Six poems for high voice and piano from The Book of Nonsense by Mervyn Peake 

Poems used by permission of Peter Owen Ltd, London 



These songs are very much an opus 1 and are the only pieces from my student days that have survived into the life thereafter. They were written casually and quickly as a distraction during a dull and gloomy Christmas holiday in 1979, and seem to have an immediacy that other, more considered works from this period lacked, perhaps bogged down by the weight of too much learning. They were performed in Bristol and London, and an ensemble version was made of them. I’ve tinkered with them a few times since then, but not in a major way, and I am grateful to Jane Manning for her advocacy of the original version; performing them, helping out with practical adjustments and featuring them in her New Vocal Repertory 2 (OUP 1999) where she states: ‘A perfectly proportioned miniature cycle of six songs, this should be very popular indeed with performers and audiences’.  

1. O here it is! And there it is!

2. O little fly!

3. Little spider

4. O love! O death! O ecstasy!

5. Crocodiles

6. An old and crumbling parapet

First performed 22 February 1980 by Simon Lebens and Peter Skuce. Great Hall, University of Bristol