Secular text in English by Rabindranath Tagore
Difficulty rating (1-5): 2.5
Premiered Feb 1, 2008 by The Rock Valley College Chamber
Singers. directed by Paul LaPrade, at the Illinois 2008 MENC
The Illinois ACDA chose "Thou Art the Sky"
as the winner of its 2007 Choral Composition Contest.
The text for this song is #67 inGitanjali (SongOfferings)
by the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941).
Gitanjali’s simple yet deeply profound meditations on
God and Nature touched a nerve in pre-World War One Western
Europe and the
US. As the
volume achieved whirlwind popularity Tagore became a
household name in wide circles, and for
Gitanjali he became
the first Asian winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in
In my setting I have tried to musically
match the simplicity and directness of Tagore’s
meditation, and have also created a chant-like inner theme
to the piece by returning again and again to the line “O
I hope to set more texts from Gitanjali in the future. Oxford publishes my
arrangement of another poem from
Gitanjli, When I bring to you Colour’d Toys,
composed by John Alden Carpenter andarranged by me for women’s voices and piano.
W.B. Yeats expressed his thoughts in 1911 on
excerpts of Yeats comments which appear below...
"I have carried [Gitanjali]...
about with me for days, reading it in railway trains, or on
the top of omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often
had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it
moved me. These lyrics---which are in the original, my
Indian friends tell me, full of subtlety of rhythm, of
untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical
invention---display in their thought a world I have dreamed
of all my live long. The work of a supreme culture, they yet
appear as much the growth of the common soil as the grass
and the rushes. A tradition, where poetry and religion are
the same thing, has passed through the centuries, gathering
from learned and unlearned metaphor and emotion, and carried
back again to the multitude.
innocence, a simplicity that one does not find elsewhere in
literature makes the birds and the leaves seem as near to
him as they are near to children, and the changes of the
seasons great events as before our thoughts had arisen
between them and us."
THOU art the sky and thou art the nest
O thou beautiful, there in the nest
it is thy love that encloses the soul
with colours and sounds and odours.
There comes the morning with
the golden basket in her right hand
bearing the wreath of beauty, silently
to crown the earth.
And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by
herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool draughts of peace in her
golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest.
But there, where spreads the
infinite sky for the soul to take her
flight in, reigns the stainless white
radiance. There is no day nor night,
nor form nor colour, and never, never