for mezzo-soprano and piano
With a voice as courageous as it was erudite, Edna St. Vincent Millay created some of the best sonnets of her generation, reflecting a 1920’s Grenwich-village individualism that explores emotional life outside the confines of conventional relationships and gender roles.
The three sonnets of the cycle range from playful to wistful, set with lyrical melodies that emerge from the text. The piano accompaniment includes strong hints of jazz, particularly on the bittersweet “Only until this cigarette is ended.”
Saddle-stitched letter-sized score on acid-free 60-lb-text paper with cover. $20 plus shipping.
These audio recordings feature mezzo-soprano Hannah Penn, with Mitchell Falconer on piano
I shall forget you presently
I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far,
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.
Oh think not I am faithful
Oh, think not I am faithful to a vow!
Faithless am I save to love’s self alone.
Were you not lovely I would leave you now:
After the feet of beauty fly my own.
Were you not still my hunger’s rarest food,
And water ever to my wildest thirst,
I would desert you–think not but I would!–
And seek another as I sought you first.
But you are mobile as the veering air,
And all your charms more changeful than the tide,
Wherefore to be inconstant is no care:
I have but to continue at your side.
So wanton, light and false, my love, are you,
I am most faithless when I am most true.
Only until this cigarette is ended
Only until this cigarette is ended,
A little moment at the end of all,
While on the floor the quiet ashes fall,
And in the firelight to a lance extended,
Bizarrely with the jazzing music blended,
The broken shadow dances on the wall,
I will permit my memory to recall
The vision of you, by all my dreams attended.
And then adieu,–farewell!–the dream is done.
Yours is a face of which I can forget
The colour and the features, every one,
The words not ever, and the smiles not yet;
But in your day this moment is the sun
Upon a hill, after the sun has set.