Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Indelible Etchings

As discussed previously, growing up in rural Maryland was somewhat of a boring existence. So when the opportunity presented itself in the 5th grade to audition for the "Folksingers" choir it was not to be missed. I was surprised that I made the cut. We learned lots of songs that have remained in my repertoire, kind of like the highly useful Spanish and German dialogues of the 9th to 11th grades. After all, who could forget such phrases as: Donde esta la Biblioteca? or, Zeit wann kannst du um die Ecke sehen?

All of the popular musicals were mined for material. I never could have imagined that 40 years in the future - how much I would value the ability to sing 'Edelweiss' to my Mom on her deathbed.

So occasionally I challenge myself to recall the other tunes, because well, you never know when you might need one. Some of those tunes that bubble back to the top never really seemed like songs. More like poems that were set to music. For instance there was "The New Hungarian Folksong":

Oh how high, green forest spread your highest tree.
How long since its
latest leaf fell silently?

How long since its
latest leaf fell silently?
Now a lone bird seeks its mate so mournfully.

High above the clouds a lark now earthward flies.
Sad her heart forlorn amidst the empty skies.
Sheltered, hidden
under shade of leaf and flower

Still she mourns the mate who left her lonely here
OK, if you never heard it I'm not surprised. But it had a haunting tune. Well of course I digress, because after all circumlocution is an essential part of the format, and I refuse to respond to criticism.

But there was another such tune that I learned, and I am reminded of it on this 4th of July. You may not have heard the musical version, but sit back and consider the "lyrics" of Emma Lazarus' "The New Colossus" and see if there isn't a special meaning in them for you.

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Happy Birthday America. Set yourself free.

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