[These are notes we put on the back of the program to "A Lay of Life and Loss".]
Many of the themes and lines of this "operetta" are taken from several, mostly old Germanic, sources.
The title on the cover is translated and written in the original Gothic script of Wulfilas, and the Anglo-Saxon runic alphabet or "futhorc". In the Latin alphabet the Gothic and Old English run, respectively:
Liuþis Libainais jah Alausiais
Leoð Lifes ond Alætnesse
In the first song, the Gothic lines at the end, as well as the reference in English to the "mistress of the mountain", are adapted from the Gothic poem "Bagme Bloma", composed by J.R.R. Tolkien, and from [King Alfred]'s verse translation.
In the second song, the story of the battle is adapted from the poem fragment "The Battle of Maldon".
The first three lines of the Old English bridge in the second song are taken from the last three lines of "Beowulf" (ll. 3180-82). The fourth line consists of one half-line from earlier in "Beowulf" (l. 721a) and one original half-line. The whole bridge, translated, goes thus:
They said that he was, among all the world's kings,
The most generous of men, and the most gracious,
The most protective of his people, and the most desirous of honor,
Now, cut off from joy, I await my destiny (doom).
The third verse of the second song is loosely based on Old English poems "The Seafarer" and "The Wanderer".
In the third song, themes were borrowed liberally from the Old English poem "The Wanderer", especially ll. 93-97 (these lines also inspired part of the dialog and music for the movie The Two Towers) and ll. 40-54:
Where is the horse? Where the young warrior? Where now the gift-giver?
Where are the feast-seats? Where all the hall-joys?
Alas for the bright cup! Alas byrnied warrior!
Alas the lord's glory! How this time hastens,
grows dark under night-helm, as it were not!
. . .
When sorrow and sleep at once together
a wretched lone-dweller often bind,
it seems in his mind that he his man-lord
clasps and kisses, and on knee lays
hands and head, as when sometimes before
in yore-days he received gifts from the gift-throne.
When the friendless man awakens again,
he sees before him fallow waves,
sea-birds bathing, wings spreading,
rime and snow falling mingled with hail.
Then are the heart's wounds ever more heavy…