Fireside was commissioned in 2001 by pianist Sarah Cahill in celebration of Ruth Crawford Seeger’s centennial. The piece sets a poem Ruth Crawford wrote when she was thirteen years old. The harmony is a response to her fifth prelude. Fireside is dedicated to women composers of the future, who will undoubtedly be making devil’s bargains of their own.
Here is the text of Ruth Crawford’s poem.
When I sit by the side of the blazing fire
On a cold December night,
And gaze at the leaping and rollicking flames
As they cast their flickering light
I see what I would be in future years,
If my wishes and hopes came true,
And the flames form pictures of things that I dream,
Of the deeds that I hope to do.
One tall yellow flame darts above all the rest,
And I see myself famed and renowned,
A poetess I, and a novelist too,
Who is honored the whole world around.
That flame then grows dim, which to me seems to say,
That my first hope must soon die away,
Then another one darts on a great opera stage,
The most exquisite music I play.
And then, after many flames rise, and die down,
The first burns even and slow,
And I see myself singing to children my own,
On the porch of a small bungalow.
Oh, I dream, and I dream, until slowly the fire
Burns lower, grows smaller, less bright,
Till the last tiny spark has completely gone out,
And my dreams are wrapt up in the night.
Ruth Crawford, age 13