Twenty-One Songs

2000 mezzo-soprano, baritone & piano

1. Ecce Puer (Duet)
James Joyce (1882-1941)

Of the dark past
A child was born;
With joy and grief
My heart is torn.
Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!
Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.
A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

2. The Darkling Thrush (Baritone)
Thomas Hardy (1840-1928)

I leant upon a coppice gate,
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter's dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled vine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land's sharp features seemed to me
The Century's corpse outleant,
Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind its death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervorless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-throated evensong
Of joy illimited.
An ancient thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,
And I was unaware.

 

3. On A Dead Violet (Soprano)
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

The odor from the flower is gone
Which like thy kisses breathed on me;
The color from the flower is flown
Which glowed of thee and only thee!

A shrivelled, lifeless, vacant form,
It lies on my abandoned breast;
And mocks the heart, which yet is warm,
With cold and silent rest.

I weep--my tears revive it not;
I sigh--it breathes no more on me:
Its mute and uncomplaining lot
Is such as mine should be.

 

4. Sleep! Sleep! Beauty Bright (Duet)
William Blake (1757-1827)

Sleep! Sleep! beauty bright,
Dreaming o’er the joys of night;
Sleep! Sleep! in thy sleep
Little sorrows sit and weep.

Sweet Babe, in thy face
Soft desires I can trace,
Secret joys and secret smiles,
Little pretty infant wiles.

As thy softest limbs I feel,
Smiles as of the morning steal
O’er thy cheek, and o’er thy breast
Where thy little heart does rest.

O! the cunning wiles that creep
In thy little heart asleep.
When thy little heart does wake
Then the dreadful lightnings break,

From thy cheek and from thy eye,
O’er the youthful harvests nigh.
Infant wiles and infant smiles
Heaven and Earth of peace beguiles.

 

5. The Fly (Baritone)
William Blake

Little Fly,
Thy summer's play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?

For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

 

6. The Bat (Duet)
Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

By day the bat is cousin to the mouse.
He likes the attic of an aging house.

His fingers make a hat about his head.
His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead.

He loops in crazy figures half the night
Among the trees that face the corner light.

But when he brushes up against a screen,
We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:

For something is amiss or out of place
When mice with wings can wear a human face.

 

7. I Had A Dove And the Sweet Dove Died (Soprano)
John Keats (1795-1821)

I had a dove and the sweet dove died;
And I have a thought it died of grieving:
O, what could it grieve for? its feet were tied
With a single thread of my own hands weaving;
Sweey little red feet, why did you die--
Why should you leave me, sweet bird, why?
You lived alone in the forest tree,
Why, pretty thing! would you not live with me?
Ikiss’d you oft and gave you white peas;
Why not live sweetly, as in the green trees?

 

8. Simples (Duet)
James Joyce (1882-1941)

Of cool sweet dew and radiance mild
The moon a web of silence weaves
In the still garden where a child
Gathers the simple salad leaves.

A moondew stars her hanging hair
And moonlight kisses her young brow
And, gathering, she sings an air:
Fair as the wave is, fair, art thou!

Be mine, I pray, a waxen ear
To shield me from her childish croon
And mine a shielded heart for her
Who gathers simples of the moon.

 

9. Evening Star (Duet)
Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849)

'Twas noontide of summer,
And mid-time of night;
And stars, in their orbits,
Shone pale, thro' the light
Of the brighter, cold moon,
'Mid planets her slaves,
Herself in the Heavens,
Her beam on the waves.
There pass'd, a shroud,
A fleecy cloud,
And I turned away to thee,
Proud Evening Star,
In thy glory afar,
And dearer thy beam shall be;
For joy to my heart
Is the proud part
Thou bearest in Heaven at night,
And more I admire
Thy distant fire,
Than that colder, lowly light.

 

10. Song (Baritone)
Christina Georgina Rossetti (1830-1894)

When I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

 

11. Phantom (Duet)
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

All look and likeness caught from earth
All accident of kin and birth
Had pass’d away. There was no trace
Of aught on that illumined face,
Uprais’d beneath the rifted stone
Burt of one spirit all her own;
She, she herself, and only she,
Shone through her body visibly.

 

12. The Philosopher (Soprano)
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)

And what are you that, wanting you,
I should be kept awake
As many nights as there are days
With weeping for your sake?

