Victorian Song

Session 3 of the Victorian Vision Online involved the class each having to find a Victorian song, post up the lyrics, and tell their classmates something about it.  This made an interesting swerve as the online exercise after an in-class session on Victorian poetry where in some ways the discussion had been more ‘highbrow’, considering the ways in which Victorian poetry found itself marginalised in the period and struggling to find a sense of its own purpose and role as the novel took centre stage.  The idea for this session online came from a colleague of mine, Hilary Weeks, several years ago.

For the first time thus far with the VVO sessions I don’t send the class a reminder/prompt email about the session.  I figure by this point in the term they should be into the groove of the sessions and able to follow the programme of when they happen.  Sure enough they don’t have any problems getting on with the task.  I log in on Monday morning, after three days, and find lots of posts.  I had posted a number of links to suggested websites where I thought students might find examples of Victorian songs but they have also used other resources.  One student posts that she spent Sunday afternoon listening to a CD of Victorian songs, and her chosen song is a poem called ‘The Lost Chord’ by Adelaide Procter, set to music by Arthur Sullivan in 1887.  She is surprised and even a little outraged that she can find so little reference to Procter anywhere.

There are quite a lot of hymns and Christmas carols posted up — a good reminder that the Victorian period is one of quite a lot of faith as well as doubt — and I’m often impressed by the level of analysis that the class are giving to their finds.  A terrific discussion kicks off starting from someone posting ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’, written by Cecil Frances Alexander and published in 1848 (it ends up as a ‘thread’ of 19 posts).  The discussion goes all over the place, and is popular probably because so many of the class can remember singing this hymn at school.  A debate starts as to whether children should have to sing hymns in school at all and it ends up in a discussion of religion as the opium of the people and class suppressor when someone finds the now omitted second verse: 

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

Another student makes the most of my encouragement to the class to interact with each other well on the forum and posts all but the last verse of a popular music hall song.  With the subject line of ‘What happens next?’ he invites classmates to suggest how the song’s story turns out.   Great stuff.