The Banks of the Yellow Sea


"The Banks of the Yellow Sea" is the first song in Ernst Bacon’s cycle Six Songs.

Ernst Bacon's setting of Dickinson's poem is a mournful cantilena with a "slow and nostalgic swing." Because of his ability to compose virile, forthright music to accompany, but not overwhelm, Dickinson's delicate, economic poetry, Bacon is considered one of Dickinson's best interpreters.

The Banks of the Yellow Sea

The Banks of the Yellow Sea
by Emily Dickinson

This is the land the sunset washes,
These are the banks of the yellow sea;
Where it rose, or whither it rushes,
These are the western mystery!

Night after night her purple traffic
Strews the landing with opal bales;
Merchantmen poise upon horizons,
Dip, and vanish with fairy sails.

Photo: Sunset (California scenery). Published by L. Prang & Co., 1864. Prints and Photographs Reading Room, Library of Congress.

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