That Pearl of Great Price (Geoff Allan)

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  • (Posted 2022-11-24)  CPDL #71637:      Icon_mp3_globe.gif    
Editor: Geoff Allan (submitted 2022-11-24).   Score information: A4, 28 pages, 1.19 MB   Copyright: Personal
Edition notes: This version has piano accompaniment for rehearsal and /or performance.
  • A chamber ensemble accompaniment (Flute, Oboe, French Horn, Bassoon, Harp, String Quartet and Double Bass.) is available at (see link below).
  • The mp3 (piano accomp. and YouTube (ensemble acomp.) versions use "Voices of Prague", "Soloists of Prague" and "Garritan Personal Orchestra" and hopefully will give you an impresssion of a performance.
  • Instrumental parts may be found at That Pearl of Great Price at the Petrucci Music Library (IMSLP).

General Information

Title: That Pearl of Great Price
Composer: Geoff Allan
Lyricist: Hilda Doolittle
Number of voices: 4 + solosvv   Voicing: SATB Choir and SATB Solos
Genre: SecularPartsong

Language: English
Instruments: Piano

First published: 2022
Description: A strange poem by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) written during WW2 and to be found in her book "The Walls do not Fall". It is all about resilience in the face of adversity. I have set it for SATB choir, SATB soloists accompanied by piano. A chamber ensemble accompaniment ( Flute, Oboe, French Horn, Bassoon, Harp, String Quartet and Double Bass.) is available at (see link)

External websites:

Original text and translations

English.png English text

That Pearl of Great Price
Author : H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

There is a spell, for instance,
in every sea-shell:
continuous, the sea-thrust
is powerless against coral,
bone, stone, marble
hewn from within by that craftsman,
the shell-fish:
oyster, clam, mollusc
is master-mason planning
the stone-marvel:
yet that flabby, amorphous hermit
within, like the planet
senses the finite,
it limits its orbit
of being, its house,
temple, fane, shrine:
it unlocks the portals
at stated intervals:
prompted by hunger,
it opens to the tide-flow:
but infinity? no,
of nothing-too-much:
I sense my own limit,
my shell-jaws snap shut
at invasion of the limitless,
ocean-weight; infinite water
can not crack me, egg in egg-shell;
closed in, complete, immortal
full-circle, I know the pull
of the tide, the lull
as well as the moon;
the octopus-darkness
is powerless against
her cold immortality;
so I in my own way know
that the whale
can not digest me:
be firm in your own small, static, limited
orbit and the shark-jaws
of outer circumstance
will spit you forth:
be indigestible, hard, ungiving.
so that, living within,
you beget, self-out-of-self,
that pearl-of-great-price.