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A Love Like That: Songs of Unconditional Love

 "Ancient Sun" by Margaret Storer-Roche.  Used by permission of the artist.
See more of Margaret's work

Five awestruck songs of unconditional love
Poet/Lyricist: 
Silsbee ~ Emerson ~ Hafiz ~ Alexander ~ White

Each of these songs addresses a different aspect of unconditional love — not only for others but also of our own unruly human selves.  Composed over a six year period, these five collected songs are among the most intimate offerings in the composer's catalog.

Songs:
Sleep Song (Ann Silsbee)
The Eternal One (Ralph Waldo Emerson
A Love Like That (Hafiz/Daniel Ladinsky)
The Gospel Isn't Written in the Bible Alone (Elizabeth Alexander)
I'll Tell You a Story, then... (Nancy White)

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A Love Like That: Songs of Unconditional Love

I. Sleep Song

Ann Silsbee

What I love is to slip late at night
into David's room gaze secretly
down at the soft mask of sleep twitching
with no flush of rage no pout no glee
just the passing in and out of breath
delicately stirring his body
into a hint of motion by which
I know David is living within
safe to love with my whole watching self

© 2002 by Ann L. Silsbee. From Naming the Disappeared, published by Vista Periodista, Ithaca, NY. Reprinted by permission of Robert Silsbee


II. The Over-soul (excerpt)

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Abridged/adapted by Elizabeth Alexander

It comes to the lowly,
It comes to the simple,
It comes to whomever will put off what is foreign or proud.
It comes as insight,
It comes as serenity,
It comes as grandeur.
Within us the soul of the whole,
Within us the wise silence,
Within us the universal beauty
To which every part and particle is equally related:
The Eternal ONE.

When it breathes through our intellect, it is genius.
When it breathes through our will, it is virtue.
When it flows through our affection, it is love.

Forever and ever, forever and ever,
There is no ceiling between our heads and the infinite heavens.
Within us the soul of the whole,
Within us the wise silence,
Within us the universal beauty:
The Eternal ONE.

Lyric © 2010 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved.


III. The Sun Never Says

Hafiz, rendered by Daniel Ladinsky

                     Even
                     After
               All this time
The sun never says to the earth,

                 “You owe
                       Me.”

                     Look
            What happens
        With a love like that,
                It lights the
                   Whole
                     Sky.

© by Daniel Ladinsky.  Reprinted by permission of the poet.


IV. The Gospel Isn't Written In the Bible Alone

Elizabeth Alexander

"God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees, and flowers, and clouds, and stars."  - Anonymous, often erroneously attributed to Martin Luther

The Gospel is written on the trees and flowers, it's written on the wind and the rain,
Recorded on the rock and sediment and sand.
It's written on the glory of the far-off sun, and also on the very near,
Inscribed upon the palm of every open hand.
You can hear it in the thunder, you can read it in the stars,
You can find it under every leaf and stone.
On a page wide as a prairie there's a message large as life:
The Gospel isn't written in the Bible alone.
 
The Gospel is painted onto fins and scales, it's ruffled into feathers and fur,
It's spun into the seashell's deep and sacred scroll.
Behold it in the voices of the birds at dawn, composers of the Song of Songs,
Discern it in the Acts of every living soul.
Every pebble holds a Proverb, every spider spins a Psalm,
Every seed's a Resurrection of its own.
On a page wide as a prairie there's a message large as life:
The Gospel isn't written in the Bible alone.

Imagine now, if you were God
Setting forth a Gospel for all you're worth,
Why would you settle for a single book
When you could write the Gospel on the whole wide Earth?
The Gospel is moving over darkened seas, it's working in the change and the flow,
It's written in a tongue we long to understand.
We marvel at the beauty of the poetry encoded in the chromosome,
And braided through the length of every twisted strand.
It is molded into muscle, it is whispered into breath,
It is carved into the curve of every bone.
On a page wide as a prairie there's a message large as life:
The Gospel may be written in the Bible —
But it surely isn't written in the Bible alone.

© 2009 by Elizabeth Alexander. All rights reserved.


V. Just Once I Want to Write a Gentle Thing
Poem by Nancy White

I’ll tell you a story, then,
of how as I was walking, I smelled something sugary,
elusive, spicy, you could call it,
and smoky in a sad sort of way.  Also
like blossom barely born, pale and half-undone
to the wind that still might even be carrying snow,
this scent I decided to follow.
Sometimes I stumbled on the path, silver
with stones worn smooth as kindness,
or had to stop and rest among pines
where the smell settled a little, at home
with their religious and sensuous twang.  Other times,
I moved fast, snatching at its mulchy sweet threads
through the air, the leaf and rotten-meat ribbons of scent,
rough tongues of tigers who have recently feasted, the living decay
of happiness, and saddle soap, the lemon urgency of sex,
honey of the air — where did it come from?
I rose panting up the slope, muscles strung on the searching
bow of my body, raised the back of my hand
to wipe away the sweat
salting my lips
and realized the smell —
the smell is me.

© by Nancy White.  Reprinted by permission of the poet.

Composer's Note: 

I have a close relationship with each of these songs, which were composed to stand alone but which together reflect a personal obsession of mine: different types of love.  Here are offered songs about love for children, for the divine mystery, for the act of giving, for creation, and ultimately for our own selves.

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