Be not afraid, ye waiting hearts that weep,
For still He giveth His beloved sleep.
And if there be no meeting past the grave,
If all is silence, stillness, yet ’tis rest.
And if an endless sleep He wills – so best.
~Henrietta Anne Heathorn
Words by Henrietta Anne Heathorn
TTBB, a cappella or with piano accomp.
Published by Fresh Ayre Music
Commissioned by Cara Knittel for the Twin Cities Gay Men’s Choir
Henrietta Heathorn’s original poem was written as memorial for the poet Robert Browning. When her husband Thomas Huxley read it, he requested that the last five lines of poem be used as the epitaph for his gravestone. These are the lines that I have set, although I have transposed the order somewhat.
“Epitaph” is in two sections, both of which are recapitulated in slightly altered form. The first section has only two musical ideas corresponding to the two lines of text “be not afraid ye waiting hearts that weep” and “for still He giveth his Beloved sleep.” The constant repetition of the text takes the listener’s attention away from the words. It invites them to breathe into the harmonic ebb and flow of the music, as a private meditation on grief and mortality.
The second section is characterized by a simple, direct declamation, commanding the listener’s focus on the words again. This is the lesson of the epitaph: “and if an endless sleep He wills/So best.”
Perusal Score (click to view)