Excluded are songs about birds singing,
as these are too numerous to include here.



Don Juan: Canto the Fourth [excerpt]
George Gordon, Lord Byron


He saw some fellow captives, who appear'd
To be Italians, as they were in fact;
From them, at least, their destiny he heard,
Which was an odd one; a troop going to act
In Sicily - all singers, duly rear'd
In their vocation, had not been attack'd
In sailing from Livorno by the pirate,
But sold by the impresario at no high rate.


By one of these, the buffo of the party,
Juan was told about their curious case;
For although destin'd to the Turkish mart, he
Still kept his spirits up - at least his face;
The little fellow really look'd quite hearty,
And bore him with some gaiety and grace,
Showing a much more reconcil'd demeanour,
Than did the prima donna and the tenor.


In a few words he told their hapless story,
Saying, "Our Machiavelian impresario,
Making a signal off some promontory,
Hail'd a strange brig; Corpo di Caio Mario!
We were transferr'd on board her in a hurry,
Without a single scudo of salario;
But if the Sultan has a taste for song,
We will revive our fortunes before long.


"The prima donna, though a little old,
And haggard with a dissipated life,
And subject, when the house is thin, to cold,
Has some good notes; and then the tenor's wife,
With no great voice, is pleasing to behold;
Last carnival she made a deal of strife,
By carrying off Count Cesare Cicogna
From an old Roman Princess at Bologna.... LXXXVI

"As for the men, they are a middling set;
The musico is but a crack'd old basin,
But, being qualified in one way yet,
May the seraglio do to set his face in,
And as a servant some preferment get;
His singing I no further trust can place in:
From all the Pope makes yearly 'twould perplex
To find three perfect pipes of the third sex.


"The tenor's voice is spoilt by affectation;
And for the bass, the beast can only bellow;
In fact, he had no singing education,
An ignorant, noteless, timeless, tuneless fellow;
But being the prima donna's near relation,
Who swore his voice was very rich and mellow,
They hir'd him, though to hear him you'd believe
An ass was practising recitative.


"'Twould not become myself to dwell upon
My own merits, and though young - I see, Sir - you
Have got a travell'd air, which speaks you one
To whom the opera is by no means new:
You've heard of Raucocanti? - I'm the man;
The time may come when you may hear me too;
You was not last year at the fair of Lugo,
But next, when I'm engag'd to sing there - do go.


"Our baritone I almost had forgot,
A pretty lad, but bursting with conceit;
With graceful action, science not a jot,
A voice of no great compass, and not sweet,
He always is complaining of his lot,
Forsooth, scarce fit for ballads in the street;
In lover's parts his passion more to breathe,
Having no heart to show, he shows his teeth."

At Half-Mast

E. Pauline Johnson

You didn't know Billy, did you? Well, Bill was
     One of the boys,
The greatest fellow you ever seen to racket an' raise
     a noise, -
An' sing! say, you never heard singing 'nless you
     heard Billy sing.
I used to say to him, "Billy, that voice that you've
     got there'd bring
A mighty sight more bank-notes to tuck away in
     your vest,
If only you'd go on the concert stage instead of a-
     ranchin' West."
An' Billy he'd jist go laughin', and say as I didn't
A robin's whistle in springtime from a barnyard
     rooster's crow.
But Billy could sing, an' I sometimes think that voice
     lives anyhow, -
That perhaps Bill helps with the music in the place
     he's gone to now.
He was going' acrost the plain to catch the train for
     the East next day.

'Twas the only time I ever seen poor Bill that he
     didn't laugh
Or sing, an' kick up a rumpus an' racket around,
     and chaff,
For he'd got a letter from his folds that siad for to
     hurry home,
For his mother was dyin' away down East an' she
     wanted Bill to come.
Say, but the feller took it hard, but he saddled up
     right away,
An' started across the plains to take the train for
     the East, next day.
Sometimes I lie awake a-nights jist a-thinkin's of
     the rest,
For that was the great big blizzard day, when the
     wind come down from west,
An' the snow piled up like mountains an' we couldn't
     put foot outside,
But jist set into the shack an' talked of Bill on his
     lonely ride.
We talked of the laugh he threw us as he went at
     the break o' day,
An' we talked of the poor old woman dyin' a thou-
     sand mile away.

Well, Dan O'Connell an' I went out to search at the
     end of the week,
Fer all of us fellers thought a lot, -a lot that we
     darsn't speak.
We'd been up the trail about forty mile, an' was
     talkin' of turnin' back,
But Dan, well, he wouldn't give in, so we kep' right
     on to the railroad track.
As soon as we sighted them telegraph wires says
     Dan, "Say, bless my soul !
Ain't that there Bill's red handkerchief tied half
     way up that pole?"
Yes, sir, there she was, with her ends a-flippin'
     an' flyin' in the wind,
An' underneath was the envelope of Bill's letter
     tightly pinned.

"Why, he must a-boarded the train right here,"
     says Dan, but I kinder knew
That underneath them snowdrifts we would find a
     thing or two;
Fer he'd writ on that there paper, "Ben lost fer
     hours, - all hope is past.
You'll find me, boys, where my handkerchief is
     flyin' at half-mast."

The Silent Singer
Len Roberts

The girls sang better than the boys,
their voices reaching All the way to God,
Sister Ann Zita insisted during those
practice sessions
when I was told to mouth do, re, mi,
but to go no higher,
when I was told to stand in back
and form a perfect 0 with my lips
although no word was ever to come out,
the silent singer in that third-grade class
during the Christmas Pageant and Easter Week,
the birth and death of Christ lip-synched
but unsung
while my relatives, friends and parents
praised my baritone,
how low my voice was,
Balancing those higher, more childlike tones,
my father said,
Adding depth, my mother said,
Thank God they had my huskiness
to bring all that tinniness to earth,

my great-aunt whispered,
so I believed for many years in miracles myself,
the words I'd never sung reaching their ears
in the perfect pitch, the perfect tone,
while the others stuttered in their all-too-human voices
to praise the Lord.

To a Lady Singing a Song of His Composing
Edmund Waller

Chloris! yourself you so excel,
When you vouchsafe to breathe my thought,
That, like a spirit, with this spell
Of my own teaching, I am caught.

That eagle's fate and mine are one,
Which, on the shaft that made him die,
Espied a feather of his own,
Wherewith he wont to soar so high.

Had Echo, with so sweet a grace,
Narcissus' loud complaints return'd,
Not for reflection of his face,
But of his voice, the boy had burn'd.

The Idea of Order at Key West
Wallace Stevens

She sang beyond the genius of the sea.
The water never formed to mind or voice,
Like a body wholly body, fluttering
Its empty sleeves; and yet its mimic motion
Made constant cry, caused constantly a cry,
That was not ours although we understood,
Inhuman, of the veritable ocean.

The sea was not a mask. No more was she.
The song and water were not medleyed sound
Even if what she sang was what she heard.
Since what she sang was uttered word by word.
It may be that in all her phrases stirred
The grinding water and the gasping wind;
But it was she and not the sea we heard.

For she was the maker of the song she sang.
The ever-hooded, tragic-gestured sea
Was merely a place by which she walked to sing.
Whose spirit is this? we said, because we knew
It was the spirit that we sought and knew
That we should ask this often as she sang.

If it was only the dark voice of the sea
That rose, or even colored by many waves;
If it was only the outer voice of sky
And cloud, of the sunken coral water-walled,
However clear, it would have been deep air,
The heaving speech of air, a summer sound
Repeated in a summer without end
And sound alone. But it was more than that,
More even than her voice, and ours, among
The meaningless plungings of water and the wind,
Theatrical distances, bronze shadows heaped
On high horizons, mountainous atmospheres
Of sky and sea.
It was her voice that made
The sky acutest at its vanishing.
She measured to the hour its solitude.
She was the single artificer of the world
In which she sang. And when she sang, the sea,
Whatever self it had, became the self
That was her song, for she was the maker. Then we,
As we beheld her striding there alone,
Knew that there never was a world for her
Except the one she sang and, singing, made.

Ramon Fernandez, tell me, if you know,
Why, when the singing ended and we turned
Toward the town, tell why the glassy lights,
The lights in the fishing boats at anchor there,
As night descended, tilting in the air,
Mastered the night and portioned out the sea,
Fixing emblazoned zones and fiery poles,
Arranging, deepening, enchanting night.

Oh! Blessed rage for order, pale Ramon,
The maker's rage to order words of the sea,
Words of the fragrant portals, dimly-starred,
And of ourselves and of our origins,
In ghostlier demarcations, keener sounds.

I heard you singing
Harry Rodney Bennett

I heard you singing when the dawn was grey
And silver dew on ev'ry blossom lay;
Though the rising sun too soon drank up the dew,
I thought I heard you singing all the long day through.
I heard you singing in the silent hour
When evening came with sleep for bird and flow'r;
A song like happy murmuring of woodland streams,
I thought I heard you singing down the vale of dreams.
Beloved, when the last call echoes clear,
And I must part from all that is so dear,
I shall not fear the valley that before me lies,
If I may hear you singing as I close my eyes.

At the Playground, Singing for Psychiatric Outpatients
Peter Everwine

The bright-faced children have gone home,
trailing the sun to supper.
these others have come,
almost sweetly shy, starched
for their monthly party.
Nurse herds them into metal chairs.

I've come to sing, Nurse tells them,
and they fold their hands
- these lately mad who failed behind a door
or slipped under in a jammed street,
whose eyes blossomed like silver
fists in mirrors, in plate-glass windows.
Nurse is waiting for me.

So I sing for them,
     for the boy
in the front row, groping
the stiff corners of his pockets;
for the ugly one in pink anklets
- her legs have never felt a razor,
though her wrist has; for him
whose fingers are eaten by ants; for her
whose face sags like a torn sack.
They do not like my songs,
but infinitely polite, they turn
their smiles up into the dark
as if a smile should fall softly,
obliquely, like rain.

"Home on the Range," Nurse calls out,
her sure fingers on the pulse of America.
I start in faltering voice,
half-forgetting those dead words
sung at campfires in the past.
One joins, and then another:
Home, home on the range...
Where the deer...
And the skies are...

The voices crack and lurch, we
are singing - the boy, the ugly one -
singing like crows in the empty
prairie of a children's playground
where if there are distances that shine
they shine like the eyes of pain.

Man and Camel
Mark Strand

On the eve of my fortieth birthday
I sat on the porch having a smoke
when out of the blue a man and a camel
happened by. Neither uttered a sound
at first, but as they drifted up the street
and out of town the two of them began to sing.
Yet what they sang is still a mystery to me -
the words were indistinct and the tune
too ornamental to recall. Into the desert
they went and as they went their voices
rose as one above the sifting sound
of windblown sand. The wonder of their singing,
its elusive blend of man and camel, seemed
an ideal image for all uncommon couples.
Was this the night that I had waited for
so long? I wanted to believe it was,
but just as they were vanishing, the man
and camel ceased to sing, and galloped
back to town. They stood before my porch,
staring up at me with beady eyes, and said:
"You ruined it. You ruined it forever."

The Alto's Lament
Marcy Heisler

It's awful being an alto when you're singing in the choir,
Sopranos get the twiddly bits that people all admire,
The basses boom like big trombones, the tenors shout with glee,
The alto part is on two notes, or if you're lucky, three.

And when we sing an anthem and lift our hearts in praises,
The men get all the juicy bits and telling little phrases.
Of course, the trebles sing the tune - they always come off best -
While altos only get three notes and twenty-two bars rest.

It doesn't matter what we sing, from hymnbooks or from psalter,
The choirmaster looks at us - our voices start to falter;
Too high! Too low! Too fast! Too slow! You hold that note too long!
It doesn't matter what we do, it's certain to be wrong.

Oh! shed a tear for altos: they're the Marthas and they know
In ranks of choral singers they're considered very low.
They are so very humble that a lot of folk forget 'em:
They'd love to be sopranos, but their vocal chords won't let 'em.

And when the final trumpet sounds and we are wafted higher,
Sopranos, tenors, basses, all will form the heavenly choir.
When they sing Alleluias to celestial flats and sharps,
We altos in the corner will be polishing our harps.

Dog Music
Paul Zimmer

Amongst dogs are listeners and singers.
My big dog sang with me so purely,
puckering her ruffled lips into an O,
beginning with small, swallowing sounds
like Coltrane musing, then rising to power
and resonance, gulping air to continue -
her passion and sense of flawless form -
singing not with me, but for the art of dogs.
We joined in many fine songs - "Stardust,"
"Naima," "The Trout," "My Rosary," "Perdido."
She was a great master and died young,
leaving me with unrelieved grief,
her talents known to only a few.

Now I have a small dog who does not sing,
but listens with discernment, requiring
skill and spirit in my falsetto voice.
I sing her name and words of love
andante, con brio, vivace, adagio.
Sometimes she is so moved she turns
to place a paw across her snout,
closes her eyes, sighing like a girl
I held and danced with years ago.

But I am a pretender to dog music.
The true strains rise only from
the rich, red chambers of a canine heart,
these melodies best when the moon is up,
listeners and singers together or
apart, beyond friendship and anger,
far from any human imposter -
ballads of long nights lifting
to starlight, songs of bones, turds,
conquests, hunts, smells, rankings,
things settled long before our birth.

I Come Singing
H. Thompson Rich

Youth Answers the Call

Not with the fear or the hot, swift fever of war,
But with the calm, sure courage of the right
I come - singing of youth's far-visioned sight,
The dreams of youth so well worth dying for.
Not with the dread of one who finds no more
Than the guns' rumble and the bloody fight,
And ruin and the long sleep under the night:
Adventure lures me like an open door!

I come as one who has found glorious waking
And goes supremely girded to the foe,
Knowing my songs have power to lay him low.
I come as one upon whose lips are breaking
Snatches of melodies beyond unmaking,
And in whose soul unalterable rhythms flow.

Girls Singing
Ferdinand von Saar

SPRINGTIME: in the evening shade
I was strolling through the vale -
All at once before me strayed
Gentle sounds across the dale.

I drew nearer; all serene
Two were sitting hand in hand -
Maidens as by day are seen
Working in the furrowed land.

And the faces both were brown
From the kissing sunbeams' glow;
Underneath each ragged gown
Bare a sunburnt foot would show.

But they sang, their heads held high,
Songs that from their bosoms sprang
To the stars that lit the sky,
Sang, and knew not how they sang.

And they sang the old, old lays
All of love, its joy and pain,
Heedless, seeking no one's praise,
Through the wide and lonely plain.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Of speckled eggs the birdie sings
And nests among the trees;
The sailor sings of ropes and things
In ships upon the seas.

The children sing in far Japan,
The children sing in Spain;
The organ with the organ man
Is singing in the rain.

Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind [excerpt]
Carl Sandburg

It has happened before.
Strong men put up a city and got
a nation together,
And paid singers to sing and women
to warble: We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation,
nothing like us ever was.

And while the singers sang
and the strong men listened
and paid the singers well
and felt good about it all,
there were rats and lizards who listened
... and the only listeners left now
... are ... the rats ... and the lizards.

And there are black crows
crying, "Caw, caw,"
bringing mud and sticks
building a nest
over the words carved
on the doors where the panels were cedar
and the strips on the panels were gold
and the golden girls came singing:
We are the greatest city,
the greatest nation:
nothing like us ever was.

The only singers now are crows crying, "Caw, caw,"
And the sheets of rain whine in the wind and doorways.
And the only listeners now are ... the rats ... and the lizards.

Chayym Zeldis

"...such notes, as warbl'd to the string,
drew iron tears down Pluto's cheek..."
- Milton

I was up on Everest (where earth kisses the hem of stratosphere) with the Sherpas and  pick-axes and ropes and tents and  packs (fore & aft) and parkas and thermal underwear and all the other mountain-climbing jazz, when, lo and behold, who should appear before my eyes but Her Highness, Joan Sutherland!

"Joanie," I said, amazed to see her: "How did you ever come to be  here!?"

Said she: "I had nothing to do with it: La Forza de Destina brought me."  And she smiled: "What I actually mean is, I came up on my high notes."

"And now that you're here, what will you do?"

"I'll sing - but of course - that's what I do, was born to, ordained to do."

"You'll sing in that fancy, strapless opera-gown without hat or coat or scarf  or gloves or earmuffs - or even proper, waterproof galoshes?"

She nodded. "Why, I'd sing even if I were stark naked."

"Hmmmm...and just how do propose to get back down?"

But it was snowing like crazy, with the Wind-from-the-North-Pole howling and the

Wind-from-the-South-Pole whistling, and lightning-bolts flying, and thunder-clouds bursting, and pellets of hail whizzing by like buckshot, so I could neither see nor hear what she answered.

However, it  mattered not a fig.

Because, swaying like a sequoia, Joanie  began - right in the blizzard-face of the whole shebang! - to sing.

And wouldn't  you just know it?

Everest melted!

Losing Soul
Chayym Zeldis

When I heard
the music
this morning,
the naked bursts
of choral Mahler,
I wondered
whether the members
of the choir
had lost
their souls
and were seeking
in the

when they began
they pried their souls
stone sepulchres
to song?

In the Elementary School Choir
Gregory Djanikian

I had never seen a cornfield in my life,
I had never been to Oklahoma,
But I was singing as loud as anyone,
"Oh what a beautiful morning.... The corn
Is as high as an elephant's eye,"
Though I knew something about elephants I thought,
Coming from the same continent as they did,
And they being more like camels than anything else.

And when we sang from Meet Me in St. Louis,
"Clang, clang, clang went the trolley,"
I remembered the ride from Ramleh Station
In the heart of Alexandria
All the way to Roushdy where my grandmother lived,
The autos on the roadway vying
With mule carts and bicycles,
The Mediterranean half a mile off on the left,
The air smelling sharply of diesel and salt.

It was a problem which had dogged me
For a few years, this confusion of places,
And when in 5th grade geography I had pronounced
"Des Moines" as though it were a village in France,
Mr. Kephart led me to the map on the front wall,
And so I'd know where I was,
Pressed my forehead squarely against Iowa.
Des Moines, he'd said. Rhymes with coins.

Now we were singing "zippidy-doo-dah, zippidy-ay,"
And every song we'd sung had in it
Either sun or bluebirds, fair weather
Or fancy fringe, O beautiful America!
And one tier below me,
There was Linda Deemer with her amber waves
And lovely fruited plains,
And she was part of America too
Along with sun and spacious sky
Though untouchable, and as distant
As purple mountains of majesty.

"This is my country," we sang,
And a few years ago there would have been
A scent of figs in the air, mangoes,
And someone playing the oud along a clear stream.

But now it was "My country ‘tis of thee"
And I sang it out with all my heart
And now with Linda Deemer in mind.
"Land where my fathers died," I bellowed,
And it was not too hard to imagine
A host of my great uncles and -grandfathers
Stunned from their graves in the Turkish interior
And finding themselves suddenly
On a rock among maize and poultry
And Squanto shaking their hands.

How could anyone not think America
Was exotic when it had Massachusetts
And the long tables of thanksgiving?
And how could it not be home
If it were the place where love first struck?

We had finished singing.
The sun was shining through large windows
On the beatified faces of all
Who had sung well and with feeling.
We were ready to file out and march back
To our room where Mr. Kephart was waiting.
Already Linda Deemer had disappeared
Into the high society of the hallway.
One day I was going to tell her something.
Des Moines, I was saying to myself,
Baton Rouge. Terre Haute. Boise.

Solo R&B Vocal Underground
W.S. Di Piero

It seems to head from its last stop too fast,
my transbay train's strungout hoo, deep
inside the tunnel, and starts to bleed
into the baritone wail of that guy
at platform's end, a sort of lullaby
rubbed against the wall then caught in a squall
of wind darkening toward us, his whippy voice
skinning its tired song off the tiled dome:
he's determined, the silky lyric says,
to be independently blue, while we all
wait to be chuted to car lot or home,
closer to love, or farther, and sooner to loss,
our bashful shoes and arms like lives crossed,
every plural presence now some thing alone,
thanks to our singer-man. We wait for the train,
patient with hope, a hope that's like complaint.

The Drunk Singer
Andrew Feld

Later now, in the year and in her voice,
with her band all occupied in boxing up
their dismal instruments, the sorry woods
and worn-out brasses that kept them so absorbed
three sets into the night, so she works on
her rum and Diet-Coke and pages through
the wind-swept Fake Book of her mind, as if
she still could fit the moment to its song
with such a pitchy voice, the strain of trying
to fill an empty house at closing time
bending each note a little off the mark,
while she wonders if she's Crazy, for being
so blue, and just How Blue Can You Get, before
deciding either Too Blue or Almost Blue.

And on the fogged-in highway home, the man
who's had too much is listening to the noise
of noise, the wheels-on-wet-sand sound of stations
missed, and finding that his teeth aren't sharp enough
to scrape off his tongue the taste of corn and wheat
wrung through the digestion of some Tennessee
distillery, as he moves deeper into the in-between,
this patch of low-lying November weather, and worries
at his radio, pushing all the little silver knobs
again and again and again, each effort corrected
immediately by the next, the same, mistake,
the same grains of static released at every point,
until he shuts the whole thing off and hears
nothing, in its diminished form, continuing.

Modest Mussorgsky (transl. unknown)

Come, honorable gentlemen, look this way,
walk up, come and see, wonder
These great gentlemen, our lords of music!
They're all here!
Once a river overflowed into three streams:
One stream ran through the forest,
Another got lost in a bed of sand,
And the third passed by the mill,
By the mill-wheel made of elm, right by the mill-stone.
O turn, you wheel, O grind, you stone,
Grind out the whole truth about these fine fellows,
These brave musicians,
The show is beginning!
See, breaking away from the clouds,
A dweller in the eternal realms
Comes to show to mortals
The secret mystery of simple things.
He comes with God's help!
He tells us that the minor key is a sin of our forefathers,
And that the major key is the atonement for our sins.
And so, hovering in the clouds with the birds of the sky,
He pours on mortals words too deep for understanding,
And God helps him!
After him, running and skipping, comes Fif, every young,
Fif the undaunted, Fif the peace-maker, Fif the clever one -
All his life he has been in the midst of things, now he is losing his head:
He does not heed anyone, he cannot hear anything,
He heeds only Patti,
He adores Patti, he sings only of Patti,
O Patti, Patti, o Pa-Pa-Patti,
Wonderful Patti, divine Patti,
O Patti, Patti, o Pa-Pa-Patti,
Wonderful Patti, divine Patti,
But why that blonde wig?
Patti's blonde wig? A wig!
A wig!
Patti, Patti, o Pa-Pa-Patti,
Wonderful Patti, divine Patti,
Patti, Patti, o Pa-Pa-Patti,
Wonderful Patti, divine Patti,
Wonderful, darling, exquisite, divine,
Pa-Pa..., Pa-Pa..., Pa-Pa..., Pa-Pa...,
Ti-ti, ti-ti, ti-ti, ti-ti,
Pa-Pa Patti, Pa-Pa ti-ti!
O-------- O------------
Pa-Pa-Pa - Patti,
O divine Patti!
Here comes a youth staggering, step by step,
His wounds gaping:
He is pale, gloomy and weary,
He pleads for the stain to be washed away,
A quite indecent stain.
There was a time when he was blameless
And charmed everyone by obeying his elders,
And with his delightful chatter, so shy and childlike,
Captivated many, many hearts.
But that time has passed.
Suddenly sensing within himself a mihty power
He caught sight of the enemy, engaging him in battle,
And was slain.
The poor fellow suffered a mortal blow,
A blow of mighty force!
Here he is, Titan!
Titan, Titan!
See how he races and tears along in a fury,
How he roars and rages, storms and threatens,
How terrible and fearsome he is!
On his teutonic Bucephalas,
His hard-worked steed of the future,
With armfuls of thunderbolts
Prepared for printing.
Quick, a seat for the genius!
The genius has nowhere to sit.
Call him to dinner!
The genius loves a speech!
Banish all directors!
He'll take everyone's place!
See how he rages!...
On he comes, on he comes,
Straight at them,
At the bold lords,
This Titan, this Titan,
With his titanic arrogance.
O what a scandal, what a scandal,
To mix in such company!
And immediately he blazed with anger,
And fell on them in fury
And mercilessly overrode them.
And he pushed and pulled them around...
pushed and pulled them around...
But the thunder rolled! ... And darkness descended,
And a thick mist began to gather,
And headlong they fell in holy terror,
That cloud-dweller, young Fif
And that proud Titan!
And in a crown of roses and lilies
And snow white camelias
The Muse approached!
And perfumes filled the air,
And the heroes grew calm
And sang the Hymn of prayer:
"O most glorious Euterpe,
O mighty goddess,
Grant us inspiration,
quicken our feeble strength.
And with a golden shower from Olympus
Water our cornfields;
Goddess of the golden tresses,
Heaven-born muse,
We praise you eternally
And raise songs to you on the sounding zithers!"

Sing fair Clorinda
Henry Lawes

Sing fair Clorinda, sing whilst you move
Those that attend the throne above,
To leave their holy business there,
Till each with his obedient ear
Shall so much harmony attain,
To think the spheres were made in vain.

Since here's a voice quickens the sloth
Of nature's age, it comforts growth
In all her works, and can provoke
A lily to outlive an oak.

A Singer
William Allingham

That which he did not feel, he would not sing;
What most he felt, religion it was to hide
In a dumb darkling grotto, where the spring
Of tremulous tears, arising unespied,
Became a holy well that durst not glide
Into the day with moil or murmuring;
Whereto, as if to some unlawful thing,
He stole, musing or praying at its side.

