Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


The Wild Goat - (2010)    

Claude McKay

for medium voice and piano


O you would clothe me in silken frocks
    And house me from the cold,
And bind with bright bands my glossy locks,
    And buy me chains of gold;

And give me--meekly to do my will--
    The hapless sons of men:--
But the wild goat bounding on the barren hill
    Droops in the grassy pen.

[ 2 pages, circa 2' 00" ]

Claude McKay


The text comes from Harlem Shadows -The Poems of Claude McKay, New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922.


Written in the time of the Harlem Renaissance, this metaphor pictures the wild goat versus the "penned" goat which is product. While human economy makes commercial use of animals, it has historically also used man as product -- slaves. This continues to today with the north of Africa seeing enslavement of tribes people by Muslims, a fact which is politically incorrect to mention, but fact nonetheless. Of course, McKay's reference is to the American story of slavery, and yet in the early twenties this was decades dead. In its place were other forms of enforced compliance and those forms of prejudice which would also "pen" a man. Without a doubt, McKay saw "the wild goat" as free, outside the pen which demands that one "meekly" do another's will.



The collapsing upper and lower voices of the accompaniment proceed chromatically, a musical equivalent to the compression of the individual by social trends which defy freedom for  compliance. While the second stanza seems a second verse in terms of form, the vocal line takes a different path, ultimately falling to its lowest point at the end, echoing that the "wild goat" of freedom "droops" when penned.



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.


The Wild Goat