Delusional Paths

for SATB

Text by Stephen Crane

premiered November 5, 6, 7, 2010

Robert Geary, conductor

Oakland, Mill Valley, San Francisco, California

Delusional Paths is a setting of five Stephen Crane poems concerned with paths and destinations. Here paths taken lead to unexpected places. Carefully considered goals prove to be illusive, unattainable, or not what they seemed. Expectations of preconceived outcomes prove futile ("I saw a man"), naively optimistic ("A learned man"), foolhardy ("There was set before me a mighty hill"), or at best unrealistic ("The wayfarer"). In "Once, I knew a fine song" the path is narrative rather than literal; it starts out telling a story with some clarity, and then morphs into the chaos of a dissolving dream. Crane addresses our common delusions with the warmth of shared experience and with humor. I have tried to capture his tone in these settings..



I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
"It is futile," I said,
"You can never -- "

"You lie," he cried,
And ran on.

A learned man came to me once.
He said, "I know the way, -- come."
And I was overjoyed at this.
Together we hastened.
Soon, too soon, were we
Where my eyes were useless,
And I knew not the ways of my feet.
I clung to the hand of my friend;
But at last he cried, "I am lost."

There was set before me a mighty hill,
And long days I climbed
Through regions of snow.
When I had before me the summit-view,
It seemed that my labor
Had been to see gardens
Lying at impossible distances.

Once, I knew a fine song,
-- It is true, believe me --
It was all of birds,
And I held them in a basket;
When I opened the wicket,
Heavens! They all flew away.
I cried, "Come back, little thoughts!"
But they only laughed.
They flew on
Until they were as sand
Thrown between me and the sky.

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
"Ha," he said,
"I see that none has passed here
In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last,
"Doubtless there are other roads."

- Stephen Crane


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