Dominic Dousa - Songs of Sea and Life
The common themes of the three poems that comprise this song cycle are the imagery of the sea and its metaphors for various life experiences. ‘The winds, as at their hour of birth’ reflects the purity of new life and freedom. The shimmering accompaniment and soaring vocal lines underscore the ethereal and blissful atmosphere evoked by the images of winds and streams and of the proclamations: we are free.
In “Break, Break, Break,” the poet almost defiantly goads the sea to continue its churning while a storm rages in his own mind. He then remarks whimsically about those who amid the tumult are seemingly unperturbed (“O well for…”) before his attention turns to the troubling awareness that his own sense of comfort and ease is gone (“But O for the touch…”). The setting of the final stanza combines the energetic mood of the breaking waves and the somber realization that what has brought security will not come back. However, the song ends not with a feeling of resignation, but with an invigorating finish that suggests a sense of resolve to forge a new path.
In “Crossing the Bar,” the softly pulsating accompaniment and opening melodic motive in the piano evokes a sea that is now calm, gentle, and a place of repose. This tranquil mood gives way to moments of introspection and melancholy (And may there be no moaning…., And may there be no sadness…), as one prepares for the final stage in life’s journey. The song concludes with a fervent expression of hope and confidence that one will find peace. The end of the last verse, “when I have crossed the bar,” brings the first conclusive cadence in the home key, indicating that one will indeed find rest at the end of life’s earthly journey.