‘Too Late! Too Late!’

House Music at Your House

Keeping it in the family - we could say that this comic song is a ‘cousin-by-marriage’ of one of our previous songs, Robin Red Breast by Anne Wilhemina Pelzer.

Robert Sidney Pratten (1824-1868), a highly regarded flautist who played for most of the London opera companies in the mid-nineteenth century, was the husband of virtuosa guitarist and teacher Catherina Pelzer, Anne Pelzer’s sister. Pratten played a role in the development of the flute and its repertoire in mid-19th century Britain and Ireland, appearing as first flute at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden as well as the Theatre Royal, Dublin. 

Many of the songs in the Rouse Hill House collection have links between composers and lyricists who worked both in the opera houses and theatres of London. As Amy Moore says in her introduction this is very much a song of its time, particularly in its objectification of women, but it is interesting to trace the different instrumental and vocal styles and influences reflected in these popular songs. You might easily imagine a guitar (Pelzer) as easily as a piano in this song’s accompaniment, and also a flute (Pratten) taking the vocal line.

Robert Sydney Pratten

Robert Sidney Pratten by Herbert Watkins, albumen carte-de-visite, 1862. NPG Ax38158 © National Portrait Gallery, London.

Another notable aside is the mention on the song’s cover ‘as sung by Miss Louisa Vinning’. Miss Vinning was a noted juvenile ‘novelty’ soprano in London, who by the time of this publication in 1854 was about 16 years of age. At four years of age, she was noted for ‘overcoming the most difficult modulations and chromatic passages of Italian music’ and for her ‘mellifluous tones’ in English, Scotch, and Irish melodies! 

Watch the performance

Listen to Amy Moore share her performance of ‘Too Late! Too Late!’ Even though Pratten wrote quite a number of songs and musical exercises, few have been recorded. This is the only know recording of this song, so we have shared some videos relating to the Irish Pratten flute developed by the composer.

You can meet the musicians, find links to the music and lyrics below, listen to some more examples and perform and share your own version.

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Make your version in any style or format you like – perform it straight or turn it into blues, country, rap, hip-hop, slam poetry, K-pop, Bollywood or any other style; rearrange it for different instruments, voices or electronics; sing it, play it, dance it, write about it, photograph it or paint it. 

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Meet the performers

Amy Moore

Lyric soprano Amy Moore moved to Australia from the UK in 2015.  An accomplished soloist and ensemble singer, Amy enjoys a broad repertoire, with a particular focus on Baroque and contemporary music.

Learn more about Amy.


Too Late! Too Late!

A maiden fair and young
Went forth, one morn in May;
Upon a bough, there sang
A bird that seemed to say
‘Why wait, why wait?
Soon, soon will be too late.’

Tra la, la la, tra la la la la
Tra la la la la la la la la

Away the maiden went,
And joined each festive throng,
On pleasure’s whirl intent,
And linger’d late and long,
‘I’ll wait, I’ll wait’,
Sang she, with joy elate.

Tra la, la la, tra la la la la
Tra la la la la la la la la

Time flew, as on she stray’d 
Through fashion’s giddy round;
With many a heart she play’d 
And laugh’d at every wound;
‘Too late! too late!
Old Time himself shall wait.’

Tra la, la la, tra la la la la
Tra la la la la la la la la

Then came the first grey hair!
And looks and hearts grew cold.
And wrinkles, here and there,
Their tale unwelcome told,
‘Hard fate! too late!’ 
She sang, disconsolate!

Tra la, la la, tra la la la la
Tra la la la la la la la la

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