Lyrics: Mark Twain Quotes, by Doug Harbin

Mark Twain Quotes                                                                                                          Doug Harbin (b. 1980)

                                                                                                                                            Words by Mark Twain


Mark Twain Quotes was composed while serving an artist residency at the Banff Centre in the fall of 2012.  As a compositional exercise, the composer set a different quote by Mark Twain each day before he allowed himself to eat lunch.  This collection is the best of these daily compositions.  The complete set is around 9 minutes in duration and is comprised of seven short songs.  The songs may be sung in any order or a subset may be chosen for performance.


The cycle is based on a systematic form of composition that the composer calls the Take-Away System.  Each song in the cycle utilizes the system differently.  For example, “But Who Prays” uses all twelve pitches while “Lord Save Us” utilizes only five pitches.  “No Sinner” organizes a twenty-note chromatic range.


From Soprani Compagni:  One might wonder why Mark Twain is included in the “Portraits of Women” project.  The fact is, he was surrounded by world-changing women.  Twain was married to Olivia Langdon, through whom he met activists for women’s rights and social equality, including their neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe.  Their only surviving child, Clara, was a contralto singer, managed Twain’s estate, and wrote his biography. She funded American girls to attend Oxford and Cambridge Universities through her benefit concerts.


  1. “But who prays for Satan? Who, in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most?”
  2. “Lord save us all from a hope tree that has lost the faculty of putting out blossoms.”
  3. “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
  4. “Let us not be too particular; it is better to have old second hand diamonds than none at all.”
  5. “Man was made at the end of the week’s work when God was tired.”
  6. “No sinner is ever saved after the first twenty minutes of a sermon.”
  7. “The Truth is mighty and will prevail. There is nothing wrong with this, except it ain’t so.”