The Hawthorn Tree - Lyrics

The Hawthorn Tree - Album CoverThe Poems Chosen by

Composer William Bolcom for the

Lyrics of

The Hawthorn Tree

(Click album cover to return to the album)

The Poems

1. Let No Charitable Hope – Elinor Wylie

Now let no charitable hope
Confuse my mind with images
Of eagle and of antelope:
I am in nature none of these.

I was, being human, born alone;
I am, being woman, hard beset;
I live by squeezing from a stone
The little nourishment I get.

In masks outrageous and austere
The years go by in single file;
But none has merited my fear,
And none has quite escaped my smile.

2. Love Me! – Stevie Smith

Love me, love me, I cried to the rocks and the trees,
And love me, they cried again, but it was only to tease.
Once I cried Love me to the people, but they fled like a dream,
And when I cried Love to my friend, she began to scream.
Oh why do they leave me, the beautiful people, and only the rocks remain,
To cry Love me, as I cry Love me, and Love me again.

On the rocks a baked sea-serpent lies,
And his eyelids close tightly over his violent eyes,
And I fear that his eyes will open and confound me with a mirthless word,
That the rocks will harp on forever, and my Love me never be heard. 

3. Echo – Christina Rossetti

Come to me in the silence of the night;
   Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
   As sunlight on a stream;
      Come back in tears,
O memory, hope and love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter-sweet,
   Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brim-full of love abide and meet;
   Where thirsting longing eyes
      Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
   My very life again though cold in death;
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
   Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
      Speak low, lean low,
As long ago, my love, how long ago.

4. The Dream – Louis Bogan

O God, in the dream the terrible horse began
To paw at the air, and make for me with his blows.
Fear kept for thirty-five years poured through his mane,
And retribution equally old, or nearly, breathed through his nose.

Coward complete, I lay and wept on the ground
When some strong creature appeared, and leapt for the rein.
Another woman, as I lay half in a swound,
Leapt in the air, and clutched at the leather and chain.

Give him, she said, something of yours as a charm.
Throw him, she said, some poor thing you alone claim.
No, no, I cried, he hates me; he’s out for harm,
And whether I yield or not, it’s all the same.

But, like a lion in a legend, when I flung the glove
Pulled from my sweating, my cold right hand,
The terrible beast, that no one may understand,
Came to my side, and put down his head in love.

The Hawthorn Tree – Willa Cather

Across the shimmering meadows—
Ah, when he came to me!
In the spring-time,
In the night-time, 
In the starlight,
Beneath the hawthorn tree.

Up from the misty marsh-land—
Ah, when he climbed to me!
To my white bower,
To my sweet rest,
To my warm breast,
Beneath the hawthorn tree.

Ask of me what the birds sang,
High in the hawthorn tree;
What the breeze tells,
What the rose smells,
What the stars shine—
Not what he said to me!

6. Chagrin – Sarah Arvio

It wasn’t the life I would have wanted,
had I known what sort of life I did want,
as if anyone ever knew; though I

did know.  Everyone had her shadow life,
her should-have life, the life she should have had,
all those thoughts sharp-sharking into her soul,

all those doodles on the skin of the day.
The shame, that this had been and this had not,
could-should, kowtowing to the life of should,

the shock, let’s say, of seeing it had passed,
the chagrin, let’s say, the savage chagrin
that this was what it was, et cetera,

who did I think I was, et cetera,
the queen of Sheba in her shantytown,
or Shirley in her temple (such a doll),

or Scheherazade waking to the day—
not Sylvia, not the sylvan huntress.
The whole shebang was a shambles, hello,

shanghaiing my wishes, shout it out, shout,
those stories of what was and never was,
love, voyage, give me succor—sugar—suck—

hushing the heart and shushing the senses.
Hello, day, shake the sheets out, wake the day.
Cheers!  (As I said this I was choking up.)

The challenge of cheerfulness—hello, charm—
charade and charm, chameleon, cameo.
I saw the dawn and fell into a hush.

7. Swimming Aria – Anne Carson

Soul –
    who is alone in love
        who does nothing for God
    who asks nothing from God
        who hopes nothing of God
         who cannot be taught
              who cannot be taken
                   nor given
            nor stolen
              nor won
         nor possessed
    and who possesses
    nothing
    whatsoever
        not even joy!
        For what burns has no cold
     what swims has no thirst
        and what swims in the sea of joy
                 feels no joy
                   for she herself
                        is joy
        and streams and floats in joy
           as she inhabits joy
        as joy inhabits her
        as flames inhabit fire
        as fire slakes itself –
               Soul:
               swim