Warble for Lilac-Time

Warble for Lilac-Time is a work for soprano or tenor and small orchestra. The work was composed and premiered in 1943 and premiered in 1946. The work was revised in 1954.

Date: 1943Composer: Elliott CarterText: Walt Whitman

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Warble for Lilac-Time
by Walt Whitman

Warble me now, for joy of Lilac-time,
Sort me, O tongue and lips, for Nature’s sake, and sweet life’s sake –
and death’s the same as life’s,
Souvenirs of earliest summer – birds’ eggs, and the first berries;
Gather the welcome signs, (as children, with pebbles, or stringing shells;)
Put in April and May – the hylas croaking in the ponds – the elastic air,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird, and darting swallow – nor forget the high-hole flashing his golden wings,
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor,
Spiritual, airy insects, humming on gossamer wings,
Shimmer of waters, with fish in them – the cerulean above;
All that is jocund and sparkling – the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days, and the sugar-making;
The robin, where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building the nest of his mate;
The melted snow of March – the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts;
– For spring-time is here! the summer is here! and what is this in it and from it?
Thou, Soul, unloosen’d – the restlessness after I know not what;
Come! let us lag here no longer – let us be up and away!
O for another world! O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape – to sail forth, as in a ship!
To glide with thee, O Soul, o’er all, in all, as a ship o’er the waters!
– Gathering these hints, these preludes –
the blue sky, the grass, the morning drops of dew;
(With additional songs – every spring will I now strike up additional songs,
Nor ever again forget, these tender days, the chants of Death as well as Life;)
The lilac-scent, the bushes, and the dark green, heart-shaped leaves,
Wood violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence,
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere,
To tally, drench’d with them, tested by them,
Cities and artificial life, and all their sights and scenes,
My mind henceforth, and all its meditations – my recitatives,
My land, my age, my race, for once to serve in songs,
(Sprouts, tokens ever of death indeed the same as life,)
To grace the bush I love – to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of Lilac-time.

Sheet Music

Warble for Lilac-Time

Composer(s): Elliott Carter

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