The Song of the Mad Prince


(Eb Major)

Who said, ‘Peacock Pie’?
The old King to the sparrow;
Who said, ‘Crops are ripe’?
Rust to the harrow.

Who said: ‘Where sleeps she now,
‘Where rests she now her head?
‘Bathed in eve’s loveliness?
That’s what I said.

Who said: ‘Aye, mum’s the word’?
Sexton to willow:
Who said:
‘Green dusk for dreams,’
Moss for a pillow’?

Who said:
‘All Time’s delight
Hath she for narrow bed;
Life’s troubled bubble broken’?
That’s what I said.

‘I am The Mad Prince now,
My father, and my mother
Ponder, and ponder how
My madness is like no other.
Dressed in my finery,
I mourn her, now she’s dead
No riddle will word her to me’
That’s what I said!

Walter de la Mare / additional verse and song setting: Frank Callery, Wed 22nd January, 2020.

I wrote this song looking at Harry Clarke’s most exquisite stained glass work, “The Song of the Mad Prince,” in the National Gallery of Ireland. The subject of this beautiful panel is derived from a poem of the same name included in Walter de la Mare’s collections Peacock Pie (1913). In Clarke’s panel, the Prince, wearing exquisitely embellished, Elizabethan-style clothing, stands in front of his mother and father.

Harry experimented in the production of this work, etching and plating together two double pieces of glass of different colours to achieve a variety of colours and tones. Housed in a bespoke walnut cabinet by James Hicks, ( with has the text of the poem engraved in the plinth base of the cabinet, made in 1927. The panel was originally made for Thomas Bodkin, Clarke’s friend and patron and later Director of the National Gallery of Ireland. It was purchased by the gallery in 1987. It is NCI.12074. This is considered a nonsense poem but it does not fit the genre and is actually about the ‘she Ophelia and the I of Hamlet, with many allusions to the text of the play. I wrote an additional Chorus to round off this song by a fascinating writer, Walter de la Mere.

Harry Clarke’s beautiful stained glass piece, The Song of The Mad Prince, 1917.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s