He Had His Dream

 

 

He Had His Dream - (2009)    

Paul Laurence Dunbar

for medium voice and piano


 

He had his dream, and all through life,
Worked up to it through toil and strife.
Afloat fore'er before his eyes,
It colored for him all his skies:
The storm-cloud dark
Above his bark,
The calm and listless vault of blue
Took on its hopeful hue,
It tinctured every passing beam--
He had his dream.

He labored hard and failed at last,
His sails too weak to bear the blast,
The raging tempests tore away
And sent his beating bark astray.
But what cared he
For wind or sea!
He said, "The tempest will be short,
My bark will come to port."
He saw through every cloud a gleam--
He had his dream.

[ 4 pages, circa 3' 50" ]


Paul Laurence Dunbar

 

The verbs speak throughout in the past tense, a form of eulogy for one now dead. The life recounted is of hardship tempered by that "dream," which we see is a statement of faith, of belief and of the comfort which such a "dream" brought to the life of a man. Dunbar spoke in many ways of belief, that human penchant without which life in less than human and more false for all its reality than a dream.

 

 

Following strictly the structure of the poem, the setting is in two verses with small modifications to the vocal rhythms for clarity in the text's scansion. In F major, the opening refers more often to D minor harmonically, the submediant before coming to cadence on the tonic at the verses' end. The vocal line rises climatically to the tonic usually supported by the subdominant, before falling back for the next "hill to climb." The arch of the poem and song setting ends in death through the metaphor of a peaceful rest, the dream fulfilled and the quiet last statement in the often avoided tonic.

 

 

The score for He Had His Dream 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.

 

He Had His Dream