“The evening hangs beneath the moon
A silver thread on darkened dune
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon.
“Upon my pillow, safe in bed
A thousand pictures fill my head
I cannot sleep, my mind’s a-flight
And yet my limbs seem made of lead.
“If there are noises in the night
A frightening shadow, flickering light
Then I surrender unto sleep
Where clouds of dream give second sight.
“What dreams may come, both dark and deep
Of flying wings and soaring leap
As I surrender unto sleep,
As I surrender unto sleep.”
…An astonishing poem, even without the background story.
Choral composer Eric Whitacre had set Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” to music before seeking permission from the Frost estate. Surprised to find that they would not grant him the privilege (the poem is protected by copyright for a few more years), he sought poet Charles Silvestri’s help. The result is “Sleep,” which you must hear in Whitacre’s setting to get the full impact of the poet’s task.
Too bad, Robert Frost. You lose. We win.