August 06, 2007

From the Archives: Texts for "Bread & Wine: Book of Songs" (2004)

I have been wanting to post the lyrics to this song cycle for awhile, but I had lost the file where I had them typed up. The songs were written as a wedding gift to Ben & Bonnie Whiting Smith, for marimba & high voice. They are all about transubstantiation, written as sort of an extension of my senior thesis at Sarah Lawrence, which was where I found a lot of the texts I adapted.

"He was hung from a tree"

He was hung from a tree.
He became the fruit of knowledge.
They were not destroyed because they ate of it,
But rather they were joyful of the discovery.

-adapted from The Gospel of Truth (c. 150 C.E.)

"This wood belongs to me"

This wood belongs to me, & what I own
Will nourish me, sustain & satiate.
I tent within its roots, its branches are my rest.
Within each exhalation I annihilate my brain
As copper leaves ferment in worldly wind.
Here is my perilous path, what road to that thin gate,
What ladder Jacob saw as skinny boughs scraping the clouds.

-adapted from Saint Hippolytus (c. 160-236 C.E.)

"He clave the rocks in the wilderness"

He clave the rocks in the wilderness,
and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
He brought the streams also out of the rock,
and caused waters to run down like rivers.

Man did eat angels' food:
he sent them meat to the full.
He rained flesh also upon them as dust,
and feathered fowls like as the sand of the sea.

So they did eat, & were well filled:
for he gave them their own desire;
They were not estranged from their lust.
But while their meat was still in their mouths,

The wrath of God came upon them,
and slew the fattest of them,
and smote down the chosen men of Israel.

I must abjure the balm of life, I must,
Scared by some after-reckoning taken on trust,
Or lured with hope of some diviner drink,
To fill the cup, when crumbled into dust.

-Psalm 78, v. 15, 16, 25, 27, 29-31,
King James Version (1611 C.E.)
& the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (12th Century C.E.)
trans. Edward Fitzgerald (c. 1850 C.E.)

"As the Lord thy God liveth"

As the Lord thy God liveth,
I have not a cake,
but an handful of meal in a barrel,
and a little oil in a cruse:
And, behold, I am gathering two sticks,
that I may go in & dress it for me & my son,
that we may eat it, & die.

Gather up the fragments that remain,
that nothing be lost.

The barrel of meal shall not waste,
neither shall the cruse of oil fail,
until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth.

-1 Kings 17:12, John 6:12, 1 Kings 17:14,
King James Version (1611 C.E.)

"And all of this was equal in the vines"

And all of this was equal in the vines.
Each vine, ten thousand branches, & each branch,
Ten thousand clusters of the finest grapes.
All other trees, eternities of them,
Each giving fruits like as the same proportion.

I asked, why every tree yields such a wealth,
Because, the angel answered me & said:
The giver gives profusely to the worthy,
For they, while in the world, hated themselves,
And sacrificed each sound within his name.

There are four rivers flowing in abundance:
For those in lands here promised, & four names:
Phison, Euphrates, Tigris, & Gihon,
Rivers of honey & rivers of milk,
Rivers of wine & rivers gushing oil.

I entered thru the gate involved by trees,
Fruitless, terrible, clad in barren leaves.
A few men prostrate in the shade & weeping,
For they, while in the world, hated themselves,
One tear for every soul that passed them by.

-adapted from The Apocalypse of Paul (c. 4th Century C.E.)

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