“Beautiful Dreamer”

Author: Stephen C. Foster
Earliest date: 1864
Keywords: dream love nonballad
Found in: US

Description

"Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me, Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee." The singer tells how the "sounds of the rude world" have faded in the night, and hopes for an end to sorrow

Supplemental text

Beautiful Dreamer
  Complete text(s)

          *** A ***

From sheet music published 1863/4 (but probably typeset 1862)
by William A. Pond & Co. Title page inscribed
              Beautiful Dreamer
        "the last song ever written"
                    by
            STEPHEN C. FOSTER
  COMPOSED BUT A FEW DAYS PRIOR TO HIS DEATH

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee;
Sounds of the rude world heard in the day
Lull'd by the moonlight have all pass'd away.
Beautiful dreamer, queen of my song,
List while I woo thee with soft melody;
Gone are the cares of life's busy throng,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Beautiful dreamer, out on the sea
Mermaids are chanting the wild lorelie;
Over the streamlet vapors are borne,
Waiting to fade at the bright coming morn.
Beautiful dreamer, beam on my heart
E'en as the morn on the streamlet and sea;
Then will all clouds of sorrow depart,
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!
Beautiful dreamer, awake unto me!

Notes

The 1864 sheet music to this piece lists it as Foster's last song, composed shortly before his death (and Spaeth says the song "undoubtedly" belongs to the last two weeks of his life), but Fuld notes a curious reference to a Foster song "Beautiful Dreamer" in 1863, and the copyright claim on the 1864 sheet music appears to have been altered (though the LC records report the song as entered in March 1864).

Note that while the cover of the sheet music gives the date as 1864, the copyright on page 2 still appears to read 1862.

Even so, it appears that "Beautiful Dreamer" was Foster's last noteworthy song; while there is no real evidence that it went into tradition, it at least has endured in popular circles, unlike anything else he wrote after 1860 at the latest.

As an aside, "She was all the World to Me" was also marketed as Foster's last song, as was "Our Darling Kate."

Thus the possibility must be admitted that the song is in fact older, and had been sitting in someone's files for some time, only to be pulled out to capitalize on Foster's death. (It's quite likely, in fact, that the song was typeset in 1862 but not issued at the time.)

This was by no means uncommon -- the Saunders/Root bibliography lists 16 songs credited to Foster but first printed in 1864 and after (though many of these are the works of others).

Two of these posthumous claims are rather humorous; "Give this to Mother" is listed as "Stephen C. Foster's last musical Idea" (!), while "Little Mac! Little Mac! You're the Very Man" refers to events which took place months after Foster's death (Spaeth suggests Foster's daughter Marion actually wrote the piece). - RBW

References

  1. Silber-FSWB, p. 261, "Beautiful Dreamer" (1 text)
  2. Saunders/Root-Foster 2, pp. 237-244+437, "Beautiful Dreamer" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Fuld-WFM, p. 135, "Beautiful Dreamer"
  4. DT, BEAUTDR*
  5. ST FSWB261 (Full)
  6. BI, FSWB261