Vengeance Is Sweet
Paul Laurence Dunbar
baritone or bass and piano
I was young I longed for Love,
And held his glory far above
All other earthly things. I cried:
"Come, Love, dear Love, with me abide;"
And with my subtlest art I wooed,
And eagerly the wight pursued.
But Love was gay and Love was shy,
He laughed at me and passed me by.
Well, I grew old and I grew gray,
When Wealth came wending down my way.
I took his golden hand with glee,
And comrades from that day were we.
Then Love came back with doleful face,
And prayed that I would give him place.
But, though his eyes and tears were dim,
I turned my back and laughed at him.
pages, circa 3' 45"
text is found in Dunbar's collection, Lyrics of the Hearthside
(1899), available at the very fine
Wright State University Libraries online Dunbar Collection. For
other song settings of Dunbar's texts,
two strophes are treated similarly, some changes to emphasize the change of
the speaker's tone as the recollection becomes more clearly revealed. While
the title suggests "vengeance is sweet," the subtext can also reveal a
bittersweet "aftertaste" from such experiences as are not told in detail.
For this reading, I chose a minimalist two-measure gesture for the bulk of
the accompaniment, with episodes varying slightly as introduction and
bridge. A short codetta returns to the first words, "when I was
young." Dunbar's more formal style, distinct from his dialect writing,
speaks of Love and Wealth with capitalization. These are the other
characters in the drama, for individuals and story details remain
unidentified, missing from the overall generalization which hides them
dramaturgically. The vocal range is limited such that the song be far more a
dramatic work than a purely musical one.
The score for
Vengeance Is Sweet 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
Vengeance Is Sweet