Turn Not Away

The short, beautiful lyrics in this post come to you courtesy of the incomparable American composer Stephen Foster.

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He became famous during his lifetime and many of his Civil War-era songs like My Old Kentucky Home and Oh! Susannah! are still played and sung today.

Despite his great talent, Foster was not a prosperous man, as the world goes; he never seemed to profit much from the enormous popularity of his songs. There is a persistent legend that he was delighted when he received $100 for Oh! Susannah! – the only proceeds he ever received from the song.

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His last years were especially trying. Foster was grief-stricken when his parents died, and his inability to capitalize on his fame only seemed to aggravate his depression. The circumstances put a heavy strain on his marriage to wife Jane, and she left him, taking their small daughter with her. Foster then moved into a squalid hotel in New York City, where he struggled to compose while living in abject poverty.

 

In January of 1864, he developed a fever and by the time he was taken to Bellevue Hospital, it was too late. He died just a few days later, at age 37. When the hospital personnel looked in his wallet, they found Foster’s worldly riches: 3¢, along with a scrap of paper with the words “dear friends and gentle hearts” written in pencil.

Stephen Foster’s fame grew after he died, and his influence pervaded the latter half of the 19th century and stretched over the entirety of the 20th century. He is highly regarded by the composers who followed in his wake. Irving Berlin, one of the most successful composers in history, once opined: “If you were to ask any of the boys in Tin Pan Alley which songs he’d written instead of one of his own, he would pick one of Stephen Foster’s. Certainly, I feel that way.”

Turn Not Away! is not one of Foster’s more popular songs, but it shows he was a songwriter who really understood the human heart.

turn not away

Turn Not Away!

Turn not away!
Turn not away
From the fond heart thou hast slighted;
Scorn not my dream,
Bright as the beam
E’er by thy cold frown benighted.
E’er by thy cold frown benighted
E’er by thy cold frown benighted
Bid me not now
Spurn every vow
Once so confidingly plighted
Where shall I turn
How can I learn
Other delights to awaken?
Ne’er can I find
Joy for my mind,
Hope from my heart being taken
Hope from my heart being taken
Hope from my heart being taken
Vainly I’ll strive
Hope to revive
When my thee scorned and forsaken.

Turn not away!
Turn not away
From the fond heart thou hast slighted;
Scorn not my dream,
Bright as the beam
E’er by thy cold frown benighted
E’er by thy cold frown benighted
E’er by thy cold frown benighted
Bid me not now
Spurn every vow
Once so confidingly plighted.

When I would smile,
Grief to beguile,
Peace from my breast has departed;
When I would hide
Anguish in pride
Sorrowing teardrops have started
Sorrowing teardrops have started
Sorrowing teardrops have started
Turn not away!
Turn not away!
Leave me not now broken hearted!

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