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O Swallow, Swallow
Words by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Published by John Church & Co., Cincinnati, 1900.


Sullivan was commissioned to set three lyrics from Tennyson's The Princess by John Church & Co., of Cincinnati in January 1900. In the event, Sullivan completed only two: O Swallow, Swallow and Tears, Idle Tears. Both songs were sung at St. James's Hall in October 1900 at a concert by Kennerley Rumford, Clara Butt's husband. However, the reviewer for The Times was not impressed by Sullivan's settings:

MR. AND MRS. RUMFORD’S CONCERT
(excerpt)

Mr. Rumford’s songs included the magnificent “Serious songs” of Brahms, sung in perfect style, Somervell’s “Weep you no more,” and Stanford’s vigorous “Battle of Pelusium,” and a couple of fairly effective new songs by Sir Arthur Sullivan, the first appropriately sombre and the second inappropriately merry; although the latter was encored and repeated, it is difficult to accept the songs as an adequate musical equivalent of two of the lovliest lyrics in the language, Tennyson’s “Tears, idle tears,” and “O, swallow, swallow,” both of which have been a good deal more happily treated by more than one composer. (The Times, 15th October 1900.)


Karaoke File


O Swallow, Swallow, flying, flying South,
Fly to her, and fall upon her gilded eaves,
And tell her, tell her what I tell to thee.

O tell her, Swallow, thou that knowest each,
That bright and fierce and fickle is the South,
And dark and true and tender,
Dark and true and tender is the North.

O Swallow, Swallow, if I could follow, and light
Upon her lattice, I would pipe and trill,
Would pipe and trill and chirp and twitter twenty million loves.

O were I thou that she might take me in,
And lay me on her bosom, and her heart
Would rock the snowy cradle till I died.
Why ling'reth she to clothe her heart with love,
Delaying as the tender ash delays
To clothe herself, when all the woods are green?

O tell her Swallow, that thy brood is flown:
O say to her, I do but wanton in the South,
But wanton in the South,
But in the North, in the North long since my nest was made.

O tell her, brief is life but love is long,
Brief is life but love is long,
And brief the sun of summer in the North,
And brief the moon of beauty in the South.

O Swallow, flying from the golden woods,
Fly to her, and pipe and woo, and make her mine,
And tell her, tell her, that I follow thee.

Tell her, tell her that I follow thee;
Fly to her and pipe and woo her,
Pipe and woo her and make her mine.
And tell her, tell her that I follow, follow thee!

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