by Carl Sandburg
There is a wolf in me...
fangs pointed for tearing gashes...
a red tongue for raw meat...
and the hot lapping of blood-
I keep this wolf because
the wilderness gave it to me
and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fox in me...
a silver gray fox...
I sniff and guess...
I pick things out of the wind and air...
I nose in the dark night
and take sleepers and eat them
and hide the feathers...
I circle and loop and double-cross.
There is a hog in me...
a snout and a belly...
a machinery for eating and grunting...
a machinery for sleeping satisfied in the sun...
I got this too from the wilderness
and the wilderness will not let it go.
There is a fish in me...
I know I came from salt blue water-gates...
I scurried with shoals of herring...
I blew waterspouts with porpoises...
before land was..before Noah...
before the first chapter of Genesis.
There is a baboon in me...
yawping a galoot's hunger...
hairy under the armpits...
here are the hawk-eyed hankering men...
here are the blond and blue-eyed women...
here they hide curled asleep, waiting...
ready to snarl and kill...
ready to sing and give milk..waiting...
I keep the baboon because the wilderness says so.
There is an eagle in me and a mockingbird...
and the eagle flies
among the Rocky Mountain of my dreams
and fights among the Sierra crags of what I want...
and the mockingbird warbles in the early forenoon
before the dew is gone,
warbles in the underbrush of my Chattanoogas of hope,
gushes over the blue Ozark foothills of my wishes-
and I got the eagle and the mockingbird
from the wilderness.
Oh, I got a zoo.
I got a menagerie inside my ribs,
under my bony head, under my red-valve heart-
and I got something else:
it is a man-child heart, a woman-child heart:
it is father and mother and lover:
it came from God-Knows-Where:
it is going to God-Knows-Where-
For I am the keeper of the zoo:
I say yes and no:
I sing and kill and work:
I am a pal of the world:
I came from the wilderness.
From Cornhuskers 1918 (reprinted with permission
of Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, Inc.)
I. Seit ich ihn gesehen
Glaub ich blind zu sein; Wie im wachen Traume Schwebt sein Bild mir vor, Taucht aus tiefstem Dunkel Heller nur empor.
Sonst ist licht- und farblos Alles um mich her, Nach der Schwestern Spiele Nicht begehr ich mehr, Möchte lieber weinen Still im Kämmerlein; Seit ich ihn gesehen, Glaub ich blind zu sein.
II. Er, der herrlichste von allen
Er, der herrlichste von allen, Wie so milde, wie so gut! Holde Lippen, klares Auge, Heller Sinn und fester Mut.
So wie dort in blauer Tiefe, Hell und herrlich, jener Stern, Also er an meinem Himmel, Hell und herrlich, hoch und fern.
Wandle, wandle deine Bahnen; Nur betrachten deinen Schein, Nur in Demut ihn betrachten, Selig nur und traurig sein!
Höre nicht mein stilles Beten Deinem Glücke nur geweiht; Darfst mich, neidre Magd, nicht kennen, Hoher Stern der Herrlichkeit!
Nur die Würdigste von allen Soll beglücken deine Wahl, Und ich will die Hohe segnen, Segnen viele tausend Mal.
Will mich freuen dann und weinen, Selig, selig bin ich dann, Sollte mir das Herz auch brechen, 'Brich, o Herz, was liegt daran!
III. Ich kann's nicht fassen
Ich kann's nicht fassen, nicht glauben, Es hat ein Traum mich berückt; Wie hätt er doch unter allen Mich Arme erhöht und beglückt?
Mir war's, er habe gesprochen: Ich bin auf ewig dein - Mir war's - ich träume noch immer, Es kann ja nimmer so sein.
O lass im Traume mich sterben Gewieget an seiner Brust, Den seligsten Tod mich schlürfen In Tränen unendlicher Lust.
IV. Du Ring an meinem Finger
Du Ring an meinem Finger, Mein goldnes Ringelein, Ich drücke dich fromm an die Lippen, Dich fromm an das Herze mein.
Ich hatt ihn ausgeträumet, Der Kindheit friedlichen Traum, Ich fand allein mich verloren Im öden unendlichen Raum.
Du Ring an meinem Finger, Da hast du mich erst belehrt, Hast meinem Blick erschlossen Des Lebens unendlichen Wert.
Ich werd ihm dienen, ihm leben, Ihm angehören ganz, Hin selber mich geben und finden Verklärt in seinem Glanz.
V. * Süsser Freund, du blickest
Süsser Freund, du blickest Mich verwundert an, Kannst es nicht begreifen, Wie ich weinen kann; Lass der feuchten Perlen Ungewohnte Zier Freudig hell erzittern In dem Auge mir.
Wie so bang mein Busen, Wie so wonnevoll! Wüsst ich nur mit Worten, Wie ich's sagen soll; Komm und birg dein Antlitz Hier an meiner Brust, Will in's Ohr dir flüstern Alle meine Lust.
