The Nantucket Songs

Song Cycle by Ned Rorem (b. 1923)

Word count: 925

1. Song [sung text checked 1 time]

From whence cometh song?
 [ ... ]

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1 Hagen: "its"

2. The dance [sung text checked 1 time]

In Brueghel's great picture, The Kermess
 [ ... ]

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3. Nantucket [sung text checked 1 time]

Flowers through the window
 [ ... ]

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4. Song [sung text checked 1 time]

Go, lovely Rose! --
Tell her, that wastes her time and me,
  That now she knows,
When I resemble her to thee,
How sweet and fair she seems to be.

Tell her that's young,
  And shuns to have her graces spied
That hadst thou sprung
  In deserts, where no men abide,
Thou must have uncommended died.

Small is the worth
  Of beauty from the light retir'd;
Bid her come forth,
  Suffer herself to be [desir'd]1,
And not blush so to be admir'd.

Then die! -- that she
  The common fate of all things rare
May read in thee:
  How small a part of time they share
That are so wondrous sweet and fair!

Yet though thou fade,
From thy dead leaves let fragrance rise;
And teach the maid
That goodness time's rude hand defies;
That virtue lives when beauty dies.

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

  • SPA Spanish (Español) (José Miguel Llata) , copyright © 2020, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

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See also Ezra Pound's Envoi.

1 Attwood: "admir'd" [possibly a mistake]

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]

6. Mother, I cannot mind my wheel [sung text checked 1 time]

Mother, I cannot mind my wheel;
My fingers ache, my lips are dry:
O, if you feel the pain I feel!
But O, who ever felt as I?

No longer could I doubt him true -
All other men may use deceit;
He always said my eyes were blue,
And often swore my lips were sweet.

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7. Fear of death [sung text checked 1 time]

What is it now with me
 [ ... ]

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8. Thoughts of a young girl [sung text checked 1 time]

It is such a beautiful day I had to write you a letter
 [ ... ]

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9. Ferry me across the water [sung text checked 1 time]

"Ferry me across the water,
Do, boatman, do."
"If you've a penny in your purse
I'll ferry you."

"I have a penny in my purse,
And my eyes are blue;
So ferry me across the water,
Do, boatman, do!"

"Step into my ferry-boat,
Be they black or blue,
And for the penny in your purse
I'll ferry you."

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

  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , copyright © 2013, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

10. The dancer [sung text checked 1 time]

Behold the brand of beauty tossed!
See how the motion does dilate the flame!
Delighted love his spoils does boast,
And triumph in this game.
Fire, to no place confined,
Is both our wonder and our fear;
Moving the mind,
As lightning hurled through the air.

High heaven the glory does increase
Of all her shining lamps, this artful way;
The sun, in figures such as these,
Joys with the moon to play;
To the sweet strains they advance,
Which do result from their own spheres,
As this nymph's dance
Moves with the numbers which she hears.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]