But in the sun he sang with cheerful heart,
Of coloured season and the whirling sphere,
Warm household habitude and human mirth,
The whole faith-blooded mystery of earth;
And I, who had his secret, still could hear
The grotto's whisper low through every part.

The Singer of High State
Louis Golding

On hills too harsh for firs to climb,
Where eagle dare not hatch her brood,
Upon the peak of solitude,
With anvils of black granite crude
I forge austerities of rhyme.

Such godlike stuff my spirit drinks
I make grand odes of tempests there.
The steel-winged eagle, if he dare
To cleave these tracts of frozen air,
Hearing such music, swoops and sinks.

Stark clangours of forgotten wars,
Tumults of primal love and hate,
Through crags of song reverberate.
Held by the Singer of High State,
Battalions of the midnight pause.

On hills uplift from Space and Time,
Upon the peak of Solitude,
With stars to give my furnace food,
On anvils of black granite crude
I forge austerities of rhyme.

Shepherd Singing Ragtime
Louis Golding

The shepherd sings: -
"Way down in Dixie,
Way down in Dixie,
Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay..."

With shaded eyes he stands to look
Across the hills where the clouds swoon,
He singing, leans upon his crook,
He sings, he sings no more.
The wind is muffled in the tangled hairs
Of sheep that drift along the noon.
One mild sheep stares
With amber eyes about the pearl-flecked June.
Two skylarks soar
With singing flame
Into the sun whence first they came.
All else is only grasshoppers
Or a brown wing the shepherd stirs,
Who, like a tall tree moving, goes
Where the pale tide of sheep-drift flows.

See! the sun smites
With sea-drawn lights
The turned wing of a gull that glows
Aslant the violet, the profound
Dome of the mid-June heights.

Alas! again the grasshoppers,
The birds, the slumber-winging bees,
Alas! again for those and these
Demure and sweet things drowned;
Drowned in vain raucous words men made
Where no lark rose with swift and sweet
Ascent and where no dim sheep strayed
About the stone immensities,
Where no sheep strayed and where no bees
Probed any flowers nor swung a blade
Of grass with pollened feet.

He sings: -
"In Dixie,
Way down in Dixie,
Where the hens are dog-gone glad to lay
Scrambled eggs in the new-mown hay..."

The herring-gulls with peevish cries
Rebuke the man who sings vain words;
His sheep-dog growls a low complaint,
Then turns to chasing butterflies.
But when the indifferent singing-birds
From midmost down to dimmest shore
Innumerably confirm their songs,
And grasshoppers make summer rhyme
And solemn bees in the wild thyme
Clash cymbals and beat gongs,
The shepherd's words once more are faint,
The shepherd's song once more is thinned
Upon the long course of the wind,
He sings, he sings no more.

Ah, now the sweet monotonies
Of bells that jangle on the sheep
To the low limit of the hills!
Till the blue cup of music spills
Into the boughs of lowland trees;
Till thence the lowland singings creep
Into the silenced shepherd's head,
Creep drowsily through his blood:
The young thrush fluting all he knows,
The ring-dove moaning his false woes,
Almost the rabbit's tiny tread,
The last unfolding bud.

But now,
Now a cool word spreads out along the sea.
Now the day's violet is cloud-tipped with gold.
Now dusk most silently
Fills the hushed day with other wings than birds'.
Now where on foam-crest waves the seagulls rock,
To their cliff-haven go the seagulls thence.
So too the shepherd gathers in his flock,
Because birds journey to their dens,
Tired sheep to their still fold.
A dark first bat swoops low and dips
About the shepherd who now sings
A song of timeless evenings;
For dusk is round him with wide wings,
Dusk murmurs on his moving lips.

There is not mortal man who knows
From whence the, shepherd's song arose:
It came a thousand years ago.

Once the world's shepherds woke to lead
The folded sheep that they might feed
On green downs where winds blow.
One shepherd sang a golden word.
A thousand miles away one heard.
One sang it swift, one sang it slow.

Three skylarks heard, three skylarks told
All shepherds this same song of gold
On all downs where winds blow.

This is the song that shepherds must
Sing till the green downlands be dust
And tide of sheep-drift no more flow:

The song three skylarks told again
To all the sheep and shepherd men
On green downs where winds blow.

The Alto's Rebuttal

The poor lonely altos
So mild and so meek
Forlorn and abandoned
Forbidden to speak.

We've begged and we've pleaded

For lines with some spunk
We know we can do it
We're in such a funk.

We smile at the tenors
The basses we love
The sopranos our sisters
We'd just like to shove.

We want to sing melody
We so want to shine
We're just the support group
And that is just fine.

For when we're in Heaven
And you all sing your parts
The altos will be there
With hands on our hearts.

We'll polish those harps
If that be our task
We'll sing not a note
Unless we are asked.

Please remember this warning
And heed it quite well
Just don't cross an alto
You'll end up in Hell.

Christina Rosetti, from Goblin Market

She sat and sang alway
By the green margin of a stream,
Watching the fishes leap and play
Beneath the glad sunbeam.

I sat and wept alway
Beneath the moon's most shadowy beam,
Watching the blossoms of the May
Weep leaves into the stream.

I wept for memory;
She sang for hope that is so fair:
My tears were swallowed by the sea;
Her songs died on the air.

Walter de la Mare

Rachel sings sweet -
Oh yes, at night,
Her pale face bent
In the candle-light,
Her slim hands touch
The answering keys,
And she sings of hope
And of memories:
Sings to the little
Boy that stands
Watching those slim,
Light, heedful hands.
He looks in her face;
Her dark eyes seem
Dark with a beautiful
Distant dream;
And still she plays,
Sings tenderly
To him of hope,
And of memory.

A Song from "The Player Queen"
William Butler Yeats

My mother dandled me and sang,
"How young it is, how young!"
And made a golden cradle
That on a willow swung.
"He went away," my mother sang,
"When I was brought to bed,"
And all the while her needle pulled
The gold and silver thread.
She pulled the thread and bit the thread
And made a golden gown,
And wept because she had dreamt that I
Was born to wear a crown.
"When she was got," my mother sang,
"I heard a sea-mew cry,
And saw a flake of the yellow foam
That dropped upon my thigh."
How therefore could she help but braid
The gold into my hair,
And dream that I should carry
The golden top of care?

My Vocation
Béranger (tr. Toru Dutt)

A waif on this earth,
Sick, ugly and small,
Contemned from my birth
And rejected by all,
From my lips broke a cry,
Such as anguish may wring,
Sing, - said God in reply,
Chant poor little thing.

By Wealth's coach besmeared
With dirt in a shower,
Insulted and jeered
By the minions of power,
Where - oh where shall I fly?
Who comfort will bring?
Sing, - said God in reply,
Chant poor little thing.

Life struck me with fright -
Full of chances and pain,
So I hugged with delight
The drudge's hard chain;
One must eat, - yet I die,
Like a bird with clipped wing,
Sing - said God in reply,
Chant poor little thing.

Love cheered for a while
My morn with his ray,
But like a ripple or smile
My youth passed away.
Now near Beauty I sigh,
But fled is the spring!
Sing - said God in reply,
Chant poor little thing.

All men have a task,
And to sing is my lot -
No meed from men I ask
But one kindly thought.
My vocation is high -
'Mid the glasses that ring,
Still - still comes that reply,
Chant poor little thing.

As I was going along

As I was going along, long, long,
A-singing a comical song, song, song,
The lane that I went was so long, long, long,
And the song that I sung was as long, long, long,
And so I went singing along.

The Minstrel
Archibald Lampman

Through the wide-set gates of the city, bright-eyed,
Came the minstrel; many a song behind him,
Many still before him, re-echoing strangely,
           Ringing and kindling.

First he stood, bold-browed, in the hall of warriors,
Stood, and struck, and flung from his strings the roar
And sweep of battle, praising the might of foemen,
           Met in the death-grip:

Bugle-voiced, wild-eyed, till the old men, rising,
Gathered all the youth in a ring, and drinking
Deep, acclaimed him, making the walls and roof-tree
           Jar as with thunder.

Then of horse and hound, and the train of huntsmen
Sprang his song, and into the souls of all men
Passed the cheer and heat of the chase, the fiery
           Rush of the falcon.

Singing next of love, in the silken chambers
Sat the minstrel, eloquent, urged by lovely
Eyes of women, sang till the girls, white-handed,
           Gathered, and round him

Leaned, and listened, eager, and flushed, and
Now of things remembered, and now the dearer
Wishes yet unfilled; and they praised and crowned
           They, the beloved ones.

Gentlest songs he made for the mothers, weaving
Over cradles tissues of softest vision,
Tender cheeks, and exquisite hands, and little
           Feet of their dearest.

Into cloisters also he came, and cells, and
Dwellings, sad and heavy with shadow, making
All his lute-strings bear for the hour their bitter
           Burden of sorrow.

Children gathered, many and bright, around him,
Sweet-eyed, eager, beautiful, fairy-footed,
While with jocund hand upon string and mad notes,
           Full of the frolic,

He rejoicing, followed and led their pastime,
Wilder yet and wilder, till weary, over
All their hearts he murmured a spell, and gently
           Sleep overcame them.

So the minstrel sang with a hundred voices
All day long, and now in the dusk of even
Once again the gates of the city opened,
           Wide for his passing

Forth to dreaming meadows, and fields, and wooded
Hillsides, solemn under the dew and the starlight
There the singer far from the pathways straying,
          Silent and lonely,

Plucked and pressed the fruit of his day's devotion,
Making now a song for the spirit only,
Deeper-toned, more pure, than his soul had fashioned
          Every aforetime.

Sorrow touched it, travail of spirit, broken
Hopes, and faiths uprooted, and aspirations
Dimmed and soiled, and out of the depth of being
          Limitless hunger.

First his own strange destiny, darkly guided;
Next, the tragic ways of the world and all men,
Caught and foiled for ever among perplexing,
           Endlessly ravelled,

Nets of truth and falsehood, and good, and evil,
Wild of heart, beholding the hands of Beauty
Decking all, he sang with a voice and fingers
          Trembling and shaken.

Then of earth and time, and the pure and painless
Night, serene with numberless worlds inwoven
Scripts and golden traceries, hourly naming
          God, the Eternal,

Sang the minstrel, full of the light and splendour,
Full of power and infinite gift, once only -
Only once - for just as the solemn glory,
          Flung by the moonshine,

Over folds of hurrying clouds at midnight,
Gleams and passes, so was his song - the noblest -
Once outpoured, and then in the strain and tumult
          Gone and forgotten.

Bind me - I still can sing -
Emily Dickinson

Bind me - I still can sing -
Banish - my mandolin
Strikes true within -

Slay - and my Soul shall rise
Chanting to Paradise -
Still thine.

On Hearing a Recording by the Last Castrato
(Alessandro Moreschi, 1858-1922)
Kenneth Wolman


This is how they must have done it: heard his voice
in church on a Sunday, the sweet boy-soprano
rising toward the ceiling as toward Heaven,
and saw in that Heaven the crown of thorns turned to gold,
metal vibrating in the air like a celestial harp,
the promise of glory brought to earth in
the fossilized voice of a little boy:

and went to his parents, poor farmers, whose life
was a misery of late rents and stillbirths,
and showed them God in their son's unchanging voice:
and his father wept, took the gold pressed like nails into his hands,
prayed his son would not know, but knew that he would,
prayed he would forgive them, but knew he was not God:

and knew that the dessicated honey-laden voice
that would rein its fury in Mozart's golden scales
from the stages in Rome or Vienna or Milan
would be his son's revenge, would come to him by night,
to breed in his nightmares, and would spurt forth the seed
of dreams, in molten rage, in the voices of his never-born grandchildren.


The voice on the wax cylinders shatters the barrier
of time and of sex: its conjured face is of the ancient infant
in a painting by the Douanier Rousseau:
benign, delicate, the skin pink-wrinkled with age,
suspended in babyfat, forever a child.

What is behind its eyes that stare blankly outward?
What is the man who grew behind the woman's voice
whose soaring scales cut like the knife that maimed him?
What did he hear when he heard his voice played back
through a horn, but eternity granted, eternity lost?

For only the voice grew: not down but outward,
its never-broken scales filling a massive chest,
throbbing inside it like a shivered scream.

Upon Julia's Voice
Robert Herrick

When I thy singing next shall hear,
I'll wish I might turn all to ear,
To drink-in notes and numbers, such
As blessed souls can't hear too much
Then melted down, there let me lie
Entranced, and lost confusedly;
And by thy music strucken mute,
Die, and be turn'd into a Lute.

The Voice and Viol
Robert Herrick

Rare is the voice itself:
but when we sing
To th' lute or viol,
then 'tis ravishing.

The Songster
Stevie Smith

Miss Pauncefort sang at the top of her voice
(Sing tirry-lirry-lirry down the lane)
And nobody knew what she sang about
(Sing tirry-lirry-lirry all the same).

Knocking at the Door
John Freeman

Great winds may blow now
But I will go now
Down to her cottage on the shore,
And drawing near her
I shall hear her
Singing as I knock at the door.

Blow high or low then
The winds, I shall know then
She's happy when I hear her sing.
Then at my knocking
The quick rain mocking
She'll pause, and to her wild heart cling.

And I shall stand there
In the blown sand there,
Listening as she listens too,
And the dark fir-trees
And autumn bare trees
Hush, then shake their bones anew.

I knock again and
Again like rain and
Softly as rain, till she laughs to hear.
"I thought it was rain-drops
That when the rain stops
Patter the pane with tapping clear."

- In, in, in now!
There's fire within now,
And a voice whose song is heard in speech....
But if that knocking
Were the rain's mocking
And she opened but to an empty beach;

Or if that singing
Were but the wind's ringing
Faint senseless bells hung in my brain;
How would the night then
Lack all light then,
And she and I listen in vain!

Across the Yard: La Ignota
Robert Lowell

The soprano's bosom breathes the joy of God,
Brunnhilde who could not rule her voice for God -
her stately yellow ivory window frames
haven't seen paint or putty these twenty years;
grass, dead since Kennedy, chokes the window box.
She has to sing to keep her curtains flying;
one is pink dust flipped back to scarlet lining,
the other besmirched gauze; and behind them
a blown electric heater, her footlocker with Munich
stickers stood upright for a music stand.
Her doorbell is dead. No one has to hire her.
She flings her high aria to the trash like roses....
When I was lost and green, I would have given
the janitor three months' rent for this address.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in New York
Robert Lowell

The great still fever for Paris, Vienna, Milan;
which had more genius, grace, preoccupations?
Loss of grace is bagatelle to pay
for a niche in the Pantheon or New York -
and as for Europe, they could bring it with them.
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf sings, herself her part,
Was ist Silvia, Die alte Marschallin,
until the historic rivers of both worlds,
the Hudson and the Danube burst their bar,
trembling like the water-ivy down my spine,
from satyr's tussock to the hardened hoof....
La Diva, crisped, remodelled for the boards,
roughs it with chaff and cardigan at recordings
like anyone's single and useful weekend guest.

The Whiffenpoof Song
Meade Minnegerode

From the tables down at Mory's,
To the place where Louie dwells,
And the dear, old Temple Bar we love so well,
Sing the Whiffenpoofs assembled,
With their glasses raised on high!
And the magic of their singing, casts a spell.

Yes the magic of their singing,
Of the songs we love so well:
"Shall I Wasting" and "Mavourneen" and the rest!
We will serenade our Louie,
Till health and voices fail,
And we'll pass and be forgotten with the rest.
We are poor little lambs
Who have lost our way,
Baa! Baa! Baa!
We are little, black sheep
Who have gone astray!
Baa! Baa! Baa!
Gentlemen, songsters, off on a spree,
Doomed from here to eternity.
Lord! Have mercy on such as we,
Baa! Baa! Baa!

On Hearing Miss P------ Sing "He Doeth All Things Well"
Peter John Allan

How sweet the sound of words divine
From lips of innocence like thine!
Fancy, whene'er that strain you sing,
Delights to spread her buoyant wing,
And, borne upon the solemn air,
To join with angels in their prayer.
Earth seems her youth to have renewed,
Where erst in Eden's solitude
The happy pair together trod -
The children and the friends of God;
For spirits there from heaven descended,
And worship with their worship blended,
Singing their solemn songs divine
As sweetly as thou singest thine.
So lovely, innocent, and young,
Still truth direct your heart and tongue;
For oh! your sex, the first to sin,
Have ever since repentant been -
Have ever since show'd higher powers
Of head, and heart, and soul, than ours,
And taught us there's a heaven above,
By making earth a heaven with love.

The Singers
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men,
And bring them back to heaven again.

The first, a youth, with soul of fire,
Held in his hand a golden lyre;
Through groves he wandered, and by streams,
Playing the music of our dreams.

The second with a bearded face,
Stood singing in the market-place,
And stirred with accents deep and loud
The hearts of all the listening crowd.

A grey old man, the third and last,
Sang in cathedrals dim and vast,
While the majestic organ rolled
Contrition from its mouths of gold.

And those who heard the Singers three,
Disputed who the best might be;
For still their music seemed to start
Discordant echoes in each heart.

But the great Master said, "I see
No best in kind, but in degree;
I gave a various gift to each,
To charm, to strengthen, and to teach.

"These are the three great chords of might,
And he whose ear is tuned aright
Will hear no discord in the three,
But the most perfect harmony."

The Village Blacksmith [excerpt]
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

He goes on Sunday to the church,
     And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
     He hears his daughter's voice,
Singing in the village choir,
     And it makes his heart rejoice.

It sounds to him like her mother's voice,
     Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
     How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
     A tear out of his eyes.

Walter von der Vogelweid
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Vogelweid the Minnesinger,
When he left this world of ours,
Laid his body in the cloister,
Under Wurtzburg's minster towers.

And he gave the monks his treasures,
Gave them all with this behest:
They should feed the birds at noontide
Daily on his place of rest;

Saying, "From these wandering minstrels
I have learned the art of song;
Let me now repay the lessons
They have taught so well and long."

Thus the bard of love departed;
And, fulfilling his desire,
On his tomb the birds were feasted
By the children of the choir.

Day by day, o'er tower and turret,
In foul weather and in fair,
Day by day, in vaster numbers,
Flocked the poets of the air.

On the tree whose heavy branches
Overshadowed all the place,
On the pavement, on the tombstone,
On the poet's sculptured face,

On the cross-bars of each window,
On the lintel of each door,
They renewed the War of Wartburg,
Which the bard had fought before.

There they sang their merry carols,
Sang their lauds on every side;
And the name their voices uttered
Was the name of Vogelweid.

Till at length the portly abbot
Murmured, "Why this waste of food?
Be it changed to loaves henceforward
For our tasting brotherhood."

Then in vain o'er tower and turret,
From the walls and woodland nests,
When the minster bells rang noontide,
Gathered the unwelcome guests.

Then in vain, with cries discordant,
Clamorous round the Gothic spire,
Screamed the feathered Minnesingers
For the children of the choir.

Time has long effaced the inscriptions
On the cloister's funeral stones,
And tradition only tells us
Where repose the poet's bones.

But around the vast cathedral,
By sweet echoes multiplied,
Still the birds repeat the legend,
And the name of Vogelweid.

A Song [excerpt]
Carolyn Sloan

I sang a song yesterday,
I thought I sang it well
The notes were all in tune.
The phrases smooth and uninterrupted by unconscious
I varied the rhythms and spoke the words clearly.
I anticipated each key change.
My voice was warm and moved effortlessly through each
rise and fall of the melody.
When I finished, I was sure I‚d told the story well
and communicated my interpretation.
But I did not experience a feeling.
My heart remained unchanged.
I was unmoved.
My soul still yearned for expression.
Despire my efforts,
I realized I had not sung at all.
The music, it seemed, slept quietly beside me,
Patiently waiting to be awakened.
I decided to start again.
This time I did not listen.
I did not watch.
I did not think.
This time I willingly vanished.
This time I became...
a song.

Two Sunsets [excerpt]
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

One day he heard a singing strain -
     A human voice, in bird-like trills.
     He paused, and little rapture-rills
Went trickling downward through each vein.

And in his heart the whole day long,
     As in a temple veiled and dim,
     He kept and bore about with him
The beauty of that singer's song....

Then suddenly a fresh young voice
     Rose, bird-like, from some hidden place,
     He did not even turn his face;
It struck him simply as a noise.

Whilst Cynthia sung

Whilst Cynthia sung, all angry winds lay still,
And Zephyrs with a gentle gale
Did softly swell the trembling sail,
Cynthia! whose voice as well as eyes can kill.
Charm'd with the magic of her tongue,
The wanton waters danc'd along,
Each little billow strove to stay,
Though nature forced it away;
And all together blame the tide.

From rosy mouth she breath'd the perfum'd sound;
The mournful Attic Philomel
Ne'er did warble half so well,
Whilst mocking echoes babble it around.
Ne'er in so sweet a tune as this,
Upon the banks of Thamesis,
Did silver swans, about to die,
Dear Cynthia, they're excelled by you,
In sweetness, and in fairness too.

Charles Augustus Keeler

Now Camilla's fair fingers are plucking in rapture the pulsating strings,
And her far-away eyes are intent on the scene and the story she sings -
Singing her song of Felipe, her hero intrepid and true;
Singing his praise, and recounting what deeds for her love he would do.

See the wild race after cattle, the broncho's wide nostrils blood red;
Hear the hello of the herder, Felipe, who dashes ahead!
Hist, how the lariat sings as it flies o'er the horns of a steer!
See the wild plunge, and the horse standing firm - hear the bellow of fear!

Then on the trail of Apaches, who leads the long marches by night?
Who but Felipe would dare to press on o'er the mesa to fight?
Who but Felipe sits firm in his saddle when rifles ring out in the dark?
Coolly he levels his weapon, the bullet flies true to its mark.

Such is the song sweet Camilla is singing with gaze far-away -
Such is the song, for she knows not how long her Felipe will stay -
Knows not that lone in the waste of the sage-brush her master lies, slain -
Ah, sweet Camilla, thy songs for Felipe, the fearless, are vain!

Urge me no more

Urge me no more, this airy mirth belongs
To better times, these times are not for songs.
The sprightly twang of the melodious lute
Agrees not with my voice, and both unsuit
My untun'd fortunes. Th'affected measure
Of strains that are constrained afford no pleasure.
Music's the child of mirth, where griefs assail
The troubled soul, both voice and fingers fail;
My grief's too great for smiling eyes
To cure or counter charms to exorcise.

The raven's dismal croaks, the midnight howls
Of empty wolves mix'd with the screech of owls,
The nine sad knolls of a dull passing bell,
With the loud language of a nightly knell,
And horrid outcries of revenged crimes,
Join'd in a medley, is music for these times.
These are no times to touch the merry strings
Of Orpheus, no, Ah! no, these are no times to sing.
How can my music relish in your ears,
That cannot speak for sobs nor sing for tears?

The Blind Psalmist
Elizabeth Clementine Kinney

He sang the airs of olden times
In soft, low tones to sacred rhymes,
Devotional, but quaint;
His fingers touched the viol's strings,
And at their gentle vibratings
The glory of an angel's wings
Hung o'er that aged saint!

His thin, white locks, like silver threads
On which the sun its radiance sheds,
Or like the moonlit snow,
Seemed with a lustre half divine
Around his saintly brow to shine,
Till every scar, or time-worn line,
Was gilded with its glow.

His sightless balls to heaven upraised,
As with the spirit's eyes he gazed
On things invisible -
Reflecting some celestial light -
Were like a tranquil lake at night,
On which two mirrored planets bright
The concave's glory tell.

Thus, while the patriarchal saint
Devoutly sang to music quaint,
I saw old Homer rise
With buried centuries from the dead,
The laurel green upon his head,
As when the choir of bards he led,
With rapt, but blinded eyes!

And Scio's isle again looked green,
As when the poet there was seen,
And Greece was in her prime;
While Poesy with epic fire
Did once again the Bard inspire,
As when he swept his mighty lyre
To vibrate through all time.

The vision changed to Albion's shore:
I saw a sightless Bard once more
From dust of ages rise!
I heard the harp and deathless song
Of glorious Milton float along,
Like warblings from the birds that throng
His muse's Paradise!

And is it thus, when blindness brings
A veil before all outer things,
That visual spirits see
A world within, than this more bright,
Peopled with living forms of light,
And strewed with gems, as stars of night
Strew diamonds o'er the sea?

Then, reverend saint! though old and blind,
Thou with the quenchless orbs of mind
Canst natural sight o'erreach;
Upborne on Faith's triumphant wings,
Canst see unutterable things,
Which only through thy viol's strings,
And in thy songs, find speech.

Amphion [excerpt]
Sara Teasdale

'Tis said he had a tuneful tongue,
Such happy intonation,
Wherever he sat down and sung
He left a small plantation....

On the Death of Swinburne
Sara Teasdale

He trod the earth but yesterday,
And now he treads the stars.
He left us in the April time
He praised so often in his rhyme,
He left the singing and the lyre and went his way.

He drew new music from our tongue,
A music subtly wrought,
And moulded words to his desire,
As wind doth mould a wave of fire;
From strangely fashioned harps slow golden tones he wrung.

I think the singing understands
That he who sang is still,
And Iseult cries that he is dead, --
Does not Dolores bow her head
And Fragoletta weep and wring her little hands?

New singing now the singer hears
To lyre and lute and harp;
Catullus waits to welcome him,
And thro' the twilight sweet and dim,
Sappho's forgotten songs are falling on his ears.

Sara Teasdale

From my spirit's gray defeat,
From my pulse's flagging beat,
From my hopes that turned to sand
Sifting through my close-clenched hand,
From my own fault's slavery,
If I can sing, I still am free.

For with my singing I can make
A refuge for my spirit's sake,
A house of shining words, to be
My fragile immortality.

