Milton BabbittPhilomel (i)

PHILOMEL

Text by John Hollander
Text as set by composer

SECTION ONE

Tape
(Recorded Soprano):

(Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee)

Philomel:

Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
I feel
Feel a million trees
And the heat of trees

Tape:

Not true trees--

Philomel:

Feel a million tears

Tape:

Not true tears--
Not true trees--

Philomel:
Is it Tereus I feel?
Tape:
Not Tereus; not a true Tereus--
Philomel:
Feel a million filaments;
Fear the tearing, the feeling
Trees, of ephemeral leaves
Trees tear,
And I bear
Families of tears--
I feel a million Philomels
Tape:
Trees filled with mellowing
Felonous fame--

Philomel:

I feel trees in my hair
And on the ground,
Honeymelons fouling
My knees and feet
Soundlessly in my
Flight through the forest;
I founder in quiet.

Here I find only
Miles of felted silence
Unwinding behind me,
Lost, lost in the wooded night.

Tape:
Pillowing melody,
Honey unheard--

Philomel:
My hooded voice, lost
Lost, as my first
Unhoneyed tongue;
Forced, as my last
Unfeathered defense
Fast-tangled in lust
Of these woods so dense.
Emptied, unfeeling and unfilled
By trees here where no birds have trilled--
Feeling killed
Philomel stilled
Her honey unfulfilled.

Tape:
Feeling killed
Philomel stilled
Her honey unfulfilled

Philomel:
What is that sound?
A voice found?
Broken, the bound
Of silence, beyond
Violence of human sound,
As if a new self
Could be founded on sound.
The trees are astounded!
What is this humming?
I am becoming
My own song . . .

SECTION TWO
Echo Song

Philomel:
O Thrush in the woods I fly among,
Do you, too, talk with the forest's tongue?

Tape:
Stung, stung, stung,
With the sting of becoming
I sing

Philomel:
O Hawk in the high and widening sky,
What need I finally do to fly,
And see with your unclouded eye?

Tape:
Die, die, die,

Philomel:
Let the day of despairing
Be done
O Owl, the wild mirrow of the night,
What is the force of the forest's light?

Tape:
Slight, slight, slight;

Philomel:
With the slipping-away of
The sun
O sable Raven, call me back!
What color does my torn robe lack?

Tape:
Black, black, black;

Philomel:
As your blameless and longDried blood
O bright Gull, aid me in my dream!
Above the riddled breaker's cream

Tape:
Scream, scream, scream,

Philomel:
For the shreds of your being;
Be shrill
The world's despair should not be heard!
Fear and terror