Composers and audiences both rely a lot on memory. Whether it is an earlier theme, or an expectation that is met in an unexpected way, or writing in a style reminiscent of times past, we rely on memory to keep things straight. Fittingly, Mnemosyne, by the American poet Trumbull Stickney (1874-1904), is named after the Greek goddess of memory and the mother of the nine Muses. Stickney tells a story of remembrance and nostalgia, relying on our own memories and supplying us with more, with a refrain of homesickness.
It's autumn in the country I remember.
How warm a wind blew here about the ways!
And shadows on the hillside lay to slumber
During the long sun-sweetened summer-days.
It's cold abroad the country I remember.
The swallows veering skimmed the golden grain
At midday with a wing aslant and limber;
And yellow cattle browsed upon the plain.
It's empty down the country I remember.
I had a sister lovely in my sight:
Her hair was dark, her eyes were very sombre;
We sang together in the woods at night.
It's lonely in the country I remember.
The babble of our children fills my ears,
And on our hearth I stare the perished ember
To flames that show all starry thro' my tears.
It's dark about the country I remember.
There are the mountains where I lived. The path
Is slushed with cattle-tracks and fallen timber,
The stumps are twisted by the tempests' wrath.
But that I knew these places are my own,
I'd ask how came such wretchedness to cumber
The earth, and I to people it alone.
It rains across the country I remember.