Songs of Smaller Creatures


I. The Bees' Song
II. A noiseless, patient spider
III. Envoi

SSAATTBB a cappella, soprano solo

Songs of Smaller Creatures comprises three tone-poems for mixed a cappella chorus, each a character study on a small creature from the natural world.

"The Bees' Song" takes its silly text of a very busy little bee from British poet Walter de la Mare (who included 33 Z's in his original poem). "A noiseless patient spider" has Walt Whitman comparing the questing human soul to a spider launching her web (beginning with each of the eight "spider legs" stepping slowly to the edge of a promontory). "Envoi" turns Charles Swinburne's simple text into a flock of migrating butterflies.


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Order Sheet Music
Catalog Number: 
AB-035-03 (full score)
Catalog Number: 
AB-035-32 (mvt III only: "Envoi")
Total Pages: 
Commissioned By: 
Young New Yorkers' Chorus

Winner of the Univ. of Minnesota's Craig and Janet Swan Composer Prize
Finalist for the Young New Yorkers' Chorus Young Composer Competition


Los Angeles Master Chorale (Grant Gershon, conductor)
Renegade Ensemble - Minneapolis, MN (Stanley Rothrock, conductor)
Rudsambee Company of Singers - Edinburgh, Scotland (Oliver Singleton, conductor)
University of Minnesota Chamber Singers (Kathy Romey, conductor)
Young New Yorkers Chorus (Nathan Davis, conductor)
Grant Park Chorus - Chicago, IL (Christopher Bell, conductor)


"Betnis's [sic] rich melodic and harmonic palatte [sic], and use of unusual vocal effects, along with beautiful singing of guest artist, Risa Larson, soprano, added to the success of these songs." Ahdda Shur on LA Master Chorale's performance in Disney Hall, 6/3/13 (

Text Author or Source: 
Walter de la Mare, Walt Whitman, Charles Swinburne

I. The Bees' Song
Thousandz of thornz there be
On the Rozez where gozez
The Zebra of Zee (etc)
- Walter de la Mare (1873-1953)

II. A noiseless patient spider
A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark'd how, to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them -- ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing -- seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form'd -- till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.
- Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

III. Envoi
Fly, white butterflies, out to sea,
Frail, pale wings for the wind to try,
Small white wings that we scarce can see,

Some fly light as a laugh of glee,
Some fly soft as a long, low sigh;
All to the haven where each would be.
- Charles Swinburne (1837-1909)

These texts are in the public domain, and may be reprinted from this website (with proper author credit) for use in concert programs and for promotional use as related to this musical work.