Three Amy Levy Songs

for voice (A3–E5) and piano

Poems by Amy Levy (1861–1889)

I. At a Dinner Party

With fruit and flowers the board is decked,

The wine and laughter flow;

I’ll not complain—could one expect

So dull a world to know?

You look across the fruit and flowers,

My glance your glances find.—

It is our secret, only ours,

Since all the world is blind.

 

II. In the Nower (To J. de P.)

Deep in the grass outstretched I lie,

Motionless on the hill;

Above me is a cloudless sky,

Around me all is still:

There is no breath, no sound, no stir,

The drowsy peace to break;

I close my tired eyes—it were

So simple not to wake.

III. A Game of Lawn Tennis

What wonder that I should be dreaming

Out here in the garden to-day?

The light through the leaves is streaming,—

Paulina cries, “Play!”

The birds to each other are calling,

The freshly-cut grasses smell sweet;

To Teddy's dismay, comes falling

The ball at my feet.

"Your stroke should be over, not under!"

"But that's such a difficult way!"

The place is a springtide wonder

Of lilac and may;

Of lilac, and may, and laburnum,
Of blossom,—We're losing the set!

"Those volleys of Jenny's,—return them;

"Stand close to the net!"

You are so fond of the Maytime,

My friend, far away;

Small wonder that I should be dreaming

Of you in the garden to-day.

A black and white picture of Amy Levy (1861–1889). She has dark hair and dark eyes, and looks into the camera with a monotone expression.

I feel such a connection to Levy's writing. These poems are pure and sublunary—a dinner party, a rest taken on a grassy hill, a game of tennis with friends—but have an almost fantastical feeling to them. I was immediately drawn to a connecting theme of queer mundanity, and I wanted to channel the excitement and mixed feelings that love can bring.

Three Amy Levy Songs was premiered by Gabrielle Brochu, mezzo-soprano, and Caitlin Strong, piano at Hope's composition recital on April 10, 2021. The first movement, then called "Beneath the Table," was premiered by Brochu and Strong on March 25, 2019.