I went to the woods, because I wished to live deliberately, 
to front the essential facts of life, 
to see if I could learn what it had to teach, 
and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 
Living is so dear!...


When looking up I observed a very slight and graceful hawk, 
like a night-hawk soaring like a ripple soaring
Tumbling tumbling over and over, tumbling tumbling,
 the underside of its wings gleamed like satin in the sun…
We can never have enough...of Nature. 


...spring flame, fire sun, returning sun...

The grass flames upon the hillside like a spring fire 
as if the earth sent forth an inward heat 
to greet the returning sun

...like a spring fire, green summer flame...  

So our human life but dies down to its root 
and still puts forth its green blade to eternity!


Text: Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

For added information about the creation of this piece, click here

The excerpts are taken from the premiere of this work in 2000 by Cantate Carlisle in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, under the direction of Cheryl Parsons.

I have long been an admirer of Henry David Thoreau. The reason for this has certainly to do with my love and study of the natural world, as I trained as a biologist prior to turning full-time to music.

But it goes further than this. Thoreau recognized not only mankind's physical relationship with and dependence on the natural world, but also mankind’s psychological and spiritual relationship. He speaks of the 'tonic of wilderness'; he states, “in wilderness is the preservation of the world” and “we require that all things be mysterious and unfathomable”. Thoreau understood well the thirst of the mind and spirit for those things which nature and nature alone can supply. Little wonder that he states in his poem To Nature

“I would rather be Nature's child than a king.” 


...golden and silver and bright, 
a rare mess of cupreous fishes... 
 Today I got a rare mess 
of golden silver gleaming cupreous fishes 
looking like a string of jewels.

...jumping from hummock to hummock...
I have penetrated to those meadows 
on the morning of many a first spring day… 

Time is but the shallow stream I go a-fishing in;
its thin current slowly slides away,  
but eternity remains…


O nature I do not aspire 
To be the highest in thy quire, 
To be a meteor in the sky 
Or comet that may range on high,
Only a zephyr that may blow 
Among the reeds by the river low... 

For I had rather be thy child
And pupil of the forest wild
Than be the king of men elsewhere
And most sovereign slave of care- 
To have one moment of thy dawn
Than share the city's year forlorn,
Some still work give me to do
Only be it near near to you.

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