Hab’ ob manchen Zeichen Mutter schon gefragt, Hat die gute Mutter, Alles mir gesagt, Hat mich unterwiesen, Wie nach allem Schein, Bald für eine Wiege Muss gesorget sein.
Hier an meinem Bette Hat die Wiege Raum, Wo sie still verberge Meinen holden Traum; Kommen wird der Morgen, Wo der Traum erwacht, Und daraus dein Bildnis, Mir entgegen lacht.
(V. is Chamisso’s VI.)
VI.*Traum der eignen Tage
Traum der eignen Tage, Die nun ferne sind, Tochter meiner Tochter, Du mein süsses Kind , Nimm, bevor die Müde Deckt das Leichentuch, Nimm ins frische Leben Meinen Segensspruch.
Siehst mich grau von Haaren, Abgezehrt und bleich, Bin, wie du, gewesen Jung und wonnereich, Liebte, wie du liebest, Ward, wie du, auch Braut,
Lass die Zeit im Fluge Wandeln fort und fort, Glück ist nur die Liebe, Liebe nur ist Glück.
(VI. ist Chamisso’s IX.)
Elizabeth R. Austin
PROGRAM NOTES FOR A WOMAN’S LOVE AND LIFE (FRAUENLIEBE UND –LEBEN)
Poetry by Adelbert von Chamisso Music by Elizabeth R. Austin
As I read these poems, I wondered how I could set such texts in today’s world, gender relationships having changed so much. As with Schumann’s well-known setting of these poems, I sought to honor the authentic feelings of this woman, chronicled in various stages of life by Chamisso in the nineteenth century. While she pours forth her adoration in a language which interprets “a woman’s love” as sacrificial and often ‘unworthy’, however, our skepticism surfaces, as we follow this young woman throughout these songs.
The “Frau” about whom Chamisso writes might offer comparison to a young woman of today, desperately in love. A contemporary woman, though, may behave in a different manner to her present-day romance: the first song, for instance, tells about our maiden’s state of almost hypnotic ecstacy at being ‘chosen’. ‘Everything around her loses light and color’ and she prefers to weep alone in her room rather than being with her friends. Something already seems amiss.
The emotional timeline of this song cycle continues to darken in the second song, as her vulnerability reveals anxious thoughts about her suitor’s turning to someone else. Even if her heart should break though, she vows to ‘bless his choice’, through her tears. The music, especially in the piano, draws attention to the imminent danger of a looming catastrophe.
Her ongoing dismay evokes a dream, in the third song. In frenzied phrases, she wishes to die in his arms, to ‘perish through dreaming’ of being selected by him, even though this ‘can never be so’.
The last three songs of this cycle now turn from a sense of near hysteria and doubt to a genuine outpouring of affection and delight. The thrill of the wedding ring is followed in the sixth song by the calm reassurance of this young wife, as she reveals her impending motherhood to her husband. The piano part underlines this turning point in her ‘love and life’. The final song depicts our “Frau” as grandmother; the piano coda provides a thematic retrospective of her life.
Bachmann’s Inspiration and Key to a Contemporary Setting of Chamisso
I found access to the creation of my setting through the novel Malina (1971), by the Austrian Ingeborg Bachmann. There are three main characters in Malina, which is narrated by the nameless Frau, the Ich (I). Her confidante is Malina, a seemingly male character, who is a strong but enigmatic, almost shadowy figure. She converses with Malina about her writings, her feelings, and her actions, as they relate to her lover, Ivan.
It soon becomes evident that we are encountering two sides of the same persona. The rational side is concentrated in Malina, the emotional in the narrating “Ich”. Through this dichotomy, Bachmann succeeds in probing the extreme, presenting a woman whose overwound feelings for Ivan, who holds her in his thrall, brings her to near-hysteria. Extreme passion- that of an absolute surrendering of the will- is laid out as her internal and motivating force, struggling with Malina.
I. Since I have seen him
Since I have seen, Have laid my eyes on him, I have been blinded, Wherever I look, I see him alone. Like in a waking dream, His image hovers over me, Emerging from deepest darkness, Rising into light.
Everything around me Colorless and dim, To play with my sisters, I no longer yearn. I would rather be weeping, In my little room; Since I have seen, Have laid my eyes on him, I have been blinded.
II. He, most wonderful of all He, most wonderful of all, Oh, so gentle, oh, so good! Purest lips, clearest eyes, Radiant spirit, noble mind.
Far away in bluest deepness, Bright and dazzling, yonder star, So he shines in my own heaven, Bright and splendid, high above.
Turn, oh turn in your orbit, Only to reflect your glow, Humbly watching him with wonder, Blessed, yes, but also sad!
Listen not to my quiet praying, Only offered for your good; Do not glance at one so lowly, Brilliant star so wonderful!
Only she who is most worthy, Shall be gladdened by your choice, I shall also bless this maiden, Bless her many thousand times.