And what are you that, missing you,
As many days as crawl
I should be listening to the wind
And looking at the wall?

I know a man that's a braver man
And twenty men as kind,
And what are you, that you should be
The one man in my mind?

Yet women's ways are witless ways,
As any sage will tell, --
And what am I, that I should love
So wisely and so well?

 

13. Ne Sit Ancillae Tibi Amor Pudor (Baritone)
Robert Louis Stevenson (1892-1950)

THERE'S just a twinkle in your eye
That seems to say I MIGHT, if I
Were only bold enough to try
An arm about your waist.
I hear, too, as you come and go,
That pretty nervous laugh, you know;
And then your cap is always so
Coquettishly displaced.

Your cap! the word's profanely said.
That little top-knot, white and red,
That quaintly crowns your graceful head,
No bigger than a flower,
Is set with such a witching art,
Is so provocatively smart,
I'd like to wear it on my heart,
An order for an hour!

O graceful housemaid, tall and fair,
I love your shy imperial air,
And always loiter on the stair
When you are going by.
A strict reserve the fates demand;
But, when to let you pass I stand,
Sometimes by chance I touch your hand
And sometimes catch your eye.

 

14. The Oak (Duet)
Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

Live thy Life,
Young and old,
Like yon oak,
Bright in spring,
Living gold;

Summer-rich
Then; and then
Autumn-changed
Soberer-hued
Gold again.

All his leaves
Fall'n at length,
Look, he stands,
Trunk and bough
Naked strength.

 

15. Music, When Soft Voices Die (Soprano)
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory -
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.

Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

 

16. September (Duet)
Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885)

The golden-rod is yellow;
The corn is turning brown;
The trees in apple orchards
With fruit are bending down.

The gentian's bluest fringes
Are curling in the sun;
In dusty pods the milkweed
Its hidden silk has spun.

The sedges flaunt their harvest,
In every meadow nook;
And asters by the brook-side
Make asters in the brook,

From dewy lanes at morning
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
At noon the roads all flutter
With yellow butterflies.

By all these lovely tokens
September days are here,
With summer's best of weather,
And autumn's best of cheer.

But none of all this beauty
Which floods the earth and air
Is unto me the secret
Which makes September fair.

'T is a thing which I remember;
To name it thrills me yet:
One day of one September
I never can forget.

 

17. Song Of The Whisk (Duet)
Eric Ormsby (1941-)

My flail demolishes
the gold of yolks;
my mesh abolishes
what it would coax.

The waterspout can frisk
while it souffles the sea;
what's the twister but a whisk
for instant entropy?

I will erect a pinnacle
of undulant bearnaise;
with clicketing quite clinical,
paradisal mayonnaise.

 

18. The Panther (Soprano)
Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

His vision, from the constantly passing bars,
has grown so weary that it cannot hold
anything else. It seems to him there are
a thousand bars; and behind the bars, no world.

As he paces in cramped circles, over and over,
the movement of his powerful soft strides
is like a virtual dance around a center
in which a mighty will stands paralyzed.

Only at times, the curtain of the pupils
lifts quietly--. An imageenters in,
rushes down through the tensed, arresyed muscles,
pluges into the heart and is gone.
(translation: Stephen Mitchell)

 

19. When I Have Fears That I May Cease To Be (Duet)
John Keats (1795-1821)

When I have fears that I may cease to be,
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

 

20. In Winter In The Woods Alone (Baritone)
Robert Frost (1874-1963)

In winter in the woods alone
Against the trees I go.
I mark a maple for my own
And lay the maple low.
At four o’clock I shoulder ax,
And in the afterglow
I link a line of shadowy tracks
Across the tinted snow.
I see in Nature no defeat
In one tree’s overthrow
Or for myself in my retreat
For yet another blow.

 

21. To - (Duet)
Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820)

WHEN that eye of light shall in darkness fall,
And thy bosom be shrouded in death's cold pall,
When the bloom of that rich red lip shall fade,
And thy head on its pillow of dust be laid;

Oh! then thy spirit shall see how true
Are the holy vows I have breathed to you;
My form shall moulder thy grave beside,
And in the blue heavens I'll seek my bride.

Then we'll tell, as we tread yon azure sphere,
Of the woes we have known while lingering here;
And our spirits shall joy that, their pilgrimage o'er,
They have met in the heavens to sever no more.