A Prayer

 

 

A Prayer - (2009)    

Claude McKay

for medium voice and piano


 

'Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee calling;
I stumble as I fare along Earth's way; keep me from falling.

Mine eyes are open but they cannot see for gloom of night:
I can no more than lift my heart to thee for inward light.

The wild and fiery passion of my youth consumes my soul;
In agony I turn to thee for truth and self-control.

For Passion and all the pleasures it can give will die the death;
But this of me eternally must live, thy borrowed breath.

'Mid the discordant noises of the day I hear thee calling;
I stumble as I fare along Earth's way; keep me from falling.

 [ 3 pages, circa 3' 00" ]


Claude McKay

 

The text is taken from Harlem Shadows, The Poems of Claude McKay, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922. The five couplets are divided into 2+2, 1, 2+2 in a simple song form. The sentiment is rather universal, an acknowledgement of that "borrowed breath" which is life. While not all agree with varying theological exegesis of the idea in specific and while some avid atheists might dismiss all theological metaphors, the simple fact is that life is precious, transient and, in a sense, "borrowed" for it is not ours to create nor to give -- but to borrow.
 

 

 

The general harmonic rhythm begins with a measure's duration, and thence to gentle half note gestures to decorate above that slow progress. The stress on the F sharp within the context of the seeming pedal on C is harmonically explained by the final cadence on G, though the setting is not notated in the signature of G major for its emphasis on what becomes understood as the extended upbeat subdominant, and as for the other harmonic wanderings to include a measure in which F natural and F sharp prove themselves as false neighbors.

 

 

The harmonic rhythm of the B section of the setting becomes tripled, three chord changes per measure until the return to the A section for the final couplets.

 

 

The score for A Prayer is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.

 

A Prayer