Happy even though I weep, Blessed will I also be, If my heart comes close to breaking, Break, O heart, accept your fate!
III. I cannot grasp it
I cannot grasp it, believe it, I’ve had a dream cast a spell; Selected from everyone, How could he choose me above all?
It was as if he had spoken: I am eternally yours- I dream it over and over, Though it can never be so.
Oh, let me perish while dreaming, Cradled in his arms, The most blessed death enfold me, In tears of unending desire.
IV. Dear ring upon my finger
Dear ring upon my finger You little golden ring, I press you close to my lips, Close to my heart.
I’ve had enough of dreaming, Those lovely, peaceful childhood reams, I am alone, so adrift In desolate, unending space.
Dear ring upon my finger, Now you have instructed me, You have made me see the value, The infinite value of life itself.
I shall serve him, shall live for him, Give myself only to him, Belong to him only and find Myself transformed, transfigured in his gaze.
V. Dearest friend
Dearest friend, you look Amazed upon me, Can you not realize Why I’m weeping; Allow these moistened pearls, Unaccustomed jewels, Glistening so brightly In my eyes.
Why am I so frightened? Why so full of awe! If I only had the words for What I have to say; Come and nestle your face Here upon my breast, I will whisper All of my delight.
Have already asked Mama What these feelings mean, And my darling mother Told me everything, She made me understand According to these signs, Soon a little cradle Must be put in place.
Here next to my bedside Can the cradle stand, Where it shall protect Our pure and lovely dream; When the sun arises, This sweet dream awakes to life, With your very likeness Smiling back at me.
VI. Dream of days gone by
Dream of days gone by, Now so far away, Daughter of my daughter, My darling child, Take, before the grave cloth, Hides a weary soul, Take into your life My own blessing.
See my graying tresses, Withered now and pale, Like you, I once was full of joy, Young and glorious, I loved, like you love, I was also a bride.
Let the time move onward, Passing in its flight, Joy means simply loving, Love is simply joy.
(translation by E. Austin)
Frauenliebe und-leben (A Woman's Love and Life)
PROGRAM NOTES: WILDERNESS SYMPHONY (#1) (1987)
Carl Sandburg’s magnificently graphic poem draws one into a bestiary distinguished by its sense of immediacy and psychological drama. As we conclude a century made infamous more than once by animalistic explosions of violence and cruelty wrought by ‘civilized’ human beings, the lurid chill of this internal menagerie, portrayed in sound, deepens and disturbs.
The introductory section of this one-movement set of character variations evokes the mental landscape-habitat, with its own motive of shifting chordal colors. The solo violin, as the “voice crying out in the wilderness”, elicits the main archlike theme of the work, upon which the different ‘animal variations’ are built. The initial climax comes with the appearance of the wolf, the first animal in this instinctual zoo. Two reciters, a man and a woman, narrate and personify Sandburg’s vision, as the first six verses of the poem describe a macabre mob.
A ‘heartbeat’ motive suggests a palpable life force, and the altered and overlaid use of various themes from Stravinsky’s Petroushka, one of which is related in melodic contour to the ‘heartbeat’, points up a similarity in such a force. The will to live: pent up, yet ever threatening to burst the bonds of the spirit and to rise to the surface of consciousness, is painted in jagged, angular musical patterns.
From a bloodthirsty wolf, we turn to a double-crossing fox, in whose variation the banjo’s bluegrass quote of Foggy Mountain Breakdown is an intentional homage to Sandburg’s love of folklore. From an impersonal hog with snout and belly, we are submerged in the saltwater world of a fish, reaching far back in the annals of time. The unsavory baboon shares a verse with “hawkeyed”men (an animalistic foreshadowing?) and erotic women, human beings harboring the menace and indifference of the animals depicted here. The soaring “wilderness” theme recurs unadorned in the next variation, but it is paired with its mirror-inversion. Eagle and mockingbird soar together, summoned once again by the claims and wishes of the strong-willed “I”. The final verse places these creatures in a subjective zoo, buried in the shallow grave of the ego: each animal takes a “curtain call” in this reprise-like section. In poetic climax, the “red-valve heart”, through which we hope to achieve transcendence over animalistic urges, is that “something else”, setting us apart. The affirmative but ambivalent grandeur of the “keeper of the zoo” is underscored by the ambivalence of Petroushka’s haunting end. Such is the warning, a musical Mahnmal, a reminder that we have a wilderness within us.
AN AMERICAN TRIPTYCH
for solo piano (2001):
Ulrich Urban, piano.
A quodlibet is a musical patchwork, especially loved by the Bach family. Swing bass, with snatches of Joplin, and a hunting horn 'Turkey in Straw'!
AN AMERICAN TRIPTYCH:
Bellagio Blues (3:53)
Written at Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio retreat, the blues in modern dress.
AN AMERICAN TRIPTYCH:
Rough and tumble, with snippets of American folk songs, as well as Prokofieff, for some quodlibet goofiness, ending in a contrapuntal free-for-all!