Summer Silence -
E. E. Cummings
for medium voice and piano
Eruptive lightnings flutter to and fro
Above the heights of immemorial
Thirst-stricken air, dumb-throated, in its woe
down-sagging, its limp body spills
Upon the earth. A panting silence
The empty vault of Night with shimmering bars
Of sullen silver,
where the lake distils
Its misered bounty.—Hark! No whisper mars
utter silence of the untranslated stars.
[ 3 pages, circa 2' 30" ]
E. E. Cummings
This text was first published in the 1915 Harvard Advocate, though
subsequently included in later collections. As a prose poem, it begins to
show the direction of Cummings as a young artist in its imagery and
The setting, intended to be performed wholly in shades of piano and
softer, moves back and forth between whole tone scales, some light
polytonality through the whole tone use, and a brighter E major. The vocal
line rises slowly through the minor third to arrive thereafter at the major
third and then the major seventh of the scale, in a small act of brightness
against the opening whole tone gestures.
The text is broken into parts, such that there becomes a repeat A section,
and a final lingering piano postlude concludes the meditation on "summer
silence" and the "stars" as Cummings paints their "untranslated" images.
The score for Summer Silence 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.