it may not always be so; and i say - (1983)
E. E. Cummings
for high voice and piano
It may not always be so; and I say
That if your lips, which I have loved, should touch
Another's, and your dear strong fingers clutch
His heart, as mine in time not far away;
If on another's face your sweet hair lay
In such a silence as I know, or such
Great writhing words as, uttering overmuch,
Stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;
If this should be, I say if this should be --
You of my heart, send me a little word;
That I may go to him, and take his hands,
Saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then I shall turn my face, and hear one bird
Sing terribly afar in the lost lands.
in Eight Harvard Poets, New York, Laurence J. Gomme, 1917
[ 3 pages, circa 1' 45" ]
Edward Estlin Cummings
The poem is more normally found with its original title, "it may not always be so; and i say," as number I in SONNETS --REALITIES, Tulips and Chimneys, 1923, but in fact as with much of Cummings' early work it was previously published in 1917.
This simple setting in a consistent 7/8 meter limps along with some awkwardness, in the same way as the sentiment expressed in the text is itself a little awkward and ill at ease with expressing some noble sentiment in the face of lost love, and then turning away to hear "one bird sing terribly afar in the lost lands." Aplomb in the face of loss is only on part of the greater picture, and in that greater picture the hidden grief remains, even if obscured by such societal grace.
The final gestures are intended to be performed a piacere, for as with the sweet limp of the 7/8 meter, the last sweep up to the G at "terribly" should be directed as much by dramaturgical as by mere vocal needs.
The score for it may not always be so; and i say is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.
it may not always be so; and i say,