My friend Karen New, a fabulously talented composer, has written music to “Blessed is he who passes, love,” the last set of lyrics in Seraphina. And not just a melody, no, but a madrigal in four voices which we will sing in Inchoiring Minds next quarter. It’s beautifully done, very Renaissance-y (pretty sure that’s a word, since I’m a writer and all).
My babbling intro is inadequate, so you’re just going to have to go have a listen and then join me in marvelling awe-struck at it.
The Soundcloud version sounds like a woodwind quartet; obviously, the choral version will have words. Here are the lyrics from Seraphina so you can sing along in your own head (Karen’s version requires these words to be sung all the way through twice).
Blessed is he who passes, love,
Beneath your window’s eye
And does not sigh.
Gone my heart and gone my soul,
Look on me love, look down
Before I die.
One glimpse, my royal pearl, one smile
Sufficient to sustain me,
Grant me this
Or take my life and make it yours.
I’d fight a hundred thousand wars
For just one kiss.
The lyrics, in fact, were directly inspired by two other songs. One is “Chi passa per ‘sta strada,” by the 16th century Italian composer Filippo Azzaiolo (here’s a spiffy instrumental version with Yo Yo Ma). The first line of the song expresses a sentiment similar to my own – what a blessing it would be to be able to walk down the street without sighing – and was my jumping-off point for creating the rest of the lyrics (I also did this with “A thousand regrets,” earlier in Seraphina, riffing off the title of another famous Renaissance song).
My other inspiration was “Deh veni alla finestra,” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Here’s Samuel Ramey singing it, the version my sisters and I used to sing along with. Singing under someone’s window with your lute was apparently the romantic thing to do, once upon a time, and hyperbolically insisting you were about to die was just par for the course.