The Dreams That Remain

1. Song of a Dream
2. In the Forest
3. Transience

SATB divisi, piano | Duration c. 16'00”

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The Dreams That Remain was commissioned by Laudamus Chamber Chorale of Fort Collins, CO (Laura Gillett, conductor) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the choir’s formation. The work sets three poems by the celebrated Indian poet Sarojini Naidu, a contemporary and acquaintance of the Bengali mystical poet Rabindranath Tagore, whose poetry I have often set in the past. By focusing on the subject of dreams, both literally and figuratively, this work explores what happens to a person when their hopes and dreams are dashed and they are forced to seek out new dreams.

The dramatic arc of The Dreams That Remain is created through the ordering of these particular poems, which are not placed in the original order that Naidu intended. It begins with Song of a Dream, in which the speaker finds him or herself in the depths of a dreamy wood, surrounded by light and the spirits of truth, love and peace. The second movement, In the Forest, is much darker. It speaks of the burning of one’s dreams in a “funeral pyre,” the scattering away of their ashes and the need to rise again out of these ashes into the “war of the world.” Transience, the final movement, is a simple song that reminds the listener of the temporary nature of all things, as well as the ability of the human spirit to rise again following a period of darkness.

Throughout the work, ostinatos are used in the piano to convey both a dreamlike, shimmering atmosphere and the concept of transience itself; the idea that life continues to move forward with the relentless march of time, regardless of the very human tendency to spend a great deal of time and energy dwelling on the events of our past.

1.  Song of a Dream

Once in the dream of a night I stood
Lone in the light of a magical wood,
Soul-deep in visions that poppy-like sprang;
And spirits of Truth were the birds that sang,
And spirits of Love were the stars that glowed,
And spirits of Peace were the streams that flowed
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.

Lone in the light of that magical grove,
I felt the stars of the spirits of Love
Gather and gleam round my delicate youth,
And I heard the song of the spirits of Truth;
To quench my longing I bent me low
By the streams of the spirits of Peace that flow
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.

2.   In the Forest

Here, O my heart, let us burn the dear dreams that are dead,
Here in this wood let us fashion a funeral pyre
Of fallen white petals and leaves that are mellow and red,
Here let us burn them in noon’s flaming torches of fire. 

We are weary, my heart, we are weary, so long have we borne
The heavy loved burden of dreams that are dead, let us rest,
Let us scatter their ashes away, for a while let us mourn; 
We will rest, O my heart, till the shadows are gray in the west. 

But soon we must rise, O my heart, we must wander again
Into the war of the world and the strife of the throng;
Let us rise, O my heart, let us gather the dreams that remain,
We will conquer the sorrow of life with the sorrow of song.

3.  Transience

Nay, do not grieve tho’ life be full of sadness,
Dawn will not veil her splendor for your grief,
Nor spring deny their bright, appointed beauty
To lotus blossom and Ashoka leaf.

Nay, do not pine, tho’ life be dark with trouble,
Time will not pause or tarry on his way;
To-day that seems so long, so strange, so bitter,
Will soon be some forgotten yesterday.

Nay, do not weep; new hopes, new dreams, new faces,
The unspent joy of all the unborn years,
Will prove your heart a traitor to its sorrow,
And make your eyes unfaithful to their tears.