With nothing else to do, I have been watching a lot of television. In every scene, nearly all members of the cast are smoking cigarette after cigarette, and obviously enjoying it. However, the adult smoking rate in England is steadily declining and is now at a record low. Over the last six years, the number of smokers has dropped by 1.
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The English composer Gustav Holst was the son of a musician and descended from a family of mixed Scandinavian, German and Russian origin that had settled in England in the early nineteenth century. His childhood was spent in Cheltenham, where his father supervised his study of the piano. It was in part a weakness in health, as well as financial necessity, that prompted Holst for a time to earn his living as a trombonist, touring with the Carl Rosa Opera Company and playing with the Scottish Orchestra.
Eventually he decided to devote himself, as far as possible, to composition. He also took the opportunity to visit his younger brother Emil, established in America as an actor under the name of Ernest Cossart.
By June the following year, , he was in England again, able to entertain his brother, with whom he visited scenes from their childhood. His time in America had brought a temporary break in hospital, and when he returned to England his health was uncertain, leading to periods in hospital. He died on 25th May , after a major operation, and is buried in Chichester Cathedral, where his music had often been heard, near the grave of his favourite Tudor composer, Thomas Weelkes.
The spareness of texture, a contrast to the scoring of The Planets, on which he had been working, was suggested by hearing one of his Morley College students, Christine Ratcliffe, singing and accompanying herself on the violin one evening in the church at Thaxted. Holst and his wife had found refuge from London in a cottage nearby, and in he had established a festival in the church for singers. Three of the songs were first performed there in The words were taken from A Medieval Anthology by Mary Segar and seemed to suit the composer, whose practical study of Purcell had helped him to an understanding of English word-setting.
In the Aeolian mode first song, Jesu sweet, the violin provides an introduction and links between the rhythmically free phrases of the voice part. My soul hath nought but fire and ice is in a transposed Phrygian mode, vestigially accompanied, and followed by I sing of a maiden, again in the Aeolian mode. The set ends with My Leman is so true, a Phrygian setting in which the vocal line is accompanied by a violin counterpart, ending with an E major chord.
The death of his father had brought Holst a small legacy, which he and his wife decided to spend on a holiday in Germany. His success there was the start of his career in teaching.
During this period he became used to the rejection of his compositions by publishers, and some of the group of Six Songs remained unpublished. Dissatisfied with the translations he found and unable on his own to proceed any further, he began study at the School of Oriental Languages of the London Institution.
This eventually enabled him to attempt translations himself, with the aid of a dictionary. The first group of the Vedic Hymns starts with Ushas Dawn , at first accompanied by muted chords, with a more animated central section. Piano chords are used in Varuna Sky to introduce and punctuate the hymn, while in Maruts Storm Clouds the accompaniment has an illustrative effect in its energetic progress.
The second group starts with the stately Indra God of Storm and Battle , followed by the descending whole-tone scale of Varuna The Waters and the irregular metre of Song of the Frogs. Faith brings a measure of rhythmic and dynamic tranquillity. In , after a winter holiday of three months in Italy that did something to restore his strength and spirits, Holst set a group of twelve poems by Humbert Wolfe, whose work he had discovered two years earlier.
A meeting with the poet brought friendship, as they shared a number of interests, including a love of the peace that parts of London can bring. The songs came after a gap of twelve years in such compositions and were the last Holst wrote. The irregular rhythms of Persephone give it a feeling of melodic freedom, reflected also in Things lovelier.
Now in these fairylands is marked by a descending melody, while there is passing asymmetry in the rhythms of A little music, and The thought leaves the voice largely free.
The allusive The floral bandit, with its reference to a Schubert Shakespeare setting and clavichord counterpoint, ends abruptly, as the text suggests. It is succeeded by Envoi, its tranquillity leading to a final climax. To these Rhyme offers a contrast in its delicate accompaniment and light texture. The set ends with the mystery of Betelgeuse. It was composed at a time when Holst had found a particular enthusiasm for the plays of Ibsen. The heart worships was written in , its vocal melody accompanied by a series of repeated chords and breathing an air of utter tranquillity and peace.
