Vital spark of heavenly flame (William Jackson of Exeter)

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  • (Posted 2021-03-01)  CPDL #63229:  Network.png
Editor: Christopher Shaw (submitted 2021-03-01).   Score information: A4, 13 pages, 816 kB   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: Please click on the link for preview/playback/PDF download. Includes continuo 'cello part

General Information

Title: Vital spark of heavenly flame
Composer: William Jackson of Exeter
Lyricist: Alexander Pope

Number of voices: 2vv   Voicings: SS or TT
Genre: SacredSacred song

Language: English
Instruments: Basso continuo

First published: 1766
Description: Pope's Ode "The dying Christian to his soul" was popular with Anglophone protestant congregations of all denominations, and is represented in psalmody by several settings, both in England and in North America. Jackson's setting may be for a different purpose. This piece, in full-blown rococo trio sonata style, is reminiscent of his own canzonets (themselves modelled on those of his tutor, John Travers of the Chapel Royal). Perhaps the intended use was for concert or domestic performance, by professional singers, such as the Linley sisters. Jackson was most interested in discussing the aesthetics of his art (he corresponded with Thomas Gainsborough on this topic). In the frontispiece to this item he observed: " The Ode [text] is not altered in any respect from the is sufficiently known and admired. Perhaps it may be worth remarking, that it is the only piece of Pope's fit for music, tho' never intended for it...I have aimed more at style, than composition. There is intended to be contrivance enough to engage, without perplexing the attention. I would be easily understood by the ignorant, but not so perfectly to discard art as to be despised by the skilful."

External websites:

Original text and translations

Original text and translations may be found at The dying Christian to his soul.