Words for my Daughter

For flute and piano


Composition Date: 1996

Duration: 8'



Commissioned by Young Artists Trust (YCAT). First performed by Emily Beynon (fl) and Elizabeth Burley (pf), Malvern Festival, 1996.


Programme Note:



I first heard Words for my Daughter by Janet Paisley at a reading on National Poetry Day 1995. I had my nine-day-old daughter with me and it made a profound impression. Shortly afterwards I wrote the flute and piano piece, which is in effect a free setting of the poem.

It was commissioned by Young Concert Artsts Trust for Catherine Beynon and Elizabeth Burley.

Words for my Daughter

Come, the cap of birth is dry,

my labouring is done, your cry

has split the world's roof.

Be comforted, the womb

returns to wrap around you.


Sweet darkness, velvet-blood

from which you came, 

as night will cup you again, again

move you outward into light;

a brilliance to be danced in

is life. Your staggering steps

will grow to trust this earth;

it meets both sure and unsure feet.

That shifting pain will shape

the edges that define you.

Move through yourself. See,

the fugure is with child

and needs your labouring.

Be done with pasts, walk away.

I'll watch, I'll guard your back,

blinded by my own time. Go forward

from the shadows mothers cast

As old women shrink, rich fruit

seed into the garden

I have been. Now you. So live,



we have both shed our tears

for miracles, for coming new.


In birth-sleep heavy at my breast,

love-child, first comes the dream

and then the making true.

Janet Paisley

Reproduced with permission of Chapman Publishing.



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