The Edge of Dreams

Composed by Leo Sowerby (1895-1968)

1. The Adventurer
Gatherer of shells,
Breather of slight winds—
There is much to surprise me.

I bring you songs for flutes,
And odd-shaped leaves
And pointed vagaries.

These trinkets you may toy,
And twine into your moods—
But I cannot tell you of what they are made,
Or where I found them.

2. After-thought
Sometimes you smile,
(Now that it is all over)
And drop me little thin, gray words,
Like the coins we give to the blind.
Oh, I am not blind!
And they are grayer to me than your
“Do not come anymore.”
I dare not think that you care
How I cared then
Or now!
And yet you smile,
And drop me your little words
While I
Hold out my hand.

5. The Forest of Dead Trees
I climbed up the rough mountain-side
Through the forest of dead trees.
I touched their smooth, stark limbs,
And learned much of the white beauty of death.
Whose taut, slender thigh was this?
And this, whose gracious throat?
O life, you are not more beautiful
Thank this silent, curving death is beautiful!

[And Eternity—
I think I heard it cry:
“Centre within centre,
Death or Life,
One am I.”]

6. O That Love Has Come At All!
I am he who expects too much.
The high keen edge
Of dreams is not sharp
Enough; and the rose
Is not enough red.
I am tired with emptiness,
For love has not come swift enough.
But do thou weave, O heart,
A slender song:
That love has come at all!

Leo Sowerby (1895–1968) was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Winner of both the Rome Prize and the Pulitzer Prize, Sowerby composed over 500 works in his lifetime including 122 songs, written between 1909 and 1966. His large output of music and his fierce love of England and its heritage earned him the nickname “The Handel of Lake Michigan.”

The Edge of Dreams (1955) is a cycle of romantic, lyrical songs with texts by Chicago poet Mark Turbyfill (1896-1991). The singer reflects on lost or dead love throughout each of the six movements (four movements are represented here). “Adventurer” describes the relationship near its end, “Afterthought” and “The Forest of Dead Trees” mourn the love lost, and “Oh That Love Has Come at All!” presents the singer as grateful that love was ever found.

Turbyfill is remembered today mainly for his contributions to the world of avant-garde poetry (in 1926 the vanguard magazine Poetry devoted an entire issue to his writings), but was also an accomplished dancer (in the 1920s and ’30s, he was a principal dancer with Allied Artists and partnered with legendary Chicago choreographer Ruth Page), and visual artist.

–Margot Rood and Richard A. Born

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