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The Concert - a song cycle of six poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay

by Giddymuse

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1.
The Concert 06:32
No, I will go alone. I will come back when it's over. Yes, of course I love you. No, it will not be long. Why may you not come with me?— You are too much my lover. You would put yourself Between me and song. If I go alone, Quiet and suavely clothed, My body will die in its chair, And over my head a flame, A mind that is twice my own, Will mark with icy mirth The wise advance and retreat Of armies without a country, Storming a nameless gate, Hurling terrible javelins down From the shouting walls of a singing town Where no women wait! Armies clean of love and hate, Marching lines of pitiless sound Climbing hills to the sun and hurling Golden spears to the ground! Up the lines a silver runner Bearing a banner whereon is scored The milk and steel of a bloodless wound Healed at length by the sword! You and I have nothing to do with music. We may not make of music a filigree frame, Within which you and I, Tenderly glad we came, Sit smiling, hand in hand. Come now, be content. I will come back to you, I swear I will; And you will know me still. I shall be only a little taller Than when I went.
2.
Departure 06:15
It's little I care what path I take, And where it leads it's little I care; But out of this house, lest my heart break, I must go, and off somewhere. It's little I know what's in my heart, What's in my mind it's little I know, But there's that in me must up and start, And it's little I care where my feet go. I wish I could walk for a day and a night, And find me at dawn in a desolate place With never the rut of a road in sight, Nor the roof of a house, nor the eyes of a face. I wish I could walk till my blood should spout, And drop me, never to stir again, On a shore that is wide, for the tide is out, And the weedy rocks are bare to the rain. But dump or dock, where the path I take Brings up, it's little enough I care: And it's little I'd mind the fuss they'll make, Huddled dead in a ditch somewhere. 'Is something the matter, dear,' she said, 'That you sit at your work so silently?' 'No, mother, no, 'twas a knot in my thread. There goes the kettle, I'll make the tea.'
3.
“Son,” said my mother, When I was knee-high,
“ You’ve need of clothes to cover you, And not a rag have I. “There’s nothing in the house To make a boy breeches, Nor shears to cut a cloth with Nor thread to take stitches. “There’s nothing in the house But a loaf-end of rye, And a harp with a woman’s head Nobody will buy,”
And she began to cry. That was in the early fall. When came the late fall,
 “Son,” she said, “the sight of you
 Makes your mother’s blood crawl,— “Little skinny shoulder-blades Sticking through your clothes! And where you’ll get a jacket from God above knows. “It’s lucky for me, lad, Your daddy’s in the ground, And can’t see the way I let His son go around!” And she made a queer sound. That was in the late fall. When the winter came, I’d not a pair of breeches Nor a shirt to my name. I couldn’t go to school, Or out of doors to play. And all the other little boys Passed our way. “Son,” said my mother, “Come, climb into my lap, And I’ll chafe your little bones While you take a nap.” And, oh, but we were silly For half an hour or more, Me with my long legs Dragging on the floor, A-rock-rock-rocking To a mother-goose rhyme! Oh, but we were happy For half an hour’s time! But there was I, a great boy, And what would folks say To hear my mother singing me To sleep all day, In such a daft way? Men say the winter Was bad that year; Fuel was scarce, And food was dear. A wind with a wolf’s head Howled about our door, And we burned up the chairs And sat on the floor. All that was left us Was a chair we couldn’t break, And the harp with a woman’s head Nobody would take, For song or pity’s sake. The night before Christmas I cried with the cold, I cried myself to sleep Like a two-year-old. And in the deep night I felt my mother rise, And stare down upon me With love in her eyes. I saw my mother sitting On the one good chair, A light falling on her From I couldn’t tell where, Looking nineteen, And not a day older, And the harp with a woman’s head Leaned against her shoulder. Her thin fingers, moving In the thin, tall strings, Were weav-weav-weaving Wonderful things. Many bright threads, From where I couldn’t see, Were running through the harp-strings Rapidly, And gold threads whistling Through my mother’s hand. I saw the web grow, And the pattern expand. She wove a child’s jacket, And when it was done She laid it on the floor And wove another one. She wove a red cloak So regal to see,
 “She’s made it for a king’s son,” I said, “and not for me.” But I knew it was for me. She wove a pair of breeches Quicker than that! She wove a pair of boots And a little cocked hat. She wove a pair of mittens, She wove a little blouse, She wove all night In the still, cold house. She sang as she worked, And the harp-strings spoke; Her voice never faltered, And the thread never broke. And when I awoke,— There sat my mother With the harp against her shoulder Looking nineteen And not a day older, A smile about her lips, And a light about her head, And her hands in the harp-strings Frozen dead. And piled up beside her And toppling to the skies, Were the clothes of a king’s son, Just my size.
4.
I will be the gladdest thing Under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers And not pick one. I will look at cliffs and clouds With quiet eyes, Watch the wind bow down the grass, And the grass rise. And when lights begin to show Up from the town, I will mark which must be mine, And then start down!
5.
Sonnet III 02:34
Oh, oh, you will be sorry for that word! Give back my book and take my kiss instead. Was it my enemy or my friend I heard, "What a big book for such a little head!" Come, I will show you now my newest hat, And you may watch me purse my mouth and prink! Oh, I shall love you still, and all of that. I never again shall tell you what I think. I shall be sweet and crafty, soft and sly; You will not catch me reading any more: I shall be called a wife to pattern by; And some day when you knock and push the door, Some sane day, not too bright and not too stormy, I shall be gone, and you may whistle for me.
6.
God's World 03:28
O WORLD, I cannot hold thee close enough! Thy winds, thy wide grey skies! Thy mists, that roll and rise! Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff! World, World, I cannot get thee close enough! Long have I known a glory in it all, But never knew I this; Here such a passion is As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year; My soul is all but out of me,—let fall No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

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released November 4, 2022

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Giddymuse Scappoose, Oregon

Gabrielle Juliette Widman
A native Oregonian, Gabrielle is an eclectic artist who has had several years of teaching, acting, writing and performance experience here in the states, as well as overseas.
Kevin Bryant Lay specializes in writing choral music and art-song, which is a presumptuous name (in his opinion) for setting poetry to music.
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