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Texts for Earth Echoes by Augusta Read Thomas

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Orpheus commissioned this new work from Augusta Read Thomas in honor of the centenary of Gustav Mahler’s death in 2011. The subject and structure of Earth Echoes reflect Mahler’s final vocal composition, Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth). Thomas adopted Mahler’s scoring for two vocalists and orchestra, and her work touches upon related themes of life, nature, and renewal. The texts feature selections from fourteen poets representing ten countries spread across thirteen centuries, including a Chinese poem from the eighth century that appears in Mahler’s work.

I. flower of our heart

The soul unfolds itself like a lotus of countless petals.

            -Khalil Gibran (1883-­1931, Arabia)


Life is a stream
On which we strew
Petal by petal the flower of our heart;
And the stream as it flows
Sweeps them away,
Each one gone
Ever beyond into infinite ways.
We alone stay
While years hurry on,
The flower fared forth, though its fragrance still stays.

            -Amy Lowell (1874-1925, United States)


II. dancing flowers

There is a Wisdom like a brooding Sun,
A Bliss in the heart's crypt grown fiery white,
The heart of a world in which all hearts are one.

            -Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950, India)


Open the window in the center of your heart
and let the spirits fly in and out.

            -Rumi (1207-1273, Persia)


all joy
seeks eternity—,
—seeks deep, deep eternity!

            -Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900, Germany)

A host, of golden daffodils;
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
Continuous as the stars that shine
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

            -William Wordsworth (1770-1850, England)


Every flower is a soul blossoming

            -Gerard de Nerval (1808-1855, France)


III. earth blossoms

The dear earth everywhere
Blossoms in spring and grows green again!
Everywhere and eternally the distance shines bright
And blue!
Eternally.... eternally.....

            -Wang Wei (701-761, China) adapted by Gustav Mahler


Of their peculiar light
I keep one ray
To clarify the Sight
To seek them by —

-Emily Dickinson (1830-1886, United States)


Earth and her strong winds
move me, take me away,
and my soul is swept up in joy.

            -Uvavnuk (Nineteenth century, Iglulik Inuit)


IV. petal waterfall

pitter patter
petals of tiny flowers drop
a waterfall of sound

            -Matsuo Basho (1644-1694, Japan)


How many years since these valley flowers bloomed
To smile in the sun?
Whoever looks on this,
Loses himself in eternity.

            -Li Po (701-762)


butterflies and birds
restlessly they rise up
a cloud of flowers

            -Matsuo Basho


Oh! To be a flower
Nodding in the sun,
Bending, then upspringing
As the breezes run;
Holding up
A scent-brimmed cup,
Full of summer's fragrance to the summer sun.


Oh! To be a butterfly
Still, upon a flower,
Winking with its painted wings,
Happy in the hour.
Blossoms hold
Mines of gold
Deep within the farthest heart of each chaliced flower.

            -Amy Lowell


V. mountain with violets

The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.

            -Li Po

The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.

            -Tennessee Williams (1911-1983, United States)


VI. earth echoes

We hear all past and future in one stroke of the temple bell.

            -Li Shang-Yin (813-858, China)


The temple bell stops
but the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers

            -Matsuo Basho