As Adam Early in the Morning

(1957)

The short poem “As Adam Early in the Morning” comes from the “Children of Adam” series of poems in Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1881-82).

“As Adam Early in the Morning” is an appropriate finale to the “Children of Adam” series--it reaffirms the reiterated theme of Adam in paradise, having awakened, fresh and renewed, and at ease with his own body and his own existence. Whitman’s suggestion is that by finding acceptance in our own bodies, we have possibly found true freedom. To reflect the sensual nature of the text, Rorem supplies a maestoso melody over a series of sustained chords. The song is infused with a pseudo-jazz coloring through the use of seventh, ninth, and eleventh chords throughout the composition.


“As Adam Early in the Morning” is contained in a Rorem collection, 14 Songs on American Poetry, published by Henmar Press/C.F. Peters in 1961. However, in the liner notes accompanying a recording issued by the Phoenix label (1991), featuring bass-baritone Donald Gramm and pianist Eugene Istomin, Rorem recalls that the song was composed in the summer of 1957 while he was in Hyères, France. The songs were commissioned by and dedicated to Walder Luke Burnap, who premiered them, self-accompanied, in New York in the spring of 1958.


--Stephanie Poxon, Ph.D.


As Adam Early in the Morning
by Walt Whitman


As Adam early in the morning,
Walking forth from the bower refresh'd with sleep,
Behold me where I pass, hear my voice, approach,
Touch me touch the palm of your hand to my body as I pass,
Be not afraid of my body.


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