We Two Boys - (2009)
for baritone and piano
We two boys together clinging,
One the other never leaving,
Up and down the roads going, North and South excursions making,
Power enjoying, elbows stretching, fingers clutching,
Arm'd and fearless, eating, drinking, sleeping, loving.
No law less than ourselves owning, sailing, soldiering, thieving,
Misers, menials, priests alarming, air breathing, water drinking, on
the turf or the sea-beach dancing,
Cities wrenching, ease scorning, statutes mocking, feebleness chasing,
Fulfilling our foray.
[ 3 pages, circa 1' 30" ]
The complete title as found in Leaves of Grass is "We Two Boys Together Clinging." Walt Whitman (1819–1892) was an all-American romantic, while also a rebel who followed his own course in life. One notes these characteristics in this praise of boys, for Whitman speaks of "power" all the while speaking of being "arm'd and fearless," both alongside the normal activities of life. By today's political standards and with Whitman's own political advice (To the States) to "resist," Whitman would probably be outside the framework of the social dialogue as represented in media today which seems avid for various forms of gun control, as for seeking ease and caring for the "feeble" which Whitman finds boys so willing to "chase." The individual, rough and rugged nature of this text suggested a setting almost immediately upon reading it.
The emphasis on "two" and "four" and the cross relations in the introduction serve to announce this two verse song form. The accompaniment at measure three is a squared-boned caccia or musical "chase," an imitation at the octave and offset by two quarters.
The key line which I chose to repeat emphasizes the notion of freedom, as Whitman tells us boys are a "law" unto themselves. Indeed, Whitman is a exemplar of this truth, as this theme leaps from his "leaves" of Leaves of Grass. At the restatement of this line in the poem, the second verse in the song form begins anew.
The score for We Two Boys 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.
We Two Boys