that I think too much, and they are right. After a recent performance of the Evening Hymn, the presenter asked me if I felt like it was a bit of an autobiographical performance. I wasn't sure what to say then, but now I can see that it is, in a way. What is so special and personal to me about this program is that I do think a lot on my life and loves, my stumbles and my mistakes, my joys and my pains – at times, too much so. I look at people who seem to know how to be happy, without cares, and with seeming innocence with a touch of envy in my heart that wonders, "what is their secret?" As I've discovered lately, it's enjoying the moment at hand and gratitude.
The Evening Hymn comes as the final sigh of the program. It's a look at all that is great and beautiful, all the blessings in our lives - those things that are the overwhelming evidence that we are constantly surrounded by some sort of higher power - and gives profound thanks. No matter the circumstance, there are always silver linings to the every cloud, and all that we really need, we already have – if not in surplus. No matter how imperfect we are, we are deserving of that bounty, and that is a truly humbling and deeply happy thought.