Borrowed from my friend mindful webworker.
In honor of the birthday of American poet Sara Teasdale (1884-1933), here is a choral setting by Latvian composer Ēriks Ešenvalds of her poem “Only in Sleep.”
Only in sleep I see their faces,
Children I played with when I was a child,
Louise comes back with her brown hair braided,
Annie with ringlets warm and wild.
Only in sleep Time is forgotten—
What may have come to them, who can know?
Yet we played last night as long ago,
And the doll house stood at the turn of the stair.
The years had not sharpened their smooth round faces,
I met their eyes and found them mild—
Do they, too, dream of me, I wonder,
And for them am I too a child?
Alfred Tennyson was born in Lincolnshire on August 6, 1809. Although he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a poet, the path was never easy for him. Throughout much of his life he was plagued with poor health, and he was dogged by financial difficulties, exacerbated by his penchant for making bad investments with what little money he had. He was approaching middle age before he began to achieve success as a poet.
Tennyson’s better-known works include Idylls of the King, a retelling of the Arthurian legend; “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” about a British cavalry charge against Russian forces during the Crimean War; and the book-length poem In Memoriam A.H.H., which Tennyson composed over a period of seventeen years following the death of his best friend, Arthur Henry Hallam.
“Crossing the Bar” was not the last poem that Tennyson wrote, but it’s usually the final entry in every collection of his poetry, in accordance with his express wish. Unlike In Memoriam, in which Tennyson explores in detail his grief, anguish, and crisis of faith after the death of his dearest friend, “Crossing the Bar” is short and succinct: a calm acceptance of his own approaching death, combined with the hope that when it arrives, he will meet his pilot face to face.
Here is “Crossing the Bar” set to music by Rani Arbo, sung by The Jones Family. This track is from their CD “From Earth to Heaven.”
Sunset and evening star,
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For tho’ from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crost the bar.
In honor of the birthday of English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), here is Eric Nelson’s choral setting of “Music, When Soft Voices Die,” sung by the Atlanta Master Chorale with the composer conducting.
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 heap’d for the belovèd’s bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.
It’s the birthday of Emily Brontë (1818-1848), who is remembered — when she’s remembered at all — as the author of Wuthering Heights, her only novel. Not many know that she was also one of the finest English poets of the nineteenth century. Here is a choral setting by Ola Gjeilo of one of her poems.
When days of beauty deck the earth
Or stormy nights descend
How well my spirit knows the path
On which it ought to wend
It seeks the consecrated spot
Beloved in childhood’s years
The space between is all forgot
Its sufferings and its tears.
In honor of the birthday of Irish poet William Butler Yeats (1865-1939), here is Z. Randall Stroope’s choral setting of Yeat’s poem “The Cloths of Heaven.”
Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
It was the first of May
A lovely warm spring day
I was strolling down the street in drunken pride;
But my knees were all a-flutter,
And I landed in the gutter
And a pig came up and lay down by my side.
Yes, I lay there in the gutter
Thinking thoughts I could not utter
When a lady passing by did softly say:
“You can tell a man who boozes
By the company he chooses” —
And the pig got up and slowly walked away.