The triple foole

quattro madrigali a cinque voci su testi di John Donne

vocal ensemble (S. MS. CT. T. B.)
John Donne
Milano Musica
25.11.17, Milan, Teatro Girolamo, Milano Musica Festival, Exaudi Vocal Ensemble
S. 15524 Z.
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Score extracts


Di dolci aspre catene (for five voices) is the fourth chapter of a personal exploration of madrigalistic vocality that began with Dir - In dir (for six voices and six strings), followed by Horrido (for seven voices) and Se taccio, il duol s’avanza (for violin and twelve voices) that share their poetic source with the new madrigals, namely the Rime of Torquato Tasso. This path will continue with a new series of madrigals on texts by English poets of the Elizabethan age. A common characteristic of these works, besides making use of an “ancient” language, is the use of rhetoric – at the basis of the theory of affects that moved musical research so much forward during the golden age of the madrigal – both structurally and expressively. Contemporary vocal techniques, which I widely exploited in my cycles for solo voice and that I haven’t forsaken also in this case (though used in a more moderate fashion) are guided by the linguistic, structural and conceptual values of these texts, very well known also because, before me, they were set by illustrious musicians contemporary to Tasso: texts so impregnated with the artifices of the word, taken to their extreme, fleeting and polysemic, in the subtleties of courtly love. The form, the harmonic course, the general architecture of the pieces and their relation together create values more important than the single moments, aimed at “illustrating” in a madrigalistic style (in the modern sense, that is never in the original conception) the words and their emotional repercussions, and the insufficiency (or the power?) of symbolic language.

S.G. 3.9.14


I - The Expiration

So, so, breake off this last lamenting kisse,
Which sucks two soules, and vapors Both away,
Turne thou ghost that way, and let mee turne this,
And let our selves benight our happiest day,
We ask’d none leave to love; nor will we owe
Any, so cheape a death, as saying, Goe;

Goe; and if that word have not quite kil’d thee,
Ease me with death, by bidding mee goe too.
Oh, if it have, let my word worke on mee,
And a just office on a murderer doe.
Except it be too late, to kill me so,
Being double dead, going, and bidding, goe.

* * *

II-Lettera To the Honourable Knight, Sir ROBERT KARRE


THOUGH I have left my bed, I have not left my bed-side; I sit there still, and as a Prisoner discharged sits at the Prison doore, to beg Fees, so sit I here, to gather crummes. I have used this leisure, to put the meditations had in my sicknesse, into some such order, as may minister some holy delight. They arise to so many sheetes (perchance 20.) as that without saying for that furniture of an Epistle, That my Friends importun’d me to Print them, I importune my Friends to receive them Printed. That, being in hand, through this long Trunke, that reaches from Saint Pauls, to Saint James, I whisper into your earre this question, whether there be any uncomlinesse, or unseasonablenesse, in presenting matter of Devotion, or Mortiļ¬cation, to that Prince, whom I pray God nothing may ever Mortiļ¬e, but Holinesse. If you allow my purposes in generall, I pray cast your eye upon the Title and the Epistle, and rectiļ¬e me in them: I submit substance, and circumstance to you, and the poore Author of both,

Your very humble and very thankfull
in Christ Jesus
J. Donne.

* * *

III - Negative Love

I never stoop’d so low, as they
Which on an eye, cheeke, lip, can prey,
Seldome to them, which soare no higher
Then vertue or the minde to’admire,
For sense, and understanding may
Know, what gives fuell to their fire:
My love, though silly, is more brave,
For may I misse, when ere I crave,
If I know yet, what I would have.

If that be simply perfectest
Which can by no way be exprest
But Negatives, my love is so.
To All, which all love, I say no.
If any who deciphers best,
What we know not, our selves, can know,
Let him teach mee that nothing; This
As yet my ease, and comfort is,
Though I speed not, I cannot misse.

* * *

IV - The triple Foole

I am two fooles, I know,
For loving, and for saying so
In whining Poetry;
But where’s that wiseman, that would not be I,
If she would not deny?
Then as th’earths inward narrow crooked lanes
Do purge sea waters fretfull salt away,
I thought, if I could draw my paines
Through Rimes vexation, I should them allay,
Griefe brought to numbers cannot be so fierce,
For, he tames it, that fetters it in verse.

But when I have done so,
Some man, his art and voice to show,
Doth Set and sing my paine,
And, by delighting many, frees againe
Griefe, which verse did restraine.
To Love, and Griefe tribute of Verse belongs,
But not of such as pleases when’tis read,
Both are increased by such songs:
For both their triumphs so are published,
And I, which was two fooles, do so grow three;
Who are a little wise, the best fooles bee.


I-III-IV da “John Donne, Songs and sonnets”
II da “John Donne, Letters to severall persons of honour, a cura di Charles Edmund Merrill, New York, Sturgis & Walton Company, 1910”.
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