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. I am happy to report that at last a performance has taken place! The occasion was my 75th birthday concert (which was 6 months late due to Covid restrictions). Katrin Stuflesser did a brilliant job of bringing these flirtatious songs to life, and on very short notice, too. I hope that my simple settings will motivate you to look further. For performance details, please click here.

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

Listen to Katrin's performance of #1:

I Shall Forget You

I shall forget you presently, my dear,
So make the most of this, your little day,
Your little month, your little half a year,
Ere I forget, or die, or move away,
And we are done forever; by and by
I shall forget you, as I said, but now,
If you entreat me with your loveliest lie
I will protest you with my favorite vow.
I would indeed that love were longer-lived,
And oaths were not so brittle as they are,
But so it is, and nature has contrived
To struggle on without a break thus far,—
Whether or not we find what we are seeking
Is idle, biologically speaking.

     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.