After the extraordinary broadness of the seventh song, “When they come back” changes the mood to quiet, calm thought.
Ruth C. Friedberg has written: “Inspired by the conciseness and precision of language with which Emily Dickinson has stated the ancient fear that spring might not return, Copland has brought to bear the sparseness and linear clarity that are hallmarks of his style on one of the cycle’s most outstanding settings.”
“When they come back” continues the theme of nature and spring found in the first, second and sixth songs of the cycle. Again, the mood is gentle (as in the first song) instead of more raucous and tempestuous as in the second and sixth songs. “When They Come Back” sounds simplistic and conversational, as the melody moves in step-wise motion and sounds closer to speaking than the leaping melodies of other songs in this cycle.
When they come back
by Emily Dickinson
When they come back if Blossoms do
I always feel a doubt
If Blossoms can be born again
When once the Art is out
When they begin, if Robins may,
I always had a fear
I did not tell, it was their last Experiment
When it is May, if May return,
Had nobody a pang
Lest in a Face so beautiful
He might not look again?
If I am there,
One does not know
What Party one may be
Tomorrow, but if I am there
I take back all I say
Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson
Composer(s): Aaron Copland
Song(s): 1. Nature, the Gentlest Mother
2. There Came a Wind Like a Bugle
3. Why Do They Shut Me Out of Heaven?
4. The World Feels Dusty
5. Heart, We Will Forget Him
6. Dear March, Come In!
7. Sleep is Supposed to Be
8. When They Come Back
9. I Felt a Funeral in My Brain
10. I've Heard an Organ Talk Sometimes
11. Going to Heaven!
12. The Chariot