These oceans vast :: The last outpost (IV)

by Eric Banks on Tuesday, July 31, 2012 at 3:12pm

I just finished setting this poem today; it is the fourth in the cycle of six.

IV. The last outpost (Crossing the tropics)

While now the Pole Star sinks from sight
The Southern Cross it climbs the sky;
But losing thee, my love, my light,
O bride but for one bridal night,
The loss no rising joys supply.

Love, love, the Trade Winds urge abaft,
And thee, from thee, they steadfast waft.

By day the blue and silver sea
And chime of waters blandly fanned—
Nor these, nor Gama’s stars to me
May yield delight since still for thee
I long as Gama longed for land.

I yearn, I yearn, reverting turn,
My heart it streams in wake astern.

When, cut by slanting sleet, we swoop
Where raves the world’s inverted year,
If roses all your porch shall loop,
Not less your heart for me will droop
Doubling the world’s last outpost drear.

O love, O love, these oceans vast:
Love, love, it is as death were past!


These oceans vast :: The uttermost rim (III)

by Eric Banks on Monday, July 30, 2012 at 3:52pm

OK, kids. Here’s a drinking song for you. The poem is by Herman Melville,
who was looking for courage while at sea. He found it: in a bottle of red.

III. The uttermost rim (Drinking song)

Ha, ha, gods and kings; fill high, one and all;
Drink, drink! shout and drink! mad respond to the call!
Fill fast, and fill full; ‘gainst the goblet ne’er sin;
Quaff there, at high tide, to the uttermost rim:—
Flood-tide, and soul-tide to the brim!

Who with wine in him fears? Who thinks of his cares?
Who sighs to be wise, when wine in him flares?
Water sinks down below, in currents full slow;
But wine mounts on high with its genial glow:—
Welling up, till the brain overflow!

As the spheres, with a roll, some fiery of soul,
Others golden, with music, revolve round the pole.
So let our cups, radiant with many hued wines,
Round and round in groups circle, our zodiac’s signs:—
Round reeling, and ringing their chimes!

Then drink, gods and kings; wine merriment brings;
It bounds through the veins; there, jubilant sings.
Let it ebb, then, and flow; wine never grows dim;
Drain down that bright tide at the foam-beaded rim:—
Fill up, every cup, to the brim!


These oceans vast :: The ledges of danger (II)


by Eric Banks on Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 8:46pm

II. The ledges of danger (Give me the nerve)

Give me the nerve
That never will swerve
Running out on life’s ledges of danger;
Mine, mine be the nerve
That in peril will serve,
Since life is to safety a stranger.

When roaring below
The cataracts go,
And tempests are over me scudding;
Give, give me the calm
That is better than balm,
And the courage that keepeth new-budding.

First message from the composer

by Eric Banks on Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 4:23pm

As I find myself sailing toward completing this new “nautical” commission for Clerestory, I wanted to share each of these six poems by Herman Melville with you. This cycle, called “These oceans vast,” will be premiered in late October. I’m excited to join the guys for a short residency in San Francisco, rehearse these pieces with them, and hear them come to life!

I. The land of love (Hail! voyagers, hail!)

Hail! voyagers, hail!
Whence e’er ye come, where’er ye rove,
No calmer strand,
No sweeter land,
Will e’er ye view, than the land of love!

Hail! voyagers, hail!
To these, our shores, soft gales invite:
The palm plumes wave,
The billows lave,
And hither point fix’d stars of light!

Hail! voyagers, hail!
Think not our groves wide brood with gloom;
In this, our isle,
Bright flowers smile:
Full urns, rose-heaped, these valleys bloom.

Hail! voyagers, hail!
Be not deceived; renounce vain things;
Ye may not find
A tranquil mind,
Though hence ye sail with swiftest wings.

Hail! voyagers, hail!
Time flies full fast; life soon is o’er;
And ye may mourn,
That hither borne,
Ye left behind our pleasant shore.

Setting sail

Inspired by the Bay Area’s maritime traditions and the arrival of the America’s Cup races, this October Clerestory presents “SeaSongs.” Traditional chanteys, serenely flowing Renaissance polyphony, and modern melodies will transport listeners over bays, islands, waves, and currents. The concert features Clerestory’s first ever commissioned work, “These Oceans Vast,” a song cycle on poems of Hermann Melville by the esteemed Seattle composer Eric Banks. Set sail with us this October!