To stay as if, or go

I. The Lost Jewel

II. Evening

Texts by Emily Dickinson (1830-1886). Setting by Meagan Johnson.

A cappella Four-part women’s chorus.

Premiered December 2, 2006 and May 19, 2012 by Amasong.

Evening (sung by Amasong on Everything She Touches Changes):


These two pieces were written for my first concert with Amasong in 2006 and my last in 2012. The Lost Jewel (2012) recounts an individual experience of loss, the central section of the song a dream-like rumination on the metaphor of the jewel, harmonies shifting as the facets of an uncut, raw amethyst might shimmer in the sunlight. This setting of Evening (2006) springs from the text’s warm evocation of the sounds and changing light of evening, of the arrival night as familiar as a neighbor, vast, wise, and peaceful.

Emily Dickinson (1830–1886) lived much of her life in self-imposed seclusion in the family Homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, yet her poems are intense explorations of the internal and external world. Dickinson wrote with an innovative style, employing unconventional broken rhyming meter, dashes and unorthodox capitalization, and creative use of metaphor. Very few poems were published during her lifetime. After Dickinson’s death, her sister enlisted the aid of family friends to compile, edit, and publish the poems. The changes were often aggressive, standardizing capitalization, removing dashes, and even replacing words to fit the the rhyme and meter structure into the conventions of the time. During the twentieth century, editors (including Thomas H. Johnson and R. W. Franklin) returned to the remaining manuscripts to correct the damage. Texts are printed here in their early publication format.While capitalization and punctuation were “standardized,” neither of the texts in this set contain editorial changes from the original manuscript that would be heard when sung.


The Lost Jewel

I held a jewel in my fingers

And went to sleep.

The day was warm, and winds were prosy;

I said: “‘T will keep.”

I woke and chid my honest fingers, —

The gem was gone;

And now an amethyst remembrance

Is all I own.


The cricket sang,

And set the sun,

And workmen finished, one by one,

Their seam the day upon.

The low grass loaded with the dew,

The twilight stood as strangers do

With hat in hand, polite and new,

To stay as if, or go.

A vastness, as a neighbor, came, —

A wisdom without face or name,

A peace, as hemispheres at home, —

And so the night became.


These Emily Dickinson poems as reproduced here are in the public domain. Source: “Selected Poems” ISBN:  0486264661, Dover Publications, Inc.

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