Thursday, December 31
Now winter downs the dying of the year,
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin
And still allows some stirring down within.
I've known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell
And held in ice as dancers in a spell
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,
They seemed their own most perfect monument.
There was perfection in the death of ferns
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown
Composedly have made their long sojourns,
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii
The little dog lay curled and did not rise
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze
The random hands, the loose unready eyes
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.
These sudden ends of time must give us pause.
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.
-- Richard Wilbur
Richard Wilbur (link)
Posted by rb at 12/31/2009
Thursday, December 24
Bonhoeffer in his skylit cell
bleached by the flares' candescent fall,
pacing out his own citadel,
restores the broken themes of praise,
encourages our borrowed days,
by logic of his sacrifice.
Against the wild reasons of the state
his words are quiet but not too quiet.
We hear too late or not too late.
-- Geoffrey Hill
About Dietrich Bonhoeffer and "Christmas Trees" (link)
Geoffrey Hill (link)
Posted by rb at 12/24/2009
Sunday, December 20
At sundown when a day's words
have gathered at the feet of the trees
lining up in silence
to enter the long corridors
of the roots into which they
pass one by one thinking
that they remember the place
as they feel themselves climbing
away from their only sound
while they are being forgotten
by their bright circumstances
they rise through all of the rings
afterward as they
listened once and they come
to where the leaves used to live
during their lives but have gone now
and they too take the next step
beyond the reach of meaning
-- W.S. Merwin
W.S. Merwin (link)
Posted by rb at 12/20/2009
Friday, December 11
… tonight we are privileged to undertake Rachmaninov's "All-Night Vigil." Those of you who have baby sitters who expect you home before dawn may wish to step outside for a few moments to make a phone call. (Lest you be frightened by the title, be apprised that the 15 musical numbers take but 65 minutes in the singing.)
Though written during the early years of World War I (1915), with the restrictions which Rachmaninov imposed upon himself to insure their suitability for liturgical performance, their musical idiom clearly "looks backward" –to the 500-year-old orthodox Znamenny chant as clothed in the loving 19th century language of "the last great representative of Russian Romanticism."
… Ranging from unison voices to eight and twelve parts, and moving from simple chant through variation to improvisation, the Vespers sometimes can be a complex work to put together, but it speaks so directly and simply to the heart, that one of the recurrent difficulties in rehearsal is that we become so emotionally touched–that it is next to impossible to continue singing.
Do not be ashamed if at times your eyes fill with tears (it's good for you)
And it almost certainly is best if we withhold applause until the Vespers are complete. We will not be insulted if even then you do not applaud.
-- Robert Shaw, from "Opening Remarks at Spivey Hall," May 14-15, 1993 The Robert Shaw Reader
All-Night Vigil (link)
Posted by rb at 12/11/2009
Monday, December 7
Sunday, December 6
Consciously I had done nothing to promote any such development; on the contrary, my sympathies were on the other side. Something must therefore have been behind the scenes, some intelligence, at any rate something more intelligent than myself. For the extraordinary idea that in the light of consciousness the inner realm of light appears as a gigantic shadow was not something I would have hit on of my own accord.
-- C.G. Jung Memories
Posted by rb at 12/06/2009
Friday, December 4
She held men closely with discovery,
Almost as speed discovers, in the way
Invisible change discovers what is changed,
In the way what was has ceased to be what is.
It was not her look but a knowledge that she had.
She was a self that knew, an inner thing,
Subtler than look's declaiming, although she moved
With a sad splendor, beyond artifice,
Impassioned by the knowledge that she had,
There on the edges of oblivion.
O exhalation, O fling without a sleeve
And motion outward, reddened and resolved
From sight, in the silence that follows her last word–
-- Wallace Stevens, lines from "The Owl in the Sarcophagus"
Read more (link)
Posted by rb at 12/04/2009