November 3, 2010

Sure on this shining night

Description of Elysium
There:  far, friends:  ours:  dear dominion:

Whole health resides with peace,
Gladness and never harm,
There not time turning,
Nor fear of flower of snow

Where marbling water slides
No charm may halt of chill,
Air aisling the open acres,
And all the gracious trees

Spout up their standing fountains
Of wind-beloved green
And the blue conclaved mountains
Are grave guards

Stone and springing field
Wide one tenderness,
The unalterable hour
Smiles deathlessness:

No thing is there thinks:
Mind the witherer
Withers on the outward air:
We can not come there.
Sure on this shining night
Of starmade 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 wandering for alone
Of shadows on the stars.

Now thorn bone bare
Silenced with iron the branch’s gullet:
Rattling merely on the air
Of hornleaved holly:

The stony mark where sand was by
The water of a nailèd foot:
The berry harder than the beak:
The hole beneath the dead oak root:

All now brought quiet
Through the latest throe
Quieted and ready and quiet:
Still not snow:

Still thorn bone bare
Iron in the silenced gully
Rattling only of the air
Through hornleaved holly.
From  Permit Me Voyage:  1934   James Agee  1909-1955

Sure on This Shining Night (Originally Op. 13)           Samuel Barber  1910-1981

This beloved song began Lyric Fest’s 2010-2011 Concert Season on Saturday, October 23, 2010.  We had the great fortune to feature The Crossing Choir on this concert and we were transported by their performance of this piece.  It’s interesting to see the entire poem this very famous song (above in bold) originated from.  James Agee was Barber’s contemporary and it was his prose-poem that Barber set for the orchestral song Knoxville, Summer 1915.

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