Another piece we’ll be singing at our Service of Remembrance (6pm Sunday 30 October) is the setting of ‘Never weather beaten sail’ by Charles Wood (1866-1926).
This poem by Thomas Campion (1567-1620) has been set by several other composers, including Hubert Parry, Richard Shephard, and the poet himself. English scholar David Richardson describes what the text is about:
‘Thematically, this poem contrasts human life and spiritual afterlife: mortal man suffers physical and emotional weariness; but after death, his soul finds rest, joy, and light in Christian salvation. … Campion’s serious theme is perfectly clear; but we don’t experience his poem as a sermon because he is showing rather than telling.’
Wood set many Campion poems to music, and his compositional style perfectly matches the elegant balance of these Renaissance texts. Composer Leonard Blake draws attention to:
‘Wood’s sensitiveness to their intimate piety and chaste imagery, and his ingenuity in dealing with unusual metres … Campion’s thought and style are matched by the graceful economy and serenity of the music in an idiom redolent of Orlando Gibbons.’
David A. Richardson, 1978, The golden mean in Campion’s Airs, Comparative Literature, vol. 30, no. 2.
Leonard Blake cited in Ian Copley, 1978, The music of Charles Wood: A critical study, Thames Publishing.
The lute player in the painting (anon., Hamburger Kunsthalle, Germany) is thought to be Thomas Campion.