Lost Daughter: Songs on the Myth of Persephone (2020/2021)

Soprano, Flute, Viola, Harp

Texts by Oscar Wilde, Rita Dove, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Louise Glück

Total duration ca. 29'

Five movement work

I. Requiescat (text by Oscar Wilde)

II. Persephone, Falling (text by Rita Dove)

III. Prayer to Persephone (text by Edna St. Vincent Millay)

IV. Demeter & (text by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, edited and arranged by Peter Dayton)

V. Persephone, the Wanderer (text by Louise Glück)

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Peter Dayton Music (ASCAP) for: $15

This song cycle was composed at the request of the marvelous Hong Kong-based soprano Jessica Ng, whom I met in 2019. We considered multiple ideas for a collaboration based upon themes of family dynamics for more than a year before decision emerged to create songs based upon Persephone myth as a meditation on grief and maternal love. The first four movements of the work explore different aspects of Demeter’s experience of loss with the final movement using Louise Glück’s more forensic, analytical approach to the myth as a kind of coda. Oscar Wilde’s Requiescat, composed to mourn the death of his sister when she was still a child, illustrates a wintry visit to a gravesite, reminiscing on a loved one lost. Rita Dove’s Persephone, Falling relives the tragedy of Persephone’s abduction as a cautionary tale, creating meaning out of the senselessness of loss. Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Prayer to Persephone is a kind of bargaining scene, in which Demeter projects her own lost motherhood onto Persephone and the child she will have with Hades. Demeter & (a text which I created by deleting words from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem Demeter and Persephone to create a new poem) gives voice to Demeter’s rage in her loss and the externalization of her own world crumbling around Persephone’s absence. Louise Glück’s Persephone the Wanderer telescopes back out from the first-person presentation of these poems through Demeter’s voice and addresses the myth of Persephone as a text, as a myth, as an examination of tragedy from outside the lens of those it directly touches. In addition to this work’s dedication to Jessica Ng, I owe my deepest gratitude to Amy Nam and to Garrett Groesbeck for their consultation on harp idioms in the composition of this piece. I hope that, in a time of catastrophic loss, this work can serve a purpose in processing our individual and collective experience.


The final movement can be performed without narration, if so, it should be presented in programs/liner notes as “Meditation on Louise Glück’s Persephone the Wanderer.”

  • Requiescat from “Poems” (1881) by Oscar Wilde. This poem is in the Public Domain.

  • Persephone, Falling from “Mother Love,” W.W. Norton, New York, Ó 1995 by Rita Dove. Used by Permission of the Author.

  • Hymn to Persephone from “Second April” (1921) by Edna St. Vincent Millay. This poem is in the Public Domain.

  • Demeter and Persephone from “Demeter, and Other Poems” by Alfred Lord Tennyson (1889). This poem is in the Public Domain. Text adapted and arranged by Peter Dayton,

  • Persephone, the Wanderer” by Louise Glück. Copyright 2006 by Louise Glück, used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.