21.6 x 13.8 cm. Oxford Theatre Texts 8
Highly praised by the critics, Living Creation is Francis Warner’s tenth successful play. It tells the story of Lorenzo de’ Medici’s dominance over Florence, of his patronage of the poets and artists, and particularly of his relationship with Botticelli (whose life unifies the action), and covers the death first of Lorenzo’s brother, then of himself against the background of Savonarola’s rise to power, fall, and execution.
Francis Warner, the Oxford poet and dramatist, has given vivid expression to the civic and religious conflicts of the Medicis, Savonarola, and their contemporaries in renaissance Florence.
Much of the action concerns Botticelli’s creation of some of his masterpieces - shown in colour slide projections - [and] their impact on his fellow Florentines. . . .
Mr Warner, in language that is invariably compulsive and heightened by the richness of sensitive, forceful imagery, has brought to the stage the intrigue, the religious sourness, the savage cruelty and also the beauty of the Florence of the Medicis.’ The Stage
Francis Warner has done Oxford a real service by choosing to stage his latest play at the Examination Schools.
His verse takes on a new muscularity and sensitivity. The large and able cast respond. And Greta Verdin’s beautifully staged and orchestrated production has the same hypnotic appeal as a Botticelli painting.’ Oxford Mail More info →
21.6 x 13.8 cm.
‘Francis Warner’s play in celebration of the quincentenary of François I’s birth in 1494 is an act of courage. . . . It opens in 1515, on the king’s return from fighting the Swiss, and takes us to his death in 1547.
'Along the way, we meet not only the king himself, but also figures at least equal in prestige: Charles V, King of Spain and Holy Roman Emperor, Clément Marot, Leonardo da Vinci, Marguerite de Navarre. . . . The play maintains a consistently coherent line. Tim Prentki, as director, deserves his share of the credit for carrying forward this complex tale.
'We hear of François as king, warrior, husband, lover/philanderer, patron of the arts, huntsman, opponent of the Sorbonne, creator of institutions free from the domination of the Church, religious bigot, and many things more>. . . The whole is constructed on the basis of serious research into the period and the characters concerned.’ Oxford Magazine
‘It is a substantial play, in verse, which presents an intriguing picture of the Renaissance court. Francis’s patronage of the arts appears to spring as much from interests of state and princely one-upmanship as from his much-vaunted love of beauty. But it also provokes one of the play’s most poignant scenes, the death of Leonardo da Vinci. King Frances I deserves to be widely performed.’ Church Times
'King Francis I takes its place in an enterprise aimed at producing a vast historical vision.’ Oxford Magazine
Killing Time, the centrepiece of Francis Warner’s Requiem trilogy, is a study of war and of its roots in each one of us. The play was performed at the 1975 Edinburgh Festival, where it won high acclaim.
'The plays of Francis Warner have, by daring appeal to the realms of music and physiology, considerably widened the area of sensibility of those properly responsive to them. . . . Killing Time is not for all markets, but where it is appreciated it will fetch a high price.’ Harold Hobson, The Sunday Times
‘Dramatic and provoking. . . . Excellent acting by an experienced cast.’ The Scotsman
'Killing Time completes a remarkable trilogy by one of Britain’s leading playwrights. Warner is not an “easy” playwright. His works bristle with intellect and although his characters are genuinely human the situations in which they find themselves are often dramatically bizarre.’ Cambridge Evening News
'Killing Time is a difficult play to assess in conventional terms. Nevertheless this is a truly intellectual play. . . a diverse but consciously poetic vision of war as a “fever in the brain”.’ Edinburgh Festival Times
'Killing Time is an important philosophical and moral work. Set in the human brain, it is a series of vignettes on the subject of war, all carefully counterpointed to reflect the biological working patterns of the brain. Not so much a play as a theatrical poem or mathematical theorem, it is unashamedly intellectual, frequently provoking and always demanding.’ The Stage
21.6 x 13.8 cm. Oxford Theatre Texts 9
'Francis Warner has shown once more he is a masterful poet and dramatist. Healing Nature, his eleventh play, is his best work to date. The action centres round Pericles, the aristocratic general, commandingly played by Rob Smith, as he creates "an Athens all the world will imitate", only to see the tide of fortune turn and the empire fall into decay. Its exploration of the dilemmas facing empire-builders and empire- losers is original, thought-provoking, and relevant.
