A mowed, grassy hill, with a cloudy, blue sky in the background.

On the Hill-Side

for unaccompanied SATB

Text by Radclyffe (John) Hall (1861–1889)

On the Hill-Side

You lay so still in the sunshine,

So still in that hot sweet hour—

That the timid things of the forest land

Came close; a butterfly lit on your hand,

Mistaking it for a flower.

You scarcely breathed in your slumber,

So dreamless it was, so deep—

While the warm air stirred in my veins like wine,

The air that had blown through a jasmine vine,

But you slept—and I let you sleep.

A black and white image of a person in a suit, looking into the camera and clutching a small dog.

English poet and author Radclyffe (John; she went by both) Hall is most well-known for The Well of Loneliness, her lesbian novel which caused much scandal in 20th-century England and America. She herself was a lesbian and self-described "congenital invert.

"On the Hill-Side" is such a vulnerable

poem—A true distillation of unbridled love. Hall's florid description of her lover, paired with the mixed emotions that come with that love, make a tumultuous feeling of excitement, which all occurs while her partner sleeps soundly.

My setting of this poem for SATB (with divisi) is a fairly traditional choral setting, apart from a free middle section, in which each singer sings or hums their line ad libitum.

"On the Hill-Side" was premiered by a pickup choir of students and faculty from Mount Allison University, including the composer, on November 25, 2019.

Score video courtesy of Scorefol.io

Video may not work on all browsers; for me it worked on Chrome and mobile Safari but not desktop Safari.