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Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy


I. Now by this moon, before this moon shall wane
III. I shall forget you presently, my dear
II. Time does not bring relief; you all have lied

DURATION
8’40”

INSTRUMENTATION
SATB (div.) a cappella

AUDIO
Grant Park Chorus; Christopher Bell, conductor
Songs of Smaller Creatures, Cedille Records CDR 90000 131 • Purchase recording

POET
Edna St. Vincent Millay

YEAR COMPOSED
2004

COMMISSIONER
Volti

ORDERING SCORES
Inkjar Publishing Company
Click here to email Inkjar for purchasing options

PERUSAL SCORE
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PROGRAM NOTES
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) was an American poet who produced a great body of work in her lifetime. Among her works are several books of poetry, essays, plays, an opera libretto, and over two hundred sonnets. The sonnets cover a vast range of topics including love, loss, beauty, music, death, war, science, legendary figures, and the end of humanity. Beautifully constructed, I find that many of Millay’s sonnets are well suited to be set to music. From 2000-2006, I set sixteen of her sonnets for a cappella choir, arranged into six sonnet sets.

Sonnets of Desire, Longing, and Whimsy
explores three aspects of love: unrequited passion, the ache after a breakup, and flirtation.
-S.G.

TEXTS
1. Now by this moon
Now by this moon, before this moon shall wane 
I shall be dead or I shall be with you! 
No moral concept can outweigh the pain 
Past rack and wheel this absence puts me through; 
Faith, honour, pride, endurance, what the tongues 
Of tedious men will say, or what the law— 
For which of these do I fill up my lungs 
With brine and fire at every breath I draw? 
Time, and to spare, for patience by and by, 
Time to be cold and time to sleep alone; 
Let me no more until the hour I die 
Defraud my innocent senses of their own. 
Before this moon shall darken, say of me: 
She's in her grave, or where she wants to be.

2. Time does not bring relief; you all have lied 
Time does not bring relief; you all have lied   
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!   
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;   
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,   
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;   
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.   
There are a hundred places where I fear   
To go,—so with his memory they brim.   
And entering with relief some quiet place   
Where never fell his foot or shone his face   
I say, “There is no memory of him here!”   
And so stand stricken, so remembering him.

3. I shall forget you presently
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far,—
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.