Evensong [excerpt]
Conrad Aiken

A neighbor started singing, singing a child to sleep.
It was strange: a song thus heard, -
In the misty evening, after an afternoon of rain, -
Seemed more beautiful than happiness, more beautiful than pain,
Seemed to escape the music and the word,
Only, somehow, to keep
A warmth that was lovelier than the song of any bird.
Was it because it came up through this tree,
Through the lucent leaves that twinkled on this tree,
With the bright lamp there beneath them in the street?
It was exquisitely sweet:
So unaffected, so unconscious that it was heard.
Or was it because she looked across the city,
Across the hills of tenements, so black,
And thought of all the mothers with a young and infinite pity?...
The child had fallen asleep, the hush swept back,
The leaves hung lifeless on the tree.

The Serenade
José Asunción Silva (transl. Alice Stone Blackwell)

The street is deserted, the night is cold,
The moon glides veiled amid cloud-banks dun;
The lattice above is tightly closed,
And the notes ring clearly one by one
Under his fingers light and strong,
While the voice that sings tells tender things,
As the player strikes on his sweet guitar
The fragile strings.

The street is deserted, the night is cold,
A cloud has covered the moon from sight.
The lattice above is tightly closed,
And the notes are growing more soft and light.
Perhaps the sound of the serenade
Seeks the soul of the girl who loves and waits,
As the swallows seek eaves to build their nests
When they come in spring with their gentle mates.

The street is deserted, the night is cold,
The moon shines out from the clouds aloft;
The lattice above is opened now
And the notes are growing more low, more soft.
The singer with fingers light and strong
Clings to the ancient window's bar,
And a moan is breathed from the fragile strings
Of a sweet guitar.

Julie Carter

My ears ring obbligato to her plaint,
or if it's just the rattled panes,
abused speakers' whines,
the neighbors will be calling.

But Violetta's more alive than usual,
has that fierceness in her soprano
belying any hints of lacking air.
I do not think she will die
betrayed by singing such,
or that she is a slut, not make-believe.

I've glimpsed the librettist's subtle lie.
There was no love when Alfredo powdered,
screaming whore whore,
but he knew that going in.
Scared off more by contagion,
hints of incessant coughing
keeping him up nights.
But he's related to a baritone.
Let papa guard your back, boy.
Let papa ease her off.


So I've been wondering, mother,
when you'll be turning Alfredo
(and no it isn't sauce, so don't you start
screaming about the cheeses you can't buy
less concerned with his death than your diet).
When you'll be scared off more by
hints of incessant dying
keeping you up nights.

But I forget, you have no papa
to guard your back,
to ease him off.

Don't ask me will he make it
through the day, the week,
arise to shout his life like
Violetta must before she can go home.
But my father never could sing, his voice
worse even than mine.


Violetta's more alive than usual
though her Amami, Alfredo! still hints
suspiciously of pasta,
and how she can think of eating
at a time like this,
should be like Karen Carpenter
let rainy days and sundaes get her down.

She's still singing, that soprano wraith.
And if I hit replay, rewind, I find
I can always bring her back.

The Impalpable Brush Fire Singer
Will Alexander

he is not an urn singer
nor does he carry on rapport
with negative forces within extinction

he is the brush fire singer
who projects from his heart
the sound of insidious subduction
of blank anomaly as posture
of opaque density as ash

distanced from prone ventriloqual stammer
from flesh
& habit
& drought

the performer
part poltergeist & Orisha
part broken in-cellular dove
part glance from floating Mongol bastions

where the spires are butane
where their photographic fractals are implanted with hypnosis

because he allegedly embodies
a green necrotic umber
more like a vertical flash or a farad
posing like a tempest in a human chromium palace

therefore his sound
a dazed simoom in a gauntlet
a blizzard of birds burned at the touch of old maelstroms

because he gives off the odour of storms
this universal Orisha
like a sun that falls from a compost of dimness
out of de-productive hydrogen sums
out of lightless fissures which boil outside the planet

he sings at a certain pitch
which has evolved beyond the potter's field
beyond a tragic hummingbird's cirrhosis
surmounting primeval flaw
surmounting fire which forms in irreplaceable disjunction

under certain formations of the zodiac he is listless
he intones without impact
his synodic revelations no longer of the law
of measured palpable destinations
because he sings in such a silence
that even the Rishis can't ignore

as though
the hollow power which re-arises from nothingness
perpetually convinces
like a vacuum which splits within the spinning arc of an
intangible solar candle

such power can never be confusedly re-traced
it adumbrates & blazes
like a glossary of suns
so that each viral drill
each forge
casts a feeling
which in-saturates a pressure
bringing to distance a hidden & elided polarity

like a subjective skill
corroded & advanced
he sings
beyond the grip of a paralytic nexus
where blood shifts
beyond the magnet of volume
where the nerves no longer resonate
inside an octagonal maze
stung at its source by piranhas

Richard Siken

He was pointing at the moon but I was looking at his hand.
He was dead anyway, a ghost. I'm surprised
I saw his hand at all. The moon, of course, is always
there—day moon, but it's still there; behind the clouds but
it's still there. I like seeing things: a hand, the moon, ice
in a highball glass. The moon? It's free, it doesn't
cost you anything so go ahead and look. Sustained attention
to anything—a focus, a scrutiny—always yields results.
I'd live on the moon probably except I think I'd miss
the moonlight, landscaping craters with clay roses in earthshine
and a reasonable excuse to avoid visiting hours
at the mental hospital. In space, no one can hear you
lying to your mom: "Can't make it, Mom. It's
a really long schlep." The coffee's weak and the coffee cake's
imaginary. You're not missing anything. Inside: a day room
and a day pass. Outside: a gazebo under a jackfruit tree.
The other inside: a deeper understanding of the burden
and its domestic infrastructure. Make yourself white.
Make yourself snow but the black bears trample
your landscape like little black dots that show up on x-rays.
It is not enough to be a landscape. One must also become
the path through the landscape, which is creepy. Truly.
The sun melts the snow, the bears wander off, the leaves
tremble like all my sad friends. I can still see his hand.
Once, in a fable, the moon woke the dead. Buried
underground, its light was too much to bear. How did it
get there? Greed. The brothers who owned it had it
buried with them. Later, St. Peter hung it in a tree.
The dead went back to bed, allegedly. One wonders why
a story like this exists. Who wrote it and to what end?
An ingenious solution: trees. Cashew, avocado, fig,
olive. Put it in a tree. Hide it in plain sight and climb
higher. We are all of us secret agents, undercover in our
overcoats, the snow falling down. Little black dots.
Some dream of tall things—trees, ladders, a rope trick.
My dreams are filled with bricks, or things in the shape
of bricks. Rectangles in the hot sun. A cow, a car,
a carton of cigarettes. Even my imagination sleeps
when I sleep and why not rest? Why crash the party
on the astral plane? You'll just be too tired to go
to the real party later. Have you ever eaten
Swedish meatballs at a dream party? They taste like
your blanket, because they are your blanket.
My imagination wants breakfast burritos. It refuses
to punch the clock until then. I could eat six but then
I'd need a nap. A breakfast that puts you back to sleep
is useless. Dear bears, we must not hibernate!
The bathroom tile is always wet and slippery and the door
from sleeping to waking always sticks and squeeks
but I have arrived, triumphant, with corporate coffee!
Tawnya has written our names on the paper cups
in her immaculate cursive. Her eyes are dead
and lusterless but her heart is in the right place, I guess.
Somewhere deep in her chest, I guess.
We take our hats off and get down
to business. "You got plans tonight, Dick?"
"Eight dollar spaghetti dinner and all you can sing
karaoke at the Best Western. Gonna school
Pace and Killian in the finer points of falsetto."
Not even one hour later: smoke break
in the breezeway by the handicapped bathroom.
Why is it we believe we only have one soul?
Because it's easier to set the table for one. And you can
sing your dinner tune to yourself while you eat over the sink.
The throat of the sink: silent. The throat of the argument:
more silverware, a tablecloth, gratitude, more souls.
A kid under a tablecloth isnists he's a ghost. A table
underneath a tablecloth is, I guess, like the rest of us,
only pretending to be invisible. Or worse:
dressed for work and not in the mood for, you know,
how it all plays out, always the same ways, boring times infinity.
"When I grow up I'm going to be a truck,"
says the kid underneath the tablecloth, and that's one way
to deflect the weight of the inevitable, to insist on possibility
in the face of grownups and the pumace of their compromises.
The trees die standing. My Spanish teacher told me this.
I had conjugated the verbs beforehand and taped them
to the bottom of my sneaker. Cheater, yes. Also uninvested
in the outcome. She could tell. Nothing to be done about it.
Verbs of being and verbs of action. We, neither
of us, were doing much anyway at the time and the room was
too hot. I think she meant unroot, which is a good thing to mean
but a difficult thing to hear when you're living under someone
else's roof. I climbed trees then, too. Then climbed back down.
How do I tell you how I got here without getting trapped
in the past? I suppose that's a bigger question than I expected.
"Hey Dick, tell ‘em about that one time when we made out.
That was a good time." Yes, it was. And yet
should we really spend our velocities on backwards motion?
Yes. Any motion, every motion. It's spring, green, take off
your coat, pull down your cap, roll up your sleeves, we're
hunting, we're arrows, we're stag in a meadow, in a frenzy.
"Like I said, Dick. That was a good time."
Soul 1: Was it a good time?
Soul 2: I had fun. You seemed to like it.
Soul 3: He's no Neil Armstrong.
Soul 2: Few are.
Neil Armstrong: Hush.
"He was such a colicky baby. Always fussing and crying.
As if he didn't want to be here at all. Right, Dicky?"
No, mom. I don't remember. And you're not supposed to be
in this part of the poem. You come back later, near the end,
with the ghost and the hand and the moon, after dark, after
the gimlets. "Sweetie, you asked for prompts and it's getting dark
on the East Coast. Tick tock. And don't type drunk."
Dear East Coast, I'm sorry it's getting dark. It must be problematic,
living in the future, always a few steps ahead, knowing
things you shouldn't say, since they haven't happened
to the rest of us yet. And Poland? I don't dare wonder
what you know about tomorrow. "Your grandma was from Poland."
I know, mom. And grandpa was handsome and you
were the smart one and the pretty one. "Still am. Poor Barbara.
You know, Dicky, I've been out of the hospital for a while now.
Remember how you promised you wouldn't write about me
while I was alive, Dicky? Remember? So if you're
writing about me that must mean something, yes?"
You're not sticking around for the end, then. "No, you're
doing fine, Squish. And yes, I miss you, too."
We cannot tarry here. We must march, we must bear the brunt.
Smoke break: in the alley by the oleanders, the pink ones.
Dear East Coast, it is getting dark here too now. Suddenly.
"It's getting late, Little Moon. Sing them the song."
It's not that late, Mr. Kitten.
"You are my moon, Little Moon. And it's late enough.
So climb down out of the tree."
Is it safe? "Safe enough." Are you dead as well?
Soul 1: Sing.
Soul 2: Sing.
Soul 3: Sing.
Stag In The Meadow: Sing.
The Black Bears: Sing.
Kid Under The Tablecloth: Sing.
I've been singing all day.
"Yes, you've been singing all day. And no, I'm not dead, not
everyone is dead, Little Moon. But the big moon needs the tree."
There is a ghost at the end of the song.
"Yes, there is. And you see his hand, and then you see the moon."
Am I the ghost at the end of the song?
"No, you are the way we bounce the light to see the ghost."
He was looking at the moon by I was looking at his hand.
He was dead anyway, a ghost. I'm surprised I saw
his hand at all. Once, in a fable, the moon woke the dead.
One wonders why a story like this exists. Who wrote it
and to what end? Sure, everyone wants the same things—
to belong, and to not be left behind—but still, does it help?
Perhaps. Once, in a fable: a man in a tree. Once,
in a fable: the trace of his thinking, the sound of his singing.
I like seeing things: a hand, the moon, ice in a highball glass.
The light of the mind illuminating the mind itself.
Put it in a tree. Hide it in plain sight and climb higher.
We are all of us secret agents, undercover in our overcoats,
the snow falling down.

The Skulls
Ivan Turgenev

Sumptuous, brilliantly lighted hall; a number of ladies and gentlemen.

All the faces are animated, the talk is lively.... A noisy conversation is being carried on about a famous singer. They call her divine, immortal.... O, how finely yesterday she rendered her last trill!

And suddenly - as by the wave of an enchanter's wand - from every head and from every face, slipped off the delicate covering of skin, and instantaneously exposed the deadly whiteness of skulls, with here and there the leaden shimmer of bare jaws and gums.

With horror I beheld the movements of those jaws and gums; the turning, the glistening in the light of the lamps and candles, of those lumpy bony balls, and the rolling in them of other smaller balls, the balls of the meaningless eyes.

I dared not touch my own face, dared not glance at myself in the glass.

And the skulls turned from side to side as before.... And with their former noise, peeping like little red rags out of the grinning teeth, rapid tongues lisped how marvelously, how inimitably the immortal...yes, immortal...singer had rendered that last trill!

Eamon Grennan

At her Junior High School graduation,
she sings alone
in front of the lot of us -

her voice soprano, surprising,
almost a woman's. It is
the Our Father in French,

the new language
making her strange, out there,
fully fledged and

ready for anything. Sitting
together - her separated
mother and father - we can

hear the racket of traffic
shaking the main streets
of Jersey City as she sings

Deliver us from evil,
and I wonder can she see me
in the dark here, years

from belief, on the edge
of tears. It doesn't matter. She
doesn't miss a beat, keeps

in time, in tune, while into
our common silence I whisper,
Sing, love, sing your heart out!

The Compleat Virtuoso
Edward Lear

There was an old man of the Isles,
Whose face was pervaded with smiles;
He sang "High dum diddle",
And played on the fiddle,
That amiable man of the Isles.

Ballata. Of True and False Singing
Anonymous (transl. Dante Gabriel Rossetti)

A little wild bird sometimes at my ear
Sings his own little verses very clear:
Others sing louder that I do not hear.

For singing loudly is not singing well;
But ever by the song that's soft and low
The master-singer's voice is plain to tell.
Few have it, and yet all are masters now,
And each of them can trill out what he calls
His ballads, canzonets, and madrigals.

The world with masters is so cover'd o'er,
There is no room for pupils any more.

Orpheus with his Lute
William Shakespeare or John Fletcher, from Henry VIII

Orpheus with his Lute made Trees,
And the Mountaine tops that freeze,
Bow themselues when he did sing.
To his Musicke, Plants and Flowers
Euer sprung; as Sunne and Showers,
There had made a lasting Spring.
Euery thing that heard him play,
Euen the Billowes of the Sea,
Hung their heads, & then lay by.
In sweet Musicke is such Art,
Killing care, & griefe of heart,
Fall asleepe, or hearing dye.

A Fiddler and a Castrato
Alexander Pushkin (Tr.: A. Baylin)

A poor fiddler called upon
A rich castrato in his salon.
The singer dickless said: "Behold
My precious gems, my priceless gold.
When I grow bored, I count my treasure.
And you, my friend, for your own pleasure
What do you do? What thing enthralls,
Diverts and keeps you occupied?"
The poor man to him replied:
"Me? I just sit and scratch my balls."

Hark! from the pit a fearsome sound

Hark! from the pit a fearsome sound
That makes the blood run cold;
Symphonic cyclones rush around -
And the worst is yet untold.

No - they unchain those dogs of war,
The wild sarrusophones,
A double-bass E-flat to roar
Whilst crunching dead men's bones.

The muted tuba's dismal groan
Uprising from the gloom,
And answered by the heckelphone,
Suggest the crack of doom.

Oh mama! Is this the earthquake zone?
What ho, there, stand from under!
Or is it the tonitruone
Just imitating thunder?

Nay, fear not, little one, because
Of this sublime rough-house;
'Tis modern opera by the laws
Of Master Richard Strauss.

Singers? They're scarcely heard nor seen -
In yon back seat they sit;
The day of Song is past, I ween:
The orchestra is "it".

The Slave Singing at Midnight
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Loud he sang the psalm of David!
He, a Negro and enslaved,
Sang of Israel's victory,
Sang of Zion, bright and free.

In that hour, when night is calmest,
Sang he from the Hebrew Psalmist,
In a voice so sweet and clear
That I could not choose but hear,

Songs of triumph, and ascriptions,
Such as reached the swart Egyptians,
When upon the Red Sea coast
Perished Pharaoh and his host.

And the voice of his devotion
Filled my soul with strange emotion;
For its tones by turns were glad,
Sweetly solemn, wildly sad.

Paul and Silas, in their prison,
Sang of Christ, the Lord arisen,
And an earthquake's arm of might
Broke their dungeon-gates at night.

But, alas! what holy angel
Brings the Slave this glad evangel?
And what earthquake's arm of might
Breaks his dungeon-gates at night?

The Singing Girl
Joyce Kilmer

(For the Rev. Edward F. Garesche, S.J.)

There was a little maiden
In blue and silver drest,
She sang to God in Heaven
And God within her breast.

It flooded me with pleasure,
It pierced me like a sword,
When this young maiden sang: "My soul
Doth magnify the Lord."

The stars sing all together
And hear the angels sing,
But they said they had never heard
So beautiful a thing.

Saint Mary and Saint Joseph,
And Saint Elizabeth,
Pray for us poets now
And at the hour of death.

When the shy star goes forth in heaven
James Joyce, No. IV from Chamber Music

When the shy star goes forth in heaven
All maidenly, disconsolate,
Hear you amid the drowsy even
One who is singing by your gate.
His song is softer than the dew
And he is come to visit you.

O bend no more in revery
When he at eventide is calling,
Nor muse: Who may this singer be
Whose song about my heart is falling
Know you by this, the lover's chant,
'Tis I that am your visitant.

Singing in Late Summer
Joseph Langland

Singing at the piano, in late summer,
a Nordic folksong, Den Store Hvide Flok,
by the two windows
in the northwest corner of our living room
with one blue with late light over the western hills
and the other wide on the deep thicket of evening,
here in my home in western Massachusetts,

and my father ten years dead
and my mother eighty years old a thousand miles away
and slowly growing older,
and my eight brothers and sisters, blood of my heart,
scattered dead and live over the face of the earth,
and my wife absent a while from these rooms she made,
and my children lately gone,

I feel the hollows under the shadowy woods
moistly expand and move,
gathering the strange authority of darkness
and breathing and seeping and creeping under the sills
until the flipping pages of my mind
wave like ghosts in the windowpane
and turn my booming song of the Great White Host
back to that black and tremulous silence
from which, I suppose, it came.

Wandering Singers
Sarojini Naidu

Where the voice of the wind calls our wandering feet,
Through echoing forest and echoing street,
With lutes in our hands ever-singing we roam,
All men are our kindred, the world is our home.
Our lays are of cities whose lustre is shed,
The laughter and beauty of women long dead;
The sword of old battles, the crown of old kings,
And happy and simple and sorrowful things.
What hope shall we gather, what dreams shall we sow?
Where the wind calls our wandering footsteps we go.
No love bids us tarry, no joy bids us wait:
The voice of the wind is the voice of our fate.

At a Solemn Musick
John Milton

Blest pair of Sirens, pledges of Heav'n's joy,
Sphear-born harmonious Sisters, Voice and Vers,
Wed your divine sounds, and mixt power employ
Dead things with inbreath'd sense able to pierce,
And to our high-rais'd phantasie present
That undisturbèd Song of pure content,
Ay sung before that saphire-colour'd throne
To Him that sits thereon
With Saintly shout, and solemn Jubily,
Where the bright Seraphim in burning row
Their loud up-lifted Angel trumpets blow,
And the Cherubick host in thousand quires
Touch their immortal Harps of golden wires,
With those just Spirits that wear victorious Palms,
Hymns devout and holy Psalms
Singing everlastingly;
That we on Earth with undiscording voice
May rightly answer that melodious noise;
As once we did, till disproportion'd sin
Jarr'd against Nature's chime, and with harsh din
Broke the fair music that all creatures made
To their great Lord, whose love their motion sway'd
In perfect Diapason, and their state of good.
O may we soon again renew that Song,
And keep in tune with Heav'n, till God ere long
To His celestial consort us unite,
To live with Him, and sing in endles morn of light.

Beer [excerpt]
Charles Stuart Calverley

Coffee is good, and so no doubt is cocoa;
Tea did for Johnson and the Chinamen:
When "Dulce est desipere in loco"
Was written, real Falernian winged the pen.
When a rapt audience has encored "Fra Poco"
Or "Casta Diva," I have heard that then
The Prima Donna, smiling herself out,
Recruits her flagging powers with bottled stout.

An Ariette for Music. To a Lady singing to her Accompaniment on the Guitar
Percy Bysshe Shelley

As the moon's soft splendor
O'er the faint, cold starlight of heaven
Is thrown,
So thy voice most tender
To the strings without soul has given
Its own.

The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleep a full hour later
No leaf will be shaken
Whilst the dews of thy melody scatter

Though the sound overpowers,
Sing again,
With thy sweet voice revealing
A tone of some world far from ours,
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

W.H. Auden

If only the phantom would stop reappearing!
Business, if you wanted to know, was punk at the opera.
The heroine no longer appeared in Faust.
The crowds strolled sadly away. The phantom
Watched them from the roof, not guessing the hungers
That must be stirred before disappointment can begin.

One day as morning was about to begin
A man in brown with a white shirt reappearing
At the bottom of his yellow vest, was talking hungers
With the silver-haired director of the opera.
On the green-carpeted floor no phantom
Appeared, except yellow squares of sunlight, like those in Faust.

That night as the musicians for Faust
Were about to go on strike, lest darkness begin
In the corridors, and through them the phantom
Glide unobstructed, the vision reappearing
Of blonde Marguerite practicing a new opera
At her window awoke terrible new hungers

In the already starving tenor. But hungers
Are just another topic, like the new Faust
Drifting through the tunnels of the opera
(In search of lost age? For they begin
To notice a twinkle in his eye. It is cold daylight reappearing
At the window behind him, itself a phantom

Window, painted by the phantom
Scene painters, sick of not getting paid, of hungers
For a scene below of tiny, reappearing
Dancers, with a sandbag falling like a note in Faust
Through purple air. And the spectators begin
To understand the bleeding tenor star of the opera.)

That night the opera
Was crowded to the rafters. The phantom
Took twenty-nine curtain calls. "Begin!
Begin!" In the wings the tenor hungers
For the heroine's convulsive kiss, and Faust
Moves forward, no longer young, reappearing

And reappearing for the last time. The opera
Faust would no longer need its phantom.
In the bare, sunlit stage the hungers could begin.

To Robert Browning [excerpt]
Walter Savage Landor

There is delight in singing, tho' none hear
Beside the singer.

M.W. Branch

O hark! 'tis the note of the Schmalztenor!
It swells in his bosom and hangs in the air.
Like lavender-scent in a spinster's drawer
It oozes and percolates everywhere.
So tenderly glutinous,
Soothing the brute in us,
Wholly unmutinous

Enchanting, his smile for the third encore
(Cherubic complexion and glossy curls),
His nasal nostalgia, so sweetly sore,
Vibrates on the sternums of swooning girls.
Emerging and merging,
Suggestively urging,
Receding and surging -
The Schmalztenor.

The Absolute Last of the Schmalztenor
Is heard in Vienna in lilac-time.
He's steaming and quivering more and more
And dowagers whisper, "He's past his prime!"
Young maidens have drowned for him:
Pass the hat round for him:
Open the ground for him -

There was a man with tongue of wood
Stephen Crane

There was a man with tongue of wood
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth it was lamentable.
But there was one who heard
The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood
And knew what the man
Wished to sing,
And with that the singer was content.

Kenneth A. Friou, Sr.

Six Crystal chandeliers dim and rise to the ceiling
Telling us that the curtain is about to open on another
Evening at the Met where a thousand waiting souls having
Paid a king's ransom in costs and ticket fees wait with
Childlike expectation the willful suspension of disbelief.
Marie Thérèse, The Marschallin, Princess of Austria as moth
To candle flies extinguishing life with the bright flame of
Youthful Rofrano and at once we will hear the virtuous
Musicality of Zeit und Ewigkeit (The snows of yesteryear).
Baron Ochs will soon appear all elegance and comic lechery,
Symbol of an empire fading in waltz: (Ohne mir...mit mir die
Nacht istu zu lange.)
Then three sopranos fight the flights
Of upper energy reaching heights of ecstasy unknown to
Generations of Italian tenors and finally, the silver rose
Takes on new life again as youthful Eros burns and flames
Into the passing years.

So you want to write a fugue?
Glenn Gould

So you want to write a fugue?
You've got the urge to write a fugue,
You've got the nerve to write a fugue.
So go ahead and write fugue.
You've got the nerve to write a fugue.
So come along and write a fugue.
Go ahead, write a fugue.
Oh, come along and write a fugue that we can sing.
Go ahead; write a fugue that we can sing.
Write a good fugue, one that we can sing.
And write a good fugue, one that we can sing.
Come along; write a fugue that we can sing.
Write a good fugue, one that we can sing.
Come, write a fugue, come write a fugue for singing.
Come, write a fugue, come along and write a fugue for singing.
Come, write a good fugue.

Give no mind to what we've told you.
Give no heed to what we've told you.
Pay no mind to what we've told you.
Just forget all that we've told you and the theory that you've read.
Pay no mind; give no heed to what we've told you.
Oh, give no mind to what we've said.
For the only way to write one is to plunge right in and write one.
So just forget the rules and write one.
Have a try, have a try, have a try.
Plunge right in, have a try. Try to write one.
Yes, try to write fugue.
Have a try, plunge right in and write one.
Yes, write a fugue that we can sing.
Yes, just forget all that we've told you.
For the only way to write one is to plunge right in and write one.
Yes, plunge right in, have a try.
Oh yes!
Why don't you?
Why don't you write a fugue?
For the only way to write one is to plunge right in and write one.
Just ignore the rules and try.

