Eight Riddles from Symphosius for voice and piano

Eight Riddles from Symphosius
for voice & piano (1964)
Composer Facsimile Edition, 10 minutes

” Her unique combination of high intellect and musical spontaneity
sets her apart in her vocal offerings.” (The NATS Journal)

Eight Riddles from Symphosius sets eight humorous translations from the Latin by Richard Wilbur for voice and piano. The songs are short and straight-forward, more or less alternating fast and slow settings. The titles are the answers to the riddles and programs could show the texts but with the titles upside down at the end for an element of surprise. The riddle answers and titles are as follow: Hobnail, Mother of Twins, Onion, Chick in the Egg, Stairs, River and Fish, Chain and Saw.

The music was first performed on a composers forum at the University of Michigan in 1964 by Lois Alt and Elaine Friedman..

To order the score: elizvercoe@yahoo.com


Eight Riddles from Symphosius

1. Hobnail

Hung from a foot, I walk upon my head,
And leave a trail of headprints where I tread:
Yet many of my kind are thus bestead.

2. Mother of Twins

I have borne more than a body ought to bear.
Three souls I harbored; when I lost a pair,
The third one all but perished then and there.

3. Onion

I bite when bitten; but because I lack
For teeth, no biter scruples to attack,
And many bite me to be bitten back.

4. Chick in the Egg

Mine was the strangest birth under the sun;
I left the womb, yet life had not begun;
Entered the world, and yet was seen by none.

5. Stairs

Unequal in degree, alike in size,
We make our flight ascending toward the skies,
And rise with those who by our help can rise.

6. River and Fish

Sweet purlings in an earth-walled inn resound.
Within that inn a silent guest is found.
Together, guest and inn are onward bound.

7. Chain

To me, and through me fortune is unkind.
Though iron-bound, yet many must I bind,
And many free, though I remain confined.

8. Saw

All teeth from head to foot, yet friend to men,
I rip and tear my green-haired prey;
But then, all that I chew I spew right out again.

Translated from the Latin by Richard Wilbur
Used with permission)