End of the Comedy - (2008)
for medium voice and piano
Eleven o’clock, and the curtain falls.
The cold wind tears the strands
The delicate music is lost
In the blare of home-going
And a midnight paper.
The night has grown martial;
meets us with blows and disaster.
Even the stars have turned shrapnel,
Fixed in silent explosions.
And here at our door
The moonlight is
Like a drawn sword.
First published in Poetry (May 1919)
[ 3 pages, circa 2' 00"]
Louis Untermeyer (1885-1977) was an American author, poet, anthologist, and
editor who in 1939 was appointed Poet in Residence at the University of
Michigan. He also held the same post at the University of Kansas City and
Iowa State College, and in 1956 was awarded a Gold Medal by the Poetry
Society of America. He served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the
Library of Congress from (1961-1963), but his early career was marred by his
Marxist convictions and activities before and during WWI. In that time, the
socialists were against United States involvement in "Europe's war." Among
Untermeyer's early political writing were articles for periodicals such as
The Masses, The Liberator published by the Worker's Party of
America, and later The New Masses. Of more abiding consequence,
Untermeyer co-founded The Seven Arts, a poetry magazine that
introduced many poets of that time, including his long-time friend, Robert
Frost. A prolific scholar, he wrote or edited almost one hundred
books, most notably the Golden Treasury of Children's Literature, and
exemplary anthologies such as Modern American Poetry" (1919),
Modern British Poetry (1920), This Singing World (1923), Fifty
Modern American and British Poets: 1920-1970 (1973) and his own work was
featured in "Selected Poems and Parodies"
In the "Introductory" of Modern British Poetry (1920),
Untermeyer wrote, "All art is a twofold revivifying -- a recreation
of subject and a reanimating of form. And poetry becomes perennially “new”
by returning to the old -- with a different consciousness, a greater
The "recreation of subject" for Untermeyer is taking the image of a late
night in New York as the theater audiences leave to wend their way home, and
paint this normal activity into a counterpoint between dark images of
"shrapnel" and "explosions" albeit silent, and the hustle-bustle of New
York, that "city that never sleeps at night." For this the unrhymed and
unbalanced strophes of verse become a standard song lyric stretched out over
popular syncopated gestures, as if the two voices, vocal and accompaniment
stand in opposition. one speaking of the normal New York of 1910 and the
other speaking of these noisy "illusions" becoming more horrific metaphors
of violence, thereby making the title into a double entendre in which
the comedy of the theater ends, but also the comedy of illusions ends,
becoming a tragedy of darkly aggressive visions.
The score for End of the Comedy 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.
End of the Comedy