‘It is a compelling play which combines the grand, heroic drama of Marlowe's Tamburlaine with moments of exquisitely delicate lyric poetry and unexpected dashes of humour.' The Stage
'A real treat in poetry was to be had in the Sheldonian last night. This was the première performance of Healing Nature, by Francis Warner. . . The play is about the turmoil that the birth pangs of democracy bring to a city, and the revolution and hostilities that accompany it.
‘Francis Warner's play was safe in the hands of the Oxford University Dramatic Society, who, under the direction of Mark Payton, put on a classically Greek production. All brought out the Shakespearian quality of the play's verse and depth of meaning. And there could have been no better setting than the magnificent amphitheatre that is the Sheldonian.' Oxford Mail.
A ‘contemporary classic’ Oxford MailMore info →
21.6 x 13.8 cm. Oxford Theatre Texts 13
‘This is a study in “Weimar as a mode of spiritual life’, as Thomas Mann might have called it: the spirit of the place reflected in a swift series of sparkling encounters, bewildering in its variety, stirring in its epic scope.
'The vision was conveyed though some splendid acting. . . . Here they are, the secular saints of German Kulturreligion; all conjured up with perfect ease and conviction. This play is about people, some more, some less noble, but all noble in their efforts and, in Faustian fashion, “ever striving”. . .
'In the end, what counts is language, the language of poetry (as Herder would have been the first to insist). The verse is effortless and pure, and rises on occasion to noble resonance.
'For readers of German literature, this language holds special delights. In addition to the poems and the plays, the novels and the essays, contemporary letters, diaries, reported conversations are continually present. Much learning, lightly worn, has gone into this play.
'An example. At the end of the play, the audience is left with a masterly translation of the most celebrated of Goethe’s, perhaps of all German poems (“Über allen Gipfeln/ist Ruh”).
'The end is sombre, indeed. This mystery play promises no salvation. The sound of cannons is a moving and fitting end to Goethe’s Weimar.' Oxford Magazine
'The scale is Shakespearean, with a huge cast (thirty speaking parts) sweeping through time and place in flowing blank verse. . . . Warner is excellently served by his actors; Daniel Cassiel brings gravitas to Goethe, and Ian Drysdale achieves an astonishing double as Schiller and Napoleon. Tim Prentki produces smoothly as always.' Oxford TimesMore info →
hbk 21.6 x 13.8 cm. Oxford Theatre Texts 5
In an empty circle, and without props, Francis Warner recreated for the 1978 Observer Oxford Festival of Theatre the world of late adolescence, of boys and girls caught in the process of becoming men and women.
‘Superbly and masterfully played’ (Oxford Mail), this beautifully balanced, minutely complex play examines the familiar Warnerian preoccupations, this time in a comedy of love, rich in poetry and generous in spiritMore info →
This volume, the first full collection of Francis Warner’s poems for more than twenty years, confirmed his position as a master of lyric form, and also made possible a deeper awareness of the consistency of his development, and the range of his poetic achievement.
Collected Poems contains sonnets in every classical form – also sonnets reversed, inside-out, upside-down, ends-to-middle, with centre-rhyme, boot-lace rhyme, in two voices, acrostic, double acrostic. . . . Far from being merely a cascade of virtuosity, they are filled with deep emotion and rich experience, as well as being precisely made: modifications of the form grown from the pressure and directions of the emotions. The ‘dark’ sonnets are here (this time along with more than fifty others), but these now can be seen set in their original context, the sequence Experimental Sonnets – a book about which much has been written, on account of its technical innovations and its range of feeling, but the full text of which had been unavailable for twenty years.
In addition to such longer poems as his classical evocation Perennia, and over one hundred lyrics brought together for the first time, there are songs from ten plays.
‘Some of the most rewarding and individual poetry of the last quarter century.’ Glyn Pursglove in Francis Warner’s Poetry (1988)More info →
Selected Prose & Related Documents
336 pp. 23.4 x 13.5 cm illus. in colour and monochrome
Poet of the Second World War and peacetime dramatist, Francis Warner was 75 this year (2012). This, the first selection from his prose, gives readers of his work some indication of the historical and intellectual background from which his poetry has sprung: of 'the giant race before the flood' who lived on to help shape Britain's post-war imagination.
