The Serpent

(1975)

"The Serpent" is the fourth song in William Bolcom's cycle Open House. The cycle is for tenor (or soprano) and orchestra. A version for tenor or soprano and two pianists has also been published.

The Serpent

The Serpent
by Theodore Roethke


There was a Serpent who had to sing.
There was. There was.
He simply gave up Serpenting.
Because. Because.
He didn’t like his Kind of Life;
He couldn’t find a proper Wife;
He was a Serpent with a soul;
He got no Pleasure down his Hole.
And so, of course, he had to Sing,
And Sing he did, like Anything!
The Birds, they were, they were Astounded;
And various Measures Propounded
To stop the Serpent’s Awful Racket:
They bought a Drum. He wouldn’t Whack it.
They sent, —you always send, —to Cuba
And got a Most Commodious Tuba;
They got a Horn, they got a Flute,
But Nothing would suit.
He said, “Look, Birds, all this is futile:
I do not like to Bang or Tootle.”
And then he cut loose with a Horrible Note
That practically split the Top of his Throat.
“You see,” he said, with a Serpent’s Leer,
“I’m Serious about my Singing Career!”
And the Woods Resounded with many a Shriek
As the Birds flew off to the end of Next Week.


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