Five Sandburg Settings


SATB divisi



The Pro Arte Chamber singers and the Connecticut Council on the Arts

Santa Fe Desert Chorale
Steven Sametz, guest conductor

Program Notes

1. Vaudeville Dancer
2. Baby Face
3. Joy
4. The Junk Man
5. Alone and Not Alone.


1. The Vaudeville Dancer

Elsie Flimmerwon, you got a job now with a jazz outfit in vaudeville.
The houses go wild when you finish the act shimmying a fast shimmy to
The Livery Stable Blues.

It is long ago, Elsie Flimmerwon, I saw your mother over a
washtub in a grape arbor when your father came in with the locomotor ataxia shuffle.

It is long ago, Elsie, and now they spell your name with an electric sign.

Then you were a little thing in checked gingham and your mother wiped
your nose and said; You little fool, keep off the streets.

Now you are a big girl at last and streetfuls of people read your name and
a line of people shaped like the letter S stand at the box office to see
you shimmy.

2. Baby Face

WHITE MOON comes in on a baby face.
The shafts across her bed are flimmering.

Out on the land White Moon shines,
Shines and glimmers against gnarled shadows,
All silver to slow twisted shadows
Falling across the long road that runs from the house.

Keep a little of your beauty
And some of your flimmering silver
For her by the window to-night
Where you come in, White Moon.

3. Joy

LET a joy keep you.
Reach out your hands
And take it when it runs by,
As the Apache dancer
Clutches his woman.
I have seen them
Live long and laugh loud,
Sent on singing, singing,
Smashed to the heart
Under the ribs
With a terrible love.
Joy always,
Joy everywhere—
Let joy kill you!
Keep away from the little deaths.

4. The Junk Man

I AM glad God saw Death
And gave Death a job taking care of all who are tired
of living:

When all the wheels in a clock are worn and slow and
the connections loose
And the clock goes on ticking and telling the wrong time
from hour to hour
And people around the house joke about what a bum
clock it is,
How glad the clock is when the big Junk Man drives
his wagon
Up to the house and puts his arms around the clock and
“You don’t belong here,
You gotta come
Along with me,”
How glad the clock is then, when it feels the arms of the
Junk Man close around it and carry it away.

5. Alone and Not Alone.

The shuttlings of dawn color go soft
weaving out of the night of black ice
with crimson ramblers
up the latticed ladders of daytime arriving.
The riders of the sea    the long white horses
they send their plungers obedient to the moon
in a dedicated path of foam and rainbows.
The praise of any slow red moonrise should be slow.
There are storm winds who bow down to nothing.
They go on relentless under command and release
sent out to do their hammering whirls of storm.
There are sunset flames inviting prayer and sharing.
There are time pieces having silence between chimes.
Children of the wind keep their childish ways.
The wisps of blue in a smoke wreath are mortal.
The keepers of wisdom testify a heap of ashes
means whatever was there went out burning.

–Carl Sandburg