Pity Me Not

Program Notes:

Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poem draws on images of nature. Daylight must end at twilight, flowers fade from field and thicket, the ebbing tide goes out to sea, and human desire fades too quickly. The poet urges the reader not to pity her that these things, which she has always known, are true. Pity is needed only because her heart refuses to grasp what her mind knows full well.

Conductor Notes:

Written for SSAA choir and piano for Elektra’s concert in 2016 celebrating the choir’s longtime pianist and composer/arranger, Stephen Smith. The style is very lyrical, and the piano plays a significant role, creating a bed of rich music over which the poignant poem is set. The choral texture moves easily between 2, 3, and 4 parts, and word stress is masterfully handled. We worked hard on diction, particularly voiced consonants. Lots of room for rubato and gentle shifts of dynamic to create momentum. The poem is from an adult perspective and, for that reason, I wouldn’t recommend it for young choirs.


This lists any discs, concerts or collections where this piece is included.



words (Sonnet 29) by Edna St. Vincent Millay, music by Stephen Smith

Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by.
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea;
Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.
This have I known always: love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales.
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn