“Evening Song” describes two lovers as they watch the setting sun meld into the sea. The sun and sea will be separated at dawn, but the lovers will never part. Griffes employed a modified ternary (or ABA) structure for the three stanzas, surrounded by a lilting introduction and a quiet and calm conclusion.
Beginning in 1907, American composer Charles Griffes was teaching at the Hackley School, an all-boys school in Tarrytown, New York. He was also becoming active as a composer; in fact, his first publication came from G. Schirmer, which published five of Griffes’s German songs in 1909. Since Griffes composed “Evening Song” in 1912, just a few years after his debut publication, and because it contains a full, lush chordal accompaniment reminiscent of 19th-century harmonic procedures, this song falls into what many consider Griffes’s “German period” of composition.
“Evening Song” is set to a text by Sidney Lanier (1842-1881), an American from the South who fought in the Civil War. The poem was first published in Lippincott’s Magazine in 1877. Lanier was himself a musician--a talented flutist who sat first chair with the Peabody Symphony Orchestra in Baltimore in 1873; his poetry often exhibits a musical metrical style.
--Stephanie Poxon, Ph.D.
by Sidney Lanier
Look off, dear Love, across the sallow sands,
And mark yon meeting of the sun and sea,
How long they kiss in sight of all the lands.
Ah! longer, longer, we.
Now in the sea's red vintage melts the sun,
As Egypt's pearl dissolved in rosy wine,
And Cleopatra night drinks all. 'Tis done,
Love, lay thine hand in mine.
Come forth, sweet stars, and comfort heaven's heart;
Glimmer, ye waves, round else unlighted sands.
O night! divorce our sun and sky apart
Never our lips, our hands.