Practical Love Songs | Voice & Piano | 8'

Practical Love Songs is a set of three art-songs based on poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay. Each one captures a different part of a romantic relationship—yearning for someone who may or may not be right for you, knowing that a relationship may be a brief one, and imagining the death of an ex-lover—in language that doesn't fall into the familiar tropes of love.

This cycle for soprano & piano was premiered by soprano Gillian Hollis in April 2009 and has since been widely performed across the U.S. by Hollis & Trumbore as part of their Snow White Turns Sixty tour.

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text

1. The Philosopher
                    
And what are you that, missing you, 
I should be kept awake
As many nights as there are days 
With weeping for your sake?
                    
And what are you that, missing you, 
As many days as crawl
I should be listening to the wind 
And looking to the wall?
                    
I know a man that’s a braver man 
And twenty men as kind,
And what are you, that you should be 
The one man in my mind?
                    
Yet women’s ways are witless ways 
As any sage will tell—
And what am I, that I should love 
So wisely and so well?
            


2. “I shall forget you presently” (Sonnet XI)

I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day, 
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
!I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
!If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
!I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And vows were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far,–
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking. 


            
3. “If I should learn, in some quite casual way” (Sonnet V)

 

If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay

Similar to Practical Love Songs:

Snow White Turns Sixty

What Only Poetry Can Do

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