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after all white horses are in bed

will you walking beside me, my very lady,
if scarcely the somewhat city
wiggles in considerable twilight

touch (now) with a suddenly unsaid

gesture
lightly my eyes?
And send life out of me and the night
absolutely into me
. . . . a wise
and puerile moving of your arm will
do suddenly that

               will do
more than heroes beautifully in shrill
armour colliding on huge blue horses,
and the poets looked at them, and made verses,

through the sharp light cryingly as the knights flew.


-- E.E. Cummings


By no means a popular Cummings poem, "after all white horses are in bed" was originally published in 1926 as part of the volume is 5.  Today the version you're most likely to find is Gwyneth Walker's 1979 setting for four-part chorus and piano, called "White Horses," which is missing most of the text:
    after all white horses are in bed
    will you walking beside me, my very lady,
    touch lightly my eyes
    and send life out of me and the night
    absolutely into me?
The music is standard high school chorus fare (which is to say, painful), and the text selection strips most of the Cummings from the poem.  It's interesting to see how little of the original, which simply is not suited to song lyrics, survives.  Only the second line contains any hint of Cummings' signature syntactic play and attention to sonics.  Sometimes poetry is more musical than music.

This poem is often cited as the source for the white horses references in Tori Amos' song Winter, from the 1991 album Little Earthquakes.

Copyright info: ee. cummings and Gwyneth Walker quotes are reprinted here on E2 under the fair use provisions of U.S. copyright law.

CST Approved

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