Toward a Major Work: My Walk With Walt (part 4)



for SATB Chorus, string orchestra, piano and percussion
Music by Kevin Robison
Based on the poetry of Walt Whitman


I. Equanimity

I dreamt of a city
A city invincible to the rest of the earth
I dreamt a city where nothing was greater than the quality of love
It was seen every hour in the actions of the people
And in all their looks and words
Not a city of tall buildings or shops
Selling goods from the rest of the earth
Nor a place of population or the best schools
Or where money is plentiest
But a city where thrift and prudence were in place
Where men and women thought lightly of the law
Where populace rose against rule
Where children were taught to be laws unto themselves
I dreamt a city where equanimity was created in all affairs
Where speculations on the Soul were encouraged
Where the citizen was head and ideal
Where governors and presidents were agents of the people
And women took their place the same as men
Where fierce people poured forth
As the sea to the whistle of death pours forth its sweeping waves
And it was there the great city stood

II. Institutions
As I stand aloof and look
There is something deeply affecting
In large masses of men
Following the lead of those who do not believe in men
The hell of war
The cruelties of creeds
The list of executive deeds
The list of feats, acts, operations, ventures, deals, affairs, attempts
By large masses of men
Following the lead of those who do not believe in men
The hell of war
The cruelties of creeds
The power of personality
America, I do not vaunt my love for you
It was charged against me that I sought to destroy institutions
But I am neither for nor against institutions
What have I in common with them?
With their destruction?
Only I will establish in every city of These States–
Inland and seaboard
And in the fields and woods
And above every keel that dents the water
Without rules
Without trustees
Without argument
–The institution of love
III. Rebirth
Scented herbage of my breast
The winter shall not freeze you
Every year you bloom again
I do not know how many will discover you
But I believe a few
Slender blossoms of my blood
Tell of the heart beneath you
Tell me of it in your way
What do you mean beneath the leaves and burning roots
There, underneath yourselves?
You are not joy
You are not happiness
You are more bitter than I want to bear
Yet you are beautiful to me
Scented herbage of my breast
Do not remain ashamed
Grow up taller from your earth
And spring away
Come forth from my concealed heart
And let yourself be known

IV. Journey
Camerado, I give you my hand
I give you my love
I give you myself
Will you give me your love?
Will you give me yourself?
Will you come travel with me?
Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road
The cheerful voice of the public road
The gay fresh sentiment of the road
The east and the west are mine
The north and the south are mine
I am larger, better than I thought
Larger, better than I thought
Now if a thousand perfect men appeared before me
Now if a thousand beautiful women appeared
It would not astonish me
For now I see the secret of the best persons
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth
Whoever you are, man or woman, come forth
Out of the dark confinement
Out from behind the screen
Out to the road before us
The goal that was named must be won
Now understand me well:
From any fruition of success shall come forth
Something to make a greater struggle necessary
These are the days that must happen to you:
We will sail pathless and wild seas
We will go where winds blow
Where waves dash
And we will march with power
We will march with defiance
With courage

For liberty!


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