Alfred Edward Housman, 1859-1936, bust portrait. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
by Samuel Barber (1910-1981)
Samuel Barber (1910-1981) wrote songs for voice and piano throughout his career. His first, a setting of a poem by Eugene Field, was written when he was only seven years old and his last, "Three Songs, op. 45," was written when he was in his early sixties. Barber 's first published set of songs, "Three Songs, op. 2," includes "With rue my heart is laden" on a poem by Englishman, Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936). Housman's poem comes from his collection titled "A Shropshire Lad," a cycle of 63 poems published at the author's own expense in 1896. The poems have been set by many of England's finest song composers including George Butterworth, Ivor Gurney, and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
Samuel Barber's setting of "With rue my heart is laden" was dedicated to his close friend Gama Gilbert. The setting was published in 1936, eight years after its composition, by G. Schirmer as the second song of Barber's "Three Songs, op. 2." The group of three songs also includes two settings of poems by James Stephens (1882-1950). The poems, "The Daisies" and "Bessie Bobtail" were set by Barber in 1927 and 1934 respectively. One of the earliest performances of Barber's "Three Songs, op.2" was given by Rose Bampton, who also sang the New York premiere of Barber's "Dover Beach," and Edith Evans Braun at a birthday concert dedicated to the music of Samuel Barber at the Curtis Institute in 1937. This was the first time that a concert had been given which was completely dedicated to Barber's music.