• John Joubert
  • The Turning Wheel (1979)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

Headlands in Summer
Autumn Jig
The Remarkables, Queenstown
Meditation in winter
The sea
Song in Spring

  • Soprano/pf
  • 23 min

Programme Note

John Joubert: The Turning Wheel, Op. 95

Headlands in Summer
On rocks high-lifted from the sea
In brilliance of salt blue air
Grass ripples like a cat's fur,
Or silk unwinding endlessly;

Open to every wind that blows,
Its flower, more soft than fur or feather,
Rooted on rock in wild weather,
Is unperturbed as sheltered rose.

Unwearying anchor the root that tied
The first seed in spray of storm,
Holding the ripening flower from harm,
Sweetening crevice and cliff-side.

Safely all the thunderous year,
On shelves too poor for scythe or sheep,
A green lizard may fall asleep
Or a wide-winged sea-bird rest there.

Autumn Jig
Skip and hop to the wind's tune,
Few are the leaves that hang in June;
At the centre of their dance
The tree resumes her broken trance,
Heedless whether a heavy bough
Swings in the wind or is quiet now.

Not a tree in spring will show
Fear of frost or late snow;
Any old thorn by the roadside
Will dress herself up like a bride,
And though her joy last but a day
Will lightly let it stream away.

Under turning trees
Where wind-touch and leaf-fall
Trouble a green pool
Still the heart sees
That mirrored boy grow pale and cold
Weeping for all he cannot hold.

Narcissus through his tears
Beheld a bird flying
Meadow and tree lying
Light on the water as flowers,
Clear among reeds a boy alone;
And knew the weeping face his own.

Sweet bird on a willow
Sing again your song,
Long, long, long,
A gossamer thread to follow
From meditation of an hour
Out to the calm of water and flower.

The Remarkables, Queenstown
Slowly, without sound the wheel turns,
Dry rock shall nourish a forest of ferns.
That harsh lizard-backed mountain range
Appearing changeless in a sky of change,
Grave dinosaur dozing on
Heavy bone heaped on heavy bone,
To water yields, will fall and fall away
Till shells are white on the sea-bed where it lay;
Water, that gives the willow her soft hair
And asks not whether she is bent or fair,
Holding a glass for all or none to see
Time at rest in moving cloud and tree.

Meditation in Winter
Though every petal fall
And the bright fruit at last,
Colour fade from the wall
And leaves whirl past
Like papers in a gale,
The root stands fast.

Red-gold or orange-skin
Sunflower or daisy in bloom
With sandpaper leaf and thin
Tall ebony stem
Here to the touch within
The void of a dark room.

Footsteps from the street sound
Like hooves in the frosty air;
That iron root I found
And thought would nothing bear
Drew from sunless ground
White flowers each year.

I ponder a common thing
With prisoner and nun,
Yellow flowers in spring
Returning to the sun
And the faithful awakening
Of the iron-rooted white one.

The Sea
The sea like death accepts all things,
Bird-voiced water from far inland springs,
Sunset rock-pools of a few hours,
Snow and glaciers and summer showers;
There the muddy river is made clear,
Uprooted tree and flood-wrack disappear.

Bone with my bone is every abandoned shell;
Calm the water lies as in a well
In open pools along the unresting shore:
In hollowed bone I hear the seas roar
Telling of what is past and still to pass
A voice among voices like the voice of grass.

Song in Spring
I gathered reeds where a dragon died
And from full tide to ebb tide
Piped on a stone by the roadside.

Some going by at a jog-trot
Cried that I could pipe and rot,
Some stopped to listen, others would not.

Some longed to pipe all day, and sing;
But round they ran in the old ring
Hurrying like ants all the soft spring.

Ruth Dallas