When I look through the collection of books and movies I had as a child, I am surprised by how many of them deal with dark subjects, namely mortality. There’s The Velveteen Rabbit and Bridge to Terabithia on the bookshelf, Toy Story among the VHS tapes. Instead of sugarcoating life for easy entertainment, these works and others grapple with questions even adults have trouble answering. They have a unique poignancy in how they address mortality with such directness. Older readers and viewers return to their own loss of innocence.
“Spring and Fall: To a Young Child” is an adult’s response to this experience. The speaker in Gerard Manley Hopkins’ (1844-1889) poem witnesses a child’s loss of innocence – Margaret’s response to the falling leaves is the beginning of her understanding of mortality. The combination of the child protagonist and the melodic flow of the lines create an uneasy emotional vulnerability in the reader. Beauty and innocence are subverted by darkness and uncertainty.
In a letter to his friend and English poet Laureate Robert Bridges, Hopkins wrote that he was trying to compose a melody to “Spring and Fall,” though no musical traces survive. My piece in no way tries to recreate what Hopkins may have hummed to himself, but attempts to unify musical and poetic expression. I strove for direct musical gestures and a melody dictated by the natural phrasing of the lines. My hope is that the setting doesn’t alter the meaning of the poem, but spotlights it.
It beautifully resonates as a retrospective on the lost ignorance of childhood, a melody we are not allowed to hear the same way ever again – Sean Drohan, Daily Princetonian