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Song cycle for soprano, violin, violoncello, and piano
Level: medium, 14’50”
FLOWERS OF THE SOUL was commissioned by Ms. Jane Wait to commemorate the renovation of the beautiful rose gardens at YADDO, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, New York. Having been in residence at YADDO some years ago as a young composer, it was a special treat to have a new work premiered there in the beautiful music room next to the rose gardens. I have always found Emily Dickinson’s poetry to be lyrical and inspiring, and love the unique way in which she views the world through her beautiful imagery. The last poem in the cycle is a very early poem, and is quite different in style from her later work. Written with an underlying dance rhythm, it is also longer than all of the previous three poems combined.
Dreams Are Well
Dreams are well- but Waking’s better,
If One wake at Morn-
If One wake at Midnight- better-
Dreaming of the Dawn-
Sweeter- the Surmising Robins-
Never gladdened Tree- Than a Solid Dawn- confronting-
Leading to no Day-
–c. 1862; first published in 1935
The Moon is Distant from the Sea
The Moon is distant from the Sea–
And yet, with Amber Hands
She leads Him– docile as a Boy–
Along appointed Sands–
He never misses a Degree–
Obedient to Her Eye
He comes just so far toward the Town–
Just so far– goes away–
Oh, Signor, Thine, the Amber Hand–
And mine– the distant Sea–
Obedient to the least command Thine eye impose on me–
–c. 1862; first published in 1891
I Went to Heaven
I went to heaven,–
’Twas a small town,
Lit with a ruby,
Lathed with down.
Stiller than the fields
At the full dew,
Beautiful as pictures
No man drew.
People like the moth,
Of mechlin, frames,
Duties of gossamer,
And eider names.
Almost contented I could be
’Mong such unique Society.
Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,
Unwind the solemn twine, and tie my Valentine!
–c. 1862; first published in 1890
Oh the Earth was Made for Lovers
Oh the Earth was made for lovers, for damsel, and hopeless swain,
For sighing, and gentle whispering, and unity made of twain.
All things do go a courting, in earth, or sea, or air,
God hath made nothing single but thee in His world so fair!
The bride, and then the bridegroom, the two, and then the one,
Adam, and Eve, his consort, the moon, and then the sun;
The life doth prove the precept, who obey shall happy be,
Who will not serve the sov’reign, be hanged on fatal tree.
The high do seek the lowly, the great do seek the small,
None cannot find who seeketh, on this terrestrial ball;
The bee doth court the flower, the flower his suit receives,
And they make merry, merry wedding, whose guests are hundred leaves;
The wind doth woo the branches, the branches they are won,
And the father fond demandeth the maiden for his son.
The storm doth walk the seashore humming a mournful tune,
The wave with eye so pensive, looketh to see the moon,
Their spirits meet together, they make their solemn vows,
No more he singeth mournful, her sadness she doth lose.
The worm doth woo the mortal, death claims a living bride,
Night unto day is married, morn unto eventide;
Earth is a merry damsel, and heaven a knight so true,
And Earth is quite coquettish, and beseemeth in vain to sue.
Now to the application, to the reading of the roll,
To bringing thee to justice, and marshalling thy soul:
Thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone,
Wilt have no kind companion, thou reap’st what thou hast sown.
Hast never silent hours, and minutes all too long,
And a deal of sad reflection, and wailing instead of song?
There’s Sarah, and Eliza, and Emeline so fair,
And Harriet, and Susan, and she with the curling hair!
Thine eyes are sadly blinded, but yet thou mayest see
Six true, and comely maidens sitting upon the tree;
Approach that tree with caution, then up it boldly climb,
And seize the one thou lovest, nor care for space, or time!
Then bear her to the greenwood, and build for her a bower,
And give her what she asketh,
jewel, or bird, or flower–
And bring the fife, and trumpet, and beat upon the drum–
And bid the world Goodmorrow, and go to glory home!
–c. 1850; first published in 1894
DREAMS ARE WELL is used by arrangement
with the publishers and the trustees of Amherst College from
THE POEMS OF EMILY DICKINSON,
Thomas H. Johnson, ed., Cambridge, Mass.:
The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,
Copyright © 1951, 1955, 1979, 1983 by
the President and the Fellows of Harvard College.
All rights reserved.