And the fun of it will get you,
And the joy of it will fetch you,
It's a pleasure that is bound to satisfy, so why don't you try?.
For the only way to write one is to plunge right in.
And the fun of it will get you,
And the joy of it will fetch you.
You'll decide that John Sebastian must have been a very personable guy.

But never be clever for the sake of being clever,
For a canon in inversion is a dangerous diversion.
And a bit of augmentation is a serious temptation,
While a stretto diminution is an obvious solution,
While a stretto, stretto, stretto diminution is a very, very obvious
So never be clever for the sake of being clever, for the sake of showing
Never be clever for the sake of showing off!

So you want to write a fugue?
But never be clever for the sake of showing off.
You've got the urge to write a fugue. You've got the nerve to write a
So go ahead and try to write one, try to write one.
No, never be clever for the sake of being clever.
But do try to write a fugue that we can sing.
Write us a good fugue, one that we can sing.
Oh, come and try.
Oh, why don't you try?
Oh, won't you try and write one we can sing.
So write a fugue that we can sing.
Now, why don't you try to write one?
Yes, come, let's try.
Write us a fugue that we can sing. Now come along.

It's rather awesome, isn't it?
And when you've finished writing it I think you'll find a great joy in it.
(Hope so.)
Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, they say.
But still it is rather hard to start.
Let us try.
Right now?
Yes. Why not?
Now we're going to write a fugue.
We're going to write a good one.
We're going to write a fugue
right now.

My throat is sore

My throat is sore my voice is hoarse with skriking,
My rests are sighs, deep from the heart-root fetched.
My song runs all on sharps, and with oft striking
Time on my breasts, I shrink with hands out-stretched.
Thus still and still I sing, and ne'er am linning,
For still the close points to my first beginning.

An Opera House
Amy Lowell, from Men, Women and Ghosts

Within the gold square of the proscenium arch,
A curtain of orange velvet hangs in stiff folds,
Its tassels jarring slightly when someone crosses the stage behind.
Gold carving edges the balconies,
Rims the boxes,
Runs up and down fluted pillars.
Little knife-stabs of gold
Shine out whenever a box door is opened.
Gold clusters
Flash in soft explosions
On the blue darkness,
Suck back to a point,
And disappear.
Hoops of gold
Circle necks, wrists, fingers,
Pierce ears,
Poise on heads
And fly up above them in coloured sparkles.
The opera house is a treasure-box of gold.
Gold in a broad smear across the orchestra pit:
Gold of horns, trumpets, tubas;
Gold - spun-gold, twittering-gold, snapping-gold
Of harps.
The conductor raises his baton,
The brass blares out
Crass, crude,
Parvenu, fat, powerful,
Rich as the fat, clapping hands in the boxes.
Cymbals, gigantic, coin-shaped,
The orange curtain parts
And the prima-donna steps forward.
One note,
A drop: transparent, iridescent,
A gold bubble,
It floats...floats...
And bursts against the lips of a bank president
In the grand tier.

The Banjo Player
Fenton Johnson

There is music in me, the music of a peasant people.
I wander through the levee, picking my banjo and singing my songs of the cabin and the field. At the Last Chance Saloon I am as welcome as the violets in March; there is always food and drink for me there, and the dimes of those who love honest music. Behind the railroad tracks the little children clap their hands and love me as they love Kris Kringle.
But I fear that I am a failure. Last night a woman called me a troubadour. What is a troubadour?

A tenor, all singers above
W.S. Gilbert, from Utopia, Limited

A tenor, all singers above
(This doesn't admit of a question),
Should keep himself quiet,
Attend to his diet
And carefully nurse his digestion;
But when he is madly in love
It's certain to tell on his singing -
You can't do the proper chromatics
With proper emphatics
When anguish your bosom is wringing!
When distracted with worries in plenty,
And his pulse is a hundred and twenty,
And his fluttering bosom the slave of mistrust is,
A tenor can't do himself justice,
Now observe - (sings a high note)
You see, I can't do myself justice!
I could sing if my fervour were mock,
It's easy enough if you're acting -
But when one's emotion
Is born of devotion
You mustn't be over-exacting.
One ought to be firm as a rock
To venture a shake in vibrato,
When fervour's expected
Keep cool and collected
Or never attempt agitato.
But, of course, when his tongue is of leather,
And his lips appear pasted together,
And his sensitive palate as dry as a crust is,
A tenor can't do himself justice.
Now observe - (sings a high note)
It's no use - I can't do myself justice!

Mr. Tanner [excerpt]
Harry Chapin

Mister Tanner was a cleaner from a town in the Midwest.
And of all the cleaning shops around he'd made his the best.
But he also was a baritone who sang while hanging clothes.
He practiced scales while pressing tails and sang at local shows.
His friends and neighbors praised the voice that poured out from his throat.
They said that he should use his gift instead of cleaning coats.

But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

His friends kept working on him to try music out full time.
A big debut and rave reviews, a great career to climb.
Finally they got to him, he would take the fling.
A concert agent in New York agreed to have him sing.
And there were plane tickets, phone calls, money spent to rent the hall.
It took most of his savings but he gladly used them all.

But music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

The evening came, he took the stage, his face set in a smile.
And in the half filled hall the critics sat watching on the aisle.
But the concert was a blur to him, spatters of applause.
He did not know how well he sang, he only heard the flaws.
But the critics were concise, it only took four lines.
But no one could accuse them of being over kind.

Mr. Martin Tanner, baritone, of Dayton, Ohio made his
Town Hall debut last night. He came well prepared, but unfortunately
his presentation was not up to contemporary professional standards.
His voice lacks the range of tonal color necessary to make it
consistently interesting.
(sung) Full time consideration of another endeavor might be in order.

He came home to Dayton and was questioned by his friends.
Then he smiled and just said nothing and he never sang again,
excepting very late at night when the shop was dark and closed.
He sang softly to himself as he sorted through the clothes.
Music was his life, it was not his livelihood,
and it made him feel so happy and it made him feel so good.
And he sang from his heart and he sang from his soul.
He did not know how well he sang; It just made him whole.

Kubla Khan [excerpt]
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me,
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Messiah (Christmas Portions)
Mark Doty

A little heat caught
in gleaming rags,
in shrouds of veil,
torn and sun-shot swaddlings:

over the Methodist roof,
two clouds propose a Zion
of their own, blazing
(colors of tarnish on copper)

against the steely close
of a coastal afternoon, December,
while under the steeple
the Choral Society

prepares to perform
Messiah, pouring, in their best
blacks and whites, onto the raked stage.
Not steep, really,

but from here,
the first pew, they're a looming
cloudbank of familiar angels:
that neighbor who

fights operatically
with her girlfriend, for one,
and the friendly bearded clerk
from the post office

- tenor trapped
in the body of a baritone? Altos
from the A&P, soprano
from the T-shirt shop:

today they're all poise,
costume and purpose
conveying the right note
of distance and formality.

Silence in the hall,
anticipatory, as if we're all
about to open a gift we're not sure
we'll like;

how could they
compete with sunset's burnished
oratorio? Thoughts which vanish,
when the violins begin.

Who'd have thought
they'd be so good? Every valley,
proclaims the solo tenor,
(a sleek blonde

I've seen somewhere before
- the liquor store?) shall be exalted,
and in his handsome mouth the word
is lifted and opened

into more syllables
than we could count, central ah
dilated in a baroque melisma,
liquefied; the pour

of voice seems
to make the unplaned landscape
the text predicts the Lord
will heighten and tame.

This music
demonstrates what it claims:
glory shall be revealed. If art's
acceptable evidence,

mustn't what lies
behind the world be at least
as beautiful as the human voice?
The tenors lack confidence,

and the soloists,
half of them anyway, don't
have the strength to found
the mighty kingdoms

these passages propose
- but the chorus, all together,
equals my burning clouds,
and seems itself to burn,

commingled powers
deeded to a larger, centering claim.
These aren't anyone we know;
choiring dissolves

familiarity in an up-
pouring rush which will not
rest, will not, for a moment,
be still.

Aren't we enlarged
by the scale of what we're able
to desire? Everything,
the choir insists,

might flame;
inside these wrappings
burns another, brighter life,
quickened, now,

by song: hear how
it cascades, in overlapping,
lapidary waves of praise? Still time.
Still time to change.

The Song That Goes Like This [excerpt]
John Du Prez and Eric Idle, from Spamalot

Once in every show
There comes a song like this
It starts off soft and low
And ends up with a kiss
Oh where is the song
That goes like this?
Where is it? Where? Where?

A sentimental song
That casts a magic spell
They all will hum along
We'll overact like hell
For this is the song that goes like this
Yes it is! Yes it is!

Now we can go straight
Right down the middle eight
A bridge that is too far for me

I'll sing it in your face
While we both embrace
And then
We change
The key

Now we're into E!
*hem* That's awfully high for me
But as everyone can see
We should have stayed in D
For this is our song that goes like this!

I'm feeling very proud
You're singing far too loud
That's the way that this song goes
You're standing on my toes
Singing our song that goes like this!

I can't believe there's more
It's far too long, I'm sure
That's the trouble with this song
It goes on and on and on
For this is our song that is too long!

We'll be singing this 'til dawn
You'll wish that you weren't born
Let's stop this damn refrain
Before we go insane
For this is our song that ends like this!

Quite Early One Morning [excerpt]
Dylan Thomas

Clara Tawe Jenkins, 'Madam' they call me,
An old contralto with her dressing-gown on,
And I sit at the window and I sing to the sea,
For the sea does not notice that my voice has gone.

South Carolina Morning
Yusef Komunyakaa

Her red dress & hat
tease the sky's level-
headed blue. Outside

a country depot,
she could be a harlot
or saint on Sunday

morning. We know
Hopper could slant
light till it falls

on our faces. She waits
for a tall blues singer
whose twelve-string is

hours out of hock,
for a pullman porter
with a pigskin wallet

bulging with greenbacks,
who stepped out of Porgy
at intermission. This is

paradise made of pigment
& tissue, where apples
ripen into rage & lust.

In a quick glance,
beyond skincolor,
she's his muse, his wifeų

the same curves
to her stance, the same
breasts beneath summer cloth.

A Child's Christmas in Wales [excerpt]
Dylan Thomas

Bring out the tall tales now that we told by the fire as the gaslight bubbled like a diver. Ghosts whooed like owls in the long nights when I dared not look over my shoulder; animals lurked in the cubbyhole under the stairs and the gas meter ticked. And I remember that we went singing carols once, when there wasn't the shaving of a moon to light the flying streets. At the end of a long road was a drive that led to a large house, and we stumbled up the darkness of the drive that night, each one of us afraid, each one holding a stone in his hand in case, and all of us too brave to say a word. The wind through the trees made noises as of old and unpleasant and maybe webfooted men wheezing in caves. We reached the black bulk of the house.
"What shall we give them? Hark the Herald?"
"No," Jack said, "Good King Wencelas. I'll count three." One, two three, and we began to sing, our voices high and seemingly distant in the snow-felted darkness round the house that was occupied by nobody we knew. We stood close together, near the dark door. Good King Wencelas looked out On the Feast of Stephen...And then a small, dry voice, like the voice of someone who has not spoken for a long time, joined our singing: a small, dry, eggshell voice from the other side of the door: a small dry voice through the keyhole. And when we stopped running we were outside our house; the front room was lovely; balloons floated under the hot-water-bottle-gulping gas; everything was good again and shone over the town.
"Perhaps it was a ghost," Jim said.
"Perhaps it was trolls," Dan said, who was always reading.
"Let's go in and see if there's any jelly left," Jack said. And we did that.

Always on Christmas night there was music. An uncle played the fiddle, a cousin sang "Cherry Ripe," and another uncle sang "Drake's Drum." It was very warm in the little house. Auntie Hannah, who had got on to the parsnip wine, sang a song about Bleeding Hearts and Death, and then another in which she said her heart was like a Bird's Nest; and then everybody laughed again; and then I went to bed. Looking through my bedroom window, out into the moonlight and the unending smoke-colored snow, I could see the lights in the windows of all the other houses on our hill and hear the music rising from them up the long, steady falling night. I turned the gas down, I got into bed. I said some words to the close and holy darkness, and then I slept.

The Ballad-Singer
Thomas Hardy

Sing, Ballad-singer, raise a hearty tune;
Make me forget that there was ever a one
I walked with in the meek light of the moon
When the day's work was done.

Rhyme, Ballad-rhymer, start a country song;
Make me forget that she whom I loved well
Swore she would love me dearly, love me long,
Then - what I cannot tell!

Sing, Ballad-singer, from your little book;
Make me forget those heart-breaks, achings, fears;
Make me forget her name, her sweet sweet look -
Make me forget her tears.

The Singing
C.K. Williams

I was walking home down a hill near our house on a balmy afternoon under the blossoms
Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here every spring with their burgeoning forth

When a young man turned in from a corner singing - no it was more of a cadence shouting
Most of which I couldn't catch I thought because the young man was black speaking black

It didn't matter I could tell me was making his song up which pleased me he was nice-looking
Husky dressed in some style of big pants obviously full of himself hence his lyrical flowing over

We went along in the same direction then he noticed me there almost beside him and "Big"
He shouted-sang "Big" and I thought how droll to have my height incorporated in his song

So I smiled but the face of the young man showed nothing he looked in fact pointedly away
And his song changed "I'm not a nice person" he chanted "I'm not I'm not a nice person"

No menace was meant I gathered no particular threat but he did want to be certain I knew
That if my smile implied I conceived of anything like concord between us I should forget it

That's all nothing else happened his song became indecipherable to me again he arrived
Where he was going a house where a girl in braids waited for him on the porch that was all

No one saw no one heard all the unasked and unanswered questions were left where they were
It occurred to me to sing back "I'm not a nice person either " but I couldn"t come up with a tune

Besides I wouldn't have meant it nor he had believed it both of us knew just where we were
In the duet we composed the equation we made the conventions to which we were condemned

Sometimes it feels even when no one is there that someone something is watching and listening
Someone to rectify redo remake this time again though no one saw nor heard no one was there

The Singer and the Song
Jim Brochu, from the musical The Last Session

The singer and the song
That's what we become
When you play and let us sing along
They're the songs that give us life
Don't we have a right to ask for one more song

The singer stood in front of the choir he built
and he said, "I'm leavin'.
I love you all but they tell me I am dying
And I'm so tired of crying
And I'm so tired of fighting
I will give up now!
I'll go and die now!

Well, I think the singer made a mistake today
If he thinks the choir will let him fade away

The singer and the song
That's what we become
When you play and when we sing along
You're the one that makes us strong
Don't we have the right
To ask for one more song

During Wind and Rain [excerpt]
Thomas Hardy

They sing their dearest songs -
He, she, all of them - yea,
Treble and tenor and bass.
And one to play;
With the candles mooning each face....
Ah, no; the years O!
How the sick leaves reel down in throngs!

The Choirmaster's Burial
Thomas Hardy

He often would ask us
That, when he died,
After playing so many
To their last rest,
If out of us any
Should here abide,
And it would not task us,
We would with our lutes
Play over him
By his grave-brim
The psalm he liked best -
The one whose sense suits
"Mount Ephraim" -
And perhaps we should seem
To him, in Death's dream,
Like the seraphim.

As soon as I knew
That his spirit was gone
I thought this his due,
And spoke thereupon.
"I think", said the vicar,
"A read service quicker
Than viols out-of-doors
In these frosts and hoars.
That old-fashioned way
Requires a fine day,
And it seems to me
It had better not be."
Hence, that afternoon,
Though never knew he
That his wish could not be,
To get through it faster
They buried the master
Without any tune.

But 'twas said that, when
At the dead of next night
The vicar looked out,
There struck on his ken
Thronged roundabout,
Where the frost was graying
The headstoned grass,
A band all in white
Like the saints in church-glass,
Singing and playing
The ancient stave
By the choirmaster's grave.

Such the tenor man told
When he had grown old.

Ploughman singing
John Clare

Here morning in the ploughman's songs is met
Ere yet one footstep shows in all the sky,
And twilight in the east, a doubt as yet,
Shows not her sleeve of grey to know her by.
Woke early, I arose and thought that first
In winter-time of all the world was I.
The old owls might have hallooed if they durst,
But joy just then was up and whistled by
A merry tune which I had known full long,
But could not to my memory wake it back,
Until the ploughman changed it to the song.
O happiness, how simple is thy track!
- Tinged like the willow shoots, the east's young brow
Glows red and finds thee singing at the plough.

We sing to Him
Nathaniel Ingelo

We sing to Him, whose wisdom form'd the ear,
our songs, let Him who gave us voices, hear;
we joy in God, who is the Spring of mirth,
who loves the harmony of Heav'n and Earth;
our humble sonnets shall that praise rehearse,
who is the music of the Universe.
And whilst we sing, we consecrate our art,
and offer up with ev'ry tongue a heart.

Joan Baez

Infinity gives me chills
So could the waters of Iceland
But there's a difference in finding diamonds in rust
And rhinestones in a dishpan
Miracles bowl me over
And often will they do so
Now I think I was asleep till I heard
The voice of the great Caruso

Bring infinity home
Let me embrace it one more time
Make it the lilies of the field
Or Caruso in his prime

A friend of mine gave me a tape
She'd copied from a record disc
It was made at the turn of the century
And found in a jacket labeled "misc."
And midst cellos, harps, and flugelhorns
With the precision of a hummingbird's heart
Was the lord of the monarch butterflies
One-time ruler of the world of art

Bring infinity home
Let me embrace it one more time
Make it the lilies of the field
or Caruso in his prime

Yes, the king of them all was Enrico
Whose singular chest could rival
A hundred fervent Baptists
Giving forth in a tent revival
True he was a vocal miracle
But that's only secondary
It's the sould of the monarch butterfly
That I find a little bit scary

Bring infinity home
Let me embrace it one more time
Make it the lilies of the field
Or Caruso in his prime

Perhaps he's just a vehicle
To bear us to the hills of Truth
That's Truth spelled with a great big T
And peddled in the mystic's booth
There are oh so many miracles
That the western sky exposes
Why go looking for lilacs
When you're lying in a bed of roses?

Bring infinity home
Let me embrace it one more time
Make it the lilies of the field
Or Caruso in his prime

Very Pleasant
Charles Ives

We're sitting in the opera house;
We're waiting for the curtain to arise
With wonders for our eyes;
We're feeling pretty gay,
And well we may,
"O, Jimmy, look!" I say,
"The band is tuning up
And soon will start to play."
We whistle and we hum,
Beat time with the drum.

We're sitting in the opera house;
We're waiting for the curtain to arise
With wonders for our eyes,
A feeling of expectancy,
A certain kind of ecstasy,
Expectancy and ecstasy... Sh's's's.

When Nathan Led the Choir
Joseph Crosby Lincoln, from Cape Cod Ballads and Other Verse

I s'pose I hain't progressive, but I swan, it seems ter me
Religion isn't nigh so good as what it used ter be!
I go ter meetin' every week and rent my reg'lar pew,
But hain't a mite uplifted when the sarvices are through;
I take my orthodoxy straight, like Gran'pop did his rum,
(It never hurt him, neither, and a deacon, too, by gum!)
But now the preachin' 's mushy and the singin' 's lost its fire:
I 'd like ter hear old Parson Day, with Nathan leadin' choir.

I'd like ter know who told these folks that all was perfect peace,
And glidin' inter heaven was as slick as meltin' grease;
Old Parson Day, I tell yer what, his sermons made yer think!
He'd shake yer over Tophet till yer heard the cinders clink.
And then, when he'd gin out the tune and Nate would take his stand
Afore the chosen singers, with the tuning-fork in hand,
The meetin'-house jest held its breath, from cellar plum ter spire,
And then bu'st forth in thunder-tones with Nathan leadin' choir.

They didn't chime so pretty, p'r'aps, as does our new quartette,
But all them folks was there ter sing, and done it, too, you bet!
The basses they 'd be rollin' on, with faces swelled and red,
And racin' the supraners, who was p'r'aps a bar ahead;
While Nate beat time with both his hands and worked like drivin' plow,
With drops o' sweat a-standin' out upon his face and brow;
And all the congregation felt that Heav'n was shorely nigher
Whene'er they heerd the chorus sung with Nathan leadin' choir.

Rube Swan was second tenor, and his pipes was kinder cracked,
But Rube made up in loudness what in tune he might have lacked;
But 'twas a leetle cur'us, though, for p'r'aps his voice would balk,
And when he'd fetch a high note give a most outrageous squawk;
And Uncle Elkanah was deef and kind er'd lose the run,
And keep on singin' loud and high when all the rest was done;
But, notwithstandin' all o' this, I think I'd never tire
Of list'nin' ter the good old tunes with Nathan leadin' choir.

We've got a brand-new organ now, and singers - only four -
But, land! we pay 'em cash enough ter fee a hundred more;
They sing newfangled tunes and things that some folks think are sweet,
But don't appeal ter me no more'n a fish-horn on the street.
I'd like once more ter go ter church and watch old Nathan wave
His tunin'-fork above the crowd and lead the glorious stave;
I'd like ter hear old Parson Day jest knock the sinners higher,
And then set back and hear a hymn with Nathan leadin' choir.

Lean out of the window
James Joyce, from Chamber Music

Lean out of the window,
I heard you singing
     A merry air.

My book is closed;
     I read no more,
Watching the fire dance
     On the floor.

I have left my book,
     I have left my room,
For I heard you singing
     Through the gloom,

Singing and singing
     A merry air.
Lean out of the window,

D.H. Lawrence

Softly, in the dusk, a woman is singing to me;
Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see
A child sitting under the piano, in the boom of the tingling strings
And pressing the small, poised feet of a mother who smiles as she sings.

In spite of myself, the insidious mastery of song
Betrays me back, till the heart of me weeps to belong
To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside
And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide.

So now it is vain for the singer to burst into clamour
With the great black piano appassionato. The glamour
Of childish days is upon me, my manhood is cast
Down in the flood of remembrance, I weep like a child for the past.

Romeo and Juliet [excerpt]
Don Marquis

Young Romeo was just designed
To play Italian opera:
A looker, with a tenor mind -
A perfect star for Wopera.

The Lay of the Singer's Fall
Eugene O'Neill

Singer was born in a land of gold,
In the time of the long ago
And the good fairies gathered from heath and wold
With gracious gifts to bestow.
They gave him the grace of Mirth and Song,
They crowned him with Health and Joy
And love for the Right and hate for the Wrong
They instilled in the soul of the boy;
But when they were gone, through the open door
The Devil of Doubt crept in,
And he breathed his poison in every pore
Of the sleeping infant's skin,
And in impish glee, said "Remember me
For I shall abide for aye with thee
From the very first moment thine eyes shall see
And know the meaning of sin."

The singer became a man and he fought
With the might of his pen and hand
To show for evil the cure long sought,
And spread Truth over the land;
Till the Devil mockingly said, "In sooth
'Tis a sorry ideal you ride,
For the truth of truths is there is no truth!"
- And the faith of the singer died -

And the singer was sad and he turned to Love
And the arms of his ladye faire,
He sang of her eyes as the stars above
He sang of - and kissed - her hair;
Till the Devil whispered, "I fondly trust
This is folly and nought beside,
For the greatest of loves is merely lust!"
- And the heart of the singer died -

So the singer turned from the world's mad strife
And he walked in the paths untrod,
And thrilled to the dream of a future life
As he prayed to the most high God;
Till the Devil murmured with sneering breath,
"What think you the blind skies hide?
There is nothing sure after death but death!"
- And the soul of the singer died -

And the lips of the singer were flecked with red
And torn with a bitter cry,
"When Truth and Love and God are dead
It is time, full time, to die!"
And the Devil in triumph chuckled low,
"There is always suicide,
It's the only logical thing I know."
- And the life of the singer died.

The Fair Singer
Andrew Marvell

To make a final conquest of all me,
Love did compose so sweet an enemy,
In whom both beauties to my death agree,
Joining themselves in fatal harmony:
That while she with her eyes my heart doth bind,
She with her voice might captivate my mind.

I could have fled from one but singly fair:
My disentangled soul itself might save,
Breaking the curléd trammels of her hair:
But how should I avoid to be her slave,
Whose subtle art invisibly can wreathe
My fetters of the very air I breathe?

It had been easy fighting in some plain
Where victory might hang in equal choice;
But all resistance against her is vain,
Who has the advantage of both eyes and voice:
And all my forces needs must be undone,
She having gainéd both the wind and sun.

One reason I like opera
Marge Piercy

In movies, you can tell the heroine
because she is blonder and thinner
than her sidekick. The villainess
is darkest. If a woman is fat,
she is a joke and will probably die.

In movies, the blondest are the best
and in bleaching lies not only purity
but victory. If two people are both
extra pretty, they will end up
in the final clinch.

Only the flawless in face and body
win. That is why I treat
movies as less interesting
than comic books. The camera
is stupid. It sucks surfaces.

Let's go to the opera instead.
The heroine is fifty and weighs
as much as a '65 Chevvie with fins.
She could crack your jaw in her fist.
She can hit high C lying down.

The tenor the women scream for
wolfs an eight course meal daily.
He resembles a bull on hind legs.
His thighs are the size of beer kegs.
His chest is a redwood with hair.

Their voices twine, golden serpents.
Their voices rise like the best
fireworks and hang and hang
then drift slowly down descending
in brilliant and still fiery sparks.

