A poem by James Agee, from the volume Permit Me Voyage. It was set to music by the composer Samuel Barber in 1938 and published in the set of Four Songs, opus 13, number 3.
Barber, who himself was an accomplished pianist and baritone, sang its premiere. The song has a rather high tessitura for baritone, which seems to be intended to take advantage of the bronze tone in that range. “Sure on this shining night” is widely accepted as a canonical piece of American art song, and has been transposed to easier keys.
There exists a choral arrangement by Barber that places the melody in canon between the soprano and tenor parts. This is a more difficult piece for choir than the original solo song, but beautiful nonetheless.