FROM DEPTHS OF GRASS (2004)

 
grass.jpg

For Soprano and Piano

12'00" in seven movements:

  1. To the Spring-Spirit
  2. Of Any Flower
  3. The Elm
  4. The Oak
  5. The Pine
  6. Clown in the Moon
  7. To a Slender Wind

Premiere:
Andrea Wiltzius, soprano / Dimitri Dover, piano
Peabody Conservatory of Music, Baltimore, MD
March 5, 2005

score excerpt

Text:
All texts written by Dylan Thomas, and are used by permission of Harold Ober Associates. Copyright ©1971 by the Trustees for the Copyrights of Dylan Thomas.

I. To the Spring-Spirit
And when it was spring I said,
‘Linger not deeper in the coloured trees,
But beautifully flake your head
With foam flung by the flowering seas.’
And you arose from depths of grass
That whispered with the wind and wept,
Saying you would let the chill seas pass,
Seeking no further than your petals that still slept.
And I forgot the driftless foam, and sand,
Idling with the radiance of the hours
Among the quiet trees. And hand in hand
We strangely sang among the feathery flowers.

II. Of Any Flower
Hourly I sigh,
For all things are leaf-like
And cloud-like.
Flowerly I die,
For all things are grief-like
And shroud-like.

III. The Elm
They are all goddesses;
Nodding like flowers,
They are further and more delicate
Than the years that dwindle;
They are deeper in darkness
Than the hours.
Celestial,
Slenderly lethal things,
Beautifully little like clouds:
Leaf driftwood that has blown.

IV. The Oak
Fierce colours fled about the branches,
Enveloping the ragged leaves unseen and strewn.
Hazardous reflections dipped in evening
Hover, making the forest fluctuantly vague.
Something austere hides, something uncertain
Beneath the bark calls and makes quiet music.

V. The Pine
Virgate and sprung of the dusk,
The pine is the tree of the breeze,
And the winds that stream through the ribboned light
And the motley winds from the seas.
VI. Clown in the Moon
My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.
I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.

VII. To a Slender Wind
Chrysolith thy step,
And on a jewelled pool
Faint arrowy moonstone on a tear-culled cadence,
Like fragmentary rain
Shaken silkily from star-scaled boughs.
Each note of thy dusky song
Is a petal that has delicate breath
And is azure;
And is more beautiful than the drift of leaves.

Program notes:

I have always been attracted to the poetry of Dylan Thomas, so when I decided to write this, my first song cycle, I naturally turned to him as a potential source of texts. I was delighted to find these seven wonderful, refreshingly brief poems hidden away in an appendix under “Early Poems (written before the poet’s
sixteenth birthday)
” in the appendix of a book of Thomas’ poetry. Indeed, six of these seven texts were written while Thomas was still fourteen years old (he wrote “To a Spring-Spirit” shortly after his fifteenth birthday). I still think it’s remarkable that he had such a mastery of the English language at such a young age, and I was glad that the texts seemed so well suited for musical setting.