from Two Poems by John Masefield (1918) by Charles Tomlinson Griffes
Charles Tomlinson Griffes's Two Poems by John Masefield was composed in July 1918 but published posthumously by G. Schirmer in 1920. The first of the two songs in the collection, "An Old Song Re-sung," is a rhythmic piece very much in the spirit of a sea-shanty. The text, by John Masefield (1878-1967), the British poet laureate known as "the Poet of the Sea," recounts a dramatic tale of the pilfered treasures that are lost, along with the pirates' lives, when catastrophe befalls the ship.
Organized in three verses, Griffes's song opens in a cheerful and energetic fashion. The jovial mood is short-lived and deceptive, as the final verse describes the sinking of the ship and the deaths of the drunken seamen. Griffes musically depicts this tragedy with an agitated accompaniment featuring movement by a semitone in the left-hand at the work's conclusion, thereby sealing the sailors' doom.
In addition to housing the published edition of the song, the Music Division at the Library of Congress is also the repository of the holograph version of Griffes's "An Old Song Re-sung," acquired from Griffes's family in 1923. By studying the manuscript in the composer's hand, scholars and musicians can appreciate Griffes's penmanship as well as his attention to detail.