In April -
Margaret Lee Ashley
for medium voice and piano
If I am slow
It is because the sun
Has such old tricks of setting
When April days are done.
The soft spring sunlight traces
Old patterns -- green and gold;
The flowers have no new faces,
The very buds are old!
If I am slow forgetting --
Ah, well, come back and see
The same old sunbeams petting
My garden-plots and me.
Come smell the green things growing,
The boxwood after rain;
See where old beds are showing
Their slender spears again.
At dusk, that fosters dreaming --
Come back at dusk and rest,
And watch our old star gleaming
Against the primrose west.
pages, circa 3' 30"
One reads of a
poet, obscure today yet remembered by a work published in various
anthologies: "Margaret Lee Ashley, whose poem, "in April,"
appeared in the April Harper's Monthly, is a frequent contributor to our
best magazines. Her home is in Rochester, N. Y., and she is the
granddaughter of the late Colonel Arthur T. Lee, an officer in the U. S.
Army, who was the author of "Army Ballads," a collection of short poems and
songs which were sung at army gatherings and frontier camp-fires during the
Florida, Mexican and Civil Wars. Several of Miss Ashley's poems have been
widely copied." In "The Writer: A Monthly Magazine for Literary Workers,"
vol. XXV, no. 5, May 1913.
begun as a 19th century magazine, published its final issue on May 13, 1916.
Of it, one reads: "After 1900, Harper's Weekly devoted more print to
political and social issues, and featured articles by some of the more
prominent political figures of the time, such as Theodore Roosevelt."
(Wikipedia) Along with social and political articles, it published poems by
contributors. Ashley's poem then published in the April issue of 1913 was
read and survived for more than a century to inspire this setting. Such is
the mystery of art, memory and "slow forgetting."
The setting moves
between the tonic major and mediant major in two measure blocks, while the
vocal line is rooted to the same tessitura throughout as seen in the second
and ninth measures and beyond, generating the varieties of light dissonance
-- flatted sixth and seventh in the mediant -- and falling asynchronously
after the first two strophes across the more regular two-measure harmonic
The score 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 art song score.