Three Poems of John Hall Wheelock
2007, for Baritone & Piano
Length: 10 minutes
Revision: 1
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Cost per Copy: $12.50

While browsing through some poetry in 2006, I stumbled across the poem “The Unknown Beloved” by John Hall Wheelock (1886 – 1976).  This was one of those rare poems that leapt from the page and cried, “Put me to music!”  I began to search for at least two other poems by Wheelock that could be part of a song cycle about women or love. 

As it turned out, most of Wheelock’s poems about the heart depicted trauma, tragedy, or bitterness – hardly poetry that would balance the weightiness of “The Unknown Beloved”!  It was not until I came across one of his first books of poetry that I was able to find poems of joyful love.  “Whenever Two Lovers Meet” comes from this collection.  The middle poem of the three songs, “Unrest,” is different from the other two poems in so many ways, yet it suggests a lightness and etherealness that I think provides a satisfactory complement to the rest of the set.

Poetry by John Hall Wheelock

The Unknown Beloved

I dreamed I passed a doorway
    Where, for a sign of death,
White ribbons one was binding
    About a flowery wreath.

What drew me so I know not,
    But drawing near I said,
"Kind sir, and can you tell me
    Who is it here lies dead?"

Said he, "Your most beloved
    Died here this very day,
That had known twenty Aprils
    Had she but lived till May."

Astonished I made answer,
    Good sir, how say you so!
Here have I no beloved,
    This house I do not know."

Quoth he, "Who from the world's end
    Was destined unto thee
Here lies, thy true beloved
    Whom thou shalt never see."    

I dreamed I passed a doorway
    Where, for a sign of death,
White ribbons one was binding
    About a flowery wreath.


There are three tremblings sweet to think upon:
The trembling of a poplar-leaf in the wind,
The trembling of a woman in the moment of love,
And the trembling of the stars …

Whenever Two Lovers Meet
Whenever two lovers meet
    A new star in heaven is lit –
Heaven is the banner of love,
    And night the memory of it.

The joyous embrace of love
    Calls a new soul from its sphere;
At the music of two hearts beating
    God leans down to hear.

The song cycle Three Poems of John Hall Wheelock were written in 2006 for Philip Dixon, who premiered them on January 20, 2007.

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