Starting with memories of the Blitz and his poem 'Blitz Requiem', Warner recalls his schooldays at Christ's Hospital, Horsham, recovering from six years of war, and the role played by music.
He writes of his friends: 'Henry Chadwick: Musician', Kathleen Raine as fellow poet, C. S. Lewis and the Psalms, Henry Moore, Francis Bacon, Edmond Blunden, and Samuel Beckett, reproducing the manuscripts off two short plays Beckett discussed with and gave to him. Other subjects include W. B. Yeats, Benjamin Britten and the Japanese Noh plays, Samuel Palmer as poet, and Hugh Wybrew's Liturgical Texts of the Orthodox Church.
The book concludes with 'Francis Warner as Musician in Performance' an illustrative CD with music by Honegger, Vaughan Williams, and Warner's collaborator the composer and organist David Goode: and Stephen Cleobury conducting the Choir of King's College Cambridge singing one of their anthems.
Francis Warner DLitt, Hon. DMus, is Emeritus Fellow of St Peter's College, Oxford, and Honorary Fellow of St Catharine's College, Cambridge.
Armageddon and Faith: a Survivor's Meditation on the Blitz, 1940-45
Remembrance Sunday Sermon, King's College Chapel, Cambridge, 2011
Four War Sonnets
Christ's Hospital Three and Sixty Years Ago
Henry Chadwick: Musician
The Song that is Christmas
A Cambridge Friendship: Kathleen Raine and Francis Warner
C. S. Lewis and the Revision of the Psalter
A Blessing on C. S. Lewis's home in Oxford, The Kilns
Foreword to Hugh Wybrew: Liturgical Texts of the Orthodox Church
The Bones and the Flesh: Henry Moore and Francis Bacon
Samuel Palmer's Poem 'The Sorceress'
James Joyce's Poetry
J. M. Synge's Poetry
Edmund Blunden's Pastoral Poetry
Richard Wall's rondeau cycle In Aliquot Parts
Japanese Noh plays and W. B. Yeats, Benjamin Britten and Samuel Beckett
Manuscript of Beckett's Breath
The Absence of Nationalism in the Work of Samuel Beckett
Manuscript of Beckett's Sans, and covering Letter
A Cup of Coffee in Paris, by Penelope Warner
Francis Warner as a Musician in the1950s, by Bernard Martin
Compact disc: Francis Warner as Musician in Performance
Anthem for Christ the King
21.6 x 13.8 cm. Oxford Theatre Texts 10
‘Oxford University Dramatic Society (OUDS) gave the première of Francis Warner’s new play Byzantium in King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, followed by two performances in the University Church, Oxford, and another in Winchester Cathedral.
‘Byzantium is a play in two acts. It opens in 527 A.D. with the service in which Justinian is crowned Emperor in succession to his uncle Justin. In Act One Justinian is full of zeal and optimism for the tasks which his vision sets before him. Act Two is altogether more sombre, with unrest at home, news of a catastrophic earthquake in Beirut, and even Byzantium itself plague-stricken and the Empress herself dying. Moreover, the Emperor is plotted against by wily Cappadocian, who is trapped by the spirited Antonina, only to be spared from death by the Christian magnanimity of Justinian.
‘This complex background is sketched lightly yet comprehensively by Warner in elegant and beautiful verse, which was delivered with clarity and fluency by an admirable young cast directed by Tim Prentki
‘Warner did not choose an easy subject with Byzantium. He chose a challenge and he rose to that challenge and surmounted it magnificently. He is a master of plot and characterisation, and, indeed, of the English language, which he commands with a benign authority and loving finesse.’ The StageMore info →
56pp. illus. 27.0 x 19.0 cm.
The first performance of David Goode's Eight Sonnets by Francis Warner was given in the hall of King's College, Cambridge, 14 June 2015, on the occasion of the retirement of the College Chaplain, Richard Lloyd Morgan, and sung by him with David Goode at the piano.
