Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities

Set by Roger Sessions (1896 - 1985), "Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities", from cantata When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd, no. 2  [sung text checked 1 time]

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


Over the breast of the spring, the land, amid cities,
Amid lanes and through old woods, (where lately the violets peep'd 
  from the ground, [spotting the gray debris;]1
Amid the grass in the fields each side of the lanes --
  passing the endless grass;
Passing the yellow-spear'd wheat, every grain from its shroud
  in the dark-brown fields [uprising]2,
Passing the apple-tree blows of white and pink in the orchards;
Carrying a corpse to where it shall rest in the grave,
Night and day journeys a coffin.

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1 omitted by Sessions
2 Hindemith, Sessions: "uprisen"

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


Coffin that passes through lanes and streets,
Through day and night with the great cloud darkening the land,
With the pomp of the inloop'd flags with the cities draped in black,
With the show of the States themselves as of crepe-veil'd women standing,
With processions long and winding and the flambeaus of the night,
[With the countless torches lit,]1 with the silent sea of faces and the unbared heads,
With the waiting depot, the arriving coffin, and the sombre faces,
With dirges through the night, with the thousand voices rising strong and solemn,
[With all the mournful voices of the dirges]1 pour'd around the coffin,
The dim-lit churches and the shuddering organs -- where amid these you journey,
[With]2 the tolling bells' perpetual clang,
Here, coffin that slowly passes,
I give you a sprig of lilac.

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1 omitted by Sessions
2 Sessions: "and"

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


(Nor for you, for one alone,
Blossoms and branches green to coffins all I bring,
For fresh as the morning, thus would I chant a song for you O sane and sacred death.

All over bouquets of roses,
O death, I cover you with roses and early lilies,
But mostly and now the lilac that blooms the first,
[Copious I break, I break the sprigs from the bushes,]1
With loaded arms I come, pouring for you,
For you and the coffins all of you, O death.)

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1 omitted by Sessions

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


O western orb sailing the heaven,
Now I know what you must have meant as a month since I walk'd,
As I walk'd in silence the transparent shadowy night,
As I saw you had something to tell as you bent to me night after night,
As you droop'd from the sky low down as if to my side, (while the other stars all look'd on,)
As we wander'd together [the solemn night, (for something I know not what kept me from sleep,)
As the night advanced, and]1 I saw [on the rim of the west]1 how full you were of woe,
As I stood [on the rising ground in the breeze]1 in the cool transparent night,
As I watch'd where you pass'd [and was lost in the netherward black of the night,]1
As my soul in its trouble [dissatisfied]1 sank, [as where you sad orb,
Concluded, dropt in the night, and was gone.]1

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1 omitted by Sessions

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


Sing on, there in the swamp! 
O singer bashful and tender, [I hear your notes, I hear your call.
I hear.]1 I come [presently,]1 I understand you,
But a moment I linger, for [the lustrous star has detain'd me,]1
The star, my departing comrade, holds and detains me.

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O how shall I warble myself for the dead one there I loved?
And how shall I deck my soul for the large sweet soul that has gone?
And what shall my perfume be [for]1 the grave of him I love?

Sea-winds blown from the east and west,
Blown from the Eastern sea and blown from the Western sea, [till there on the prairies meeting,
These and]2 with these [and the breath of my chant,]2
[I'll]3 perfume the grave of him I love.

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1 Sessions: "to adorn"
2 omitted by Sessions
3 Sessions: "Will I"

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


O [what shall I hang on the chamber walls?
And]1 what shall the pictures be that I hang on the walls,
To adorn the burial-house of him I love?

Pictures of growing spring and farms and homes,
With the Fourth-month eve at sundown, and the gray smoke lucid and bright,
With floods of the yellow gold of the gorgeous, indolent, sinking sun, burning, expanding the air,
With the fresh sweet herbage under foot, and the pale green leaves of the trees prolific,
In the distance of the flowing glaze, the breast of the river, with a wind-dapple here and there,
With ranging hills on the banks, with many a line against the sky, and shadows,
And the city at hand with dwellings so dense, and stacks of chimneys,
And all the scenes of life and the workshops, and the workmen homeward returning.

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Lo, body and soul -- this land,
My own Manhattan with spires, and the sparkling and hurrying tides, and the ships,
The varied and ample land, the South and the North in the light, Ohio's shores and flashing Missouri,
And ever the far-spreading prairies cover'd with grass and corn.

Lo, the most excellent sun so calm and haughty,
The violet and purple morn with just-felt breezes,
The gentle soft-born measureless light,
The miracle spreading bathing all, the fulfill'd noon,
The coming eve delicious, the welcome night and the stars,
Over my cities shining all, enveloping man and land.

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Sing on, sing on, you gray-brown bird,
Sing from the swamps, the recesses, pour your chant from the bushes,
Limitless [out of the dusk,]1 out of the cedars and pines.

Sing on dearest brother, warble your reedy song,
Loud human song, with voice of uttermost woe.

O liquid and free and tender!
O wild and loose to my soul -- O wondrous singer!
You only I hear -- yet the star holds me, (but will soon depart,)
Yet the lilac with mastering odor holds me.

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Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail