Simples captures the affections of James Joyce for his young daughter, Lucia, as he watches her gather herbs in a garden in Trieste. It’s a lighthearted interlude that begs to delve into Joyce's more characteristic wistfulness.
Lucia Joyce, herself, was an intriguing figure and has captured the imagination of artists and writers as a tragic muse. An accomplished dancer, she counted the Irish novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett among her intimates. The Paris Times remarked in 1928, “When she reaches her full capacity for rhythmic dancing, James Joyce may yet be known as his daughter’s father.”
(The cover photo on the sheet music for Simples is of Lucia Joyce as a Parisian dancer.)
Simples is available for high voice (soprano or tenor) and medium voice (mezzo-soprano or baritone). It is also part of my collection of ten art songs on poems by James Joyce that I wrote during the winter and spring of 2019:
O bella, bionda
sei come l'onda
Of cool sweet dew and radiance mild
The moon a web of silence weaves
In the still garden where a child
Gathers the simple salad leaves.
A moon-dew stars her hanging hair,
And moonlight touches her young brow;
And, gathering, she sings an air:
"Fair as the wave is, fair art thou."
Be mine, I pray, a waxen ear
To shield me from her childish croon,
And mine a shielded heart to her
Who gathers simples of the moon.
James Joyce, 1882 - 1941