All Lovely Things
originally for bass or bass-baritone and piano
All lovely things will have an ending,
All lovely things will fade and
And youth, that's now so bravely spending,
Will beg a penny by
Fine ladies soon are all forgotten,
And goldenrod is dust
The sweetest flesh and flowers are rotten
tent the brightest head.
Come back, true love! Sweet youth,
But time goes on, and will, unheeding,
Though hands will
reach, and eyes will yearn,
And the wild days set true hearts bleeding.
Come back, true love! Sweet youth, remain!--
But goldenrod and daisies
And over them blows autumn rain,
They pass, they pass, and
know not whither.
pages, circa 3' 00" ]
American poet Conrad Aiken (1889-1973) was born in Savannah, Georgia, and
was also a short story writer, critic and novelist. At Harvard he shared a
class with T. S. Eliot, with whom he edited the Advocate and whose
poetry was to influence his own. Aiken graduated in 1912, in the same era as
Eliot and Cummings. Editor of Emily Dickinson's Selected Poems (1924), Aiken was heavily responsible for establishing her posthumous
From the 1920s Aiken divided his life between England and the United States,
playing a significant role in introducing American poets to the British
audience. He was a contributing editor to Dial, which led to a
friendship with Ezra Pound, and he served as a consultant in poetry at the
Library of Congress from 1950 to 1952. He received a Pulitzer Prize,
National Book Award, Bollinger Prize in 1956, Gold Medal in Poetry from the
American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1958, and National Medal for
Literature in 1969.
It seemed a poor choice to set this text, "All lovely things will fade and
die," in dark and depressive musical colors, and so I chose to highlight the
"lovely things," for to contemplate their ending is still to have the
"lovely things" for the moment, however fleeting. Moreover, the images which
Aiken has chosen are themselves "lovely," as is the poem in its entirety.
Therefore a slight syncopation against the triple and duple rhythms hints at
When the call for youth to return, to "come back," is made, the ongoing
triplets yield to a square and simple harmonic accompaniment which
clears a path for the text's pleadings. But as with time and the cycle
of life, and as with the recurrence of themes in music and art, the
beginning theme insists on its restatement, and at best the text must be
content with the truth that such a plea will remain unheard. Such is the
fragility and transience of life, and therefore such is the beauty of
life as well.