Five Songs of Experience
was commissioned by Emmanuel Church, Boston, Craig Smith, music director. The composition was completed during the summer of 1971, and first performed by the Cantata Singers and Ensemble in 1973. It has been recorded by them for CRI.1. Introduction
Hear the voice of the Bard!
Who present, past, and future sees;
Whose ears have heard
The Holy Word,
That walked among the ancient trees,
Calling the lapsed soul,
And weeping in the evening dew;
That might control
The starry pole,
And fallen, fallen, light renew!
"O Earth, O Earth, return!
Arise from out the dewy grass;
Night is worn,
And the morn
Rises from the slumberous mass.
"Turn away no more;
Why wilt thou turn away?
The starry floor,
The watery shore,
Is given thee till the break of day."2. Earth’s Answer
Earth rais'd up her head
From the darkness dread and drear.
Her light fled,
And her locks cover'd with grey despair.
"Prison'd on wat'ry shore,
Starry Jealousy does keep my den:
Cold and hoar,
I hear the Father of the ancient men.
Selfish father of men!
Cruel, jealous, selfish fear!
Chain'd in night,
The virgins of youth and morning bear?
Does spring hide its joy
When buds and blossoms grow?
Does the sower
Sow by night,
Or the plowman in darkness plow?
Break this heavy chain
That does freeze my bones around.
That free Love with bondage bound." 3. Ah! Sun-flower
Ah! sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;
Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire;
Where my sunflower wishes to go.4. The Voice of the Ancient Bard
Youth of delight! come hither
And see the opening morn,
Image of Truth new-born.
Doubt is fled, and clouds of reason,
Dark disputes and artful teazing.
Folly is an endless maze;
Tangled roots perplex her ways;
How many have fallen there!
They stumble all night over bones of the dead;
And feel -- they know not what but care;
And wish to lead others, when they should be led.5. The Divine Image
Cruelty has a human heart,
And Jealousy a human face;
Terror the human form divine,
And secrecy the human dress.
The human dress is forged iron,
The human form a fiery forge,
The human face a furnace seal'd,
The human heart its hungry gorge.
All poems by William Blake