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What, then, did I want (1943)

Part of a series or song cycle:

Boyhood's End

What, then, did I want

What, then, did I want?
What did I ask to have?
If the question had been put to me then,
and if I had been capable of expressing what was in me,
I should have replied:
I want only to keep what I have.
To rise each morning and look out on the sky and the grassy dew-wet Earth,
from day to day, from year to year.
To watch each June and July for spring,
to feel the same old sweet surprise
and delight at th’ appearance of each familiar flower,
ev’ry new-born insect,
ev’ry bird returned once more from the north.
To listen in a trance of delight to the wild notes of the golden plover
coming once more to the great plain,
flying south, flock succeeding flock the whole day long.
Oh, those wild beautiful cries of the golden plover!
I could exclaim with Hafiz with but one word changed:
If after a thousand years that sound should float o’er my tomb,
my bones uprising in their gladness would dance in the sepulchre.


Sir Michael Kemp Tippett was an English composer who rose to prominence during and immediately after the Second World War.

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