The Music of Elizabeth Alexander

Climb

A rapturous call to freedom and risk

Words by Edna St. Vincent Millay

In Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem, “On Thought in Harness,” a falcon’s timidness reflects our own reluctance to embrace freedom and risk. Contemplative solos, soaring vocal lines, and a lustrous piano part create an atmosphere of thoughtful expectation which gradually ascends into extravagant flight.

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Text

On Thought In Harness

My falcon to my wrist
Returns
From no high air.
I sent her toward the sun that burns
Above the mist;
But she has not been there.

Her talons are not cold; her beak
Is closed upon no wonder;
Her head stinks of its hood, her feathers reek
Of me, that quake at the thunder.

Degraded bird, I give you back your eyes forever, ascend now whither you are tossed;
Forsake this wrist, forsake this rhyme;
Soar, eat ether, see what has never been seen; depart, be lost,
But climb.

Edna St. Vincent Millay
© 1934, 1962 by Edna St. Vincent Millay and Norma Millay Ellis. From Wine From These Grapes. Used by permission of Elizabeth Barnett, literary executor for the Millay Society.

Performers

Performers

Premiere: Cedarburg High School Choirs / Darciann Ketter. Bacchalaureate Concert (Cedarburg, WI)
California High School All-State Honor Choir / Giselle Wyers (San Jose, CA)
Kenyon Community Choir / Benjamin Locke (Gambier, OH)
New York Virtuoso Singers / Harold Rosenbaum (New York, NY)
Stoney Creek High School / Brandon Ulrich (Fort Wayne, IN)
University of Washington University Chorale / Giselle Wyers (Seattle, WA)
Arlington-Belmont Chamber Chorus / Barry Singer (Arlington, MA)
Spring Arbor University Concert Choir / Kyle Rehnlund (Spring Arbor, MI)
University of Washington University Chorale / Giselle Wyers. Balkan Tour (Tartu and Tallinn, ESTONIA)