Now while I sat in the day, and look'd forth

Set by Paul Hindemith (1895 - 1963), "Now while I sat in the day, and look'd forth" [ baritone, mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra ], from cantata When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd, no. 9  [sung text checked 1 time]

Note: this setting is made up of several separate texts.


Now while I sat in the day, and look'd forth,
In the close of the day, with its light, and the fields of spring, 
  and the farmer preparing his crops,
In the large unconscious scenery of my land, with its lakes and forests,
In the heavenly aerial beauty, [(after the perturb'd winds, and the storms;)]1
Under the arching heavens of the afternoon swift passing, 
  and the voices of children and women,
The many-moving sea-tides, -- and [I saw]1 the ships how they sail'd,
And the summer approaching with richness, and the fields all busy with labor,
And the infinite separate houses, how they all went on, 
  each with its meals and minutia of daily usages;
And the streets, how their throbbings throbb'd, 
  and the cities pent -- lo! [then and there,]1
Falling upon them all, and among them all, enveloping me with the rest,
Appear'd the cloud, appear'd the long black trail;
And I knew Death, its thought, and the sacred knowledge of death.

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1 omitted by Sessions

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


Then with the knowledge of death as walking one side of me,
And the thought of death close-walking the other side of me,
[And I in the middle as with companions,]1 
  and as holding the hands of companions,
I fled forth to the hiding receiving night, [that talks not,]1
Down to the shores of the water, [the path by the swamp in the dimness,]1
To the solemn shadowy cedars and the ghostly pines so still.

And the singer so shy to the rest [receiv'd me,
The gray-brown bird I know]1 received us comrades three,
And he sang what seem'd the carol of death, and a verse for him I love.

[From deep secluded recesses,
From the fragrant cedars and the ghostly pines so still,
Came the carol of the bird.

And the charm of the carol rapt me,
As I held as if by their hands my comrades in the night,]1
And [the voice of]1 my spirit tallied the song of the bird.

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1 omitted by Sessions.

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


Come lovely and soothing death,
Undulate round the world, serenely arriving, arriving,
In the day, in the night, to all, to each,
Sooner or later, delicate death.

Prais'd be the fathomless universe,
For life and joy, and for objects and knowledge curious;
And for love, sweet love -- But praise! praise! praise!
For the sure-enwinding arms of cool-enfolding Death.

Dark Mother, always gliding near, with soft feet,
Have none chanted for thee a chant of fullest welcome?

Then I chant it for thee - I glorify thee above all;
I bring thee a song that when thou must indeed come, come unfalteringly.

Approach, strong Deliveress!
When it is so - when thou hast taken them, I joyously sing the dead,	
Lost in the loving, floating ocean of thee,
Laved in the flood of thy bliss, O Death.

From me to thee glad serenades,
Dances for thee I propose, saluting thee -- adornments and feastings for thee;
And the sights of the open landscape, and the high-spread sky, are fitting,
And life and the fields, and the huge and thoughtful night.

The night, in silence, under many a star;
The ocean shore, and the husky whispering wave, whose voice I know;	
And the soul turning to thee, O vast and well-veil'd Death,
And the body gratefully nestling close to thee.

Over the tree-tops I float thee a song!
Over the rising and sinking waves -- over the myriad fields, and the prairies wide;
Over the dense-pack'd cities all, and the teeming wharves and ways,	
I float this carol with joy, with joy to thee, O Death!

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

  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail