Notes and Translations


Song to the Dark Virgin - Langston Hughes


That I were a jewel,
A shattered jewel,
That all my shining brilliants
Might fall at thy feet,
Thou dark one.


That I were a garment,
A shimmering, silken garment,
That all my folds
Might wrap about thy body,
Absorb thy body,
Hold and hide thy body,
Thou dark one.


That I were a flame,
But one sharp, leaping flame
To annihilate thy body,
Thou dark one.















A Death Song – Paul Laurence Dunbar


Lay me down beneaf de willers in de grass,

Whah de branch’ll go a-singin’ as it pass

  an’ w’en I’s a-layin’ low,

  I kin hyeah it as it go

Singin’ “Sleep, my honey, tek yo’ res’ at las’.”


Lay me nigh to whah hit meks a little pool,

An’ de watah stan’s so quiet lak an’ cool,

  Whah de little birds in spring,

  Ust to come an’ drink an’ sing,

An’ de chillen waded on dey way to school.


Let me settle w’en my shouldahs draps dey load

Nigh enough to hyeah de noises in de road;

  Fu’ I t’ink de las’ long res’

  Gwine to soothe my sperrit bes’

If I’s layin’ ‘mong de t’ings I’s allus knowed.


Bedbug – Oral Tradition


June bug’s got the golden wing,

Lightning bug’s the flame

The bedbug’s got no wings at all,

but he gets there just the same.


The pumpkin bug’s got pumpkin smell

The squash bug smells the worst,

But the perfume of that old bedbug,

Was enough to make you bust.


When that bedbug came down to my house,

I want my walkin’ cane

Go get a pot an su’ them hot

Goodbye, Miss Lize Jane.










A Love Song – Paul Dunbar


Ah, Love, my love is like a cry in the night,
A long, loud cry to the empty sky,
The cry of a man alone in the desert,
With hands uplifted, with parching lips,

Oh, rescue me, rescue me,
Thy form to mine arms,
The dew of thy lips to my mouth,
Dost thou hear me?—my call thro’ the night?

Darling, I hear thee and answer,
Thy fountain am I,
All of the love of my soul will I bring to thee,
All of the pains of my being shall wring to thee,
Deep and forever the song of my loving shall sing to thee,
Ever and ever thro’ day and thro’ night shall I cling to thee.
Hearest thou the answer?
Darling, I come, I come.


O Del Mio Amato Ben – Stefano Donaudy


O del mio amato ben perduto incanto!

Lungi è dagli occhi miei

chi m'era gloria e vanto!       

Or per le mute stanze

sempre lo cerco e chiamo                        

con pieno il cor di speranze?

Ma cerco invan, chiamo invan!

E il pianger m'è sì caro,

che di pianto sol nutro il cor. 



Mi sembra, senza lui, triste ogni loco.

Notte mi sembra il giorno

mi sembra gelo il foco.

Se pur talvolta spero

di darmi ad altra cura,

sol mi tormenta un pensiero:

Ma, senza lui, che farò?

Mi par così la vita vana cosa

senza il mio ben.































Oh, Lost enchantment of my dearly beloved! 

Far from my eyes is he

who was, to me, glory and pride!        

Now through the empty rooms 

I always seek him and call him                    with a heart full of hopes? 

But I seek in vain, I call in vain! 

And the weeping is so dear to me, 

that with weeping alone I nourish my heart.   



It seems to me, without him, sad everywhere.  The day seems like night to me; 

the fire seems cold to me. 

If, however, I sometimes hope 

to give myself to another cure, 

one thought alone torments me: 

But without him, what shall I do? 

To me, life seems a vain thing 

without my beloved.

 - Translation by Donna Bareket






Herz, sei nicht beklommen – Heinrich Heine


Herz, mein Herz, sei nicht beklommen, und ertrage dein Geschick,

neuer Frühling gibt zurück,

was der Winter dir genommen. 


Und wie viel ist dir geblieben,

und wie schön ist noch die Welt!

Und, mein Herz, was dir gefällt,

alles, alles darfst du lieben!










































Heart, my heart, don't be oppressed,

and bear your fate:

a new Spring will give back

what Winter has taken from you. 


Just think how many things remain, and how fair is the world! And, my heart, whatever you find pleasing, anything, everything - you may love!


- Translation by Emily Ezust




The 3 Lieder für Bariton mit Klavierbegleitung, Op. 20 are excellent examples of the broad stylistic scope of repertoire written by Black composers for the baritone voice. Texas native, Robert Owens (b.1925) has spent the majority of his career living and working in Europe as a pianist, composer, and stage actor. After serving in the military, he studied in Paris at L’École Normale de Musique and made his formal debut as a concert pianist in Copenhagen. Owens has set a wide range of poetry for solo voice, many to the words of fellow African American poets, however this set uses the text of German-born Swiss poet and author Herman Hesse (1877-1962), best known for Siddhartha and recipient of the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature. In Fremde Stadt, Owens captures the discomfort in the narrator’s  realization that despite the serenity of his surroundings, his foreignness precludes any peace.  Eine Geige in den Gärten seems to reference the Mahler’s orchestral approach to piano accompaniment and one can easily hear the woodwinds and brass dialoguing with each other about the solo violin line that weaves its way through the entire piece. The vocal line, monotonous in comparison, serves as a narrative thread to motivate each successive interlude until its climax towards the end. Devastatingly still, Im Nebel captures the poet’s fatalism through the uniquely expressive tonality of C-flat major and a glacially paced harmonic rhythm. A consistent theme of life’s loneliness shades each of the pieces, perhaps connecting Owens and Hesse as ex-patriots in turbulent times.




