Thou Art the Sky

Published by Roger Dean Publishing Company     
Catalog # 15/2430R
Secular text in English by Rabindranath Tagore
Difficulty rating (1-5): 2.5
Duration 3:20

Premiered Feb 1, 2008 by The Rock Valley College Chamber Singers. directed by Paul LaPrade, at the Illinois 2008 MENC convention


The Illinois ACDA chose "Thou Art the Sky" as the winner of its 2007 Choral Composition Contest.

The text for this song is #67 in Gitanjali (Song Offerings) 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 1913.

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 thou beautiful”.
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 and arranged by me for women’s voices and piano.
W.B. Yeats expressed his thoughts in 1911 on Tagore's Gitanjali, 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.

[Tagore expresses] 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."


Rabindranath Tagore

THOU art the sky and thou art the nest
as well.
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
a word.



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