Gustav Holst Second Suite In F Analysis Essay


Swansea Town
Claudy Banks
I Love My Love
Song of the Blacksmith

"Riley Ballad" is mentioned a few times below. A Riley Ballad is a type of song/story where the man leaves town (to go to sea, war, adventuring), then returns in disguise to see if his sweetheart has remained faithful. The lady-love scorns him saying she will wait for her love and he reveals himself either by saying her name, or showing a broken token of which each has half, and of course they walk off into the sunset together and live happily ever after.


A Riley Ballad. Below are the lyrics that Mr. Holst used in his choral arrangement:

Oh farewell to you my Nancy, ten thousand times adieu;
I'm bound to cross the ocean, girl, once more to part from you.
Once more to part from you, fine girl, you're the girl that I adore.
But still I live in hopes to see old Swansea town once more.

Old Swansea town once more, fine girl, you're the girl that I adore.
But still I live in hopes to see old Swansea town once more.


Oh it's now that I am out at sea, and you are far behind;
Kind letters I will write to you of the secrets of my mind.
The secrets of my mind, fine girl, you're the girl that I adore.
But still I live in hopes to see old Swansea town once more.


Oh now the storm is rising, I see it coming on;
The night so dark as anything, we cannot see the moon.
Our good old ship she is tossed aft, our rigging is all tore.
But still I live in hopes to see old Swansea town once more.


Oh it’s now the storm is over and we are safe, are safe on shore.
We’ll drink strong drinks and brandies, too, to the girls that we adore.
To the girls that we adore, fine girls, we’ll make this tavern roar.
And when our money is all gone, we’l go to sea for more.


Another set of lyrics for Swansea Song - interesting contrast:

It was down by Swansea barracks
one May morning I strayed
A-viewing of the soldier lads
I spied a comely maid,
It was o'er her red and rosy cheeks
the tears did dingle down,
I thought she was some goddess fair,
the lass of Swansea town.

I said, "Fair maid, what brought you here,
what brought you here to mourn?"
"Oh I'm in search of Willie dear,
my bonny young sailor boy,
Eight years ago he left me here
for Bermuda he was bound,
He said he would prove faithful to
the lass of Swansea town."

"If eight years ago he left you
it is useless for to mourn,
For perhaps he is in some battle slain,
or in the ocean drowned."
"Oh God forbid, young man," she said.
"By what token will he be known,
if he ever do return to the
lass of Swansea Town."

"On his left breast he wears a scar
where he received a wound"
"If by that token your Willie is known
it's him I know right well,
The cannon-ball which made him fall
gave him his deathly wound,
He told me to take care of you
the lass of Swansea town."

Soon as she heard him say these words
she fell in deep despair,
Wringing of her lily-white hands
and tearing of her hair,
Saying, "Take me to my Willie,
else give me my death wound,
For no other man will ever enjoy
the lass of Swansea town."

On coming to herself once more up
from the ground she rose,
His waistcoat it blew open and
the scar it did expose.
They walked till they reached his cottage
and there they settled down,
Young Willie of the royal blue and
the lass of Swansea town.

(Return to Swansea Town Info)


Another Riley Ballad type

'Twas on a pleasant morning all in the month of May
Down by the Banks of Claudy I carelessly did stray
I overheard a damsel most grievously complain
It is on the Banks of Claudy where my darling does remain.

I boldly stepped up to her, I took her by surprise
I own she did not know me, I being dressed in disguise
"Where are you going my fair one, my joy and heart's delight
Where are you going to wander this dark and stormy night?"

It's on the way to Claudy's banks if you will please to show
Take pity on a stranger, for there I want to go
It's seven long years or better since Johnny has left this shore
He's crossing the wide ocean where the foaming billows roar.

He's crossing the wide ocian for honor and for fame
His ship's been wrecked so I've been told down on the Spanish Main
It's on the banks of Claudy, fair maid whereon you stand
Now don't you believe young Johnny, for he's a false young man.

Now when she heard this dreadful news, she fell into despair
For the wringing of her tender hands and the tearing of her hair
"If Johnny he be drowned, no man alive I'll take
Through lonesome shades and valleys, I'll wander for his sake."

Now when he saw her loyalty, no longer could he stand
He fell into her arms saying, "Betsy, I'm your man"
Saying "Betsy, I'm the young man that caused you all your pain
And since we've met on Claudy's banks, we'll never part again.

(Return to Claudy Banks Info)


(Below are the lyrics Mr. Holst used in his choral arrangement). This ballad is similar to a Riley Ballad, but does not have the lover in disguise.

Abroad as I was walking
One evening in the spring
I heard a maid in Bedlam
So sweetly for to sing;
Her chain she rattled with her hands
And thus replied she:

I love my love
Because I know
My love loves me

Oh cruel were his parents
Who sent my love to sea
And cruel was the ship
That bore my love from me:
Yet I love his parents
Since they’re his although
they’ve ruined me:

Just as she there sat weeping
Her love he came on land
Then, hearing she was in Bedlam
He ran straight out of hand;
He flew into her snow-white arms
And thus replied he:

She said: “My love don’t frighten me,
are you my love or no?”
“O yes, my dearest Nancy,
I am your love, also
I am returned to make amends
for all your injury.”

So now these two are married,
And happy may they be like turtle
Doves together, in love and unity.
All pretty maids with patience wait
That have got loves at sea;

(Return to I'll Love My Love info)


A ballad of an unfaithful lover.
(In Mr. Holst’s choral arrangement, he uses only the first verse below)

For the blacksmith courted me, nine months and better;
And first he won my heart, till he wrote to me a letter.
With his hammer in his hand, for he strikes so mighty and clever,
He makes the sparks to fly all around his middle.