Fremde Stadt


Wie das so seltsam traurig macht:

Ein Gang durch eine Fremde Stadt,

Die liegt und schäflt in stiller Nacht

Und mondbeglänzte Dächer hat.


Und über Turm und Giebel Reist

Der Wolke wunderliche Flucht

Still und gewaltig wie ein Geist

Der Heimatlos nach Heimat Sucht.


Du aber, plötzlich übermannt

Ergibst dem wehen Zauber dich

Und legst dein Bündel aus der Hand

Und weinest lang und bitterlich


Foreign City


How it so oddly makes one sad:

A walk through a foreign city.

[A city] that lies and sleeps in a quiet night

And whose roofs shine in the moonlight.


And over towers and pediments glide

The clouds in their whimsical flight.

Silent and immense like a spirit

That homeless, still seeks its home


But you, suddenly overwhelmed

Yield yourself to the waves of magic

And let go of your bundle from your hand

And you cry long and bitterly.



Eine Geige in den Gärten


Weit aus allen dunkeln Talen

Kommt der süsse Amselschlag

Und mein Herz in stummen Qualen

Lauscht und zittert bis zum Tag


Lange mondbeglänzte Stunden

Liegt mein Sehnen auf der Wacht

Leidet an geheimen Wunden,

Und verblutet in die Nacht


Eine Geige in den Gärten

klagt herauf mit weichem Strich

und ein tiefes müdewerden

kommt erlösend über mich


Fremder Saitenspieler drunten

Der so weich und dunkel klagt

Wo hast du das Lied gefunden

Das mein ganzes Sehnen Sagt?


A Violin in the Gardens


From dark valleys far away

Comes a sweet song, as if from a blackbird

And my heart in quiet torment

Listens and trembles until the daybreak


For long moonlit hours

My yearning is ever present

It suffers from secret wounds

And bleeds out into the night.


A violin in the gardens

Calls out with with a tender stroke

And a deep world weariness

Cathartically washes over me.


Strange string player down there

That so tenderly and somberly plays,

Where did you find the song,

That explains my entire longing?


Im Nebel


Seltsam im Nebel zu wandern

Einsam ist jeder Busch und Stein

Kein Baum sieht den Andern

Jeder ist Allein


Voll von Freunden war mir die Welt

Als noch mein Leben Licht war

Nun da der Nedel fällt

Ist keiner mehr sichtbar


Wahrlich, keiner ist weise

Der nicht das Dunkel kennt

Das unentrinnbar und leise

Von allem ihn trennt.


Seltsam im Nebel zu wandern

Leben ist einsamsein.

Kein Mensch kennt den Andern

Jeder ist allein.

Through the Fog


How odd it is to wander through the fog.

[Where] every bush and stone is alone.

No tree can see another

Each one is alone.


Full of friends, seemed the world to me

While my life was still full of light

Now that the fog has come

None of them remain visible.


Truly, no one is wise

Who doesn’t know darkness,

[Darkness] that inescapably and softly

Isolates him from everything.


How odd it is to wander through the fog,

Life is being lonely.

No one knows another,

Each one is alone.


  Nightfall – Courtney Ware


Nightfall is a dream deferred.

Powder blue skies fade to black blue.

Charcoal clouds roll over that beaming light

And blot it out replacing it with artificial

Yellow and orange sparkles

That diminish and die in the distance.

Tree shadows cover green grass

And cracked concrete

Lush branches are now spare twigs.

The wind is still the air is shiver cool.

Everything is black, eyes opened or closed.

Hope is dusk and optimism cold as midnight.

The sun sets on day dreams

And the moon triggers nightmares.







The Reaction – Matthew Taylor


Fah! Who? . . . What? . . .

When? Where? Why . . .

Who is to blame, benefit, suffer?

Who are they? . . .

Who do I blame for my despair,

His suffering, her confusion?

Who are they? . . .



What does this mean?

What have we done? . .

Uhhhh. . . .

Where can I go?

Ow . . .

Where can I stay?

Where am I safe?

Where can I turn?

When will we hear each other?

When will we listen?

When will we speak?

Shout! Yell!

When will we be heard?

Will we be heard?


By Who?  . . .

Why do we acquiesce?

Why not fight back?


HA! Why? . . .


Ow . . Who?  . . . .


How? . . .

How can I stop this new reality? . . .

How can I move on when they’re laughing?

Can’t we do something?


Can’t we?

Do something