ELYSIUM : THREE POEMS FOR A FOUR-PART EPIC WITH THE ELYSIAN FIELDS

Lock down has given rise to all kinds of reflections, artistic and otherwise. This particular piece harks back to my first and still singular moment as a poet/lyricist.

In early 2015 my wife Jenny Eriksson was in the midst of forming what was and still is, Australia’s first electric viola da gamba band, Elysian Fields. The ensemble, whose members have backgrounds in jazz, classical and world music, needed repertoire for their unique combination of instruments. Jenny commissioned band member, sax player/composer and Freedman Fellowship winner, Matt Keegan to write for them. He composed ‘Elysium’, a beautiful, epic, genre-straddling four-part work, three sections of which had a part for a singer.

‘Elysium’ is another term for the Elysian Fields, the place in the afterlife that Greek mythology reserved for the most heroic and virtuous individuals. Everyone else went to Hades. But there were no words to the songs! In a yet to be repeated offer, my Bob Dylan moment, Matt and Jenny asked me to come up with texts for the superbly constructed melodies. Matt gave me a couple of sentences on what each of the movements were about and I did my best to match his intent.

Elysium was the first Australian song cycle for electric viola da gamba and voice and appears on Elysian Fields’ first recording, ‘What should I say.’

Note: No Nobel prizes for literature have been awarded in the writing of Elysium – yet!

Elysium I

To travel on the wings of time to some fair place,

And find when comes to pass such beauty and such grace.

The colours of our dreams embrace,

Their once veiled souls now face to face.

 

The heroes of our world now faded from our view,

In heaven we now see eternities so few.

To judge not is to live anew,

They find their place as we find too.

 

And now the pain sets in the loss is so acute,

The bravest of us all stand silent and then mute.

To now discern with thoughts astute

Each more resolved to dream through time.

We must be bold to dream, be bold to dream, be bold to dream through time.

Elysium III

The cool breeze from the harbour-side,

How I long for the sea.

For its years since I lay in your warm, strong arms,

And an age since I smelled your sweet breath.

Now I’m home-bound to take up my rest.

 

There is love that will last a while,

There is love that will die.

But the love that we share lives beyond the waves,

And is steeped deep in our native land…

And is steeped deep in our native land…

 

The cool breeze from the harbour-side,

How I long for the sea!

For its years since I lay in your warm, strong arms,

And an age since I smelled your sweet breath.

Now I’m home-bound to take up my rest.

Elysium IV

Peace and hope, to have found a place of peace and hope;

Any fear is left be-hind, all our fears are left behind.

Open now, all the gates to that great shard of light;

The bright star that never fails, the warm glow that never dies.

Your dreams will always lead the way for-ward.

Peace and hope.

Shine out, that great shard of light that never fails.

 Music by Matt Keegan; text by Philip Pogson 2015

Elysium appears on ‘What Should I Say’, released on the MOVE Records Label

Featured image : Elysian Fields in concert

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *