Sixth String Quartet (A Whitman Serenade)

Song Cycle by Samuel Hans Adler (b. 1928)

Word count: 399

1. Dearest thou now o Soul [sung text not yet checked]

Darest thou now O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet
   nor any path to follow?

No map there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh,
   nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not O Soul;
Nor dost thou -- all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream'd of, in that region,
   [that inaccessible land]1.

Till when the [ties loosen]2,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense,
   nor any bounds, [bound]3 us.

Then we burst forth -- we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul, prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last, -- 
   (O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul.


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

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2014, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GER German (Deutsch) (Bertram Kottmann) , copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

View original text (without footnotes)

Note: the indented lines have been broken off from the preceding lines so that parallel translations will be easier to see. This poem has five stanzas of three lines each.

1 W. Schuman: "the inaccessible land,/ The unknown region."
2 Bacon: "tie is loosened"
3 Bacon: "bounding"

Researcher for this text: Ted Perry

2. Quicksand years  [sung text not yet checked]

Quicksand years that whirl me I know not whither,
Your schemes, politics, fail -- lines give way -- substances mock and elude me;
Only the theme I sing, the great and strong-possess'd Soul, eludes not;
One's-self must never give way -- that is the final substance -- 
  that out of all is sure;
Out of politics, triumphs, battles, life -- what at last finally remains?
When shows break up, what but One's-Self is sure?


Confirmed with Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Philadelphia: David McKay, [c1900];, 1999.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

3. That music always round me [sung text not yet checked]

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.


Confirmed with Whitman, Walt. Leaves of Grass. Philadelphia: David McKay, [c1900];, 1999.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. The last invocation [sung text not yet checked]

At the last, tenderly,
From the walls of the powerful, fortress'd house,
From the clasp of the knitted locks --
  from the keep of the well-closed doors,
Let me be wafted.

Let me glide noiselessly forth;
With the key of softness unlock the locks -- with a whisper,
Set [ope]1 the doors, O Soul!

Tenderly! be not impatient!
(Strong is your hold, O mortal flesh!
Strong is your hold, O Love.)


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View original text (without footnotes)
1 Bacon: "up"; Pederson: "open"

Research team for this text: Ted Perry , Malcolm Wren [Guest Editor]