Venanzio Rauzzini
(1746 - 1810)

Rauzzini : Old Oliver, or The Dying Shepherd : illustration

Old Oliver, or The Dying Shepherd
(Song)
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Sung at the Bath concerts by John Braham. This cantata is, frankly, a puzzle. Peter Pindar (John Wolcot) was an author of incisive satire and, by repute, the highest earning writer of his times. Rauzzini must have encountered the interest in the dignity of the labouring man developed in his later years by Thomas Gainsborough, and copied by his ardent imitator, Thomas Barker of Bath. The latter's portrait of Charlie Kelston, woodcutter, was lauded by Rauzzini's house-guest Joseph Haydn (who bought multiple copies) as the most faithful depiction of the hardships of working life for fifty years. How then could this partnership produce a work so mawkish, in which the listener is invited to eavesdrop the ancient's dying expirations in A major, one of the brightest keys? Perhaps the piece is intended as parodied over-sentimentality, in which case it has not worn well.
Lyrics: Peter Pindar (John Wolcot)

The shepherd Oliver, grown white with years,
Like some old oak, weigh'd down with winter snows,
Now drew the village sighs and village tears,
His eyelids sinking to their last repose.
Yet e'er expired life's trembling flame, and pale,
Thus to the bleating bands around his door,
That seem'd to mourn his absence from their vale,
The feeble shepherd spoke, and spoke no more.

Oh, my flock! whose sweet voices I hear.
Adieu, ah! for ever adieu.
No more on your hills I appear,
And together our pleasure pursue.
Ah! no more, no more.
No more at the peep of the day
From valley to valley we rove,
'Mid the streamlets and verdure of May,
'Mid the zephyrs and shade of the grove.
Ah! no more, no more.

No more to my voice shall ye run,
And bleating your shepherd surround;
And while I repose in the sun,
Like a guard, watch my sleep on the ground.
Ah! no more, no more.
When winter with tempest and cold
Dims the eye of pale Nature with woe,
I lead you no more to the fold,
With your fleeces all cover'd with snow.
Ah! no more, no more.

Oh! mourn not at Oliver's death:
Unwept my last sand let it fall;
You too must resign your sweet breath,
For who his past years can recall.
Ah! no more, no more.
O take all your shepherd can give!
Receive my last thanks and last sigh,
Whose simplicity taught me to live,
And whose innocence teaches to die.
Ah! no more, no more.