by Lori Laitman

text by Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Wherever snow falls, or water flows, or birds fly, wherever day and night meet in twilight, wherever the blue heaven is hung by clouds, or sown with stars, wherever are forms with transparent boundaries, wherever are outlets into celestial space, wherever is danger, and awe, and love, there is Beauty, plenteous as rain, shed for thee, and though thou shouldest walk the world over, thou shalt not be able to find a condition inopportune or ignoble.”


— Ralph Waldo Emerson, from The Poet, published in Essays: Second Series in 1844.




by Lori Laitman

text by Emily Dickinson


The Butterfly Upon


The Butterfly upon the Sky,

That doesn't know its Name

And hasn't any tax to pay

And hasn't any Home

Is just as high as you and I,

And higher, I believe,

So soar away and never sigh

And that's the way to grieve —


Hope is a strange invention


Hope is a strange invention—

A Patent of the Heart—

In unremitting action

Yet never wearing out—


Of this electric Adjunct

Not anything is known

But its unique momentum

Embellish all we own—


To make a prairie


To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee.

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few.




by Lee Hoiby

text by Walt Whitman


Beginning my studies


Beginning my studies the first step pleas'd me so much,

The mere fact consciousness, these forms, the power of motion,

The least insect or animal, the senses, eyesight, love,

The first step I say awed me and pleas'd me so much,

I have hardly gone and hardly wish'd to go any farther,

But stop and loiter all the time to sing it in ecstatic songs.


I was there


I understand the large hearts of heroes,

The courage of present times and all times;

How the skipper saw the crowded and rudderless wreck of the

steam-ship, and Death chasing it up and down the storm,

How he knuckled tight, and gave not back an inch,

  and was faithful of days and faithful of nights,

And chalk'd in large letters, on a board,

  Be of good cheer, we will not desert you:

How he follow'd with them, and tack'd with them three days

  and would not give it up;

How he saved the drifting company at last:

How the lank loose-gown'd women look'd when

  boated from the side of their prepared graves;

How the silent old-faced infants, and the lifted sick,

  and the sharp-lipp'd unshaved men:

All this I swallow, it tastes good, I like it well, it becomes mine,

I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there.


This is thy hour


This is thy hour, O Soul, thy free flight into the wordless,

Away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson done,

Thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing,

 pondering the themes thou lovest best,

Night, sleep, death, and the stars.


O Captain! my Captain!


O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

    But O heart! heart! heart!

      O the bleeding drops of red,

        Where on the deck my Captain lies,

          Fallen cold and dead.


O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;

Rise up--for you the flag is flung--for you the bugle trills;

For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths--for you the shores a-crowding;

For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

    Here Captain! dear father!

      This arm beneath your head;

        It is some dream that on the deck,

          You've fallen cold and dead.


My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;

My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;

The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;

From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

    Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!

      But I, with mournful tread,

        Walk the deck my Captain lies,

          Fallen cold and dead.


Joy, shipmate, joy!


Joy, shipmate, joy!

(Pleas'd to my soul at death I cry,)

Our life is closed, our life begins,

The long, long anchorage we leave,

The ship is clear at last, she leaps!

She swiftly courses from the shore,

Joy, shipmate, joy.




by André Previn

text by Emily Dickinson


As imperceptibly as Grief


As imperceptibly as Grief

The Summer lapsed away —

Too imperceptible, at last

To seem like Perfidy —


A Quietness distilled

As Twilight long begun

Or Nature spending with herself

Sequestered Afternoon —


The Dusk drew earlier in —

The Morning foreign shone —

A courteous, yet harrowing Grace

As Guest that would be gone —


And thus without a Wing

Or service of a Keel

Our Summer made her light escape

Into the Beautiful


Will there really be a Morning


Will there really be a "Morning"?

Is there such a thing as "Day"?

Could I see it from the mountains

If I were as tall as they?


Has it feet like Water lilies?

Has it feathers like a Bird?

Is it brought from famous countries

Of which I have never heard?


Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!

Oh some Wise Men from the skies!

Please to tell a little Pilgrim

Where the place called "Morning" lies!


Good Morning - Midnight


Good Morning — Midnight

I'm coming Home

Day — got tired of Me

How could I — of Him?


Sunshine was a sweet place

I liked to stay

But Morn — didn't want me — now

So — Goodnight — Day!


I can look — can't I

When the East is Red?

The Hills — have a way — then

That puts the Heart — abroad


You — are not so fair — Midnight

I chose — Day

But — please take a little Girl

He turned away!




by Ned Rorem

text by Walt Whitman


Of him I love day and night


Of him I love day and night I dream'd I heard he was dead,

And I dream'd I went where they had buried him I love, but he was not in that place,

And I dream'd I wander'd searching among burial-places to find him,

And I found that every place was a burial place;

The houses full of life were equally full of death, (this house is now),

The streets, the shipping, the places of amusement,

the Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, the Manahatta, were as full of the dead as of the living,

And fuller, O vastly fuller of the dead than of the living;

And what I dream'd I will henceforth tell to every person and age,

And I stand henceforth bound to what I dream'd,

And now I am willing to disregard burial-places and dispense with them,

And if the memorials of the dead were put up indifferently everywhere,

even in the room where I eat or sleep, I should be satisfied,

And if the corpse of any one I love, or if my own corpse,

be duly render'd to powder and pour'd in the sea, I shall be satisfied.


