“American Triptych” is a collection of three works that, though written separately, can be combined for a three-movement, extended work for chorus and piano. The texts span the USA from East to West featuring authors Henry David Thoreau (Massachusetts), Wendell Berry (Kentucky), and John Muir (California). Each movement expresses an aspect of our human connection with the natural world and journeys through a rushing river, a peaceful lakefront, and a wind storm in the Western Sierra mountains.
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I. Reflections (Henry David Thoreau)
We live but a fraction of our life.
We do not fill all our pores with our blood;
we do not inspire and expire fully and entirely enough,
so that the wave of each inspiration
shall break on our farthest shores,
rolling ’til it meets the sand which bounds us,
and the sound of the surf comes back [to us].
Why do we not let on the flood,
raise the gates,
and set all our wheels in motion?
There is the calmness of the lake
when there is not a breath of wind;
so it is with us.
Sometimes we are clarified and calmed
as we never were before.
We become like a still lake of purest crystal
and without an effort
our depths are revealed to ourselves.
All the world goes by us
and is reflected in our deeps.
Obtained by such pure means!
By simple living,
by honesty of purpose.
To be calm, to be serene!
II. The Peace of Wild Things (Wendell Berry)
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
III. Come to the Woods (John Muir)
Another glorious day, the air as delicious
to the lungs as nectar to the tongue.
The day was full of sparkling sunshine,
and at the same time enlivened with one of
the most bracing wind storms.
The mountain winds bless the forests with love.
They touch every tree, not one is forgotten.
When the storm began to sound,
I pushed out into the woods to enjoy it.
I should climb one of the trees for a wider look.
The sounds of the storm were glorious with
wild exuberance of light and motion.
Bending and swirling backward and forward, round and round,
in this wild sea of pines.
The storm-tones died away, and turning toward the east,
I beheld the trees, hushed and tranquil.
The setting sun filled them with amber light, and seemed to say,
“Come to the woods, for here is rest.”