The hippopotamus baritone (the villain)
has a voice that could give you
an orgasm right in your seat.
His voice smokes with passion.
He is hot as lava. He erupts nightly.

The contralto is, however, svelte.
She is supposed to be the soprano's
mother, but is ten years younger,
beautiful and black. Nobody cares.
She sings you into her womb where you rock.

An Hour in a Studio
Richard Watson Gilder

Each picture was a painted memory
Of the far plains he loved, and of their life
Weird, mystical, dark, inarticulate, -
And cities hidden high against the blue,
Whose sky-hung steps one Indian could guard.
The enchanted Mesa there its fated wall
Lifted, and all its story lived again,-
How, in the happy planting time, the strong
Went down to push the seeds into the sand,
Leaving the old and sick.Then reeled the world
And toppled to the plain the perilous path.
Death climbed another way to them who stayed.
He showed us pictured thirst, a dreadful sight;
And many tales he told that might have come, -
Brought by some planet-wanderer, - fresh from Mars,
Or from the silver deserts of the moon.
     But I remember better than all else
One night he told of in that land of fright -
The love-songs swarthy men sang to their herds
On the high plains to keep the beasts in heart;
     Piercing the silence one keen tenor voice
Singing "Ai nostri monti" clear and high:
Instead of stakes and fences round about
They circled them with music in the night.

Singing Nigger
Carl Sandburg, from Cornhuskers

Your bony head, Jazbo, O dock walloper,
Those grappling hooks, those wheelbarrow handlers,
The dome and the wings of you, nigger,
The red roof and the door of you,
I know where your songs came from.
I know why God listens to your, "Walk All Over God's Heaven."
I heard you shooting craps, "My baby's going to have a new dress."
I heard you in the cinders, "I'm going to live anyhow until I die."
I saw five of you with a can of beer on a summer night and I listened to the five of you harmonizing six ways to sing,
"Way Down Yonder in the Cornfield."
I went away asking where I come from.

The Diatonic Dittymunch
Jack Prelutsky

The Diatonic Dittymunch plucked music from the air,
He swallowed scores of symphonies and still had space to spare.
Sonatas and cantatas slithered sweetly down his throat;
He made ballads into salads and consumed them note by note.

He ate marches and mazurkas, he ate rhapsodies and reels,
Minuets and tarantellas were the staples of his meals.
But the Diatonic Dittymunch outdid himself one day:
He ate a three-act opera - And LOUDLY passed away.

Everyone Sang
Siegfried Sassoon

Ev'ryone suddenly burst out singing,
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom
Winging wildly across the white orchards
and dark green fields
On, on, and out of sight.

Ev'ryone's voice was suddenly lifted,
And beauty came like the setting sun.
My heart was shaken with tears
And horror drifted away.
O but ev'ryone was a bird
And the song was wordless,
The singing will never be done.

Concert Party (Egyptian Base Camp)
Siegfried Sassoon, Number 3. from Picture-Show (Kantara, April 1918)

They are gathering round....
Out of the twilight; over the grey-blue sand,
Shoals of low-jargoning men drift inward to the sound -
The jangle and throb of a piano...tum-ti-tum...
Drawn by a lamp, they come
Out of the glimmering lines of their tents, over the shuffling sand.
O sing us the songs, the songs of our own land,
You warbling ladies in white.
Dimness conceals the hunger in our faces,
This wall of faces risen out of the night,
These eyes that keep their memories of the places
So long beyond their sight.

Jaded and gay, the ladies sing; and the chap in brown
Tilts his grey hat; jaunty and lean and pale,
He rattles the keys...some actor-bloke from town...
God send you home; and then A long, long trail;
I hear you calling me; and Dixieland....
Sing slowly...now the chorus...one by one
We hear them, drink them; till the concert's done.
Silent, I watch the shadowy mass of soldiers stand.
Silent, they drift away, over the glimmering sand.

The Kite
Anne Sexton - West Harwich, Massachussets, 1954-1959

Here, in front of the summer hotel
the beach waits like an altar.
We are lying on a cloth of sand
while the Atlantic noon stains
the world in light.

It was much the same
five years ago. I remember
how Ezio Pinza was flying a kite
for the children. None of us noticed
it then. The pleated lady
was still a nest of her knitting.
Four pouchy fellows kept their policy
of gin and tonic while trading some money.
The parasol girls slept, sun-sitting
their lovely years. No one thought
how precious it was, or even how funny
the festival seemed, square rigged in the air.
The air was a season they had bought,
like the cloth of sand.

I've been waiting
on this private stretch of summer land,
counting these five years and wondering why.
I mean, it was different that time
with Ezio Pinza flying a kite.
Maybe, after all, he knew something more
and was right.

In the dim light of the golden lamp
Edward Shanks

In the dim light of the golden lamp
The singer stands and sings,
And the songs rise up like coloured bubbles
Or birds with shining wings.

And the movement of the merry or plaintive keys
Sounds in the silent air,
Till the listener feels the room no more
But only music there.

And still from the sweet and rounded mouth
The delicate songs arise,
Like floating bubbles whose colours are
The coloured melodies.

To Constantia: Singing
Percy Bysshe Shelley

Thus to be lost and thus to sink and die,
Perchance were death indeed! - Constantia, turn!
In thy dark eyes a power like light doth lie,
Even though the sounds which were thy voice, which burn
Between thy lips, are laid to sleep;
Within thy breath, and on thy hair, like odor it is yet,
And from thy touch like fire doth leap.
Even while I write, my burning cheeks are wet -
Alas, that the torn heart can bleed, but not forget!

A breathless awe, like the swift change
Unseen but felt in youthful slumbers,
Wild, sweet, but uncommunicably strange,
Thou breathest now in fast ascending numbers.
The cope of heaven seems rent and cloven
By the enchantment of thy strain;
And on my shoulders wings are woven
To follow its sublime career
Beyond the mighty moons that wane
Upon the verge of Nature's utmost sphere,
Till the world's shadowy walls are passed and disappear.

Her voice is hovering o'er my soul - it lingers
O'ershadowing it with soft and lulling wings;
The blood and life within those snowy fingers
Teach witchcraft to the instrumental strings.
My brain is wild, my breath comes quick -
The blood is listening in my frame,
And thronging shadows, fast and thick,
Fall on my overflowing eyes;
My heart is quivering like a flame;
As morning dew, that in the sunbeam dies,
I am dissolved in these consuming ecstasies.

I have no life, Constantia, now, but thee,
Whilst, like the world-surrounding air, thy song
Flows on, and fills all things with melody.
Now is thy voice a tempest swift and strong,
On which, like one in trance upborne,
Secure o'er rocks and waves I sweep,
Rejoicing like a cloud of morn;
Now 't is the breath of summer night,
Which, when the starry waters sleep,
Round western isles, with incense-blossoms bright,
Lingering, suspends my soul in its voluptuous flight.

Robert Louis Stevenson, XI from A Child's Garden of Verses

Of speckled eggs the birdie sings
     And nests among the trees;
The sailor sings of ropes and things
     In ships upon the seas.

The children sing in far Japan,
     The children sing in Spain;
The organ with the organ man
     Is singing in the rain.

My sweetest bird that art encaged here
Anonymous (based on the Italian by Giovanni Battista Guarini)

My sweetest bird that art encaged here,
How like (alas!) thine and my fortunes are.
Both sing, both singing thus
Strive to please him that hath imprisoned us.
Only in this we differ, thou and I:
Thou singing liv'st, I singing die.

Bright is the ring of words
Robert Louis Stevenson, from Songs of Travel

Bright is the ring of words
When the right man rings them,
Fair the fall of songs
When the singer sings them,
Still they are carolled and said -
On wings they are carried -
After the singer is dead
And the maker buried.

Low as the singer lies
In the field of heather,
Songs of his fashion bring
The swains together.
And when the west is red
With the sunset embers,
The lover lingers and sings
And the maid remembers.

The Daddy Long-Legs and the Fly [excerpt]
Edward Lear

"O Mr. Daddy Long-Legs,"
Said Mr. Floppy Fly,
"I wish you'd sing one little song!
"One mumbian melody!
"You used to sing so awful well
"In former days gone by,
"But now you never sing at all;
"I wish you'd tell me why:
"For if you would, the silvery sound
"Would please the shrimps and cockles round,
"And all the crabs would gladly come
"To hear you sing, 'Ah, Hum di Hum!'"

Said Mr. Daddy Long-Legs,
"I can never sing again!
"And if you wish, I'll tell you why,
"Although it gives me great pain.
"For years I could not hum a bit,
"Or sing the smallest song;
"And this the dreadful reason is,
"My legs are grown too long!
"My six long legs, all here and there,
"Oppress my bosom with despair;
"And if I stand, or lie, or sit,
"I cannot sing one single bit!"

I Am an Opera Singer

I am an opera singer
I stand on painted tape
It tells me where I'm going
And where to throw my cape

I call my co-star's brother
I call my co-star's name
I play both good and evil parts
I sing to Verdi's play

And every single morning
By ten a.m. I'm dressed
My rehearsals last for hours and hours
With diligence I have been blessed

Some people they call me monster
Some people they call me saint
My talent feeds my darker side
Yet no one will complain

I am an opera singer
I sing in foreign lands
I've sung for kings in Europe
And emperors in Japan

And after each performance
People stand around and wait
Just to tell me that they love my voice
Just to tell me that I'm great

I am an opera singer
I will sing when you're all dead
I sing the mountains crumbling apart
I sing what can't be said

I am an opera singer
I sing in foreign lands
Most people seem to know my name
Or at least know who I am

The Singer
Bronnie Taylor

I met a singer on the hill,
He wore a tattered cloak;
His cap was torn,
His shoes were worn,
And dreamily he spoke.
Fa la la la la la...
Fa la la la la la.

A wrinkled face, a cheery smile,
And a nobby stick had he;
His eyes were grey and far away
And changeful as the sea.

I offered him a piece of gold
And hoped that he would stay.
No word he spoke, but shook his head
And smiled and went his way.
Fa la la la la la...
La la la la la la.

I watched the singer down the hill.
My eyes went following after,
I thought I heard a fairy flute
And the sound of fairy laughter,
Fa la la la la la... etc.

The Islet
Alfred, Lord Tennyson

'Whither O whither love shall we go,
For a score of sweet little summers or so'
The sweet little wife of the singer said,
On the day that follow'd the day she was wed,
'Whither O whither love shall we go?'
And the singer shaking his curly head
Turn'd as he sat, and struck the keys
There at his right with a sudden crash,
Singing, 'and shall it be over the seas
With a crew that is neither rude nor rash,
But a bevy of Eroses apple-cheek'd,
In a shallop of crystal ivory-beak'd,
With a satin sail of a ruby glow,
To a sweet little Eden on earth that I know,
A mountain islet pointed and peak'd;
Waves on a diamond shingle dash,
Cataract brooks to the ocean run,
Fairily-delicate palaces shine
Mixt with myrtle and clad with vine,
And overstream'd and silvery-streak'd
With many a rivulet high against the Sun
The facets of the glorious mountain flash
Above the valleys of palm and pine.'

'Thither O thither, love, let us go.'

'No, no, no!
For in all that exquisite isle, my dear,
There is but one bird with a musical throat,
And his compass is but of a single note,
That it makes one weary to hear.'

'Mock me not! mock me not! love, let us go.'

'No, love, no.
For the bud ever breaks into bloom on the tree,
And a storm never wakes on the lonely sea,
And a worm is there in the lonely wood,
That pierces the liver and blackens the blood,
And makes it a sorrow to be.'

The Fiddler [excerpt]

A singin he is! Of dragon's and knights!
A singin he is! Of love and war he is!
A singin of his love he is! A very fine love she is!
A singin of love he is! Such sweet love it is!

The Singer
Eluin Estel

The singer walked up to the gate
Of the house he loved so well,
Knowing his mother would not be late,
He did not ring the bell.

His mother ran down the instant she heard
The gate open with a squeak,
She hummed joyously like a bird
As she opened the door of teak.

He gave his mother a bear hug,
And as emotions filled his heart,
He wore an expression so content and smug
Until they broke apart.

"It's good to have you back"
"You know, I cannot but agree,
But as usual, the welcome does lack
My father greeting me."

Outside his father's room he stood
To see him lost in a file,
He knew this workaholic could
Only be resting awhile.

The father looked up to view his son
And gave him a tiny smile,
Saying, "It's good to see you back son,"
He went straight back to his file.

The singer expected that,
But decided he'd had enough,
Upon his father's table he sat
Feeling that this would be tough.
"Dad, could I tell you something?"
He slowly and softly said,
"Sure, go ahead, I'm listening,"

He replied, without lifting his head.
"I need you to do me a favour - just one"
"That depends on the thing."
"Dad, could you at least once,
Please listen to me sing?"

The Song
Eluin Estel

The father looked up at his son,
Gazing straight into his eyes,
"To deserve this, what have I done?"
He thought as he nodded twice.

"I do have one condition, though,
If I am to listen to your song,
This term you must swear to follow
Or I won't listen for long."

"Name the term," the son did say,
Wondering what it would be,
Perhaps, "Don't disturb me another day?"
No, that was too far fetched to be.

"Sing along with your violin, my boy,
I feel that instrument's your best,
In your hands that thing is just a toy
Under your chin, please let it rest."

The singer brought his violin out
And sang his very best,
After all, his father, without a doubt,
Did deserve the crest.

The song slowly came to a close,
And as he put his violin down,
From his seat, the father arose,
And approached him with a frown.

Upon the singer's face he found
Some hair out of place,
Gently, without making a sound,
He pushed it back with grace.

It was just a mere excuse
For the father to stroke his hair,
Something that was out of use
Yet familiarised right there.

"I must apologise," the father said,
"For being so stony faced and bare,
That you thought I didn't bother -
In truth, my son, I care."

"You asked me to listen to your song -
Many times have I already done it.
I appreciated you; I know I was wrong
In not letting you see it."

"I love your voice, my son," said he,
"I love you better still,
If I seemed cold hearted, forgive me,
I know I must change, I will."

Forty Singing Seamen
Alfred Noyes
"In our lands be Beeres and Lyons of dyvers colours as ye redd, grene, black, and white. And in our land be also unicornes and these Unicornes slee many Lyons.... Also there dare no man make a lye in our lande, for if he dyde he sholde incontynent be sleyn." - Mediaeval Epistle of Pope Prester John

Across the seas of Wonderland to Mogadore we plodded,
Forty singing seamen in an old black barque,
And we landed in the twilight where a Polyphemus nodded
With his battered moon-eye winking red and yellow through the dark!
For his eye was growing mellow,
Rich and ripe and red and yellow,
As was time, since old Ulysses made him bellow in the dark!
Chorus: Since Ulysses bunged his eye up with a pine-torch in the dark!


Were they mountains in the gloaming or the giant's ugly shoulders
Just beneath the rolling eyeball, with its bleared and vinous glow,
Red and yellow o'er the purple of the pines among the boulders
And the shaggy horror brooding on the sullen slopes below,
Were they pines among the boulders
Or the hair upon his shoulders?
We were only simple seamen, so of course we didn't know.
Chorus: We were simple singing seamen, so of course we couldn't know.


But we crossed a plain of poppies, and we came upon a fountain
Not of water, but of jewels, like a spray of leaping fire;
And behind it, in an emerald glade, beneath a golden mountain
There stood a crystal palace, for a sailor to admire;
For a troop of ghosts came round us,
Which with leaves of bay they crowned us,
Then with grog they well nigh drowned us, to the depth of our desire!
Chorus: And 'twas very friendly of them, as a sailor can admire!


There was music all about us, we were growing quite forgetful
We were only singing seamen from the dirt of London-town,
Though the nectar that we swallowed seemed to vanish half regretful
As if we wasn't good enough to take such vittles down,
When we saw a sudden figure,
Tall and black as any nigger,
Like the devil - only bigger - drawing near us with a frown!
Chorus: Like the devil - but much bigger - and he wore a golden crown!


And "What's all this?" he growls at us! With dignity we chaunted,
"Forty singing seamen, sir, as won't be put upon!"
"What? Englishmen?" he cries, "Well, if ye don't mind being haunted,
Faith you're welcome to my palace; I'm the famous Prester John!
Will ye walk into my palace?
I don't bear 'ee any malice!
One and all ye shall be welcome in the halls of Prester John!"
Chorus: So we walked into the palace and the halls of Prester John!


Now the door was one great diamond and the hall a hollow ruby -
Big as Beachy Head, my lads, nay bigger by a half!
And I sees the mate wi' mouth agape, a-staring like a booby,
And the skipper close behind him, with his tongue out like a calf!
Now the way to take it rightly
Was to walk along politely
Just as if you didn't notice - so I couldn't help but laugh!
Chorus: For they both forgot their manners and the crew was bound to laugh!


But he took us through his palace and, my lads, as I'm a sinner,
We walked into an opal like a sunset-coloured cloud -
"My dining-room," he says, and, quick as light we saw a dinner
Spread before us by the fingers of a hidden fairy crowd;
And the skipper, swaying gently
After dinner, murmurs faintly,
"I looks to-wards you, Prester John, you've done us very proud!"
Chorus: And we drank his health with honours, for he done us very proud!


Then he walks us to his garden where we sees a feathered demon
Very splendid and important on a sort of spicy tree!
"That's the Phoenix," whispers Prester, "which all eddicated seamen
Knows the only one existent, and he's waiting for to flee!
When his hundred years expire
Then he'll set hisself a-fire
And another from his ashes rise most beautiful to see!"
Chorus: With wings of rose and emerald most beautiful to see!


Then he says, "In younder forest there's a little silver river,
And whosoever drinks of it, his youth shall never die!
The centuries go by, but Prester John endures for ever
With his music in the mountains and his magic on the sky!
While your hearts are growing colder,
While your world is growing older,
There's a magic in the distance, where the sea-line meets the sky,"
Chorus: It shall call to singing seamen till the fount o' song is dry!


So we thought we'd up and seek it, but that forest fair defied us, -
First a crimson leopard laughs at us most horrible to see,
Then a sea-green lion came and sniffed and licked his chops and eyed us,
While a red and yellow unicorn was dancing round a tree!
We was trying to look thinner,
Which was hard, because our dinner
Must ha' made us very tempting to a cat o' high degree!
Chorus: Must ha' made us very tempting to the whole menarjeree!


So we scuttled from that forest and across the poppy meadows
Where the awful shaggy horror brooded o'er us in the dark!
And we pushes out from shore again a-jumping at our shadows,
And pulls away most joyful to the old black barque!
And home again we plodded
While the Polyphemus nodded
With his battered moon-eye winking red and yellow through the dark.
Chorus: Oh, the moon above the mountains, red and yellow through the dark!


Across the seas of Wonderland to London-town we blundered,
Forty singing seamen as was puzzled for to know
If the visions that we saw was caused by - here again we pondered -
A tipple in a vision forty thousand years ago.
Could the grog we dreamt we swallowed
Make us dream of all that followed?
We were only simple seamen, so of course we didn't know!
Chorus: We were simple singing seamen, so of course we could not know!

A voice by the cedar tree
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, from Maud

A voice by the cedar tree
In the meadow under the Hall!
She is singing an air that is known to me,
A passionate ballad gallant and gay,
A martial song like a trumpet's call!
Singing alone in the morning of life,
In the happy morning of life and of May.

Singing of men that in battle array,
Ready in heart and ready in hand,
March with banner and bugle and fife
To the death, for their native land.

Maud with her exquisite face,
And wild voice pealing up to the sunny sky,
And feet like sunny gems on an English green,
Maud in the light of her youth and her grace,
Singing of Death, and of Honor that cannot die,
Till I well could weep for a time so sordid and mean,
And myself so languid and base.

Silence, beautiful voice!
Be still, for you only trouble the mind
With a joy in which I cannot rejoice,
A glory I shall not find.
Still! I will hear you no more,
For your sweetness hardly leaves me a choice
But to move to the meadow and fall before
Her feet on the meadow grass, and adore,
Not her, who is neither courtly nor kind,
Not her, not her, but a voice.

That music always round me
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass

That music always round me, unceasing, unbeginning - yet long untaught I did not hear;
But now the chorus I hear, and am elated;
A tenor, strong, ascending, with power and health, with glad notes of day-break I hear,
A soprano, at intervals, sailing buoyantly over the tops of immense waves,
A transparent bass, shuddering lusciously under and through the universe,
The triumphant tutti - the funeral wailings, with sweet flutes and violins - all these I fill myself with;
I hear not the volumes of sound merely - I am moved by the exquisite meanings,
I listen to the different voices winding in and out, striving, contending with fiery vehemence to excel each other in emotion;
I do not think the performers know themselves - but now I think I begin to know them.

The Singer in Prison
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass

     O sight of shame, and pain, and dole!
     O fearful thought - a convict Soul!

Rang the refrain along the hall, the prison,
Rose to the roof, the vaults of heaven above,
Pouring in floods of melody, in tones so pensive, sweet and strong, the like whereof was never heard,
Reaching the far-off sentry, and the armed guards, who ceas'd their pacing,
- Making the hearer's pulses stop for extasy and awe.

     O sight of pity, gloom, and dole!
     O pardon me, a hapless Soul!

The sun was low in the west one winter day,
When down a narrow aisle, amid the thieves and outlaws of the land,
(There by the hundreds seated, sear-faced murderers, wily counterfeiters,
Gather'd to Sunday church in prison walls-the keepers round,
Plenteous, well-arm'd, watching, with vigilant eyes,)
All that dark, cankerous blotch, a nation's criminal mass,
Calmly a Lady walk'd, holding a little innocent child by either hand,
Whom, seating on their stools beside her on the platform,
She, first preluding with the instrument, a low and musical prelude,
In voice surpassing all, sang forth a quaint old hymn.


A Soul, confined by bars and bands,
Cries, Help! O help! and wrings her hands;
Blinded her eyes - bleeding her breast,
Nor pardon finds, nor balm of rest.

     O sight of shame, and pain, and dole!
     O fearful thought - a convict Soul!

Ceaseless, she paces to and fro;
O heart-sick days! O nights of wo!
Nor hand of friend, nor loving face;
Nor favor comes, nor word of grace.

     O sight of pity, gloom, and dole!
     O pardon me, a hapless Soul!

It was not I that sinn'd the sin,
The ruthless Body dragg'd me in;
Though long I strove courageously,
The Body was too much for me.

     O Life! no life, but bitter dole!
     O burning, beaten, baffled Soul!

(Dear prison'd Soul, bear up a space,
For soon or late the certain grace;
To set thee free, and bear thee home,
The Heavenly Pardoner, Death shall come.

     Convict no more - nor shame, nor dole!
    Depart! a God-enfranchis'd Soul!)

The singer ceas'd;
One glance swept from her clear, calm eyes, o'er all those upturn'd faces;
Strange sea of prison faces - a thousand varied, crafty, brutal, seam'd and beauteous faces;
Then rising, passing back along the narrow aisle between them,
While her gown touch'd them, rustling in the silence,
She vanish'd with her children in the dusk.

While upon all, convicts and armed keepers, ere they stirr'd,
(Convict forgetting prison, keeper his loaded pistol,)
A hush and pause fell down, a wondrous minute,
With deep, half-stifled sobs, and sound of bad men bow'd, and moved to weeping,
And youth's convulsive breathings, memories of home,
The mother's voice in lullaby, the sister's care, the happy childhood,
The long-pent spirit rous'd to reminiscence;
- A wondrous minute then - But after, in the solitary night, to many, many there,
Years after - even in the hour of death - the sad refrain - the tune, the voice, the words,
Resumed - the large, calm Lady walks the narrow aisle,
The wailing melody again - the singer in the prison sings:

    O sight of shame, and pain, and dole!
    O fearful thought - a convict Soul!

When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd [excerpt]
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass Book XXII - Memories of President Lincoln

Sing on there in the swamp,
O singer bashful and tender, I hear your notes, I hear your call,
I hear, I come presently, I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for the lustrous star has detain'd me,
The star my departing comrade holds and detains me.

O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my song for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be for the grave of him I love?

Now I will do nothing but listen
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass Book III - Song of Myself

Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song, to let sounds contribute toward it.

I hear bravuras of birds, bustle of growing wheat, gossip of flames,
clack of sticks cooking my meals,
I hear the sound I love, the sound of the human voice,
I hear all sounds running together, combined, fused or following,
Sounds of the city and sounds out of the city, sounds of the day and night,
Talkative young ones to those that like them, the loud laugh of
work-people at their meals,
The angry base of disjointed friendship, the faint tones of the sick,
The judge with hands tight to the desk, his pallid lips pronouncing a death-sentence,
The heave'e'yo of stevedores unlading ships by the wharves, the
refrain of the anchor-lifters,
The ring of alarm-bells, the cry of fire, the whirr of
swift-streaking engines and hose-carts with premonitory tinkles and color'd lights,
The steam-whistle, the solid roll of the train of approaching cars,
The slow march play'd at the head of the association marching two and two,
(They go to guard some corpse, the flag-tops are draped with black muslin.)

I hear the violoncello, ('tis the young man's heart's complaint,)
I hear the key'd cornet, it glides quickly in through my ears,
It shakes mad-sweet pangs through my belly and breast.

I hear the chorus, it is a grand opera,
Ah this indeed is music - this suits me.

A tenor large and fresh as the creation fills me,
The orbic flex of his mouth is pouring and filling me full.

I hear the train'd soprano (what work with hers is this?)
The orchestra whirls me wider than Uranus flies,
It wrenches such ardors from me I did not know I possess'd them,
It sails me, I dab with bare feet, they are lick'd by the indolent waves,
I am cut by bitter and angry hail, I lose my breath,
Steep'd amid honey'd morphine, my windpipe throttled in fakes of death,
At length let up again to feel the puzzle of puzzles,
And that we call Being.

A Contralto Voice
Walt Whitman, from Specimen Days I.209

May 9, Sunday. - Visit this evening to my friends the J.'s - good supper, to which I did Justice - lively chat with Mrs. J. and I. and J. As I sat out front on the walk afterward, in the evening air, the church-choir and organ on the corner opposite gave Luther's hymn, Ein feste berg, very finely. The air was borne by a rich contralto. For nearly half an hour there in the dark, (there was a good string of English stanzas,) came the music, firm and unhurried, with long pauses. The full silver star-beams of Lyra rose silently over the church's dim roof-ridge. Varicolor'd lights from the stain'd glass windows broke through the tree-shadows. And under all - under the Northern Crown up there, and in the fresh breeze below, and the chiaroscuro of the night, that liquid-full contralto.

The Dead Tenor
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass Book XXXIV - Sands at Seventy

As down the stage again,
With Spanish hat and plumes, and gait inimitable,
Back from the fading lessons of the past, I'd call, I'd tell and own,
How much from thee! the revelation of the singing voice from thee!
(So firm - so liquid-soft - again that tremulous, manly timbre!
The perfect singing voice - deepest of all to me the lesson - trial and test of all:)
How through those strains distill'd - how the rapt ears, the soul of me, absorbing
Fernando's heart, Manrico's passionate call, Ernani's, sweet Gennaro's,
I fold thenceforth, or seek to fold, within my chants transmuting,
Freedom's and Love's and Faith's unloos'd cantabile,
(As perfume's, color's, sunlight's correlation:)
From these, for these, with these, a hurried line, dead tenor,
A wafted autumn leaf, dropt in the closing grave, the shovel'd earth,
To memory of thee.

The Three Taverns: London Bridge
Edwin Arlington Robinson

"Do I hear them? Yes, I hear the children singing - and what of it?
Have you come with eyes afire to find me now and ask me that?
If I were not their father and if you were not their mother,
We might believe they made a noise.... What are you - driving at!"

"Well, be glad that you can hear them, and be glad they are so near us, -
For I have heard the stars of heaven, and they were nearer still.
All within an hour it is that I have heard them calling,
And though I pray for them to cease, I know they never will;
For their music on my heart, though you may freeze it, will fall always,
Like summer snow that never melts upon a mountain-top.
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead - the children - singing?
Do you hear the children singing?... God, will you make them stop!"

"And what now in His holy name have you to do with mountains?
We're back to town again, my dear, and we've a dance tonight.
Frozen hearts and falling music? Snow and stars, and - what the devil!
Say it over to me slowly, and be sure you have it right."

"God knows if I be right or wrong in saying what I tell you,
Or if I know the meaning any more of what I say.
All I know is, it will kill me if I try to keep it hidden -
Well, I met him.... Yes, I met him, and I talked with him - today."

"You met him? Did you meet the ghost of someone you had poisoned,
Long ago, before I knew you for the woman that you are?
Take a chair; and don't begin your stories always in the middle.
Was he man, or was he demon? Anyhow, you've gone too far
To go back, and I'm your servant. I'm the lord, but you're the master.
Now go on with what you know, for I'm excited."

"Do you mean -
Do you mean to make me try to think that you know less than I do?"

"I know that you foreshadow the beginning of a scene.
Pray be careful, and as accurate as if the doors of heaven
Were to swing or to stay bolted from now on for evermore."

"Do you conceive, with all your smooth contempt of every feeling,
Of hiding what you know and what you must have known before?
Is it worth a woman's torture to stand here and have you smiling,
With only your poor fetish of possession on your side?
No thing but one is wholly sure, and that's not one to scare me;
When I meet it I may say to God at last that I have tried.
And yet, for all I know, or all I dare believe, my trials
Henceforward will be more for you to bear than are your own;
And you must give me keys of yours to rooms I have not entered.
Do you see me on your threshold all my life, and there alone?
Will you tell me where you see me in your fancy - when it leads you
Far enough beyond the moment for a glance at the abyss?"

"Will you tell me what intrinsic and amazing sort of nonsense
You are crowding on the patience of the man who gives you - this?
Look around you and be sorry you're not living in an attic,
With a civet and a fish-net, and with you to pay the rent.
I say words that you can spell without the use of all your letters;
And I grant, if you insist, that I've a guess at what you meant."

"Have I told you, then, for nothing, that I met him? Are you trying
To be merry while you try to make me hate you?"

"Think again,
My dear, before you tell me, in a language unbecoming
To a lady, what you plan to tell me next. If I complain,
If I seem an atom peevish at the preference you mention -
Or imply, to be precise - you may believe, or you may not,
That I'm a trifle more aware of what he wants than you are.
But I shouldn't throw that at you. Make believe that I forgot.
Make believe that he's a genius, if you like, - but in the meantime
Don't go back to rocking-horses. There, there, there, now."

"Make believe!
When you see me standing helpless on a plank above a whirlpool,
Do I drown, or do I hear you when you say it? Make believe?
How much more am I to say or do for you before I tell you
That I met him! What's to follow now may be for you to choose.
Do you hear me? Won't you listen? It's an easy thing to listen...."

"And it's easy to be crazy when there's everything to lose."
"If at last you have a notion that I mean what I am saying,
Do I seem to tell you nothing when I tell you I shall try?
If you save me, and I lose him - I don't know - it won't much matter.
I dare say that I've lied enough, but now I do not lie."

"Do you fancy me the one man who has waited and said nothing
While a wife has dragged an old infatuation from a tomb?
Give the thing a little air and it will vanish into ashes.
There you are - piff! presto!"

"When I came into this room,
It seemed as if I saw the place, and you there at your table,
As you are now at this moment, for the last time in my life;
And I told myself before I came to find you, ‘I shall tell him,
If I can, what I have learned of him since I became his wife.'
And if you say, as I've no doubt you will before I finish,
That you have tried unceasingly, with all your might and main,
To teach me, knowing more than I of what it was I needed,
Don't think, with all you may have thought, that you have tried in vain;
For you have taught me more than hides in all the shelves of knowledge
Of how little you found that's in me and was in me all along.
I believed, if I intruded nothing on you that I cared for,
I'd be half as much as horses, - and it seems that I was wrong;
I believed there was enough of earth in me, with all my nonsense
Over things that made you sleepy, to keep something still awake;
But you taught me soon to read my book, and God knows I have read it -
Ages longer than an angel would have read it for your sake.
I have said that you must open other doors than I have entered,
But I wondered while I said it if I might not be obscure.
Is there anything in all your pedigrees and inventories
With a value more elusive than a dollar's? Are you sure
That if I starve another year for you I shall be stronger
To endure another like it - and another - till I'm dead?"

"Has your tame cat sold a picture? - or more likely had a windfall?
Or for God's sake, what's broke loose? Have you a bee-hive in your head?
A little more of this from you will not be easy hearing
Do you know that? Understand it, if you do; for if you won't....
What the devil are you saying! Make believe you never said it,
And I'll say I never heard it.... Oh, you.... If you...."

"If I don't?"
"There are men who say there's reason hidden somewhere in a woman,
But I doubt if God himself remembers where the key was hung."

"He may not; for they say that even God himself is growing.
I wonder if He makes believe that He is growing young;
I wonder if He makes believe that women who are giving
All they have in holy loathing to a stranger all their lives
Are the wise ones who build houses in the Bible...."

"Stop - you devil!"
"...Or that souls are any whiter when their bodies are called wives.
If a dollar's worth of gold will hoop the walls of hell together,
Why need heaven be such a ruin of a place that never was?
And if at last I lied my starving soul away to nothing,
Are you sure you might not miss it? Have you come to such a pass
That you would have me longer in your arms if you discovered
That I made you into someone else.... Oh!...Well, there are worse ways.
But why aim it at my feet - unless you fear you may be sorry....
There are many days ahead of you."

"I do not see those days."
"I can see them. Granted even I am wrong, there are the children.
And are they to praise their father for his insight if we die?
Do you hear them? Do you hear them overhead - the children - singing?
Do you hear them? Do you hear the children?"
"Damn the children!"

What have they done?...Well, then, - do it.... Do it now, and have it over."
"Oh, you devil!...Oh, you...."

"No, I'm not a devil, I'm a prophet -
One who sees the end already of so much that one end more
Would have now the small importance of one other small illusion,
Which in turn would have a welcome where the rest have gone before.
But if I were you, my fancy would look on a little farther
For the glimpse of a release that may be somewhere still in sight.
Furthermore, you must remember those two hundred invitations
For the dancing after dinner. We shall have to shine tonight.
We shall dance, and be as happy as a pair of merry spectres,
On the grave of all the lies that we shall never have to tell;
We shall dance among the ruins of the tomb of our endurance,
And I have not a doubt that we shall do it very well.
There! - I'm glad you've put it back; for I don't like it. Shut the drawer now.
No - no - don't cancel anything. I'll dance until I drop.
I can't walk yet, but I'm going to.... Go away somewhere, and leave me....
Oh, you children! Oh, you children!...God, will they never stop!"

I heard you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass Book IV - Children of Adam

I heard you solemn-sweet pipes of the organ as last Sunday morn I pass'd the church,
Winds of autumn, as I walk'd the woods at dusk I heard your long-stretch'd sighs up above so mournful,
I heard the perfect Italian tenor singing at the opera, I heard the soprano in the midst of the quartet singing;
Heart of my love! you too I heard murmuring low through one of the wrists around my head,
Heard the pulse of you when all was still ringing little bells last night under my ear.

The indications and tally of time
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass Book IX - Song of the Answerer

The indications and tally of time,
Perfect sanity shows the master among philosophs,
Time, always without break, indicates itself in parts,
What always indicates the poet is the crowd of the pleasant company of singers, and their words,
The words of the singers are the hours or minutes of the light or dark, but the words of the maker of poems are the general light and dark,
The maker of poems settles justice, reality, immortality,
His insight and power encircle things and the human race,
He is the glory and extract thus far of things and of the human race.

The singers do not beget, only the Poet begets,
The singers are welcom'd, understood, appear often enough, but rare has the day been, likewise the spot, of the birth of the maker of poems, the Answerer,
(Not every century nor every five centuries has contain'd such a day, for all its names.)

The singers of successive hours of centuries may have ostensible names, but the name of each of them is one of the singers,
The name of each is, eye-singer, ear-singer, head-singer, sweet-singer, night-singer, parlor-singer, love-singer, weird-singer, or something else.

All music is what awakes from you
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, Book XV - A Song for Occupations [excerpt]

All music is what awakes from you when you are reminded by the instruments,
It is not the violins and the cornets, it is not the oboe nor the beating drums, nor the score of the baritone singer singing his sweet romanza, nor that of the men's chorus, nor that of the women's chorus,
It is nearer and farther than they.

I Hear America Singing [excerpt]
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, Book V - The Answerer [excerpt]

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics - each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work;
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat - the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck;
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench - the hatter singing as he stands;
The wood-cutter's song - the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown;
The delicious singing of the mother - or of the young wife at work - or of the girl sewing or washing - Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else;
The day what belongs to the day - At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.

Proud Music of the Storm
Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass, Book XXV

Proud music of the storm,
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies,
Strong hum of forest tree-tops - wind of the mountains,
Personified dim shapes - you hidden orchestras,
You serenades of phantoms with instruments alert,
Blending with Nature's rhythmus all the tongues of nations;
You chords left as by vast composers - you choruses,
You formless, free, religious dances - you from the Orient,
You undertone of rivers, roar of pouring cataracts,
You sounds from distant guns with galloping cavalry,
Echoes of camps with all the different bugle-calls,
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me powerless,
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber, why have you seiz'd me?

Come forward O my soul, and let the rest retire,
Listen, lose not, it is toward thee they tend,
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber,
For thee they sing and dance O soul.

A festival song,
The duet of the bridegroom and the bride, a marriage-march,
With lips of love, and hearts of lovers fill'd to the brim with love,
The red-flush'd cheeks and perfumes, the cortege swarming full of friendly faces young and old,
To flutes' clear notes and sounding harps' cantabile.

Now loud approaching drums,
Victoria! seest thou in powder-smoke the banners torn but flying? the rout of the baffled?
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army?

(Ah soul, the sobs of women, the wounded groaning in agony,
The hiss and crackle of flames, the blacken'd ruins, the embers of cities,
The dirge and desolation of mankind.)

Now airs antique and mediaeval fill me,
I see and hear old harpers with their harps at Welsh festivals,
I hear the minnesingers singing their lays of love,
I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the middle ages.

Now the great organ sounds,
Tremulous, while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth,
On which arising rest, and leaping forth depend,
All shapes of beauty, grace and strength, all hues we know,
Green blades of grass and warbling birds, children that gambol and play, the clouds of heaven above,)
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not,
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest, maternity of all the rest,
And with it every instrument in multitudes,
The players playing, all the world's musicians,
The solemn hymns and masses rousing adoration,
All passionate heart-chants, sorrowful appeals,
The measureless sweet vocalists of ages,
And for their solvent setting earth's own diapason,
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves,
A new composite orchestra, binder of years and climes, ten-fold renewer,
As of the far-back days the poets tell, the Paradiso,
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering done,
The journey done, the journeyman come home,
And man and art with Nature fused again.

Tutti! for earth and heaven;
(The Almighty leader now for once has signal'd with his wand.)

The manly strophe of the husbands of the world,
And all the wives responding.

The tongues of violins,
(I think O tongues ye tell this heart, that cannot tell itself,
This brooding yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.)

Ah from a little child,
Thou knowest soul how to me all sounds became music,
My mother's voice in lullaby or hymn,
(The voice, O tender voices, memory's loving voices,
Last miracle of all, O dearest mother's, sister's, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav'd corn,
The measur'd sea-surf beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk's sharp scream,
The wild-fowl's notes at night as flying low migrating north or south,
The psalm in the country church or mid the clustering trees, the open air camp-meeting,
The fiddler in the tavern, the glee, the long-strung sailor-song,
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep, the crowing cock at dawn.

All songs of current lands come sounding round me,
The German airs of friendship, wine and love,
Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances, English warbles,
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes, and o'er the rest,
Italia's peerless compositions.

Across the stage with pallor on her face, yet lurid passion,
Stalks Norma brandishing the dagger in her hand.

I see poor crazed Lucia's eyes' unnatural gleam,
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevel'd.

I see where Ernani walking the bridal garden,
Amid the scent of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride by the hand,
Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn.

To crossing swords and gray hairs bared to heaven,
The clear electric base and baritone of the world,
The trombone duo, Libertad forever!
From Spanish chestnut trees' dense shade,
By old and heavy convent walls a wailing song,
Song of lost love, the torch of youth and life quench'd in despair,
Song of the dying swan, Fernando's heart is breaking.

Awaking from her woes at last retriev'd Amina sings,
Copious as stars and glad as morning light the torrents of her joy.

(The teeming lady comes,
The lustrious orb, Venus contralto, the blooming mother,
Sister of loftiest gods, Alboni's self I hear.)

I hear those odes, symphonies, operas,
I hear in the William Tell the music of an arous'd and angry people,
I hear Meyerbeer's Huguenots, the Prophet, or Robert,
Gounod's Faust, or Mozart's Don Juan.

I hear the dance-music of all nations,
The waltz, some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me in bliss,
The bolero to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets.

I see religious dances old and new,
I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre,
I see the crusaders marching bearing the cross on high, to the martial clang of cymbals,
I hear dervishes monotonously chanting, interspers'd with frantic shouts, as they spin around turning always towards Mecca,
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the Arabs,
Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern Greeks dancing,
I hear them clapping their hands as they bend their bodies,
I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet.

I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the performers wounding each other,
I see the Roman youth to the shrill sound of flageolets throwing and catching their weapons,
As they fall on their knees and rise again.

I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling,
I see the worshippers within, nor form nor sermon, argument nor word,
But silent, strange, devout, rais'd, glowing heads, ecstatic faces.

I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings,
The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen,
The sacred imperial hymns of China,
To the delicate sounds of the king, (the stricken wood and stone,)
Or to Hindu flutes and the fretting twang of the vina,
A band of bayaderes.

Now Asia, Africa leave me, Europe seizing inflates me,
To organs huge and bands I hear as from vast concourses of voices,
Luther's strong hymn Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Rossini's Stabat Mater dolorosa,
Or floating in some high cathedral dim with gorgeous color'd windows,
The passionate Agnus Dei or Gloria in Excelsis.

Composers! mighty maestros!
And you, sweet singers of old lands, soprani, tenori, bassi!
To you a new bard caroling in the West,
Obeisant sends his love.

(Such led to thee O soul,
All senses, shows and objects, lead to thee,
But now it seems to me sound leads o'er all the rest.)

I hear the annual singing of the children in St. Paul's cathedral,
Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the symphonies, oratorios of Beethoven, Handel, or Haydn,
The Creation in billows of godhood laves me.

Give me to hold all sounds, (I madly struggling cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their throbbings, Nature's also,
The tempests, waters, winds, operas and chants, marches and dances,
Utter, pour in, for I would take them all!

Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream,
And questioning all those reminiscences, the tempest in its fury,
And all the songs of sopranos and tenors,
And those rapt oriental dances of religious fervor,
And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of organs,
And all the artless plaints of love and grief and death,
I said to my silent curious soul out of the bed of the slumber-chamber,
Come, for I have found the clew I sought so long,
Let us go forth refresh'd amid the day,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real,
Nourish'd henceforth by our celestial dream.

And I said, moreover,
Haply what thou hast heard O soul was not the sound of winds,
Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk's flapping wings nor harsh scream,
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy,
Nor German organ majestic, nor vast concourse of voices, nor layers of harmonies,
Nor strophes of husbands and wives, nor sound of marching soldiers,
Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps,
But to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely wafted in night air, uncaught, unwritten,
Which let us go forth in the bold day and write.

Ah, from a little child,
Thou knowest, Soul, how to me all sounds became music;
My mother's voice, in lullaby or hymn;
(The voice - O tender voices - memory's loving voices!
Last miracle of all - O dearest mother's, sister's, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav’d corn,
The measur'd sea-surf, beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk's sharp scream,
The wild-fowl's notes at night, as flying low, migrating north or south,
The psalm in the country church, or mid the clustering trees, the open air camp-meeting,
The fiddler in the tavern 0 the glee, the long-strung sailor-song,
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep - the crowing cock at dawn.

8 All songs of current lands come sounding 'round me,
The German airs of friendship, wine and love,
Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances - English warbles,
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes - and o'er the rest,
Italia's peerless compositions.

Across the stage, with pallor on her face, yet lurid passion,
Stalks Norma, brandishing the dagger in her hand.

I see poor crazed Lucia's eyes' unnatural gleam;
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevell'd.

I see where Ernani, walking the bridal garden,
Amid the scent of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride by the hand,
Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn.

To crossing swords, and grey hairs bared to heaven,
The clear, electric base and baritone of the world,
The trombone duo - Libertad forever!

From Spanish chestnut trees' dense shade,
By old and heavy convent walls, a wailing song,
Song of lost love - the torch of youth and life quench'd in despair,
Song of the dying swan - Fernando's heart is breaking.

Awaking from her woes at last, retriev'd Amina sings;
Copious as stars, and glad as morning light, the torrents of her joy.

(The teeming lady comes!
The lustrious orb - Venus contralto - the blooming mother,
Sister of loftiest gods - Alboni's self I hear.)


I hear those odes, symphonies, operas;
I hear in the William Tell, the music of an arous'd and angry people;
I hear Meyerbeer's Huguenots, the Prophet, or Robert;
Gounod's Faust, or Mozart's Don Juan.


I hear the dance-music of all nations,
The waltz, (some delicious measure, lapsing, bathing me in bliss;)
The bolero, to tinkling guitars and clattering castanets.

I see religious dances old and new,
I hear the sound of the Hebrew lyre,
I see the Crusaders marching, bearing the cross on high, to the martial clang of cymbals;
I hear dervishes monotonously chanting, interspers'd with frantic shouts, as they spin around, turning always towards Mecca;
I see the rapt religious dances of the Persians and the Arabs;
Again, at Eleusis, home of Ceres, I see the modern Greeks dancing,
I hear them clapping their hands, as they bend their bodies,
I hear the metrical shuffling of their feet.

I see again the wild old Corybantian dance, the performers wounding each other;
I see the Roman youth, to the shrill sound of flageolets, throwing and catching their weapons,
As they fall on their knees, and rise again.

I hear from the Mussulman mosque the muezzin calling;
I see the worshippers within, (nor form, nor sermon, argument, nor word,
But silent, strange, devout - rais'd, glowing heads - extatic faces.)


I hear the Egyptian harp of many strings,
The primitive chants of the Nile boatmen;
The sacred imperial hymns of China,
To the delicate sounds of the king, (the stricken wood and stone;)
Or to Hindu flutes, and the fretting twang of the vina,
A band of bayaderes.


Now Asia, Africa leave me - Europe, seizing, inflates me;
To organs huge, and bands, I hear as from vast concourses of voices,
Luther's strong hymn, Eine feste Burg ist unser Gott;
Rossini's Stabat Mater dolorosa;
Or, floating in some high cathedral dim, with gorgeous color'd windows,
The passionate Agnus Dei, or Gloria in Excelsis.


Composers! mighty maestros!
And you, sweet singers of old lands - Soprani! Tenori! Bassi!
To you a new bard, carolling free in the west,
Obeisant, sends his love.

(Such led to thee, O Soul!
All senses, shows and objects, lead to thee,
But now, it seems to me, sound leads o'er all the rest.)


I hear the annual singing of the children in St. Paul's Cathedral;
Or, under the high roof of some colossal hall, the symphonies, oratorios of Beethoven, Handel, or Haydn;
The Creation, in billows of godhood laves me.

Give me to hold all sounds, (I, madly struggling, cry,)
Fill me with all the voices of the universe,
Endow me with their throbbings - Nature's also,
The tempests, waters, winds - operas and chants - marches and dances,
Utter - pour in - for I would take them all.


Then I woke softly,
And pausing, questioning awhile the music of my dream,
And questioning all those reminiscences - the tempest in its fury,
And all the songs of sopranos and tenors,
And those rapt oriental dances, of religious fervor,
And the sweet varied instruments, and the diapason of organs,
And all the artless plaints of love, and grief and death,
I said to my silent, curious Soul, out of the bed of the slumber-chamber,
Come, for I have found the clue I sought so long,
Let us go forth refresh'd amid the day,
Cheerfully tallying life, walking the world, the real,
Nourish'd henceforth by our celestial dream.

And I said, moreover,
Haply, what thou hast heard, O Soul, was not the sound of winds,
Nor dream of raging storm, nor sea-hawk's flapping wings, nor harsh scream,
Nor vocalism of sun-bright Italy,
Nor German organ majestic - nor vast concourse of voices - nor layers of harmonies;
Nor strophes of husbands and wives - nor sound of marching soldiers,
Nor flutes, nor harps, nor the bugle-calls of camps;
But, to a new rhythmus fitted for thee,
Poems, bridging the way from Life to Death, vaguely wafted in night air, uncaught, unwritten,
Which, let us go forth in the bold day, and write.

The Hidden Singer
Wendell Berry

The gods are less
for their love of praise.
Above and below them all
is a spirit that needs
nothing but its own
its health and ours.
It has made all things
by dividing itself.
It will be whole again.
To its joy we come
togetherųthe seer
and the seen, the eater
and the eaten, the lover
and the loved.
In our joining it knows
itself. It is with us then,
not as the gods
whose names crest
in unearthly fire,
but as a little bird
hidden in the leaves
who sings quietly
and waits
and sings.

O Black and Unknown Bards
James Weldon Johnson

O black and unknown bards of long ago,
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel's lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long,
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song?

Heart of what slave poured out such melody
As "Steal away to Jesus"? On its strains
His spirit must have nightly floated free,
Though still about his hands he felt his chains.
Who heard great "Jordan roll"? Whose starward eye
Saw chariot "swing low"? And who was he
That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
"Nobody knows de trouble I see"?

What merely living clod, what captive thing,
Could up toward God through all its darkness grope,
And find within its deadened heart to sing
These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope?
How did it catch that subtle undertone,
That note in music heard not with the ears?
How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown,
Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears.

Not that great German master in his dream
Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars
At the creation, ever heard a theme
Nobler than "Go down, Moses." Mark its bars
How like a mighty trumpet-call they stir
The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung
Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were
That helped make history when Time was young.

There is a wide, wide wonder in it all,
That from degraded rest and servile toil
The fiery spirit of the seer should call
These simple children of the sun and soil.
O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed,
You - you alone, of all the long, long line
Of those who've sung untaught, unknown, unnamed,
Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine.

You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings;
No chant of bloody war, no exulting pean
Of arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings
You touched in chord with music empyrean.
You sang far better than you knew; the songs
That for your listeners' hungry hearts sufficed
Still live, - but more than this to you belongs:
You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ.

The Solitary Reaper
William Wordsworth, Number VIII. from Memorials of a Tour in Scotland, 1803

Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne'er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.

Will no one tell me what she sings? -
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?

Whate'er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And o'er the sickle bending; -
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.

Die Stimmen [The Voices]
Rainer Marie Rilke

Die Reichen und Glücklichen haben gut schweigen,
niemand will wissen was sie sind.
Aber die Dürftigen müssen sich zeigen,
müssen sagen: ich bin blind
oder: ich bin im Begriff es zu werden
oder: es geht mir nicht gut auf Erden
oder: ich habe ein krankes Kind
oder: da bin ich zusammengefügt...

