Union Square - (2008)
for mezzo soprano and piano
With the man I love who loves me not,
I walked in the street-lamps'
We watched the world go home that night
In a flood through
I leaned to catch the words he said
That were light
as a snowflake falling;
Ah well that he never leaned to hear
my heart was calling.
And on we walked and on we walked
fiery lights of the picture shows --
Where the girls with thirsty eyes go
On the errand each man knows.
And on we walked and on we
At the door at last we said good-bye;
I knew by his smile he
had not heard
My heart's unuttered cry.
With the man I love who
loves me not
I walked in the street-lamps' flare --
But oh, the girls
who ask for love
In the lights of Union Square.
[ 4 pages, circa 2' 10" ]
As with the small cycle,
New York Sorrows, one underlying theme of Sara Teasdale is the loss
of love, or in this instance unrequited love. Her lyricism is of a period in
time associated with the early 1900s and her mention of place names in and
around New York wonderfully roots her in time and place. Therefore, this
setting has a sense of the "antique" in which an earlier era is evoked.
After an aggressive gesture falling dramatically from high to low, the first
verse of this hymn-like poem begins, spiced with the raised second added to
the scalar elements of both vocal line and accompaniment.
After two verses, the third and fourth stanzas become a bridge for this song
form, in which a rising line is indicative, in part, of that human penchant
for looking yet again for new possibilities within the context of loss. The
repetition of the verb, walk, indicates motion, even if in "spinning one's
The coda which follows a final verse rises as the antithesis of the opening
gesture, and the short quote from an earlier line is turned into from a
statement into a question. Should we continue to look for love? Teasdale's
answer is clear to me, as she suggests a further search for love. Her most
popular publication was the 1917 Love Songs, in spite of her suicide
at the end of her young life. That anthology of poetry won for her both the
Poetry Society of America Prize and the Columbia University Poetry Society
Prize (which became the Pulitzer Prize for poetry), indicating clearly that
such optimism in love is at the minimum "popular."
The score for Union Square 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.
edition for medium voice