A Few Figs from Thistles
Four Songs for mezzo-soprano and piano (2019)
on poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Ron Hannah

  • 1. I Shall Forget You
  • 2. To the Not Impossible Him
  • 3. The Philosopher
  • 4. The Unexplorer
Duration: about 6 minutes    

     The poetry of Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950) reaches me strangely. It often invokes nature in very striking ways. Consider: "God, I can push the grass apart and place my finger on thy heart". I used that line in my Cantata for a Beloved Planet, during research for which I truly discovered Millay. I knew of her, of course, but suddenly she came alive, and this set of short songs is another result of that belated discovery.

     In this set, I have chosen short poems from her collection of the same name that are not so broad in scope, more personal and even a little irreverent and cynical at times. I love them! Here's a sample:

Listen to a computer-generated midi file:

To the Not Impossible Him

How shall I know, unless I go
To Cairo and Cathay,
Whether or not this blessed spot
Is blest in every way?

Now it may be, the flower for me
Is this beneath my nose;
How shall I tell, unless I smell
The Carthaginian rose?

The fabric of my faithful love
No power shall dim or ravel
Whilst I stay here,—but oh, my dear,
If I should ever travel!

     You'll have to use a little imagination to hear how that song works, but I hope it will make sense and that my very simple setting of it will interest you into looking further. One day soon there will be a proper file with a proper singer.

     For the full score, please visit the Canadian Music Centre or send me an email (below). I request only that if you perform this piece, that you send me details so that I can keep this website up-to-date.