Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Their Country's Dear Defense

I have a new musical obsession: William Boyce

This painting makes me wish I had known the man. He looks at once kindly, humorous and full of joy, the sort of person who would squeeze your shoulder if you were feeling blue, who treated his horses with affection, and who would point out happy little details of the countryside all around while on a carriage trip.. (A later engraving shows him rather florid, but I like this one better. All those Georgian English guys got fat and florid, but that doesn't mean their hearts changed.) I don't know how it is that I have lived so long and missed this wonderful composer. Perhaps it is that he was pretty much a contemporary of Handel, and has been overshadowed. But if you like Handel, I urge you to check out this man's music. It is truly lovely.

One of his arias has gripped me, but as with so many things, I have taken it out of context and adapted it for my own purposes. It is an aria from his New Year's Ode, written in 1774, the words of which are:

"Myriads, myriads, they see; their country's dear delight; their country's dear defense. And glory in the sight." The words refer to an English Army coming to the rescue of its country, but they put me in mind of the familiar story of 2 Kings 6:

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. "Oh, my lord, what shall we do?" the servant asked.

16 "Don't be afraid," the prophet answered. "Those who are with us are more than those who are with them."

17 And Elisha prayed, "O LORD, open his eyes so he may see." Then the LORD opened the servant's eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

I wish there were a way to play the song here, but it is enchanting, and I shall remember it when I am feeling afraid. For, my brothers and sisters in Christ and I, we are of a different Country, and there are more with us than against us. My Dear Delight and Defense is Christ Himself, but His armies are for me. May my eyes, and yours, be opened in time of need!


Blogger Aunt Cin said...

Beautiful. Makes me want to find that aria.



4:11 PM  
Blogger craigellachie said...

One of the things that makes it so heartbreakingly lovely is that the piece is sung by a phenomenal boy soprano whose voice sounds like the echo of an angel: imagine that. You know when a boy sings about an army, it's got to be cheerful and optomistic, and so it is.

4:45 PM  

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