But where is my love gone
With his cheeks like roses
And his good black Billycock on
Decked around with primroses.
I fear the shining sun
May burn and scorch his beauty
And if I was with my love
I would do my duty.

Strange news is come to town
Strange news is carried
Strange news flies up and down
That my love is married.
I wish them both much joy
Though they can't hear me
And may God reward him well
For the slighting of me.

Don't you remember when
You lay beside me
And you said you'd marry me
And not deny me.
If I said I'd marry you
It was only for to try you
So bring your witness love
And I'll not deny you.

Oh, witness have I none
Save God Almighty
And may he reward you well
For the slighting of me.
Her lips grew pale and wan
It made a poor heart tremble
To think she loved a one
And he proved deceitful.

A blacksmith courted me
Nine months and better
He fairly won my heart
Wrote me a letter.
With his hammer in his hand
He looked so clever
And if I was with my love
I would live forever.

(Return to Song of the Blacksmith info)


A long ballad of unrequited love. It is not necessary to read all of the things he did for her and gave to her, but do read the last three verses as he bids her farewell before he dies.

Alas, my love, ye do me wrong,
To cast me off discourteously:
And I have lovèd you so long,
Delighting in your company!
Greensleeves was all my joy,
Greensleeves was my delight;
Greensleeves was my heart of gold,
And who but Lady Greensleeves.

I have been ready at your hand,
To grant whatever you would crave;
I have both wagèd life and land,
Your love and good-will for to have.
Greensleeves was all my joy...

I bought thee kerchers to thy head,
That were wrought fine and gallantly;
I kept thee both at board and bed,
Which cost my purse well-favour'dly.
Greensleeves was all my joy...

I bought thee petticoats of the best,
The cloth so fine as might be;
I gave thee jewels for thy chest,
And all this cost I spent on thee.
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Thy smock of silk, both fair and white,
With gold embroider'd gorgeously;
Thy petticoat of sendal right,
And these I bought thee gladly.
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Thy girdle of the gold so red,
With pearls bedeckèd sumptuously,
The like no other lasses had:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Thy purse, and eke thy gay gilt knives,1
Thy pin-case,2 gallant to the eye;
No better wore the burgess' wives:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Thy crimson stockings, all of silk,
With gold all wrought above the knee;
Thy pumps, as white as was the milk:
And yet though wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Thy gown was of the grassy green,
Thy sleeves of satin hanging by;
Which made thee be our harvest queen:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Thy garters fringèd with the gold,
And silver aglets 3 hanging by;
Which made thee blithe for to behold:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

My gayest gelding thee I gave,
To ride wherever likèd thee;
No lady ever was so brave:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

My men were clothèd all in green,
And they did ever wait on thee;
All this was gallant to be seen:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

They set thee up, they took thee down,
They served thee with humility;
Thy foot might not once touch the ground:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

For every morning, when thou rose,
I sent thee dainties, orderly,
To cheer thy stomach from all woes:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Thou couldst desire no earthly thing,
But still thou hadst it readily,
Thy music, still to play and sing:
And yet thou wouldst not love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

And who did pay for all this gear,
That thou didst spend when pleasèd thee?
Even I that am rejected here,
And thou disdainest to love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Well! I will pray to God on high,
That thou my constancy mayst see,
And that, yet once before I die,
Thou wilt vouchsafe to love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

Greensleeves, now farewell! adieu!
God I pray to prosper thee!
For I am still thy lover true:
Come once again and love me!
Greensleeves was all my joy...

(Return to Greensleeves info)
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Gustav Holst (1874-1934) was a British composer and teacher.  After studying composition at London’s Royal College of Music, he spent the early part of his career playing trombone in an opera orchestra.  It was not until the early 1900s that his career as a composer began to take off.  Around this same time he acquired positions at both St. Paul’s Girls’ School and Morley College that he would hold until retirement, despite his rising star as a composer.  His music was influenced by his interest in English folk songs and Hindu mysticism, late-Romantic era composers like Strauss and Delius, and avante-garde composers of his time like Stravinsky and Schoenberg.  He is perhaps best known for composing The Planets, a massive orchestral suite that depicts the astrological character of each known planet.  His works for wind band (two suites and a tone poem, Hammersmith) are foundational to the modern wind literature.

The Second Suite in F was written in 1911, but not performed until 1922.  Each of its four movements uses one or more folk songs as its melodic material.

An unnamed band performs each movement of the suite, each in separate videos.  First, the “March”:

“Song without Words”:

The devilish “Song of the Blacksmith”:

Finally, “Fantasia on the Dargason” at a good, healthy tempo (I like this one fast!):

Holst largely repeated this movement in his St. Paul’s Suite for orchestra:

Holst also wrote a chorale version of the “Song of the Blacksmith”:

There is also a choral version of “Song without Words”, titled “I Love My Love”:

Great program note on Second Suite from the University of Maryland Wind Orchestra.

Second Suite on wikipedia (a rather poorly-researched article, I’m afraid!)

For those interested in singing along with some Holst, many of the folk songs used in the Second Suite have their lyrics published on the internet:

From the “March”: “Morris Dance” is an instrumental dance; “Swansea Town” starts with the euphonium solo; “Claudy Banks” is the 6/8 section. That link leaves out the chorus, which you can find in Bob Garofalo’s great resource book, Folk Songs and Dances in Second Suite.

“Song without Words” is actually “I Love My Love”

“Song of the Blacksmith”

“Fantasia on the Dargason”: The Dargason itself is an instrumental dance tune, related to popular melodies like “The Irish Washerwoman”.  This movement also includes “Greensleeves”, usually a sad-sounding song, as a rather joyous interlude and a powerful climax. – a major web resource for information on the composer.

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