Green Thoughts in a Green Shade (download)


High Voice, piano–9′

Three songs for high voice and piano on texts by Andrew Marvell about the glory of nature and the uncertainty of love.

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Green Thoughts in a Green Shade

Three Poems of Andrew Marvell

High voice, piano
Text: Andrew Marvell

Program Note

Marvell engraving for GreenAndrew Marvell (1621–1678) is often included in the group of English poets called “metaphysical,” but he lived half a century after Donne and Jonson and was of the generation after George Herbert. A well known politician who weathered the Cromwell years, Marvell published little verse during his lifetime, but he is now considered one of the finest poets of the seventeenth century. Marvell’s ironic ode “To his Coy Mistress,” is one of the most anthologized poems in the language.

Damon the Mower is a recurring presence in Andrew Marvell’s poems, and some suggest a stand-in for the poet himself. In “The Mower’s Song,” the mower compares his plight as a lover to the grass he has just sheared. In “The Mower to the Glow-Worms,” the worms are living lights that offer neither direction nor comfort to the lost lover. In “Wondrous Life,” an excerpt from the long poem “The Garden,” the poet draws into himself, freed from the distractions of love and sex, to become a “green thought in a green shade.” This work may call to mind composers as diverse as Thomas Campion and Gerald Finzi, but I hope the listener will discern a third creative presence as well.

Green Thoughts in a Green Shade was composed in May 2015 at the Montalvo Center for the Arts, along with the String Quartet No. 3, Una corda. Generous support was provided by the American Composers Forum through the 2013 McKnight Composer Fellowship Program.

“The Mower’s Song” is included in the anthology Modern Music for New Singers, available from North Star Music, beginning August 1, 2021.


The Mower’s Song

My mind was once the true survey
Of all these meadows fresh and gay,
And in the greenness of the grass
Did see its hopes as in a glass;
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

But these, while I with sorrow pine,
Grew more luxuriant still and fine,
That not one blade of grass you spy’d
But had a flower on either side;
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

Unthankful meadows, could you so
A fellowship so true forgo?
And in your gaudy Maygames meet
While I lay trodden under feet?
When Juliana came, and she
What I do to the grass, does to my thoughts and me.

The Mower to the Glow-Worms

Ye living lamps, by whose dear light
The nightingale does sit so late,
And studying all the summer night,
Her matchless songs does meditate;

Ye country comets, that portend
No war nor prince’s funeral,
Shining unto no higher end
Than to presage the grasses’ fall;

Ye glowworms, whose officious flame
To wand’ring mowers shows the way,
That in the night have lost their aim,
And after foolish fires do stray;

Your courteous lights in vain you waste,
Since Juliana here is come,
For she my mind hath so displac’d
That I shall never, never, never, that I shall never find my home.

From The Garden

What wond’rous life in this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Ensnar’d with flow’rs, I fall on grass.

Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less,
Withdraws into its happiness;
The mind, that ocean where each kind
Does straight its own resemblance find,
Yet it creates, transcending these,
Far other worlds, and other seas;
Annihilating all that’s made
To a green thought in a green shade.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678)





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