Ronald Corp

Conductor & Composer


Elegy for himself 

Elegy for himself 1This score is published by Oxford University Press and is available from musicroom.com and other music outlets.  Please click on the ‘Musicroom’ button below to be taken to their website for further information.
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Programme Notes

The words of Elegy for himself were written by the 28 year-old Chidiock Tichborne on the night before he was beheaded for his part in the Babington Plot (1585).

This song is a SATB arrangement of No. 3 of Four Elizabethan Lyrics (for SA and piano).  The material for strings and organ is available on hire.

Ronald Corp writes: ‘The Farnham Youth Choir won the Sainsbury Choir of the Year Competition in their classin1993 and part of the prize was money to commission a new work.  They asked me to compose a piece for them, and I wrote Four Elizabethan Lyrics, which were performed in the summer of 1994.  The third of the set, though it was actually written first, was ‘Elegy for himself’.

Chidiock Tichborne (1558?–1586), who wrote the poem, was a Catholic.  Chidiock had been in trouble in 1583 for possessing ‘popish relics’, and in 1586 he was involved in the Babington Plot (to murder Queen Elizabeth and place Mary Queen of Scots on the throne), arrested, tried, and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.  The poem, which was sent to Chidiock’s mother with his farewell letter, is thought also to have been written in the Tower of London on the night before his execution.

At its first performance, the piece made a profound impression, particularly sung by young voices, and I was asked at that concert for an arrangement for adult voices.  Oxford University Press publish both versions.  The première of this arrangement was given in1996 by the London Choral Society (now The London Chorus).

My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,
My feast of joy is but a dish of pain,
My crop of corn is but a field of tares,
And all my good is but vain hope of gain;
The day is past, and yet I saw no sun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

My tale is heard, and yet it was not told,
My fruit is fall’n, and yet my leaves are green,
My youth is spent, and yet I am not old,
I saw the world, and yet I was not seen;
My thread is cut, and yet it is not spun,
And now I live, and now my life is done.

I sought my death and found it in my womb,
I look’t for life and saw it was a shade,
I trod the earth, and knew it was my tomb,
And now I die, and now I was but made;
My glass is full, and now my glass is run,
And now I live, and now my life is done.