“It asks of us a certain height”

Star "Jewel Box" as seen from the Hubble Telescope

I’m having a junior moment this morning (not sure I’m old enough for a senior moment), because I can’t remember what choir I was lucky enough to be part of when we sang Randall Thompson’s setting of Robert Frost’s poem “Choose Something Like a Star.”

As a result of all the reflecting on Awe yesterday, I woke up with this poem, or rather Thompson’s choral arrangement of it, in my head this morning. I watched several choral versions of it on YouTube and settled on the one below for a couple of reasons: 1) I love seeing and feeling the connection between conductors and musicians, and this video captured that the best and 2) hearing their Argentinian accents conjured up stirring waves of memories of our exchange student from Argentina, Enrique, who lived with us when I was elementary school.

With all the blusterous talk in the media of Koran burning, the idiotic “debates” about the “Ground Zero Mosque” (apparently, the Ground Zero Strip Club doesn’t desecrate anyone’s memory), and the fractious “my God is better than your God” claims that pass for religious discourse in this country — from all sides of the issue — it couldn’t hurt to take a National Time Out Moment and listen to Frost’s poem. Maybe it’s just my Taurean love of music speaking, but I think hearing this poem sung by an Argentinian chorus gives the message a universality that isn’t as readily accessible from just reading it on the page. I’ve included the poem below the video so you can follow along.

Choose Something Like a Star

by Robert Frost – 1947

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud —
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.

Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says “I burn.”
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.

It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats’ Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

3 responses to ““It asks of us a certain height”

  1. Yes! I didn’t even know about the strip club . . . . . . . . . . . . . Why doesn’t someone have a world class tantrum about all this nonsense?

  2. I’m listening to this while watching the sun set over the Rocky Mountains. I’m looking forward to the stars appearing shortly and spending a moment reflecting, in my aloneness, on the awe of everyday that is sometimes only inspired by the mysteries of creation. Thanks for the prod.

  3. I’ve been out of town, so I have a lot of “crooked line” catching up to do.
    I’ve missed it!

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