Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Poetry: "Simple Gifts" and Post-Inauguration Afterglow

Today is President Obama's first full day on the job, but I'm still basking in the post-inauguration glow. Yesterday, most people were on an endorphin high of epic proportions. Although I wasn't completely enthralled with Elizabeth Alexander's poem, John Williams's "Air and Simple Gifts," played by Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero was incredible.

If part of the melody sounded familiar, it is because Williams incorporated the Shaker hymn "Simple Gifts" by Elder Joseph Brackett into his composition. While the melody is probably best known from Aaron Copeland's score for the ballet Appalachian Spring or as the hymn "The Lord of the Dance," Brackett's original lyrics are quite good and reflect many of yesterday's sentiments:

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.