What are years - for unaccompanied choir (SATB) text by Marianne Moore (BMC 1909), commissioned for the inauguration of Kim Cassidy as President of Haverford College and premiered by the Chamber Singers of Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges on September 20, 2014.

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What are years


What are years?
What is our innocence, 
what is our guilt? All are 
    naked, none is safe. And whence 
is courage: the unanswered question, 
the resolute doubt -- 
dumbly calling, deafly listening -- that 
in misfortune, even death, 
      encourages others 
      and in its defeat, stirs 

   the soul to be strong? He 
sees deep and is glad, who 
   accedes to mortality 
and in his imprisonment rises 
upon himself as 
the sea in a chasm, struggling to be 
free and unable to be, 
      in its surrendering 
      finds its continuing. 

  So he who strongly feels, 
behaves. The very bird, 
    grown taller as he sings, steels 
his form straight up. Though he is captive, 
his mighty singing 
says, satisfaction is a lowly 
thing, how pure a thing is joy. 
      This is mortality, 
      this is eternity. 

   -- Marianne Moore (1941)


 Marianne Moore

Marianne Moore