The Music of Elizabeth Alexander


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.

Details and Ordering Information

Tell me more


On Thought In Harness

My falcon to my wrist
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.



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)