Und vielleicht, daß das gar nicht genügt.

Und weil alle sonst, wie an Dingen,
an ihnen vorbeigehn, müssen sie singen.

Und da hört man noch guten Gesang.

Freilich die Menschen sind seltsam; sie hören
lieber Kastraten in Knabenchören.

Aber Gott selber kommt und bleibt lang
wenn ihn diese Beschnittenen stören.
[The rich and fortunate do well to keep silent,
for no one cares to know who and what they are.
But those in need must reveal themselves,
must say: I am blind,
or: I'm on the verge of going blind,
or: nothing goes well with me on earth,
or: I have a sickly child,
or: I have little to hold me together...

And chances are this is not nearly enough.

And because people try to ignore them as they
pass by them: these unfortunate ones have to sing!

And at times one hears some excellent singing!

Of course, people differ in their tastes: some would
prefer to listen to choirs of boy-castrati.

But God himself comes often and stays long,
when the castrati's singing disturbs Him.]

Friedrich Rückert

Ein Zypressenhain,
Alte Brunnen fließen.
Auf dem Meer im Abendschein
Schwarze Schwalben schießen.

Aus der weißen Villa dringt
Eine sanfte Klage:
Eine Frau, die spielt und singt
Lieder andrer Tage.

Eine große Stille spinnt,
die Fontänen steigen.
Und die fernen Lieder sind
Laut geword'nes Schweigen.

Contentio Cantorum


M. Quid tacitus, Corydon, uultuque subinde minaci
quidue sub hac platano, quam garrulus adstrepit umor,
insueta statione sedes? iuuat herbida forsan
ripa leuatque diem uicini spiritus amnis?

C. carmina iam dudum, non quae nemorale resultent,
uoluimus, o Meliboee; sed haec, quibus aurea possint
saecula cantari, quibus et deus ipse canatur,
qui populos urbisque regit pacemque togatam.

M. dulce quidem resonas, nec te diuersus Apollo
despicit, o iuuenis, sed magnae numina Romae
non ita cantari debent, ut ouile Menalcae.

C. quidquid id est, siluestre licet uideatur acutis
auribus et nostro tantum memorabile pago;
non mea rusticitas, si non ualet arte polita
carminis, at certe ualeat pietate probari?
rupe sub hac eadem, quam proxima pinus obumbrat.
haec eadem nobis frater meditatur Amyntas,
quem uicina meis natalibus admouet aetas.

M. iam puerum calamos et odorae uincula cerae
iungere non cohibes, leuibus quem saepe cicutis
ludere conantem uetuisti fronte paterna?
dicentem, Corydon, te non semel ista notaui:
"frange, puer, calamos et inanis desere Musas;
i, potius glandis rubicundaque collige corna,
duc ad mulctra greges et lac uenale per urbem
non tacitus porta. quid enim tibi fistula reddet,
quo tutere famem? certe mea carmina nemo
praeter ab his scopulis uentosa remurmurat echo."

C. haec ego, confiteor, dixi, Meliboee, sed olim:
non eadem nobis sunt tempora, non deus idem.
spes magis adridet: certe ne fraga rubosque
colligerem uiridique famem solarer hibisco,
tu facis et tua nos alit indulgentia farre;
tu nostras miseratus opes docilemque iuuentam
hiberna prohibes ieiunia soluere fago.
ecce nihil querulum per te, Meliboee, sonamus;
per te secura saturi recubamus in umbra
et fruimur siluis Amaryllidos, ultima nuper,
ultima terrarum, nisi tu, Meliboee, fuisses,
litora uisuri trucibusque obnoxia Mauris
pascua Geryonis, liquidis ubi cursibus ingens
dicitur occiduas impellere Baetis arenas.
scilicet extremo nunc uilis in orbe iacerem,
a dolor! et pecudes inter conductus Iberas
irrita septena modularer sibila canna;
nec quisquam nostras inter dumeta Camenas
respiceret; non ipse daret mihi forsitan aurem,
ipse deus, uacuam, longeque sonantia uota
scilicet extremo non exaudiret in orbe.
sed nisi forte tuas melior sonus aduocat auris
et nostris aliena magis tibi carmina rident,
uis, hodierna tua subigatur pagina lima?
nam tibi non tantum uenturos dicere uentos
agricolis qualemque ferat sol aureus ortum
attribuere dei, sed dulcia carmina saepe
concinis, et modo te Baccheis Musa corymbis
munerat et lauro modo pulcher obumbrat Apollo.
quod si tu faueas trepido mihi, forsitan illos
experiar calamos, here quos mihi doctus Iollas
donauit dixitque: "trucis haec fistula tauros
conciliat: nostroque sonat dulcissima Fauno.
Tityrus hanc habuit, cecinit qui primus in istis
montibus Hyblaea modulabile carmen auena."

M. magna petis, Corydon, si Tityrus esse laboras.
ille fuit uates sacer et qui posset auena
praesonuisse chelyn, blandae cui saepe canenti
adlusere ferae, cui substitit aduena quercus.
quem modo cantantem rutilo spargebat acantho
Nais et implicitos comebat pectine crinis.

C. est - fateor, Meliboee, - deus: sed nec mihi Phoebus
forsitan abnuerit; tu tantum commodus audi:
scimus enim, quam te non aspernetur Apollo.

M. incipe, nam faueo; sed prospice, ne tibi forte
tinnula tam fragili respiret fistula buxo,
quam resonare solet, si quando laudat Alexin.
hos potius, magis hos calamos sectare: canalis
exprime qui dignas cecinerunt consule siluas.
incipe, ne dubita, uenit en et frater Amyntas;
cantibus iste tuis alterno succinet ore.
ducite, nec mora sit, uicibusque reducite carmen;
tuque prior, Corydon, tu proximus ibis, Amynta.

C. ab Ioue principium, si quis canit aethera, sumat,
si quis Atlantiaci pondus molitur Olympi:
at mihi, qui nostras praesenti numine terras
perpetuamque regit iuuenili robore pacem,
laetus et augusto felix adrideat ore.

A. me quoque facundo comitatus Apolline Caesar
respiciat, montis neu dedignetur adire,
quos et Phoebus amat, quos Iupiter ipse tuetur:
in quibus augustos uisurae saepe triumphos
laurus fructificant uicinaque nascitur arbos.

C. ipse polos etiam qui temperat igne geluque,
Iupiter ipse parens, cui tu iam proximus esse,
Caesar, ouas, posito paulisper fulmine saepe
Cresia rura petit uiridique reclinis in antro
carmina Dictaeis audit Curetica siluis.

A. aspicis, ut uirides audito Caesare siluae
conticeant? memini, quamuis urgente procella
sic nemus immotis subito requiescere ramis,
et dixi: "deus hinc, certe deus expulit euros."
nec mora; Parrhasiae sonuerunt sibila cannae.

C. adspicis, ut teneros subitus uigor excitet agnos?
utque superfuso magis ubera lacte grauentur
et nuper tonsis exundent uellera fetis?
hoc ego iam, memini, semel hac in ualle notaui
et uenisse Palen pecoris dixisse magistros.

A. scilicet omnis eum tellus, gens omnis adorat,
diligiturque deis, quem sic taciturna uerentur
arbuta, cuius iners audito nomine tellus
incaluit floremque dedit; cui silua uocato
densat odore comas, stupefacta regerminat arbos.

C. illius ut primum senserunt numina terrae,
coepit et uberior sulcis fallentibus olim
luxuriare seges tandemque legumina plenis
uix resonant siliquis; nec praefocata malignum
messis habet lolium nec inertibus albet auenis.

A. iam neque damnatos metuit iactare ligones
fossor et inuento, si fors dedit, utitur auro;
nec timet, ut nuper, dum iugera uersat arator,
ne sonet offenso contraria uomere massa,
iamque palam presso magis et magis instat aratro.

C. ille dat, ut primas Cereri dare cultor aristas
possit et intacto Bromium perfundere uino,
ut nudus ruptas saliat calcator in uuas
utque bono plaudat paganica turba magistro,
qui facit egregios ad peruia compita ludos.

A. ille meis pacem dat montibus: ecce per illum,
seu cantare iuuat seu ter pede laeta ferire
gramina, nullus obest; licet et cantare choreis
et cantus uiridante licet mihi condere libro,
turbida nec calamos iam surdant classica nostros.

C. numine Caesareo securior ipse Lycaeus
Pan recolit siluas et amoena Faunus in umbra
securus recubat placidoque in fonte lauatur
Nais et humanum non calcatura cruorem
per iuga siccato uelox pede currit Oreas.

A. di, precor, hunc iuuenem, quem uos (neque fallor) ab ipso
aethere misistis, post longa reducite uitae
tempora uel potius mortale resoluite pensum
et date perpetuo caelestia fila metallo:
sit deus et nolit pensare palatia caelo!

C. tu modo mutata seu Iupiter ipse figura,
Caesar, ades seu quis superum sub imagine falsa
mortalique lates (es enim deus): hunc, precor, orbem
hos, precor, aeternus populos rege! sit tibi caeli
uilis amor coeptamque, pater, ne desere pacem!

M. rustica credebam nemoralis carmina uobis
concessisse deas et obesis auribus apta;
uerum, quae paribus modo concinuistis auenis,
tam liquidum, tam dulce cadunt, ut non ego malim
quod Peligna solent examina lambere nectar.

C. o mihi quae tereti decurrent carmina uersu
tunc, Meliboee, meum si quando montibus istis
dicar habere Larem, si quando nostra uiderc
pascua contigerit! uellit nam saepius aurem
inuida Paupertas et dicit: "ouilia cura!"
at tu, si qua tamen non aspernanda putabis,
fer, Meliboee, deo mea carmina: nam tibi fas est
sacra Palatini penetralia uisere Phoebi.
tum mihi talis eris, qualis qui dulce sonantem
Tityron e siluis dominam deduxit in urbem
ostenditque deis et "spreto" dixit "ouili,
Tityre, rura prius, sed post cantabimus arma".

A. respiciat nostros utinam fortuna labores
pulcrior et meritae faueat deus ipse iuuentae!
nos tamen interea tenerum mactabimus haedum
et pariter subitae peragemus fercula cenae.

M. nunc ad flumen ouis deducite: iam fremit aestas,
iam sol contractas pedibus magis admouet umbras.

Le souvenir d'avoir chanté
Catulle Mendès

Le souvenir d'avoir chanté
Au soleil, sous l'azur céleste,
Est l'infini trésor qui reste
Aux cigales après l'été.

Quel est, vieux gitane éreinté,
Ton recours quand tout te moleste?
Le souvenir d'avoir chanté
Au soleil sous l'azur céleste!

Quand un autre aura ta beauté,
Mésange, et ton rire et ton geste,
Mon coeur, en son ombre funeste,
Gardera, comme une clarté,
Le souvenir d'avoir chanté.

Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre
Ludovic Halévy, from Les Contes d'Hoffmann

Jour et nuit je me mets en quatre,
au moindre signe je me tais;
c'est tout comme si je chantais,
Encore non, si je chantais,
de ses mépris il lui faudrait rabattre.
Je chante seul quelquefois,
mais chanter n'est pas commode.
Tra la la!
Ce n'est pourtant pas la voix,
la la la,
qui me fait défaut, je crois.
La la la!
Non, c'est la méthode!
Tra la la la!

Théophile Gautier

On voit dans le musée antique,
Sur un lit de marbre sculpté,
Une statue énigmatique
D'une inquiétante beauté.

Est-ce un jeune homme? est-ce une femme,
Une déesse, ou bien un dieu ?
L'amour, ayant peur d'être infâme,
Hésite et suspend son aveu.

Dans sa pose malicieuse,
Elle s'étend, le dos tourné
Devant la foule curieuse,
Sur son coussin capitonné.

Pour faire sa beauté maudite,
Chaque sexe apporta son don.
Tout homme dit: C'est Aphrodite!
Toute femme: C'est Cupidon!

Sexe douteux, grâce certaine,
On dirait ce corps indécis
Fondu, dans l'eau de la fontaine,
Sous les baisers de Salmacis.

Chimère ardente, effort suprême
De l'art et de la volupté,
Monstre charmant, comme je t'aime
Avec ta multiple beauté!

Bien qu'on défende ton approche,
Sous la draperie aux plis droits
Dont le bout à ton pied s'accroche,
Mes yeux ont plongé bien des fois.

Rêve de poéte et d'artiste,
Tu m'as bien des nuits occupé,
Et mon caprice qui persiste
Ne convient pas qu'il s'est trompé.

Mais seulement il se transpose,
Et, passant de la forme au son,
Trouve dans sa métamorphose
La jeune fille et le garçon.

Que tu me plais, ô timbre étrange!
Son double, homme et femme à la fois,
Contralto, bizarre mélange,
Hermaphrodite de la voix!

C'est Roméo, c'est Juliette,
Chantant avec un seul gosier;
Le pigeon rauque et la fauvette
Perchés sur le même rosier;

C'est la châtelaine qui raille
Son beau page parlant d'amour;
L'amant au pied de la muraille,
La dame au balcon de sa tour;

Le papillon, blanche étincelle,
Qu'en ses détours et ses ébats
Poursuit un papillon fidèle,
L'un volant haut et l'autre bas;

L'ange qui descend et qui monte
Sur l'escalier d'or voltigeant
La cloche mêlant dans sa fonte
La voix d'airain, la voix d'argent;

La mélodie et l'harmonie
Le chant et l'accompagnement;
A la grâce la force unie,
La maîtresse embrassant l'amant!

Sur le pli de sa jupe assise,
Ce soir, ce sera Cendrillon
Causant près du feu qu'elle attise
Avec son ami le grillon;

Demain le valeureux Arsace
A son courroux donnant l'essor,
Ou Tancrède avec sa cuirasse,
Son épée et son casque d'or;

Desdemona chantant le Saule,
Zerline bernant Mazetto,
Ou Malcolm le plaid sur l'épaule;
C'est toi que j'aime, ô contralto!

Nature charmante et bizarre
Que Dieu d'un double attrait para,
Toi qui pourrais, comme Gulnare,
Être le Kaled d'un Lara,

Et dont la voix dans sa caresse,
Réveillant le coeur endormi,
Mêle aux soupirs de la maîtresse
L'accent plus mâle de l'ami!

Sérénade Toscane
Romain Bussine, from an anonymous Italian text

Ô toi que berce un rêve enchanteur,
Tu dors tranquille en ton lit solitaire,
Éveillei-toi, regarde le chanteur,
Esclave de tes yeux, dans la nui claire!
Éveille-toi mon âme, ma pensée,
Entends ma voix par la brise emportée:
Entends ma voix chanter!
Entends ma voix pleurer, dans la rosée!
Sous ta fenêtre en vain ma voix expire.
Et chaque nuit je redis mon martyre,
Sans autre abri que la voùle étoilée.
Le vent brise ma voix et la nuit est glacée:
Mon chant s'éteint en un accent suprême,
Ma lèvre tremble en murmurant je t'aime.
Je me peux plus chanter!
Ah! daigne te montrer! daigne apparaitre!
Si j'étais sûr que tu ne veux paraître
Je m'en irais, pour t'oublier, demander au sommeil
De me bercer jusqu'au matin vermeil,
De me bercer jusqu'à ne plus t'aimer!

Im Fliederbusch ein Vöglein saß
Robert Reinick

Im Fliederbusch ein Vöglein saß
In der stillen, schönen Maiennacht,
Darunter ein Mägdlein im hohen Gras
In der stillen, schönen Maiennacht.

Sang Mägdlein, hielt das Vöglein Ruh,
Sang Vöglein, hört das Mägdlein zu,
Und weithin klang der Zwiegesang
Das mondbeglänzte Tal entlang.

Was sang das Vöglein im Gezweig
Durch die stille, schöne Maiennacht?
Was sang doch wohl das Mägdlein gleich
Durch die stille, schöne Maiennacht?

Von Frühlingssonne das Vögelein,
Von Liebeswonne das Mägdelein;
Wie der Gesang zum Herzen drang,
Vergeß ich nimmer mein Lebelang.

Der Bardengeist
Franz Rudolf Herrmann

Dort auf dem hohen Felsen singt ein alter Bardengeist;
Es tönt wie Äolsharfenklang
Im bangen schweren Trauersang,
Der mir das Herz zerreißt.

Und wie vom Berge zart und lind
In's süße Blumenland
Kastalia's heil'ge Quelle rinnt:
So wallt und rauscht im Morgenwind
Das silberne Gewund.

Nur leise rauscht sein Lied dahin
Beim grauen Dämmerschein,
Und zu den hellen Sternen hin
Entschwebt sein Herz, sein tiefer Sinn
In süßen Träumerei'n.

Und still ergriff mich mehr und mehr
Sein wunderbares Lied.
Was siehst du, Geist, so bang und schwer?
Was suchst du dort im Sternenheer?
Wie dir die Seele glüht!

"Ich suche wohl, nicht find' ich mehr,
Ach, die Vergangenheit!
Ich sehe wohl so bang und schwer,
Ich suche dort im Sternenheer
Der Deutschen gold'ne Zeit.

"Hinunter ging die Sonne schon,
Kaum blieb ein Wiederschein;
Mit Arglist und mit frechem Hohn
Pflanzt nun die düstre Nacht den Mohn
Um's Grab der Väter ein.

"Ja, herrlich, unerschüttert, kühn
Stand einst der Deutsche da;
Ach, über schwanke Trümmer zieh'n
Verhängnissvolle Sterne hin!
Es war Teutonia!"

Noch auf dem hohen Felsen sang
Der alte Bardengeist.
Es tönt wie Äolsharfenklang
Ein banger schwerer Trauersang,
Der mir das Herz zerreißt.

Was hör' ich draußen vor dem Tor
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, from Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre

Was hör' ich draußen vor dem Tor,
Was auf der Brücke schallen?
Laß den Gesang vor unserm Ohr
Im Saale widerhallen!"
Der König sprach's, der Page lief,
Der Page kam, der König rief:
"Laßt mir herein den Alten!"

"Gegrüßet seid mir, edle Herrn,
Gegrüßt ihr schönen Damen!
Welch' reicher Himmel! Stern bei Stern!
Wer kennet ihre Namen?
Im Saal voll Pracht und Herrlichkeit
Schließt, Augen, euch, hier ist nicht Zeit,
Sich staunend zu ergötzen."

Der Sänger drückt' die Augen ein
Und schlug in vollen Tönen:
Die Ritter schauten mutig drein,
Und in den Schoß die Schönen.
Der König, dem gefiel,
Ließ, ihn zu für sein Spiel,
Eine goldne Kette holen.

"Die goldne Kette gib mir nicht,
Die Kette gib den Rittern,
Vor deren kühnem Angesicht
Der Feinde Lanzen splittern.
Gib sie dem Kanzler, den du hast,
Und laß ihn noch die goldne Last
Zu andern Lasten tragen.

"Ich singe, wie der Vogel singt,
Der in den Zweigen wohnet;
Das Lied, das aus der Kehle dringt,
Ist Lohn, der reichlich lohnet.
Doch darf ich bitten, bitt' ich eins:
Laß mir den besten Becher Weins
In purem Golde reichen."

Er setzt' ihn an, er trank ihn aus:
"O Trank voll süßer Labe!
O, wohl dem hochbeglückten Haus,
Wo das ist kleine Gabe!
Ergeht's euch wohl, so denkt an mich
Und danket Gott so warm, als ich
Für diesen Trunk euch danke."

Sergio Borao Llop

Cantamos porque la vida lo precisa.
Porque al mágico influjo de la música
las piedras del camino devienen girasoles,
porque al cantar se cauterizan las heridas
y nace entre las manos una espiga
que eleva su estatura hacia el sonido
que fluye interminable, que germina
y se expande como un polen de promesas
por la extensión sin límite del cielo.

Cantamos porque el canto es necesario.
Porque en alguna parte, alguien que sufre,
necesita los versos, las notas que tañemos,
los acordes que inventa nuestra lira.

(Pésimo conversador es el silencio,
hay que romper su círculo encantado
y lanzar hacia el viento las palabras
como un cauce perpetuo que no tiembla
ante el rugido atronador de sus sicarios)

Cantamos nuestra dicha y nuestra pena,
el pan que nuestras bocas alimenta
y el vino que nos roba la consciencia.

El canto es una lucha que no ceja,
una herramienta contra las cadenas,
un estandarte imprescindible, una luz plena
que no apagan las noches de derrota
ni el severo fluir de lágrimas doradas.

Mi canto es una bandera de horizontes,
una hoguera de manos enlazadas,
un coro de palomas que despiertan.

La chanson du bébé [excerpt]
Émilien Pacini

Bébé voudrait la chanson du sapeur
Dans Barbe-bleue, un air qui fait bien peur.
Maman, ta voix si douce en chantant ça,
Enfoncerait Schneider et Thérésa.
Atchi! Pipi, maman, papa, ca-ca.

Nicomedes Santa Cruz

¿Quién es aquel pajarillo
que canta sobre el limón?
Anda y dile que no cante,
Que me duele el corazón...


Surge mi voz, y el invierno
se convierte en primavera:
florece la enredadera
y brota el narciso tierno.
Baja mi voz al averno
y el fuego se torna frío.
Al Dios del Cielo le envío
unas décimas de amor
y dice Nuestro Señor:
- ¿Quién es aquel pajarillo...?

Ilumina el horizonte
el fuego de mi palabra
y piensa el pastor de cabras
que se está incendiando el monte:
Trunca su vuelo el sisonte,
quiebra su nota el gorrión;
enardecido el halcón
grazna con ruido agorero
y queda mudo el jilguero
que canta sobre el limón.

Luego, mi canto sonoro
bajo la tierra se interna
perforando una caverna
que termina en un tesoro:
Queda descubierto el oro,
el platino y el diamante.
Ruge Júpiter tonante,
luchan Neptuno y Eolo
y Orfeo le dice a Apolo:
- ¡Anda y dile que no cante...!

Entonces calla mi voz
y hay un silencio profundo
como si no hubiera mundo
o ya no existiera Dios.
Nadie cosecha el arroz,
nadie apaña el algodón.
Y tirado en un rincón
cuando termina mi canto,
derramo tan triste canto
que me duele el corazón...

Der Sänger
Johann Ludwig Uhland

Noch singt den Widerhallen
Der Knabe sein Gefühl;
Die Elfe hat Gefallen
Am jugendlichen Spiel.

Es glänzen seine Lieder
Wie Blumen rings um ihn;
Sie gehn mit ihm wie Brüder
Durch stille Haine hin.

Er kommt zum Völkerfeste,
Er singt im Königssaal,
Ihm staunen alle Gäste,
Sein Lied verklärt das Mahl;

Der Frauen Schönste krönen
Mit lichten Blumen ihn;
Er senkt das Aug in Tränen,
Und seine Wangen glühn.

Sängers Gebet
Oscar von Redwitz-Schmölz

Du, der Du bist der Geister Hort,
was hab' ich Grosses noch getan,
dass Du mir gabst des Liedes Wort?
Ich habe keinen Teil daran.

O Herr! wie säng' ich ohne Dich?

Für all' die Stunden, da mein Lied
mich auf zu Deinen Himmeln zieht,
für all die Lust, die mir's beschied,
wie kann ich danken Dir genug?

O Herr! wie säng' ich ohne Dich?

Ein einzig Wort aus Deinem Mund,
und ewig hin ist all' mein Sang,
wie voll auch sei mein Herzensgrund,
wie ich auch spannt der Harfe Strang.

O Herr! wie säng ich ohne Dich?

Ich trag' die Lieb' in voller Brust,
ich seh' die Welt in Frühlingslicht,
werd' fast erdrückt von Liebeslust,
doch ach! ich find' die Worte nicht!

O Herr! wie säng' ich ohne Dich?

Nimm drum den eitlen Stolz von mir,
lass mir nicht kommen Neid noch Hass,
gieb mir der Demut Sängerzier,
lass singen mich ohn' Unterlass!

O Herr! wie säng' ich ohne Dich?

Mein lied ertön' nur Dir zur Ehr';
Du gabst es mir, es ist ja Dein,
und sing' auf Erden ich nicht mehr,
lass mich auch dort Dein Sänger sein!

Když mne stará matka zpívat, zpívat učívala

Když mne stará matka zpívat, zpívat učívala,
podivno, že často, často slzívala.
A ted' také pláčem snědé líce mučim,
když vigánské děti hrát a zpívat učim!

Kantate zum Geburtstag des Sängers Johann Michael Vogl
Albert Stadler

Sänger, der von Herzen singet
Und das Wort zum Herzen bringet,
Bei den Tönen deiner Lieder
Fällt's wie sanfter Regen nieder,
Den der Herr vom Himmel schickt,
Und die dürre Flur erquickt!

Diese Berge sah'n dich blühen,
Hier begann dein Herz zu glühen,
Für die Künstlerhöh'n zu schlagen,
Die der Wahrheit Krone tragen;
Der Natur hast du entwandt,
Was die Kunst noch nicht verstand.

Da saht ihr Oresten scheiden,
Jakob mit der Last der Leiden,
Saht des Arztes Hoffnung tagen,
Menschlichkeit am Wasserwagen;
Saht, wie man sich Linen sucht,
Bräute holt aus Bergesschlucht.

In der Weihe deiner Würde
Stehst du, aller Sänger Zierde,
Auf Thaliens Tempelstufen,
Hörst um dich des Beifalls Rufen,
Doch ein Kranz ein Sinngedicht,
Ist der Lohn des Künstlers nicht.

