Songs of Days Past

2014 | for medium voice and piano | 9’

Songs of Days Past is a collection of three songs for medium voice that pair texts from three different poetic periods with music meant to evoke those periods when viewed through a modern lens. The texts in question are “O, Gather Me the Rose” by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903), “Song: to Celia” by Ben Jonson (1572-1637), and “Sure On This Shining Night” by James Agee (1909-1955). The latter two poems are already heavily associated with famous settings; my interpretation of the texts is meant as both response and homage to these pieces.

These songs are nothing more or less than what they claim to be. They hold no social or political commentary, nor are they vehicles for vocal, pianistic, or compositional virtuosity. They break no new melodic, harmonic, or timbral ground. They are simply songs for songs’ sake: a purpose I consider just as important as any other.

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1. O, gather me the rose, the rose,
While yet in flower we find it,
For summer smiles, but summer goes,
And winter waits behind it!

For with the dream foregone, foregone,
The deed forborne for ever,
The worm, regret, will canker on,
And time will turn him never.

So well it were to love, my love,
And cheat of any laughter
The death beneath us and above,
The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,
The sunshine and the swallow,
The dream that comes, the wish that goes,
The memories that follow!

2. Drink to me only with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mine;
Or leave a kiss but in the cup,
And I’ll not look for wine.
The thirst that from the soul doth rise
Doth ask a drink divine;
But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,
I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,
Not so much honouring thee
As giving it a hope, that there
It could not withered be.
But thou thereon didst only breathe,
And sent’st it back to me;
Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,
Not of itself, but thee.

3. Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand'ring far alone
Of shadows on the stars.

All texts are in the public domain.

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