MEDITATION AT OYSTER RIVER

Composer: 

Year Authored (or revised): 

2003

Instrumentation : 

Sop, pf

Duration (min): 

20

Text Source/Author: 

THEODORE ROETHKE, USED WITH PERMISSION OF DOUBLEDAY, A DIVISION OF RANDOM HOUSE, INC.

MEDITATION AT OYSTER RIVER was written in the summer of 2003.  Though I have not written a great deal of vocal music, I have been drawn to Theodore Roethke's last book of poetry, The Far Field, for at least twenty five years.  In the early 1980's, I based a violin sonata on selected passages from the title poem.  I am drawn to the collection's natural imagery and insight.  And, though the prevailing subject matter centers around the poet's impending death, I have always been taken by the poetry's optimism and celebration of life.

As an artist, I sympathize with the poet in his identification of his life energy with his art.  Though the end of his life brings despair, it also brings inspiration.  That inspiration allows him to treasure his existence and come to terms with its limits.

The poem, Meditation At Oyster River, seems to me to be a metaphor for how that life-nourishing inspiration emerged from under the shadow of death.  At first, it is just a single ripple, barely noticeable through the stillness.  But a lifetime of experience identifies its meaning.  A lifetime of seasons identifies the illusive scent of spring.  The poet sits on the riverbank and waits with patient excitement for what he knows is coming.  His tired body disguising his tingling flesh.  As the inspiration rushes over, he is revitalized and feels young again, turning his despair into wonder and irony.

Version for Soprano and Orchestra also available

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