'Sometimes a summer's day begins in mist'
'I did not see the bombs fall on the Thames'
'Was it mere chance that brought the mating hare'
'Should we preserve intensity alone'
'Night wins. The realizing dark'
'Just now is dawn, and I am out of doors'
'Twenty-eight fighter bombers overhead'
'The held cascade of vaulting stone unites'
With a recording of the Sonnets, which can be obtained separately atMore info →
1954-2000. An annotated edition of the poems Cambridge and Oxford
With over 120 pages of annotation and documentation by the poet and other Emeriti, Incl. Henry Chadwick and R.W. Burchfield.
This volume contains the texts of Francis Warner's Cambridge and Oxford, together with detailed notes to the people and places mentioned in the Poems.
‘One of the great teachers’ (Oxford Today, Michaelmas issue, 1998)
Francis Warner, MA (Cantab.) DLitt (Oxon.) divides his time between St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, where he used to teach and is now an Honorary Fellow, and St Peter’s College, Oxford, where he used to teach and is now an Emeritus Fellow, and Dean of Degrees.
Here he looks back over the last half century in his two universities with gratitude. This book takes the form of two poems, each describing a walk and the friends he meets and visits, or remembers: around Cambridge one night in winter, around Oxford one summer afternoon.
This new edition is fully annotated and documented, and as a result has become one poet’s portrait of his generation; of those who experienced the Second World War (some of them the First World War as well), and then devoted their lives to teaching the young in these twin cities.
‘You profoundly evoke the Cambridge of your youth.’ Henry Chadwick
‘The flow of characters through your Cambridge is the very living essence of what was good there. Your poem is truly matter from the heart, and the true heart of Cambridge.
‘I hope your picture of Oxford remains true . . . the continuity of values, the concern for the young, not the star performers but small things like reading a colleague’s piece of writing to check the notes; and whatever is the opposite of name-dropping – Bowra appearing because he was kind to his mother, Edmund Blunden because of his courage in suffering his traumatic memories of the First World War, Auden roused from a fit of gloom by a martini to give a glowing teaching-session to students sitting on your floor . . . musical rehearsals, trees, college gardens . . . beauty looking out from many places, in works of art and nature, half-perceived as you come and go in a civilized way of life . . . from friend to friend, generation to generation.
‘I can seen now how all your work has built up to a unity. It is about civilization – or perhaps a civilization, the one we inherit, and selects certain moments, certain people, who represent and have carried that civilization right from its beginnings. It is quite something to have done, Francis, and I am grateful.’ Kathleen RaineMore info →
278pp. 27.0 x 19.0 cm.
This book is the outcome of over a decade's collaboration between three friends: David Goode as composer, Francis Warner as librettist, and Stephen Cleobury as choirmaster.
David Goode, words by Francis Warner
Anthem for All Saints' Day
Anthem for St Catharine's Day
Anthem for St Cecilia's Day
Anthem for St Peter's Day
Anthem for the Visitation
Anthem for Christ the King
Variations on a Theme by Francis Warner
With a CD of these works sung by the Choir of King's College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Cleobury during Choral servicesMore info →
ISBN: Volume 2 :0-86140-373-8 £17.50
ISBN: The pair : 0-86140--374-6 £40.00
Written over the past twenty-two years Agora contains Francis Warner’s plays originally published in the Oxford Theatre Texts series, the theme of which is the West’s odyssey in discovery of its own values, and – in the second half of the work – what the Twentieth Century has done with them.
The first half of the epic (Volume 1) meets the classical tradition on its own grounds. It opens with Healing Nature, a play about Periclean Athens, and this is followed by a trilogy of Roman plays – Virgil and Caesar, Moving Reflections and Light Shadows – then Byzantium, and concludes with Living Creation, a dramatisation of Renaissance Florence under Lorenzo de’ Medici.
The second half (Volume II), opening with A Conception of Love, a comedy of love to mark the half-way point, is set in the Twentieth Century, and uses Twentieth Century techniques. It contains Maquettes for the Requiem Trilogy and the plays themselves, Lying Figures, Killing Time and Meeting Ends. Added as an appendix is Tim Prentki’s Introduction to the one volume edition of Requiem, published in 1980.
