The Inexpressible -
medium voice and piano
the June bugs were a circlin'
Round the arc light on the corner
a-makin' shooty shadows on the street;
When you strolled along barefooted
Through a warm dark night of June
Where the dew from off the cool grass bathed your feet.
you heard a banjo thunkin'
On the porch across the road,
you smelled the scent of lilacs in the park
That there was something struggling in you
you couldn't put in words --
You was really livin' poetry in the dark!
pages, circa 1' 55"]
text was published in March 1917 in Tabula, the Oak Park and River
Forest High School yearbook, for which Hemingway wrote while attending
school from September 1913 until graduation in June 1917. Hemingway excelled
academically, especially in English, and athletically in boxing and American
football. While some may consider this work juvenilia, it indicates a talent
at words and characterization. Later he would say of Oak Park, it had "wide
lawns and narrow minds."
with the form of the poem, this is a simple two verse setting of small
syncopations as the meter sits between triple and duple, making the accents
of the second half note as per the scansion in a light American dialect. A
dissonance between chromatic lines and the minor tonic's clarity carries the
tone of the piece.
The score for
The Inexpressible 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