Shakespeare's Kingdom

A 1588 portrait believed to show Shakespeare at 24

When Shakespeare came to London
He met no shouting throngs;
He carried in his knapsack
A scroll of quiet songs.

No proud heraldic trumpet
Acclaimed him on his way;
Their court and camp have perished;
The songs live on for ay.

Nobody saw or hear them.
But all around them there,
Spirits of light and music
When treading the April air.

He passed like any pedlar,
Yet he had wealth untold.
The galleons of th' armada
Could not contain his gold.

The kings rode on to darkness.
In England's conquering hour,
Unseen arrived her splendour;
Unknown her conquering power.

Alfred Noyes

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) is best known for his ballad "The Highwayman," but his tribute to Shakespeare caught the eye of Edward Elgar, who set it for soprano in 1924. Once you hear Elgar's setting, it's hard to imagine the words and music apart. Here is a 1984 performance by Sarah Walker and Graham Johnson.


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