Music and Texts of Gary Bachlund


When Cap'n Tom comes home - (2010)    

Katherine Lee Bates

for soprano or mezzo soprano and piano

When Cap'n Tom comes home, and his sea chest
        Is opened, oh, the shells that rainbow foam
Tossed on far shores, by us to be possessed
        When Cap'n Tom comes home!

Cocoanuts for which gray, chattering monkeys clomb;
        Tamarinds, and dates, and luscious sweetmeats pressed
Into blue jars of quaint pagoda dome!

Canaries, corals, shimmering shawls and, best
        Of all, keepsakes that on wild seas a-roam
He carved from whale's tooth for a village blest
        When Cap'n Tom comes home!

[ 4 pages, circa 2' 40"]

Katherine Lee Bates


Raised in a small port, Falmouth, Massachusetts, Bates knew something of the culture of the seafarer from the perspective of a youthful observer, and wrote of it as of other features of the town. Captain Tom is referred to by first name, and the notion of what might be in his sea chest is filled with exotica, the greatest being perhaps his self-made scrimshaw. My parents had such a piece at one time, which seemed in my youth also to be quite the exotic keepsake. Another setting of a Bates text is Don't You See?, filled with word play based on fish. The past tense of the verb, climb, in this text is written in the archaic form, "clomb," as rhyme to the other ending lines.



The text comes from Bates' Retinue and other poems, New York: E. P. Dutton & Co, 1918, placing the publication of this poem in her later years of life, but the picture from her youth above links to the imagination of the young lady about her seafarer, Captain Tom. Hence its placement above. The meter is 5/4 with the exception of the written ritardando at measure six for the beginning of the vocal line. The song form observes the form of the poem's four-three-four lined stanzas.




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.


When Cap'n Tom comes home