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

Set by Roger Sessions (1896 - 1985), "Now while I sat in the day, and look'd forth", from cantata When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd, no. 3, cantata  [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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  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


To the tally of my soul,
Loud and strong kept up the gray-brown bird,
With pure deliberate notes, spreading, filling the night.

Loud in the pines and cedars dim,
Clear in the freshness moist and the swamp-perfume,
And I with my comrades there in the night.

While my sight [that was bound in my eyes]1 unclosed,
As to long panoramas of visions.

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1 omitted by Sessions

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


[I]1 saw askant the armies,
[And]2 I saw, as in noiseless dreams, hundreds of battle-flags;
Borne through the smoke of the battles, and pierc'd with missiles, I saw them,
And carried hither and yon through the smoke, and torn and bloody;
And at last [but]3 a few shreds left on the staffs, (all in silence,)
And the staffs all splinter'd and broken.

I saw battle-corpses, myriads of them,
And the white skeletons of young men -- I saw them,
I saw the debris and debris of all the dead soldiers of the war;
[But I]4 saw they were not as was thought,
They themselves were fully at rest -- they suffer'd not;
The living remain'd and suffer'd -- the mother suffer'd,
And the wife and the child, and the musing comrade suffer'd,
And the armies that remain'd suffer'd.

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1 Sessions: "And I"
2 omitted by Sessions
3 Sessions: "for"
4 Sessions: "and we"

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


Passing the visions, passing the night;
Passing, unloosing the hold of my comrades' hands;
Passing the song of the hermit bird and the tallying song of my soul,
[(Victorious song, death's outlet song, yet varying, ever-altering song,
As low and wailing, yet clear the notes, rising and falling, flooding the night,
Sadly sinking and fainting, as warning and warning, and yet again bursting with joy,
Covering the earth and filling the spread of the heaven,
As that powerful psalm in the night I heard from recesses,]1
Passing, I leave thee, lilac with heart-shaped leaves;
I leave thee there in the door-yard, blooming, returning with spring,
I cease from my song for thee;
From my gaze on thee in the west, [fronting the west,]1 communing with thee,
O comrade lustrous, with silver face in the night.

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1 omitted by Sessions

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail


Yet each [I]1 keep and all, retrievements out of the night;
[The song, the wondrous chant of the gray-brown bird,
And the tallying chant, the echo arous'd in my soul,
With the lustrous and drooping star, with the countenance full of woe,
With the lilac tall, and its blossoms of mastering odor;
[With the holders holding my hand, nearing the call of the bird,]2
Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever [I]1 keep 
  for the dead I loved so well;]3
For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands -- 
  [and this for his dear sake,]3
Lilac and star and bird twined with the chant of my soul,
There in the fragrant pines, and the cedars dusk and dim.4

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1 Hindemith: "to"
2 omitted by Hindemith and Sessions.
3 omitted by Sessions
4 Hindemith adds here a line from earlier in the long poem: "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd."

Researcher for this text: Ahmed E. Ismail