Wenn dich einst in greisen Tagen
Deines Lebens Mühen plagen,
Willst du nicht zur Heimat wandern?
Laß die Helden einem Andern,
Nur von Agamemnons Sohn
Trag die treue Brust davon.

Gott bewahr' dein teures Leben,
Heiter, spiegelklar und eben,
Wie das Tönen deiner Kehle
Tief herauf aus voller Seele;
Schweigt dann einst des Sängers Wort,
Tönet doch die Seele fort.

Sängers Einsamkeit
Siegfried Schmidt

Wie klingt's so bänglich drüben?
Trieb Liebe ihn? was trieb ihn hin?
Was zum Clavier im Trauersinn?
Es klingt als wie von Lieben.
Horch Mädchen, wie der Sänger singt,
Wie's ins Gemüth der Liebe dringt,
Was heilge Sänger singen.

Da schlichen sie und lauschten
Wohl an des Sängers Fensterrahm,
Und Zorn ihm von den Lippen kam,
Und zorn'ge Saiten rauschten.
Es zitterten die Saiten fort;
Da kam das sanfte Klagewort,
Der Wehmuth Stimme wieder.

"Laß sie, die stumpfen Seelen!
Ach's ist doch hart, so einsam sein,
Des Lebens Lust, des Lebens Pein
Im eignen Busen hehlen.
Der Freund ist fern, die Freundin fern;
Der Sänger schlägt die Saiten gern,
Ach, tönten sie auch wieder!

"Wo seid ihr mir Verwandte?
Im Felsen ist das Echo wach,
Und tönt's in keinem Herzen nach,
In diesem fremden Lande?
Wohl rief ich ihm, wohl rief es mir
Aus allen Herzen tön' ich dir,
Die heil'gen Sang verehren!"

Malodoror [excerpt]
le Comte de Lautréamont

Chant deuxième
Quand une femme, à la voix de soprano, émet ses
notes vibrantes et mélodieuses, à l'audition de
cette harmonie humaine, mes yeux se remplissent
d'une flamme latente et lancent des étincelles
douloureuses, tandis que dans mes oreilles semble
retentir le tocsin de la canonnade. D'où peut venir
cette répugnance profonde pour tout ce qui tient
à l'homme? Si les accords s'envolent des fibres
d'un instrument, j'écoute avec volupté ces notes
perlées qui s'échappent en cadence à travers les
ondes élastiques de l'atmosphère. La perception ne
transmet à mon ouïe qu'une impression d'une douceur
à fondre les nerfs et la pensée; un assoupissement
ineffable enveloppe de ses pavots magiques, comme
d'un voile qui tamise la lumière du jour, la
puissance active de mes sens et les forces vivaces
de mon imagination. On raconte que je naquis entre
les bras de la surdité!

Canta Amarilis
Lope de Vega

Canta Amarilis, y su voz levanta
mi alma desde el orbe de la luna
a las inteligencias, que ninguna
la suya imita con dulzura tanta.

De su número luego me trasplanta
a la unidad, que por sí misma es una,
y cual si fuera de su coro alguna,
alaba su grandeza cuando canta.

Apártame del mundo tal distancia,
que el pensamiento en su Hacedor termina,
mano, destreza, voz y consonancia.

Y es argumento que su voz divina
algo tiene de angélica sustancia,
pues a contemplación tan alta inclina.

Donna, il cantar soave
Guido Guinizelli

Donna, il cantar soave
che per lo petto mi mise la voce
che spegne ciò che nuoce,
pensieri in gioia e gioia in vita m'have.

Die drei Sänger
Johann Friedrich Ludwig Bobrik

Der König saß beim frohen Mahle,
Die Frau'n und Ritter um ihn her,
Es kreisten fröhlich die Pokale,
Und manches Becken trank man leer.
Da tönte Klang von goldnen Saiten,
Der süßer labt als goldner Wein,
Und sieh! Drei fremde Sänger schreiten,
Sich neigend, in den Saal hinein.

"Seid mir gegrüßt, ihr Liedersöhne!"
Beginnt der König wohlgemut,
"In deren Brust das Reich der Töne
Und des Gesangs Geheimniß ruht!
Wollt ihr den edlen Wettstreit wagen,
So soll es höchlich uns erfreu'n,
Und wer den Sieg davon getragen."

Er spricht's - der erste rührt die Saiten,
Die Vorwerlt' öffnet er dem Blick,
Zum grauen Anfang aller Zeiten
Lenkt er der Hörer Blick zurück.
Er meldet, wie sich neugeboren
Die Welt dem Chaos einst entwand.
Sein Lied behagt den meisten Ohren
Drauf mehr die Hörer zu ergetzen,
Erklingt des Zweiten lust'ge Mähr:
Von Gnomen fein und ihren Schätzen,
Und von der grünen Zwerge Heer:

Er singt von manchen Wunderdingen,
Von manchem Schwanke schlau erdacht;
Da regt der Scherz die losen Schwingen,
Und jeder Mund im Saale lacht.

Und an den Dritten kommt die Reih'.
Und sanft aus tief bewegter Brust
Haucht er dein Lied von Lieb' und Treu'
Und von der Sehnsucht Schmerz und Lust.
Und kaum daß seine Saiten klingen,
Schaut jedes Antlitz in den Schooß,
Und Tränen des Gefühles ringen
Sich aus verklärten Augen los.

Und tiefes Schweigen herrscht im Saale,
Als seines Liedes Ton entschwand -
Da steht der König auf vom Mahle,
Und reicht dem dritten seine Hand:
"Bleib bei uns, Freund! dir ist's gelungen,
Du bist es, dem der Preis gebührt;
Das schönste Lied hat der gesungen,
Der unser Herz zur Wehmut rührt."

El tra la la y el punteado
Fernando Periquet

Es en balde, majo mío, que sigas
porque hay cosas que contesto yo
siempre cantando:
Tra la la...
Por más que preguntes tanto:
tra la la...
En mí no causas quebranto
ni yo he de salir de mi canto:
tra la la...

Der Rattenfänger
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Ich bin der wohlbekannte Sänger,
Der vielgereiste Rattenfänger,
Den diese altberühmte Stadt
Gewiß besonders nätig hat.
Und wären's Ratten noch so viele,
Und wären Wiesel mit im Spiele,
Von allen säubr' ich diesen Ort,
Sie müssen miteinander fort.

Dann ist der gut gelaunte Sänger
Mitunter auch ein Kinderfänger,
Der selbst die wildesten bezwingt,
Wenn er die goldnen Märchen singt.
Und wären Knaben noch so trutzig,
Und wären Mädchen noch so stutzig,
In meine Saiten greif ich ein,
Sie müssen alle hinterdrein.

Dann ist der vielgewandte Sänger
Gelegentlich ein Mädchenfänger;
In keinem Städtchen langt er an,
Wo er's nicht mancher angetan.
Und wären Mädchen noch so blöde,
Und wären Weiber noch so spröde,
Doch allen wird so liebebang
Bei Zaubersaiten und Gesang.

Victor Hugo

L'enfant chantait; la mère au lit, exténuée,
Agonisait, beau front dans l'ombre se penchant;
La mort au-dessus d'elle errait dans la nuée;
Et j'écoutais ce râle, et j'entendais ce chant.

L'enfant avait cinq ans, et près de la fenêtre
Ses rires et ses jeux faisaient un charmant bruit;
Et la mère, à côté de ce pauvre doux être
Qui chantait tout le jour, toussait toute la nuit.

La mère alla dormir sous les dalles du cloître;
Et le petit enfant se remit à chanter...
La douleur est un fruit; Dieu ne le fait pas croître
Sur la branche trop faible encor pour le porter.

Un Savetier chantait du matin jusqu'au soir
Jean de la Fontaine

Un Savetier chantait du matin jusqu'au soir:
C'était merveilles de le voir,
Merveilles de l'ouïr; il faisait des passages,
Plus content qu'aucun des sept sages.
Son voisin au contraire, étant tout cousu d'or,
Chantait peu, dormait moins encor.
C'était un homme de finance.
Si sur le point du jour parfois il sommeillait,
Le Savetier alors en chantant l'éveillait,
Et le Financier se plaignait,
Que les soins de la Providence
N'eussent pas au marché fait vendre le dormir,
Comme le manger et le boire.
En son hôtel il fait venir
Le chanteur, et lui dit: Or çà, sire Grégoire,
Que gagnez-vous par an? - Par an? Ma foi, Monsieur,
Dit avec un ton de rieur,
Le gaillard Savetier, ce n'est point ma manière
De compter de la sorte; et je n'entasse guère
Un jour sur l'autre: il suffit qu'à la fin
J'attrape le bout de l'année:
Chaque jour amène son pain.
- Eh bien que gagnez-vous, dites-moi, par journée?
- Tantôt plus, tantôt moins: le mal est que toujours;
(Et sans cela nos gains seraient assez honnêtes,)
Le mal est que dans l'an s'entremêlent des jours
Qu'il faut chommer; on nous ruine en Fêtes.
L'une fait tort à l'autre; et Monsieur le Curé
De quelque nouveau Saint charge toujours son prône.
Le Financier riant de sa naïveté
Lui dit: Je vous veux mettre aujourd'hui sur le trône.
Prenez ces cent écus: gardez-les avec soin,
Pour vous en servir au besoin.
Le Savetier crut voir tout l'argent que la terre
Avait depuis plus de cent ans
Produit pour l'usage des gens.
Il retourne chez lui: dans sa cave il enserre
L'argent et sa joie à la fois.
Plus de chant; il perdit la voix
Du moment qu'il gagna ce qui cause nos peines.
Le sommeil quitta son logis,
Il eut pour hôtes les soucis,
Les soupçons, les alarmes vaines.
Tout le jour il avait l'oeil au guet; Et la nuit,
Si quelque chat faisait du bruit,
Le chat prenait l'argent: A la fin le pauvre homme
S'en courut chez celui qu'il ne réveillait plus !
Rendez-moi, lui dit-il, mes chansons et mon somme,
Et reprenez vos cent écus.

Académie royale de musique
Théodore de Banville

O Parnasse lyrique! Opéra! palais d'or!
Salut! L'antique Muse, en prenant son essor,
Fait traîner sur ton front ses robes sidérales
Et défiler en choeur les danses sculpturales.
Peinture! Poésie! arts encore éblouis
Des rayons frissonnants du soleil de Louis!
Musique, voix divine et pour les cieux élue,
O groupe harmonieux, Beaux-Arts, je vous salue!
O souvenirs! c'est là le théâtre enchanté
Où Moliére et Corneille et Mozart ont chanté.
C'est là qu'en soupirant la Mort a pris Alceste;
Là, Psyché, tout en pleurs pour son amant céleste,
A croisé ses beaux bras sur le rocher fatal;
Là, naïade orgueilleuse aux palais de cristal,
Versailles, reine encore, a chanté son églogue;
Là, parmi les détours d'un charmant dialogue,
Angélique et Renaud, Cybèle avec Atys
Ont cueilli la pervenche et le myosotis,
Et la Muse a suivi d'un long regard humide
Les amours d'Amadis et les amours d'Armide.
Là, Gluck avec Quinault, Quinault avec Lulli
Ont chanté leurs beaux airs pour un siècle poli:
Là, Rossini, vainqueur des lyres constellées,
Fit tonner les clairons de ses grandes mêlées,
Et fit naître à sa voix ces immortels d'hier,
Ces vieux maîtres: Auber, Halévy, Meyerbeer.
C'est là qu'Esméralda, la danseuse bohème,
Par la voix de Falcon nous a dit son poëme,
Et que chantait aussi le cygne abandonné
Dont le suprême chant ne nous fut pas donné.
Ici Taglioni, la fille des sylphides,
A fait trembler son aile au bord des eaux perfides,
Puis la Danse fantasque auprès des mêmes flots
A fait carillonner ses grappes de grelots.
O féerie et musique! ô nappes embaumées
Qu'argentent les wilis et les pâles almées!
O temple! clair séjour que Phébus même élut,
Parnasse! palais d'or! grand Opéra, salut!
Le cocher s'est trompé. Nous sommes au Gymnase.
Un peuple de bourgeois, nez rouge et tête rase,
Étale des habits de Quimper-Corentin.
Un notaire ventru saute comme un pantin,
Auprès d'un avoué chauve, une cataracte
D'éloquence; sa femme est verte et lit L'Entr'acte.
Elle arbore de l'or et du strass à foison,
Et renifle, et sa gorge a l'air d'une maison.
Auprès de ce sujet, dont la face verdoie,
S'étalent des cous nus, pelés comme un cou d'oie
Plumée; et, pêle-mêle, au long de tous ces bancs
Traînent toute l'hermine et tous les vieux turbans
Qui, du Rhin à l'Indus, aient vieilli sur la terre.
J'apprends que l'un des cous est fille du notaire.
O ciel! voici, parmi ces gens à favoris,
Un vieux monsieur qui porte un habit de Paris.
Il a l'air fort honnête et reste bouche close;
Adressons-nous à lui pour savoir quelque chose.
C'est une occasion qu'il est bon de saisir.

Monsieur, voudriez-vous me faire le plaisir
De me dire quels sont ces cous d'oie et ces hommes
Jaunes, et dans quel lieu de la terre nous sommes?
Je me suis égaré, cette dame est ma soeur.
Où suis-je?

[Le monsieur qui a l'air honnête.]
A l'Opéra.

Vous êtes un farceur!

[Le notaire ventru.]
Oui, biche, le rideau que tu vois représente
Le roi Louis Quatorze en seize cent soixante-
Douze. Il portait, ainsi que l'histoire en fait foi,
Une perruque avec des rubans. Le grand roi,
Entouré des seigneurs qui forment son cortège,
Donne à Lulli, devant sa cour, le privilège
De l'Opéra, qu'avait auparavant l'abbé

[Un des cous.]
Papa, je crois que mon gant est tombé.

[Le notaire ventru.]
Ça se nettoie avec de la gomme élastique.

Oui, madame, j'assigne et voilà ma tactique.

[Un avocat.]
On l'appelait au Mans maître Pichu minor.
Et moi maître Pichu major.

[M. Josse.]
Le Koh-innor...

[Un lampiste à lunettes d'or.]

[Le bâton du régisseur.]
Pan! pan! pan!

Je ne suis pas leur dupe!

[Second cou.]
Maman, ce gros monsieur veut s'asseoir sur ma jupe.

[La dame verte.]

[Le notaire ventru.]
Je ne sais où sera le nouvel
Opéra. C'est, dit-on, à l'ancien que Louvel...

Tra, la, la, la, la; ta, la, la, la, lère.

Que ce bruit-là, monsieur? qu'a donc la grosse caisse
Contre ces violons enrhumés du cerveau?
Et pourquoi préluder à l'opéra nouveau
Par J'ai du bon tabac?

[Le monsieur qui a l'air honnête.]
Monsieur, c'est l'ouverture
De Guillaume Tell.


Madame, la nature
De la pomme de terre est d'aimer les vallons.
Elle atteint dans le Puy la grosseur des melons.

[Premier cou.]
Mon corset me fait mal.

[M. Canaple sur la scène.]
"Il chante et l'Helvétie
Pleure sa liberté!"

Que la démocratie
S'organise, on verra tous les partis haineux
Fondre leurs intérêts.

[Choeur général sur la scène.]
"Célébrons les doux noeuds!"

[Second cou.]
Mon cothurne est cassé.

[M. don Juan dans la loge infernale.]
Veux-tu nous aimer, Gothe?
Soupons-nous à l'Anglais?

[Mlle Gothe sur la scène.]
Non, c'est une gargote.

[Choeur des Suisses sur la scène.]
"Courons armer nos bras!"

[Un triangle égaré.]

[Une clarinette retardataire.]

[Choeur de femmes sur la scène.]

"Toi que l'oiseau
Ne suivrait pas!"


Monsieur, ma femme est un roseau
Pour la douceur.

[Un violon méchant.]

Vzrumz! vzrumz!

[M. Arnoux sur le théâtre.]
Hou! hou!

[M. Obin sur le théâtre.]
Tra, tra.

[Premier cou.]
Le monsieur met son pied le long de ma bottine.

[M. Arnoux sur le théâtre.]
La hou, la hou, la ha.

[M. Obin sur le théâtre.]
Tra trou, trou tra, trou, trou!

[Le notaire ventru.]
Monsieur, que pensez-vous du Genest de Rotrou?

[Choeur des Suisses sur la scène.]

"Le glaive arme nos bras!"

Mais! la pièce est baroque.
Ce n'est pas tout à fait dans les moeurs de l'époque.
Elle aurait eu besoin d'un bon coup de ciseau.

[Le notaire ventru.]
Hum! c'est selon.

[M. Arnoux sur le théâtre.]
Hou! hou!

[M. Obin sur le théâtre.]
Tra! tra!

[Choeur de femmes sur la scène.]
"Toi que l'oiseau!..."

[Choeur de femmes sur la scène.]
"Toi qui n'es pas..."

[M. Arnoux sur le théâtre.]
Hou! hou!

[M. Obin sur le théâtre.]
Tra! tra!

[La dame verte.]
J'ai chaud aux joues.

[Le triangle égaré.]


[La clarinette retardataire.]

[Le notaire ventru.]
Bibiche, c'est le morceau que tu joues
Sur ton piano.

[Premier cou.]

J'ai dit à Ducluzeau
Ce que c'est que l'affaire.

[M. Arnoux sur le théâtre.]
Hou! hou!

[Choeur de femmes sur la scène.]
"Toi que l'oiseau!..."

O ma blonde Évohé, ma muse au chant de cygne,
Regarde ce qu'ils font de ce théâtre insigne.
O pudeur! autrefois, dans ces décors vivants
Où l'oeil voyait courir le souffle ailé des vents,
L'eau coulait en ruisseau dans les conques de marbre,
Et le doigt du zéphyr pliait les feuilles d'arbre.
L'orchestre frémissant envoyait à la fois
Son harmonie à l'air comme une seule voix;
Tout le corps de ballet marchait comme une armée:
Les déesses du chant, troupe jeune et charmée,
Belles comme Ophélie et comme Alaciel,
Avaient dans le gosier tous les oiseaux du ciel;
La danse laissait voir tous les trésors de Flore
Sous les plis de maillots, vermeils comme l'aurore;
C'était la vive Elssler, ce volcan adouci,
Lucile et Carlotta, celle qui marche aussi
Avec ses pieds charmants, armés d'ailes hautaines,
Sur la cime des blés et l'azur des fontaines.
L'audace d'une femme, arrêtant ce concours,
A remis une bande au bas des jupons courts
Et plongé les ténors au sein de la banlieue.
Cruelle Éris, déesse à chevelure bleue,
Déesse au dard sanglant, déesse au fouet vainqueur,
Change mon encre en fiel; mets autour de mon coeur
L'armure adamantine, et dans mon front évoque,
Mètre de clous armé, l'ïambe d'Archiloque!
L'ïambe est de saison, l'ïambe et sa fureur,
Pour peindre dignement ces spectacles d'horreur
Et les sombres détails de ce cloaque immense.
Vous, mesdames, prenez vos flacons, je commence.
Un fantôme d'Habneck, honteux de son déchet,
Agite tristement un fantôme d'archet;
L'harmonieux vieillard est quinteux et morose:
Il est devenu gai comme Louis Monrose.
Ses violons fameux que l'on voyait, dit-on,
Pleins d'une ardeur si noble, obéir au bâton,
L'archet morne à présent et la corde lâchée,
Semblent se conformer à sa mine fâchée;
Et tout l'orchestre, avec ses cuivres en chaudrons,
Ainsi qu'un vieux banquier poursuivant les tendrons,
Ou qu'un vers enjambant de césure en césure,
Lui-même se poursuit de mesure en mesure.
La musique sauvage et le drôle de cor
Qui guide au premier mai la famille Bouthor;
Chez notre Deburau, les trois vieillards épiques
Qui font grincer des airs pointus comme des piques;
Le concert souterrain des aveugles; enfin
L'antique piano qui grogne à Séraphin
Et l'orchestre des chiens qu'on montre dans les foires,
Auprès de celui-là charment leurs auditoires.
Mais si rempli qu'il soit de grincements de dents,
Quels que soient les canards qui barbotent dedans,
Si féroce qu'il semble à toute oreille tendre,
Il vaut mieux que le chant qu'il empêche d'entendre.
Les choristes, rangés en affreux bataillons,
Marchent ad libitum en traînant des haillons;
Les femmes, effrayant le dandy qu'elles visent,
Chantent faux des vers faux; même, elles improvisent!
O ruines! leurs dents croulent comme un vieux mur,
Et ces divinités, toutes d'un âge mûr,
Dont la plus séduisante est horriblement laide,
Font rêver par leurs os aux dagues de Tolède.
Leurs jupons évidés marchent à grands frous-frous,
Et leur visage bleu, percé de mille trous,
S'étale avec orgueil comme une vieille cible.
Les hommes sont plus laids encor, si c'est possible.
Triste fin! si l'on songe, en voyant ces objets,
Que ce choeur endurci vaut les premiers sujets!
Plus de ténors! Leur si demande un cataplasme,
Et l'ut, le fameux ut, tombe dans le marasme.
En vain Pillet tremblant envoya ses zélés
Parcourir l'Italie avec leurs pieds ailés;
En vain ils ont fouillé Rome, ville papale,
Naples, où la princesse à la pâleur fatale
Donne des rendez-vous aux jeunes cavaliers,
Et, courtisane avec des palais en colliers,
Venise, où lord Byron, deux fois vainqueur des ondes,
Poussait son noir coursier le long des vagues blondes,
Et Florence, où l'Arno, parmi ses flots tremblants,
Mêle l'azur du ciel avec les marbres blancs;
Jusqu'au golfe enchanteur qu'un paradis limite,
L'ut ne veut plus lutter, le ténor est un mythe.
Seul, ô Duprez! toujours plus grand, toujours vainqueur,
Toujours lançant au ciel ton chant qui sort du coeur,
Fièrement appuyé sur ta large méthode
Qui reste, comme l'art, au-dessus de la mode,
O Duprez! ô Robert! Arnold! Éléazar!
En voyant les cailloux qu'on met devant ton char,
Et les rivaux honteux que la haine te donne
Lorsque ta voix sublime à la fin t'abandonne,
Toujours maître de toi, tu luttes en héros,
Toujours roi, toujours fort, tandis que tes bourreaux
Inventent vingt ténors devant qui l'on s'incline,
Et qui durent un an, comme la crinoline.
Ah! du moins nous avons la Danse, un art divin!
Et l'homme le plus fait pour être un écrivain,
Célébrât-il Louis et portât-il perruque,
Fût-il Caton, fût-il Boileau, fût-il eunuque,
Ne pourrait découvrir l'ombre d'un iota
Pour défendre à ses vers d'admirer Carlotta.
Son corps souple et nerveux a de suaves lignes;
Vive comme le vent, douce comme les cygnes,
L'aile d'un jeune oiseau soutient ses pieds charmants,
Ses yeux ont des reflets comme des diamants,
Ses lèvres à l'Éden auraient servi de portes;
Le jardin de Ronsard, de Belleau, de Desportes,
Devant Cypre et Chloris toujours extasiés,
A, pour les embellir, donné tous ses rosiers.
Elle va dans l'azur, laissant flotter ses voiles,
Conduire en souriant la danse des étoiles,
Poursuivre les oiseaux et prendre les rayons;
Et, par les belles nuits, d'en bas nous la voyons,
Dans les plaines du ciel d'ombre diminuées,
Jouer, entrelacée à ses soeurs les nuées,
Ouvrir son éventail et se mirer dans l'eau.
Qu'auriez-vous pu trouver à redire, ô Boileau?
Une chose bien simple, hélas! La jalousie
Nous cache tout ce luxe et cette poésie,
De même qu'autrefois, par un crime impuni,
Les mêmes envieux cachaient Taglioni,
Cet autre ange charmant des cieux imaginaires.
Sombre Junon! Les Dieux ont-ils de ces colères?
Aimez-vous les décors? On n'en met nulle part.
Les vieux servent toujours, percés de part en part,
Et, par la main du Temps noircis comme des forges,
Ils pendent en lambeaux comme de vieilles gorges.
Les arbres sont orange, et, dans Guillaume Tell,
La montagne est percée à jour comme un tunnel.
Le temple de Robert, ses colonnes en loques,
S'agite aux quatre vents comme des pendeloques,
Et le couvent a l'air de s'être bien battu.
Dans La Muette enfin, mirabile dictu!
L'éruption se fait avec du papier rouge
Derrière lequel brille un lampion qui bouge.
Le machiniste, un sage, ennemi des succès,
Imite à tour de bras le Théâtre-Français.
Les travestissements, les changements à vue,
Les transformations sont comme une revue
De la garde civique: on les manque toujours.
Les Français, l'Odéon, sont les seules amours
Du machiniste en chef; il a cette coutume
D'étrangler les acteurs en tirant leur costume.
Quelques-uns sont vivants; s'ils en ont réchappé,
C'est que le machiniste une fois s'est trompé,
Et rêvait d'Abufar, qu'il voit chaque dimanche.
C'est un homme d'esprit qui prendra sa revanche.
Enfin, on voit maigrir, comme un corps de ballet,
Des marcheuses, des rats, peuple jaune et fort laid,
Qui n'ont jamais dansé qu'à la Grande-Chartreuse,
Et qui, réjouissant de leur maigreur affreuse
Les lions estompés au cosmétique noir,
Prennent des rendez-vous pour le souper du soir.
Nous qui ne sommes pas danseurs, prenons la fuite.
Allons souper aussi, mon coeur, mais tout de suite,
Et tâchons d'oublier, en buvant de bons vins,
Cet hospice fameux, rival des Quinze-Vingts.

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