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Songs of Experience, Volume Two

Word count: 1214

Song Cycle by William Bolcom (b. 1938)

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1. The Voice of the Ancient Bard [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

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Youth of delight, come hither,
And see the opening morn,
Image of truth new-born.
Doubt is fled, and clouds of reason,
Dark disputes and artful teasing.
Folly is an endless maze,
Tangled roots perplex her ways.
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead,
And feel they know not what but care,
And wish to lead others, when they should be led.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

2. My pretty rose tree [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

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A flower was offered to me;
Such a flower as May never bore.
But I said I've a Pretty Rose-tree!
And I passed the sweet flower o'er.

Then I went to my Pretty Rose-tree;
To tend her by day and by night.
But my Rose turnd away with jealousy:
And her thorns were my only delight.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

3. Ah! Sun-flower! [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Ah ! tournesol !", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


Ah, Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime,
Where the traveller's journey is done:

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

4. The lily [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

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The modest rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threatening horn, 
While the lily white shall in love delight, 
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

5. Introduction to Part 5


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[--- Tacet ---]

6. The Garden of Love [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

Translation(s): GER

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • GER German (Deutsch) [singable] (Bertram Kottmann) , "Der Garten der Liebe", copyright © 2014, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


I went to the Garden of Love,
and saw what I never had seen:
A chapel was built in the midst,
where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this chapel were shut,
and "Thou shalt not" writ over the door;
So I turn'd to the Garden of Love, 
that so many, many sweet flowers bore;

And I saw it was filled with graves,
and tombstones where flowers should be;
and priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
and binding with briars my joys and desires.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

7. A little boy lost [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

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"Nought loves another as itself,
Nor venerates another so,
Nor is it possible to Thought
A greater than itself to know: 

"And, Father, how can I love you
Or any of my brothers more?
I love you like the little bird
That picks up crumbs around the door."

The Priest sat by and heard the child,
In trembling zeal he seiz'd his hair:
He led him by his little coat,
And all admir'd the priestly care.

And standing on the altar high,
"Lo! what a fiend is here," said he,
"One who sets reason up for judge
Of our most holy Mystery."

The weeping child could not be heard,
The weeping parents wept in vain;
They stripp'd him to his little shirt,
And bound him in an iron chain;

And burn'd him in a holy place,
Where many had been burn'd before:
The weeping parents wept in vain.
Are such things done on Albion's shore?


Submitted by Emily Ezust

8. A little girl lost [ sung text verified 1 time]

Language: English

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   Children of the future Age 
   Reading this indignant page, 
   Know that in a former time 
   Love! sweet Love! was thought a crime. 

In the Age of Gold, 
Free from winter's cold, 
Youth and maiden bright 
To the holy light, 
Naked in the sunny beams delight. 

Once a youthful pair, 
Fill'd with softest care, 
Met in garden bright 
Where the holy light 
Had just remov'd the curtains of night. 

There, in rising day, 
On the grass they play; 
Parents were afar, 
Strangers came not near, 
And the maiden soon forgot her fear. 

Tired with kisses sweet, 
They agree to meet 
When the silent sleep 
Waves o'er heaven's deep, 
And the weary tired wanderers weep. 

To her father white 
Came the maiden bright; 
But his loving look, 
Like the holy book, 
All her tender limbs with terror shook. 

``Ona! pale and weak! 
To thy father speak: 
O, the trembling fear! 
O, the dismal care! 
That shakes the blossoms of my hoary hair.''


Submitted by Ahmed E. Ismail

9. Infant sorrow [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

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My mother groaned, my father wept,
Into the dangerous world I leapt;
Helpless, naked, piping loud,
Like a fiend hid in a cloud.

Struggling in my father's hands,
Striving against my swaddling bands,
Bound and weary, I thought best
To sulk upon my mother's breast.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

10. Vocalise


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[--- Vocalise --]

11. London [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Londres", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


I wander thro' each charter'd street,
Near where the charter'd Thames does flow
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant's cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg'd manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper's cry
Every black'ning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier's sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro' midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot's curse
Blasts the new-born Infant's tear
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

12. The school boy [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

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I love to rise in a summer morn
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me.
O! what sweet company.

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah! then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour,
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning's bower,
Worn thro' with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring?

O! father and mother, if buds are nipp'd
And blossoms blown away,
And if the tender plants are stripp'd
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care's dismay,

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?


Submitted by Emily Ezust

13. The chimney sweeper [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

Translation(s): FRE

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Le ramoneur de cheminée", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission


A little black thing among the snow,
Crying 'weep 'weep in notes of woe!
Where are thy father and mother? say?
They are both gone up to the church to pray.

Because I was happy upon the hearth,
And smil'd among the winter's snow
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

And because I am happy & dance & sing
They think they have done me no injury,
And are gone to praise God & his Priest & King
Who make up a heaven of our misery.


Submitted by Emily Ezust

14. The Human Abstract [ sung text verified 1 time]

Language: English

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Pity would be no more 
If we did not make somebody Poor; 
And Mercy no more could be 
If all were as happy as we. 

And mutual fear brings peace, 
Till the selfish loves increase: 
Then Cruelty knits a snare, 
And spreads his baits with care. 

He sits down with holy fears, 
And waters the grounds with tears; 
Then Humility takes its root 
Underneath his foot. 

Soon spreads the dismal shade 
Of Mystery over his head; 
And the Catterpiller and Fly 
Feed on the Mystery. 

And it bears the fruit of Deceit, 
Ruddy and sweet to eat; 
And the Raven his nest has made 
In its thickest shade. 

The Gods of the earth and sea 
Sought thro' Nature to find this Tree; 
But their search was all in vain: 
There grows one in the Human Brain.



Submitted by Ahmed E. Ismail

15. Interlude -- Voces Clamandae


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[--- Vocalise --]

16. A divine image [ sung text not verified ]

Language: English

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Cruelty has a human heart,
 And Jealousy a human face,
Terror the human form divine,
 And Secrecy the human dress.

The human dress is forgèd iron,
 The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace seal'd,
 The human heart its hungry gorge.


Submitted by Ted Perry

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