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Alison Willis

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Composer Alison Willis

Year of Composition



ca. 4'

Student Difficulty

Categories (all composers) ,
Catalogue ID ce-aw1s1


This piece is based on the traditional folk song ‘Polly Vaughan’.

A young man goes out hunting by the setting of the sun and seeing something white in the bushes, thinks it a swan. He shoots and to his horror discovers he has killed his lover, wrapped in her white apron and sheltering from a rain shower.

Baring-Gould commented that there is some similarity to Celtic legends about ‘The Swan Maidens’ and Roy Palmer recalls the story of the death of Procris in the classical antiquity. A more mundane interpretation is that the invention of the rifle inevitably led to an increase in accidents while hunting!

I have combined this with a Latin text, Cycni (13.77) by Martial, a Roman poet from Hispania (modern Spain) best known for his twelve books of Epigrams, published in Rome between AD 86 and 103.