I saw in Louisiana


I saw in Louisiana a live-oak growing,

All alone stood it, and the moss hung down from the branches;

Without any companion it grew there, uttering joyous leaves of dark green,

And its look, rude, unbending, lusty, made me think of myself;

But I wonder'd how it could utter joyous leaves, standing alone there,

  without its friend, its lover near -- for I knew I could not;

And I broke off a twig with a certain number of leaves upon it,

  and twined around it a little moss,

And brought it away -- and I have placed it in sight in my room;

It is not needed to remind me as of my own dear friends,

(For I believe lately I think of little else than of them;)

Yet it remains to me a curious token -- it makes me think of manly love;

For all that, and though the live-oak glistens there in Louisiana,

  solitary, in a wide flat space,

Uttering joyous leaves all its life, without a friend, a lover, near,

I know very well I could not.


To a common prostitute


Be composed - be at ease with me - I am Walt Whitman, liberal and lusty as Nature,

Not till the sun excludes you do I exclude you,

Not till the waters refuse to glisten for you and the leaves to rustle for you,

   do my words refuse to glisten and rustle for you.

My girl I appoint with you an appointment, and I charge you that you make preparation

  to be worthy to meet me,

And I charge you that you be patient and perfect till I come.

Till then I salute you with a significant look that you do not forget me.




by Daron Hagen

text by Walt Whitman


On the beach at night,

Stands a child with her father,

Watching the east, the autumn sky.


Up through the darkness,

While ravening clouds, the burial clouds, in black masses spreading,

Lower sullen and fast athwart and down the sky,

Amid a transparent clear belt of ether yet left in the east,

Ascends large and calm the lord-star Jupiter,

And nigh at hand, only a very little above,

Swim the delicate sisters the Pleiades.


From the beach the child holding the hand of her father,

Those burial-clouds that lower victorious soon to devour all,

Watching, silently weeps.


Weep not, child,

Weep not, my darling,

With these kisses let me remove your tears,

The ravening clouds shall not long be victorious,

They shall not long possess the sky, they devour the stars only in apparition,

Jupiter shall emerge, be patient, watch again another night, the Pleiades shall emerge,

They are immortal, all those stars both silvery and golden shall shine out again,

The great stars and the little ones shall shine out again, they endure,

The vast immortal suns and the long-enduring pensive moons shall again shine.


Something there is more immortal even than the stars,

Something that shall endure longer even than lustrous Jupiter

Longer than sun or any revolving satellite,

Or the radiant sisters the Pleiades.




by Scott Gendel

text by Emily Dickinson


Letter to the World


This is my letter to the world,

That never wrote to me,--

The simple news that Nature told,

With tender majesty.

Her message is committed

To hands I cannot see;

For love of her, sweet countrymen,

Judge tenderly of me!


The saddest noise


The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,

 The maddest noise that grows,—

The birds, they make it in the spring,

 At night’s delicious close.


Between the March and April line—

 That magical frontier

Beyond which summer hesitates,

 Almost too heavenly near.


It makes us think of all the dead

 That sauntered with us here,

By separation’s sorcery

 Made cruelly more dear.


It makes us think of what we had,

 And what we now deplore.

We almost wish those siren throats

 Would go and sing no more.


An ear can break a human heart

 As quickly as a spear,

We wish the ear had not a heart

 So dangerously near.


In Vain


If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.


Accustomed to the Dark


We grow accustomed to the Dark -

When light is put away -

As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp

To witness her Goodbye -


A Moment - We uncertain step

For newness of the night -

Then - fit our Vision to the Dark -

And meet the Road - erect -


And so of larger - Darknesses -

Those Evenings of the Brain -

When not a Moon disclose a sign -

Or Star - come out - within -


The Bravest - grope a little -

And sometimes hit a Tree

Directly in the Forehead -

But as they learn to see -


Either the Darkness alters -

Or something in the sight

Adjusts itself to Midnight -

And Life steps almost straight.


The crickets sang


The crickets sang,

And set the sun,

And workmen finished, one by one,

Their seam the day upon.


The low grass loaded with the dew,

The twilight stood as strangers do

With hat in hand, polite and new,

To stay as if, or go.


A vastness, as a neighbor, came,--

A wisdom without face or name,

A peace, as hemispheres at home,--

And so the night became.


I sing to use the Waiting


I sing to use the Waiting

My Bonnet but to tie

And shut the Door unto my House

No more to do have I


Till His best step approaching

We journey to the Day

And tell each other how We sung

To Keep the Dark away.



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