Let Down the Bars

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Among the songs in Bacon’s Songs from Emily Dickinson is his setting of “Let Down the Bars,” a somber, yet tender soliloquy of death.

Let Down the Bars

Although Bacon's choice of poetry for his song settings is vast, he is recognized for his settings of American poets, including Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson. Bacon confirmed his preference for setting texts by the latter poet in his book Words on Music (Syracuse University Press, 1960), when he observed that in "America we have a wealth of lyric poetry calling for song, particularly the contributions of the women, beginning with Emily Dickinson…"


Performers and scholars have ranked Bacon's Dickinson settings among the best in the repertoire and have considered him to be one of Dickinson's best interpreters. Few of Bacon's songs have been published separately. Rather, most of his songs have been issued in collections, and quite often a song will appear in more than one collection, usually in a revised version. One such collection is Bacon's Songs from Emily Dickinson, which was self-published by the composer.


--Library of Congress


Let down the bars, O Death!
The tired flocks come in
Whose bleating ceases to repeat,
Whose wandering is done.


Thine is the stillest night,
Thine the [securest]1 fold;
Too near thou art for seeking thee,
Too tender to be told.


Photo: Detailed close-up of colonial tombstone: Susanna Jayne, Marblehead, Mass., 1776- Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress.


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