King of all Kings Was her Son iwis. His heart in me keeps me and him in one, My heart in him his thoughts and senses guides: He loves my heart, for once it was his own, I cherish his because in me it bides: My true love hath my heart and I have his.
What need you flow so fast? Sleep is a reconciling, A rest that peace begets. Rest you then, rest sad eyes! Melt not in weeping, While She lies sleeping Softly, now softly lies, Sleeping. Wisely kind and kindly wise, Blessed life where such love lies! Wise and kind and fair and true, Lovely live all these in you! Sweet sleep, with soft down Weave thy brows an infant crown. Sweet moans, dove-like sighs, Chase not slumber from thine eyes. Sweet moans, sweeter smile, All the dove-like moans beguile.
Vedic Hymns, Op. All rights reserved, reproduced by permission. For the night hath fled! Arise and greet the Dawn. Welcome her! Unveiled she now appeareth, All things greet her radiant smile.
The Sun draws nigh. Greeting thee, the holy fire ascendeth, Greeting thee, our hymns arise, Greeting thee, the Sun appeareth, Greeting thee, thy worshippers Bow down and bless and adore.
Thou knowest all, Varuna, Thou knowest the pathway of the moon and wind, Thy laws throughout eternity endure, thou mighty ruler, And to thy judgement all must come. He doth appear! My cry is answered! I am delivered from my sin.
Through the gloom Gathering round us Ye and your horses Appear in the sky; Glowing like flames From the holy fire That springs from the altar, Rising to God. Flashing sword blades, Tramping of horses, Shouting of riders Fill the sky!
Rushing onward Hurling your weapons, Chanting your war songs Nearer ye come! We would fain Welcome you fitly, But faint are our voices And feeble our lays. Come then, dwell within us, With your power inspire our hearts, Then shall our songs, Like clouds expanding, Carry your glory Throughout the world. A song that shall reach to the throne of Indra, The Lord of the sky! The Holy Ones rush forth to greet the monarch, Who ruleth the sky! Lover of sacrifice, lover of singing, Loud-voiced Thunderer, Shaker of mountains and Lord of the sky.
Spare me, O great Varuna. Tossed by winds, Trembling and faint, I come to thee. Spare me, O great Varuna! Mighty God! Yet within, Thirst fiercely burning Gnaws my heart. With eloquence and wisdom They swell and seem to burst. Their year-long vow of silence Hath ended with the Rain. The joyous earth is now reviving, The trees and flowers now arise, And our hearts go forth in gladness To greet the noisy cries. The singing of the Frogs Hath brought wealth to us again.
Through me each one lives, Each one breathes and sees and hearkens. Beyond the earth and sky I reign in my mystic grandeur. Non-life was not! No vast expanse of air, Nor vaster realm of sky that lies beyond.
Was water there, the deep abyss of ocean? Then, Death was not! Non-death was not! No change of day and night. All was unseen, One universe unknown. Then there was One! One alone! Calm and self-existing: Beyond and apart was naught. Then up rose Desire, Fierce glowing Desire.
The seed of spirit, The germ of mind, The source of life, Begetting mighty forces, All heaved in restless motion. Who then knows, Who can now declare Whence cometh creation? Twelve Humbert Wolfe Songs, Op. As moonflake thin, Flutes for the dancers you danced with begin. Again they are singing O will you not heed them? With none now to answer, and none to lead them. They will grow older, till comes a day When the last of your maidens is tired of play: When the song as it rises faints and droops over, And your playmates go seeking a gentler lover.
Listen, the dancers! The flutes, oh listen! Hasten, Persephone! Open, trembling, wise they were.
And I looked, and behold, a pale horse!
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Behold a Pale Horse