Text from “It’s an International Poetry Extravaganza!” program
Der Abend (from Drei Quartette, Op. 64)
Johannes Brahms (1833 – 1897)
text by Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805)
Senke, strahlender Gott, die Fluren dürsten
Nach erquickendem Tau, der Mensch verschmachtet,
Matter ziehen die Rosse,
Senke den wagen hinab.
Sehe, wer aus des Meeres krystallner Woge
Lieblich lächelnd dir winkt! Erkennt dein Herz sie?
Rascher fliegen die Rosse.
Thetys, die göttliche, winkt.
Schnell vom Wagen herab in ihre Arme
Springt der Führer, den Zaum ergreift Kupido,
Stille halten die Rosse,
Trinken die kühlende Flut.
Auf dem Himmel herauf mit leisen Schritten
Kommt die duftende Nacht; ihr folgt die süsse Liebe.
Ruht und liebet!
Phöbus, der Liebende, ruht.
Sink down, shining God, the fields thirst
for refreshing dew, the people languish,
the steeds are weary,
let the chariot sink downward.
Behold the one who beckons from the sea’s crystalline wave
sweetly smiling! Does your heart recognize her?
Faster fly the steeds.
Thetis, the divine one, beckons.
Quickly from the chariot and into her arms
rushes the driver, Cupid seizes the reins,
the steeds stand still,
and drink at the cooling stream.
Ascending in the sky with quiet steps
comes the fragrant night; she is followed by sweet Love.
Rest and love!
Phoebus, the loving one, rests.
–English translation by Drew Collins and Ben Luedcke
Mia Benigna Fortuna (From “Mia benigna fortuna e ‘l viver lieto,” verses 1 and 2)
Cipriano de Rore (1515 – 1565)
text by Francesco Petrarca (1304–1374)
Mia benigna fortuna e ‘l viver lieto,
i chiari giorni et le tranquille notti
e i soavi sospiri e ‘l dolce stile
che solea resonare in versi e ‘n rime,
vòlti subitamente in doglia e ‘n pianto,
odiar vita mi fanno, et bramar morte.
Crudele, acerba, inexorabil Morte,
cagion mi dài di mai non esser lieto,
ma di menar tutta mia vita in pianto,
e i giorni oscuri et le dogliose notti.
I mei gravi sospir’ non vanno in rime,
e ‘l mio duro martir vince ogni stile.
My kindly fate, and a life made happy,
the clear days, and the tranquil nights
the gentle sighs, and the sweet style
that alone sounded in my verse and rhyme,
suddenly changed to grief and weeping,
making me hate my life, and long for death.
Cruel, bitter, and inexorable Death,
you give me reason never to be happy,
but to live my life instead with weeping,
darkened days, and the saddened nights.
My heavy sighs will not go into rhyme,
and my harsh pain defeats every style.
–English translation by Anthony S. Kline
Three Tagore Settings
Isaac Lovdahl (b. 1993)
text and translations by Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941)
(From Stray Birds, verses, 6, 12, 95, 149, 151, 154, 301, 302, 311)
i. Great Trees
If you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.
“What language is thine, O sea?”
“The language of eternal question.”
“What language is thy answer, O sky?”
“The language of eternal silence.”
Be still, my heart, these great trees are prayers.
ii. Beauty of the Flower
The world has opened its heart of light in the morning.
Come out, my heart, with thy love to meet it.
God’s great power is in the gentle breeze, not in the storm.
By plucking her petals you do not gather the beauty of the flower.
iii. Wet Earth
Let me feel this world as thy love taking form, then my love will help it.
Thy sunshine smiles upon the winter days of my heart, never doubting of its spring flowers.
The smell of the wet earth in the rain rises like a great chant of praise from the
voiceless multitude of the insignificant.
Ēriks Ešenvalds (b. 1977)
text and translation by Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941)
(From Gitanjali (“Song Offerings”))
In one salutation to thee, my God,
let all my senses spread out
and touch this world at thy feet.
Like a raincloud of July
hung low with its burden of unshed showers
let all my mind bend down at thy door
in one salutation to thee.
Let all my songs gather together
their diverse strains into a single current
and flow to a sea of silence
in one salutation to thee.
Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day
back to their mountain nests
let all my life take its voyage
to its eternal home
in one salutation to thee.
Harpsonnets (Four Shakespeare Sonnets for Mixed Chorus and Harp)
James Bassi (b. 1961)
text by William Shakespeare (1564–1616)
1. Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day? (Sonnet 18)
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
2. How Like a Winter Hath My Absence Been (Sonnet 97)
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.
3. How Oft, When Thou, My Music, Music Play’st (Sonnet 128)
How oft when thou, my music, music play’st,
Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds
With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway’st
The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,
Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,
To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,
Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,
At the wood’s boldness by thee blushing stand!
To be so tickled, they would change their state
And situation with those dancing chips,
O’er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,
Making dead wood more bless’d than living lips.
Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.
4. Devouring Time, Blunt Thou the Lion’s Paws (Sonnet 19)
Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleet’st,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one most heinous crime:
O, carve not with thy hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen!
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
Brittney Benton (b. 1999)
text by Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
(From Leaves of Grass)
(From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist.)
Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form — no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.
On the Beach at Night Alone (from Nature Songs II)
Stephen Chatman (b. 1950)
text by Walt Whitman (1819–1892)
On the beach at night alone,
As the old mother sways her to and fro singing her husky song,
As I watch the bright stars shining, I think a thought of the clef of the universes and of the future.
A vast similitude interlocks all,
All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets,
All distances of place however wide,
All distances of time, all inanimate forms,
All souls, all living bodies though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,
All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes, the fishes, the brutes,
All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages,
All identities that have existed or may exist on this globe, or any globe,
All lives and deaths, all of the past, present, future,
This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d,
And shall forever span them and compactly hold and enclose them.