This is the first song of The Bucolics Project, a slow blooming collaboration with Kentucky poet Maurice Manning. Using adapted versions of poems from his 2007 collection Bucolics, one of the books of poetry that most speaks to me, and melodies from my research as an Appalachian Sound Archives fellow at Berea College, the collaboration seeks to create new songs from old bones. I pair a melody with a specific poem—in this case, Foreignlander from the Ritchie family and poem #40—and the Maurice rewrites the original poem to match the metrical structure of the melodic bones. Because adaptations are such stellar writing, I’d like to share the whole thing with you here:
Is there another sky besides
the blue one, Boss, you made?
A grayer one, though just as wide,
to gloom above the glade?
Is there another yellow moon
beyond the face I know?
That shortly shows itself then soon
it darkens as it goes.
From glowing glee then suddenly
its face is pinched to none,
what notion dawns upon it free
to be the moon alone?
To waver in the only sky,
O single handed Boss,
the only things they give me sigh
that half of them are lost.
What reason can you give me now
for showing me but half,
there’s honey sweet, but then I know
the wheat must lose the chaff.
Remaining torn from hope but bright
with hope I wander long
beside the moonlit stream at night
then wake to greet the dawn.
You boss the face of every thing
to cleave it clean in two,
so both halves joining then can sing
to cleave themselves to you.
I don’t mind rising half the time
the other half I’m shamed,
for ever thinking I could rise
or you would call my name