William Mayer, contemporary classical composer


Poems from Voices from Lost Realms
Albany Records (1992)

First Song
Galway Kinnell

Then it was dusk in Illinois, the small boy
After an afternoon of carting dung
Hung on the rail fence, a sapped thing
Weary to crying. Dark was growing tall
And he began to hear the pond frogs all
Calling on his ear with what seemed their joy.

Soon their sound was pleasant for a boy
Listening in the smoky dusk and the nightfall
Of Illinois, and from the fields two small
Boys came bearing cornstalk violins
And they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins
And the three sat there scraping of their joy.

It was now fine music the frogs and the boys
Did in the towering Illinois twilight make
And into dark in spite of a shoulder’s ache
A boy’s hunched body loved out of a stalk
The first song of his happiness, and the song woke
His heart to the darkness and into the sadness of joy.

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Carl Sandburg

I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
     of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
     go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
     and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
     pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
     answers: “Omaha.”

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What Lips My Lips Have Kissed
Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.

Thus in the winter stands a lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone;
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

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The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
Christopher Marlowe

Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

And we will sit upon the rocks,
Seeing the shepherds feed their flocks,
By shallow rivers to whose falls
Melodious birds sing madrigals.

The shepherds’ swains shall dance and sing
For thy delight each May morning:
If these delights thy mind may move,
Then live with me and be my love.

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The Nymph’s Reply to the Passionate Shepherd
Sir Walter Raleigh

If all the world were gay andyoung,
And truth in every shepherd’s tongue,
These pretty pleasures might me move
To live with thee and be thy Love.

But time drives flocks from field to fold;
When rivers rage and rocks grow cold;
And Philomel becometh dumb;
The rest complains of cares to come.

But could youth last, and love still breed,
Had joys no date, nor age no need,
Then these delights my mind might move
To live with thee and be thy Love.

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To Electra
Robert Herrick

I dare not ask a kiss,
    I dare not beg a smile,
Lest having that, or this,
    I might grow proud the while.
No, no, the utmost share
    Of my desire shall be
Only to kiss that air
    That lately kissed thee.

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Fern Hill
by Dylan Thomas

Now as I was young and easy under the apple boughs
About the lilting house and happy as the grass was green…

And as I was green and carefree, famous among the barns
About the happy yard and singing as the farm was home,
In the sun that is young once only,
Time let me play and be
Golden in the mercy of his means,
And green and golden I was huntsman and herdsman, the calves
Sang to my horn, the foxes on the hills barked clear and cold,
And the sabbath rang slowly
In the pebbles of the holy streams.

All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.
And nightly under the simple stars
As I rode to sleep the owls were bearing the farm away,
All the moon long I heard, blessed among stables, the nightjars
Flying with the ricks, and the horses
Flashing into the dark.

And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart was long,
In the sun born over and over,
I ran my heedless ways,
My wishes raced through the house high hay
And nothing I cared, at my sky blue trades, that time allows
In all his tuneful turning so few and such morning songs
Before the children green and golden
Follow him out of grace.

Nothing I cared, in the lamb white days, that time would take me
Up to the swallow thronged loft by the shadow of my hand,
In the moon that is always rising,
Nor that riding to sleep
I should hear him fly with the high fields
And wake to the farm forever fled from the childless land.
Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

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La Belle Dame Sans Merci
John Keats

O what can ail thee, knight at arms,
  Alone and palely loit’ring;
The sedge is wither’d from the lake
  And no birds sing.

I met a lady in the meads
  Full beautiful, a faery’s child.
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
  And her eyes were wild.

I see a lily on thy brow
  With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
  Fast withereth too.

I made a garland for her head,
  And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
  And made sweet moan.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
  And honey wild, and manna dew.
And sure in language strange she said,
  “I love thee true.”

There she lulled me asleep,
   There I dreamed.  Woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dreamed
   On the cold hillside:

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
  Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cried—“La belle Dame sans Merci
  Hath thee in thrall.”

And I awoke and found me here
  On the cold hill side.

And this is why I sojourn here
  Alone and palely loit’ring,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
  And no birds sing.

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Hist Whist
e.e. cummings

hist         whist
little ghostthings

little twitchy
witches and tingling
hob-a-nob hob-a-nob

little hoppy happy
toads in tweeds
little itchy mousies

with scuttling
eyes      rustle and run       and

whisk       look out for the old woman
with the wart on her nose
what she’ll do to yer
nobody knows

for she knows the devil       ouch
the devil    ouch
the devil
ach           the great



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Langston Hughes

On the shoals of Nowhere,
Cast up—my boat
Bow all broken,
No longer afloat.

On the shoals of Nowhere,
Wasted—my song—
Yet taken by the sea wind
And blown along.

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audio Listen to excerpts
     from this CD

~ Notes from this CD

“Buy this to sample the communicative, elegant, unpretentious, superbly written music of William Mayer.”
   — Karl Miller, American Record Guide

Voices from Lost Realms CD

Voices from Lost Realms
   Albany Records (1992)

~ Order online from Albany Records or from Amazon, ArkivMusic, etc.

Gerard Schwarz conducts “Inner and Outer Strings,” one of eleven compositions on this all-Mayer disc. Other works include “Abandoned Bells” for piano (Steven Mayer) and excerpts from “A Death in the Family.”

Notes from Voices from Lost Realms:
~ Two excerpts from A Death in the Family
~ Kyrie
~ First Song
~ from Passage: Limited and What Lips My Lips Have Kissed
~ Three Madrigals
~ Abandoned Bells
~ Fern Hill
~ La Belle Dame Sans Merci
~ Festive Alleluia
~ from Enter Ariel: Hist Whist and Flotsam
~ Inner and Outer Strings
~ Composer’s Note

© 2009 William Mayer