The Irreverent Brahmin - (2010)
for medium voice and piano
A Brahmin, fat and debonair,
Denied the Potency of Prayer!
"Absurd!" he scoffed, "to say that Gods
At ease on high would stoop to Clods
"And heed our million warring Prayers
To regulate our small Affairs!"
This Dogmatist of early days
Was lost within a jungle's maze.
Where, wildly ranging wide about
To find a pathway leading out.
Upon a Forest Codling's Shrine
He chanced, o'erhung with leaf and vine,
And—wonder! horror!—crouching there
A mighty Tiger, bowed in prayer!
(Tail curled, as may be well supposed,
Paws folded, eyes devoutly closed).
"Strong God," he heard the Tiger say,
"I pray thee, send to me a Prey!"
The trustful Tiger closed his Prayer. —
Behold! a Brahmin trembling there!
The Brahmin never scoffed a whit.
The Prayer had Answer — He was It.
[ 4 pages, circa 3' 05" ]
"The Irreverent Brahmin" is subtitled "A Hindu Tract" by the poet, and is found in his collection, The Laughing Muse, 1915, Harper & Brothers, New York and London. The scene is set and played out in a few short images, the disbeliever and the believer whose prayer is answered in a most tangible way.
The opening gestures rely on the pentatonic scale to convey another cultural space for the debonair Brahmin. Almost a hundred years old, this tale and many like it are remarkably modern, for there are the "debonair" in all religions whose surety in themselves is so remarkable that they easily blunder into error of their own making, to include those political beliefs playing themselves out across the world today, never seeing the tigers in the forest.
The tiger's chromatic lines hint at a whole tone relationship over them and contrast with the five-note simplicity of the Brahmin's "debonair" music. This prayer is ardent and sure-footed, as it seems according to the poet, is the answer to said prayer.
For this a few phrases set something like a recitative move the poem along from simple setting to the dénouement, as the tiger growls in the bass of the piano and the debonair pentatonic is cut short for obvious reasons. Bon appetit.
The score for The Irreverent Brahmin 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.
The Irreverent Brahmin