In Memoriam

A setting of words by Mary Frye and John Donne (pictured below) for unaccompanied choir.

Introduction

This as-yet unperformed work for unaccompanied choir combines two well-known texts: Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep (Mary Frye) and extracts from John Donne's Meditation XVII ("No man is an Island…"). Approximately six minutes in total, they are apposite for both religious and secular settings.

Do Not Sit At My Grave And Weep

Mary E Frye (1905-2004) of Baltimore is generally confirmed as the author of this famous bereavement poem. Written in 1932 on the back of a brown paper bag, it was originally intended simply to comfort their houseguest, Margaret Schwarzkopf, a German-Jewish girl who was unable to return to Europe to grieve the death of her mother. Never formally published by Mary Frye, the text has since crossed national boundaries and those of race, creed and class.

 

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624) - Meditation XVII

This is one of John Donne's most important and haunting works. Written in less than a month, it consists of twenty-three devotions, each in three parts - a meditation, an expostulation, and a prayer - recording and exploring Donne's experience of an illness (probably typhus) which almost cost him his life. Meditation XVII is the source of Donne's famous reflection on the interconnectedness of all human lives.

 

Who casts not up his Eye to the Sunne when it rises?
but who takes off his Eye from a Comet when that breakes out?
Who bends not his eare to any bell,
which upon any occasion rings?
but who can remove it from that bell,
which is passing a peece of himselfe out of this world?


All mankinde is of one Author, and is one volume;
when one Man dies, one Chapter is not torne out of the booke,
but translated into a better language;
and every Chapter must be so translated;


No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe;
every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine;
if a Clod bee washed away by the Sea,
Europe is the lesse,
as well as if a Promontorie were,
as well as if a Mannor of thy friends or of thine owne were;
any mans death diminishes me,
because I am involved in Mankinde;
And therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.

 

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© 2018 Michael Stimpson