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Mount Auburn Cemetery (2022)

by Thomas Oboe Lee

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Half of my life is gone, and I have let    The years slip from me and have not fulfilled    The aspiration of my youth, to build    Some tower of song with lofty parapet. Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret    Of restless passions that would not be stilled,    But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,    Kept me from what I may accomplish yet; Though, half-way up the hill, I see the Past    Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—    A city in the twilight dim and vast, With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights,—    And hear above me on the autumnal blast    The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.
We deemed the secret lost, the spirit gone, Which spake in Greek simplicity of thought, And in the forms of gods and heroes wrought Eternal beauty from the sculptured stone,— A higher charm than modern culture won With all the wealth of metaphysic lore, Gifted to analyze, dissect, explore. A many-colored light flows from one sun; Art, ’neath its beams, a motley thread has spun; The prism modifies the perfect day; But thou hast known such mediums to shun, And cast once more on life a pure, white ray. Absorbed in the creations of thy mind, Forgetting daily self, my truest self I find.
Ye soft sighing zephyrs through foliage and vine! Ye echoing moans from the footsteps of time! Break not on the silence, unless thou canst bear A message from heaven— “No partings are there.” Here gloom hath enchantment in beauty’s array, And whispering voices are calling away— Their wooings are soft as the vision more vain— I would live in their empire, or die in the chain. Here smileth the blossom and sunshine not dead— Flowers fresh as the pang in the bosom that bled— Yes, constant as love that outliveth the grave, And time cannot quench in oblivion’s wave. And thou, gentle cypress, in evergreen tears, Art constant and hopeful through winter appears. My heart hath thy verdure, it blossoms above; Like thee, it endureth and liveth with love. [Ambition, come hither! These vaults will unfold The sequel of power, or glory, or gold; Then rush into life, and roll on with its tide, And bustle and toil for its pomp and its pride. The tired wings flitting through far crimson glow, Which steepeth the trees when the day-god is low; The voice of the night-bird must here a thrill To the heart of the leaves when the winds are all still. ‘Mid graves do I hear the glad voices that swell, And call to my spirit with seraphs to dwell; They come with a breath from the verdant springtime, And waken my joy, as in earliest prime.]. NB: Omit. Blest beings departed! Ye echoes at dawn! O tell of their radiant home and its morn! Then I’ll think of its glory, and rest till I see My loved ones in glory still waiting for me.
Dear Berenson … Your two letters have come. I thank you very much for keeping me in your mind. I should only like to say first that in future and for all time, please don’t let me and some one else know of the same picture at the same time. It may be only a prejudice of mine— but it is disagreeable to me to be put en concurrence in these things. So, if you want to get pictures first for any one else, do so; and after that is all settled, have me in mind another time, when I am to be first— and wait until you hear from me before passing on the chance. Now I have said my disagreeable little Say, and I hope that you will be amenable and gentle with my “prejudice.” The Guardi seems a beauty indeed. But it is too dear for me. I mean, I don’t want to give so much money for that kind of picture. The other one I will take with pleasure. I mean the Giottino. Mr. Gardner will send you the Francs 3,500. I have had very bad luck with a Moroni, which arrived with a hole through the man’s heart 6 inches in diameter. My foremost desire always is for a Filipino Lippi; and a Velásquez very good— And Tintoretto. Only very good need apply … Sincerely yours Isabella—
1 calf’s head. 6 cloves. 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns. 6 allspice berries. 2 sprigs thyme 1/3 cup sliced onions. 1/3 cup carrot, cut in dice. 2 cups brown stock. 1/4 cup butter. 1/2 cup flour. 1 cup stewed and strained tomatoes. Juice 1/2 lemon. Madeira wine. Clean and wash calf’s head; soak one hour in cold water to cover. Cook until tender in three quarts boiling salted water (to which seasoning and vegetables have been added). Remove the head; boil stock until reduced to one quart. Strain and cool. Melt and brown butter, add flour, and stir until well browned; then pour on slowly brown stock. Add head-stock, tomato, one cup face meat cut in dice, and lemon juice. Simmer five minutes; add Royal Custard cut in dice, and Egg Balls, or Force-meat Balls. Add Madeira wine, salt, and pepper to taste.
White— As the dawn on white roses, Bright— As sunlight on your rope of flowers; As a feather tossed in the quick of the wind, As a crystal figure swept by a rainbow rain. Dance of silver shadows, You are all youth and freshness, Like a sharp spear against ivy, Like a bow pulled to quivering, Like an arrow rushed from a shaking bow. Your arms are gestures of a morning earth, The arc of your leaping legs a shout of loveliness, Your movements the shining silence of the on-coming sun. You dance in the dawn, You dance over green lawns in a leaf-rhythm, Weaving patterns with your rope of roses, Printing a white, fleeting pattern of yourself, Of your bright body against sudden, startled green.
Oh God Our father Who are in he even Omniexperience Is his identity. You have given us O’erwhelmingly manifestation Of your complete knowledge, Your complete comprehension, Your complete wisdom, Your complete concern, Your complete competence, Your complete effectiveness, Your compete love and compassion, Your complete forgiveness, givens, and postgiveness, Your complete inspiration giving, Your complete evolutionary sagacity, Your complete power, will, initiative, And absolute timing of all realization. Yours, dear god, Is the only and the complete glory! You are the universal integrity The eternal integrity is you. We thank you with all our hearts, Souls and mind — Amen.


Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It is beautifully landscaped and the trees in there are gorgeous. Plus there are so many important and wonderful people who are in residence there. I have already set music to poems written by Amy Lowell, Robert Creeley, R. Buckminster Fuller, and Fannie Farmer (a recipe for mayonnaise). A recent tour of the place inspired me to write a new song cycle of works by seven important individuals, whose remains are in the cemetery.

I. "Mezzo Cammin" ... Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807 - 1882
II. "Flaxman" ... Margaret Fuller, 1810 - 1850
III. "The Valley Cemetery" ... Mary Baker Eddy, 1821 - 1910
IV. "Dear Berenson" ... Isabella Stewart Gardner, 1840 - 1924
V. "Mock Turtle Soup" ... Fannie Farmer, 1857 - 1915
VI. "To Francesca Braggiotti" ... Amy Lowell, 1874 - 1925
VII. "The Lord's Prayer" ... R. Buckminster Fuller, 1895 - 1983


released December 7, 2022

Sarah Yanovitch, soprano
Tae Kim, piano

Music by Thomas Oboe Lee

Recorded in the Fraser Studio @ WGBH
November 11, 2022
Antonio Oliart, audio engineer and editor

© Departed Feathers Music, inc. - BMI - 2022

Photo credit: Thomas Oboe Lee

YouTube link: youtu.be/y2b7R2F5rWo


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Thomas Oboe Lee Cambridge, Massachusetts

Thomas Oboe Lee was born in China in 1945. He lived in São Paulo, Brazil, for six years before coming to the United States in 1966. After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh, he studied composition at the New England Conservatory and Harvard University. He has been a member of the music faculty at Boston College since 1990. ... more

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