John Fletcher (1579-1625), was best known throughout the Royal Court as a playwright. Collaborating with many well known playwrights of the time, his own fame rivaled that of Shakespeare, with whom he also collaborated on plays. Throughout his successful writing career, he primarily wrote what are considered 'tragicomedies'. At times, it is described that during his collaborations Fletcher would use devices that broek away from traditional styles and meters, which frustrated collaborators and audiences at time. Still, his writing style is revered and memorialized in the works of many composers.
Come, sleep, and with thy sweet deceiving
Lock me in delight awhile;
Let some pleasing dream beguile
All my fancies, that from thence
I may feel an influence,
All my powers of care bereaving.
Tho’ but a shadow, but a sliding,
Let me know some little joy.
We, that suffer long annoy,
Are contented with a thought
Thro’ an idle fancy wrought:
O let my joys have some abiding.
Tragic and beautiful are two words that come to mind with this poetry. Tragedy in the persistent asking of release from the world, either through actual sleep or death by means of using 'sleep' as a metaphor, and beautiful through the imagery conjured. "Suffering", "fancies" "powers", "delight" are powerfully used to aptly describe how we would either dream of escaping from the world in dreams or being released from our physical bodies/life.
As such, the work uses instances, like m. 39 (vocal and accompaniment) and other similar harmonic structures, to create a 'pulling' and 'yearning' quality that the text so aptly contains. The premise of the entire piece is to create a calling/pulling into another realm - sleep or death. Throughout, there are various outpourings of emotion where the main character cries for such sweet releases ("lock me in delight"). The use of “poco rit.” and “a tempo” are to help guide a larger sense of rubato throughout. While temporal freedom is encouraged to be explored, be mindful that one does not become ‘seasick’ as a result.
At the approach to the final measures ("let my joys"), let the text be the foremost guide in creating a final portrait and emotional connection. Structure phrases so that there is equal 'push' and 'pull'. This will create the most effective performance possible.
Voicing: SSATB, piano