‘Common to all these plays is a focusing on a moment in history when the attempt was made to ennoble the life of man, to produce that great society, radiant in arts and civilised in politics, which is the mirage that haunts the traveller through the dusty plains of human history. Choice spirits struggle to unite beauty, justice, peace. Of course the struggle is always lost in the end. . . . Detailed. . . accurate . . . moving, with convincing dramatic power, Warner’s verse filled the ear satisfyingly, and echoes in the memory.’ Jasper Griffin, in Oxford Magazine
‘He is a master of plot and characterization, and, indeed, of the English language, which he commands with a benign authority and loving finesse.' The Stage
A ‘contemporary classic’ Oxford Mail
‘The remarkable series of dramas written by our most adventurous experimental playwright.’ The Times
‘Francis Warner is the most remarkable of those dramatists of our time who have striven to push the limits of theatre beyond their age-old limits. His plays have, by daring appeal to the realms of music and physiology, considerably widened the area of sensibility of those properly responsive to them. They are unique, possibly the only truly unique drama of our time.’ Sir Harold Hobson in The Sunday Times
‘The sort of illuminated shorthand of his style, allied to his arresting visual images, is clearly capable of making a very direct contact - and an electrically shocking one at that. He is a considerable writer.’ Plays and Players
Conductor's score: xiv, 105 pp. cloth 35.0 x 23.7 cm. ISBN: 978-0-86140-490-2 £100.00 ltd to 40 signed copies
Vocal score: xiv, 82 pp. pbk 26.8 x 19.0 cm. ISBN: 978-0-86140-491-9 £10.00
Full score: xiv, 105 pp. pbk 30.8 x 20.8cm ISBN: 978-0-86140-492-6 £15.00
The first performance of David Goode's one-hour Blitz Requiem, with words by Francis Warner, took place at St Paul's Cathedral, London, on 23 September 2013. The soloists were Emma Tring, Suzanna Spicer, Matthew Long and Robert Davies, with the Bach Choir and the Royal Philharmoic Orchestra (Leader Clio Gould) conducted by David Hill, and was broadcast on Classic FM. It was generously sponsored by the Murphy Foundation, with additional support from Victoria Sharp and Simon Yates.
'From the darkest days of the Blitz comes new music of sublime beauty by world-renowned organist David Goode.' Mail on Sunday
'. . . Francis Warner who at the centre of it endured through the Nazi five-year onslaught on London, has given the country's ordeal its lasting spiritual articulation. His poetry speaks for his nation: indeed for all of us.' Temenos
'Its music and words are certainly memorable. Goode's Blitz Requiem owns the dramatic qualities, melodic eloquence and inventive richness required for repeat performances, and perhaps to establish a lasting place in the contemporary choral repertoire mainstream.' Classical Music Magazine
'This work is exemplary: it has a warmly conceived, well-mapped score, and a profoundly evocative text by Francis Warner. His imagery hits the nail on the head, and melts the heart. It takes quite some music to match and convey this. The range, rich variety and huge intelligence of Goode's music is wholly up to the task. This is a major work from an exciting composer.' Church Times
With a recording of the performance on CDMore info →
30.9 x 20.9 cm. Paper covers
With 11 colour illustrations from the 16th-century windows of King's College Chapel, Cambridge
Full score of David Goode's setting of Francis Warner's 1962 Nativity poem, "A Legend's Carol", with a Note on the Poem by Glyn Pursglove.
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21.6 x 13.8 cm. Oxford Theatre Texts 11
‘In his new play, Virgil and Caesar, the completion of a serial epic entitled AGORA, Francis Warner explores the dramatic tension between worldly rule, the pragmatism of politics, and the vision of the poet as idealist.
‘Staged in the uniquely fitting setting of Oxford University’s Convocation House, the production by Tim Prentki and Dominic Shellard exploited the limited space of fan-vaulted beauty to fine advantage.
‘The play, as it explored the relationships between the machinations of worldly power, the wooing of the army, the detecting of subterfuge from the judiciary, the temptation of tyrannical power, the duties of family life, and the seductive disasters of succumbing to lust, unfolded in masterly fashion against the background of the philosophical and other views of the poets.
‘Warner brings to our attention the perennial conflicts that are as timeless as they are timely. The command of English through poetic imagery must rank as the very best. Here we have laid before us the perennial crises of humanity dressed in classical clothes yet intensely of today.
