Death snips proud men


Death snips proud men by the nose - (2009)    

Carl Sandburg

for medium voice and piano


Death is stronger than all the governments
because the governments are men and men die
and then death laughs: Now you see 'em, now you don’t.

Death is stronger than all proud men
and so death snips proud men on the nose,
throws a pair of dice and says: Read 'em and weep.

Death sends a radiogram every day: When I want you
I'll drop in -- and then one day he comes with a master-key
and lets himself in and says: We'll go now.

Death is a nurse mother with big arms:
'Twon't hurt you at all; it's your time now;
you just need a long sleep, child;
what have you had anyhow better than sleep?

[ 5 pages, circa 2' 50" ]

Carl Sandburg


The text is taken from Sandburg's 1920 anthology of poems, Smoke and Steel.



The strophes are set as a kind of syncopated strut, such that a slight break in the texture and harmonic gestures occurs after two strophes in a popular genre, as the text comes to "death" entering "with a master-key." This is quite similar in sentiment to Goethe's Das Alte, as may be found in my settings in German, the small songs of the Goethe-Lieder. The last strophe recaps the opening gestures as reprises also the texts, "Now you see 'em, now you don't" and "Read 'am and weep." Such distinctly American expressions lightly tinged with the patois of that time in the Midwest echoes other writers whose use of Americana was a signature in their work.



The score for Death snips proud men by the nose 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.


Death snips proud men by the nose