(by Robert Frost, as set by Randall Thompson)
O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says "I burn."
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.
Why sing Choose Something Like A Star on a holiday concert? Although it is not a religious text, the poem confronts humankind's perpetual search for something greater than itself--a higher power. The poem suggests that we turn to nature, to that which is greater than ourselves, to understand our purpose on earth. While it gives no mention of religion, the poem begins as an invocation to a star. Turning our eyes to the heavens, we see a star, and ask it for guidance, but it is silent.
We ask it for some knowledge that will can keep with us to soothe us. "Say something to us we can learn By heart and when alone repeat." We implore, "Say something!" But it replies only, "I burn." Of course, we are not content with that response and insist upon more specificity, "Say with what degree of heat. Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade ... Tell us what elements you blend." Our demands continue to grow as the music builds to a fortissimo. but the star does not answer.
Yet, the star remains constant ("steadfast as Keats' Eremite," a reference to John Keats' poem BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art) in spite of all the turmoil and drama that we create on earth. The music becomes serene and sustained as stillness returns. As we calm down, we realize that the star is asking that we, too, stay above the fray so that while insanity continues in the world around us, "We may choose something like a star To Stay our minds on and be staid."
What better message could there be to begin our holiday concert?