‘How valuable such rare and important plays are, being written in times when not only biological species are under threat around the world, but also cultural continuity itself.’ The Stage
'Detailed. . . accurate . . . moving, with convincing dramatic power, Warner’s verse filled the ear satisfyingly, and echoes in the memory.’ Jasper Griffin, in Oxford Magazine
27.0 x 19.0 cm. Paper covers
With 11 colour illustrations from the 16th-century windows of King's College Chapel, Cambridge
Vocal score of David Goode's setting of Francis Warner's 1962 Nativity poem, "A Legend's Carol", with a Note on the Poem by Glyn Pursglove.
More info →
'Mr Warner’s talent is remarkable, original, and is not content with achieving easy things. He sees theatre in terms of musical and pictorial construction. His visual sense is extraordinarily vivid. His verbal mastery too, is undeniable. The permissive theatre is both employed and transcended by the force and beauty of Francis Warner’s brooding and baroque imagination. . . The text is one of the richest encountered in the theatre for a long time.’ Harold Hobson, The Sunday Times
Maquettes was called by a reviewer in The Sunday Times ‘one of the triumphs of this year’s Edinburgh Festival’.
'This remarkable trilogy achieves its effects through a combination of musical, theatrical, and pictorial techniques.' Elizabeth Kilburn on CBC Radio said of the Canadian performance, ‘Warner creates rôles for women that are absolutely brilliant.'Plays and Players
'The sort of illuminated shorthand of his style, allied to his arresting visual images, is clearly capable of making a very direct contact – and an electrically shocking one at that. He is a considerable writer.’ Time OutMore info →
27.0 x 19.0 cm. Paper covers
With colour illustrations of details of works by Sandro Botticelli and John Piper
Song Cycle. Vocal score of David Goode's setting for soprano and baritone, and piano of four extracts from Francis Warner's poems, the sections titled Fire, Earth, Water and Air. Fire reflects his schoolboy desire to become a blacksmith, during the extremely cold winter of 1946-47; Earth - ‘Amabile’ - is the speech of Simonetta as Primavera from Living Creation, his play on Botticelli and Medici Florence; Water, Summer, recalls the June Concert on the river Cam by Clare Bridge sung by the Cambridge University Madrigal Choir; and Air, the climax of his 1961 poem Perennia, a duet .
Volume 14 of Oxford Theatre Texts series
viii, 138pp. plus 32pp colour illus.
'This new play by Francis Warner followed the life of Rembrandt from his arrival in Amsterdam in 1625 until his death some fifty years later. By tracing his friendships with the great figures of the day, the play explored the interactions of art and life in the Dutch Republic during a period of political turmoil and religious intolerance.
"Central to this cultural milieu was the Speelhouse, essentially a highly refined brothel, whose patrons included Prince Frederik Hendrik, the poet Joost van den Vondel, the royal advisor Constantijn Huygens, and of course Rembrandt...
Such liberated more conflicted directly with the prevalent Dutch Calvinism, whose moral severities were personified by the Reverends Smout and Trigland, a ludicrous duo of preachers... They brought about the suppression of the speelhouse, thus causing the dissolution of Rembrandt's circle and initiating his decline.
"The language, while stylised, came to sound entirely natural, thanks to the skill of the actors, at times achieving a lyrical beauty; and its cadences gave a suitable distance to seventeenth century Holland.
"Rembrandt (Simon Kane) had a commanding stage presence, and his defences of art were some of the most convincing I have heard from a fictionalised artist.
"The play's emotional involvement was very strong, and there were moments when the audience's identification with the characters became almost palpable. This was exemplified by the shocked silence that greeted the deaths of Rembrandt's first wife and child. Death was the overarching theme of this play, and its impact on Rembrandt's work became pronounced towards the end, especially in his final self-portrait where the experience of the years was etched in his face." Oxford Magazine
‘The play is fabulously detailed and interweaves the joy and tragedy of individuals with the background of political and religious change. The language is rich, with sparks of humour and pertinent observations on love, sensuality, grief, morality and art. This depth is sustained by immaculate and engaging acting and lavish costumes. A few hundred words cannot do this play justice. Go and see it." Eva Spain in Theatre Review (Daily Information, Oxford)
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