Christina's World -- 5 Songs for Soprano and Piano on Poems by Christina Rossetti

by Juliana Hall (b. 1958)

Word count: 566

1. A birthday [sung text checked 1 time]

My heart is like a singing bird
  Whose nest is in a watered shoot;
My heart is like an apple tree
  Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit;
My heart is like a rainbow shell
  That paddles in a [purple]1 sea;
My heart is gladder than all these
  Because my love is come to me.

Raise me a dais of [silk and down]2;
  Hang it with vair and purple dyes;
Carve it in doves and pomegranates,
  And peacocks with a hundred eyes;
Work it in gold and silver grapes,
  In leaves and [silver]3 fleur-de-lys;
Because the birthday of my life
  Is come, my love, is come to me.


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1 Aldridge, Hall: "halcyon"
2 Parry: "purple and gold"
3 Aldridge: "tiny"

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Who has seen the wind [sung text checked 1 time]

Who has seen the wind? 
  Neither I nor you;
But when the leaves hang trembling,
  The wind is passing through. 

Who has seen the wind? 
  Neither you nor I;
But when the trees bow down their heads,
  The wind is passing by.


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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. Amor Mundi [sung text checked 1 time]

“Oh where are you going with your love-locks flowing
     On the west wind blowing along this valley track?”
“The downhill path is easy, come with me an it please ye,
     We shall escape the uphill by never turning back.”

So they two went together in glowing August weather,
     The honey-breathing heather lay to their left and right;
And dear she was to dote on, her swift feet seemed to float on
     The air like soft twin pigeons too sportive to alight.

“Oh what is that in heaven where gray cloud-flakes are seven,
     Where blackest clouds hang riven just at the rainy skirt?”
“Oh that’s a meteor sent us, a message dumb, portentous,
     An undeciphered solemn signal of help or hurt.”

“Oh what is that glides quickly where velvet flowers grow thickly,
     Their scent comes rich and sickly?” — “A scaled and hooded worm.”
“Oh what’s that in the hollow, so pale I quake to follow?”
     “Oh that’s a thin dead body which waits the eternal term.”

“Turn again, O my sweetest, — turn again, false and fleetest:
     This beaten way thou beatest I fear is hell’s own track.”
“Nay, too steep for hill-mounting; nay, too late for cost-counting:
     This downhill path is easy, but there’s no turning back.”


Researcher for this text: David Sims [Guest Editor]

4. When I am dead, my dearest [sung text checked 1 time]

When I am dead, my dearest,
  Sing no sad songs for me;
Plant thou no roses at my head,
  Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
  With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
  And if thou wilt, forget.

I shall not see the shadows,
  I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
  Sing on, as if in pain:
And dreaming through the twilight
  That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
  And haply may forget.


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

  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , "Nach meinem Tode, Liebster", copyright © 2005, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Canzone", copyright © 2012, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Ted Perry

5. Up-Hill [sung text checked 1 time]

Does the road wind up-hill all the way?
  Yes, to the very end.
Will the day's journey take the whole long day?
  From [morn]1 to night, my friend.

But is there for the night a resting place?
  A roof for when the slow dark hours begin.
May not the darkness hide it from my face?
  You cannot miss that inn.

Shall I meet other wayfarers at night?
  Those who have gone before.
Then must I knock, or call when just in sight?
  They will not keep you [standing]2 at that door.

Shall I find comfort, travel-sore and weak?
  Of labour you shall find the sum.
Will there be beds for me and all who seek?
  [Yes]3, beds for all who come.


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First published in Macmillan's Magazine, February 1861

1 F. Rzewski: "noon"
2 F. Rzewski: "waiting"
3 F. Rzewski: "Yea"

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Poom Andrew Pipatjarasgit [Guest Editor]