Secular text in English by Jim Schley
Difficulty rating (1-5): 2
Duration: 3 minutes
I happened across this poem in Garrison Keillor's poetry
collection Good Poems,
a treasure trove of great poems, many of them just begging
to be set to music (I have already done at least 3-4 poems
from this collection).
When I contacted author Jim Schley for permission to set
this text I found out what a cool guy he is, living a happy
life in rural Vermont and not only writing but also doing
great work helping other authors with editing, AND he works
in theater, walks on stilts, and so on. Hey, I've never
worked with a stilt guy before, how fun!
Jim was very accommodating- he let me drop a couple words
from the poem that just weren't working in the setting and
allowed a title change. I look forward to setting more of
his texts in the future.
The text has some fun things slightly hidden away-- he sets
up the poem as a succession of people and their occupations
all eventually going to sleep, but in the midst of the word
associations he throws in a sly red herring...
jack-hammerers, and apple-jacks, wherein there is no
such profession as applejack! Applejack is a cider further
developed into apple brandy. You can almost imagine some Dad
or Mom making up this lullaby for their child and throwing
in the fun word association to amuse themeselves, and the
child certainly never noticing the humor of it-- bravo,
Finally while I am in this chatty mood, I think my lullaby
settings get better the more I do. I wrote one for the Ft.
Wayne Children's Choir which was actually too sing-song
sleepy. It wound up almost putting me to sleep, not quite
the effect you want in the concert hall! So I went back and
tweaked some things and the piece, Seal Lullaby, is much
improved and is published by Roger Dean.
(original title Cradle Song)
Reapers and sowers, gleaners and drovers:
All go to sleep.
Plowers and fleecers: twelve o'clock mowers:
Go to sleep, to sleep.
As far, as far as we know.
As far as we know.
Elephant trainers: wallpaper hangers: corncob
Will all at the wave of a hat go to sleep.
Maplesap boilers: climbing rope coilers:
To sleep, before long or gradually, to sleep.
Congressional pages: pundits and sages: acolytes and choir girls:
To sleep now to sleep.
As far as we know.
As far as we know, we'll know.
Shopkeepers, goalkeepers, timekeepers,
At long last, to sleep.
Steeplejacks, lumberjacks, jack-hammerers, and apple-jacks:
To sleep, now to sleep.
As far as we know when we know;
as far as we know.
Deep as the chimney shaft
That passes your bed,
And wide as the rough black roof overhead:
Now to sleep, tiny child, now to sleep.