W'en de sun
shines hot - (2009)
James Ephraim McGirt
medium voice and piano
dere ain't no use er workin' in de blazin' summertime,
Whin de fruit hab filled de orchard, an' de burries bend de vine;
Der's enuf ter keep us libin' in de little gyarden spot,
An' der aint no use'n workin' w'en de sun shines hot.
Fur I'ze read it in de Bible 'bout de lilies how dey grow,
It was put in der er purpus dat de workin' men mout know,
Dat dis diggin' an er grabben, wusn't men't in our lot,
An' der ain't no use'n workin' we'n de sun shines hot.
Does yer heer de streams er callin' az it cralls erlong de rill;
Does yer se de vines er wavin', biddin' me ter kum an' fill?
Whar's m' hook and line—say, Hannah, give me all de bait yer got,
Fur der ain't no use'n workin' w'en de sun shines hot.
Des 'bout dark I kum hum, strollin' wid a binch er lubly trout;
Hannah she c'mmence er grinnin' little Rastus 'gin to shout;
Soon de hoecake is er bakin', fish er fryin', table sot.
No, der ain't no use'n workin' w'en de sun shines hot.
pages, circa 3' 30" ]
James E. McGirt
image comes from the front piece of an early edition of McGirt's
Avenging the Maine, a Drunken A.B. and Other Poems (Philadelphia, Penn:
George F. Lasher, 1901) which I recently found. I had set another of his
texts last year, and noted then how difficult it was to find information
about this American poet. See my setting of
Nothing to Do for more on the poet.
McGirt writes of writing in dialect -- a feature of much poetry by other
American poets like Dunbar, Johnson, Webster and Cummings, as a few examples
of a larger body of work -- as part of a preface to his anthology,
Avenging the Maine, titled "Explaining Dialect Poems," "You may wonder
why the dialect words in my humorous poems are so few compared with those in
other dialect poems, but if you will notice such characters as I have
portrayed you will find, as I have, that the most illiterate persons, living
now among so many who are cultured, do not speak the whole dialect, but
speak correctly one-half of their words. So I have written just as the
masses impressed me." Just so, as poets throughout time have sought to
record images in words of those around them with speech patterns and habits
other than their own; it remains a service to later generations to remember
and savor such dialects.
text was first published in The Saturday Evening Post, Sep 26, 1903,
and subsequently in McGirt's anthology, For Your Sweet Sake, Poems,
Philadelphia: The John C. Winston Co, 1906
three stanzas are set as verses, with only a short extension as interlude
between the second and third verses. As with other music which I have
composed, this setting extends a single chord form over many measures by
varying the rhythms and voicing of the chord -- F minor with its added major
sixth -- to make larger and longer use of what might otherwise be seen to be
long and static musical element.
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 piano-vocal score.
W'en de sun shines hot