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Month: June, 2012

Xll. Indeed this very love which is my boast – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

Xll. Indeed this very love which is my boast

Indeed this very love which is my boast,
And which, when rising up from breast to brow,
Doth crown me with a ruby large enow
To draw men’s eyes and prove the inner cost, –
This love even, all my worth, to the uttermost,
I should not love withal, unless that thou
Hadst set me an example, shown me how,
When first thine earnest eyes with mine were crossed,
And love called love. And thus, I cannot speak
Of love even, as a good thing of my own:
Thy soul hath snatched up mine all faint and weak,
And placed it by thee on a golden throne, –
And that I love (O soul, we must be meek!)
Is by thee only, whom I love alone.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

_______________________

though the sonnet has a history going back to the
13th Century, English poets probably found their
soul spring in Shakespeare, all CLlV of his seminal
blueprints

you’ll notice the order of rhymes, the set number of
lines of verse, 14, are the same, Barrett Browning
hides however her consonant sounds by blurring
the meter as she forces it into the following line by
the dictates of correct grammar and meaning

the result is Romantic urgency, instead of the more
controlled poetry of a ceremonious, therefore less
indulgent, more rigidly formal, monarchic court, and
age

majesty has ceded here to democracy, for better
or for worse

Richard

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Xl. And therefore if to love can be desert – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

Xl. And therefore if to love can be desert…

And therefore if to love can be desert,
I am not all unworthy. Cheeks as pale
As these you see, and trembling knees that fail
To bear the burden of a heavy heart, –
This weary minstrel-life that once was girt
To climb Aornus, and can scarce avail
To pipe now ‘gainst the valley nightingale
A melancholy music, — why advert
To these things? O Beloved, it is plain
I am not of thy worth nor for thy place!
And yet, because I love thee, I obtain
From that same love this vindicating grace
To live on still in love, and yet in vain, –
To bless thee, yet renounce thee to thy face.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

____________________

“desert” here, as in “just deserts”, to get what one
deserves, and not incidentally “Just Desserts”, the
sweets emporia, is an example of the affectations of
Romantic poetry that used to annoy me and turn me
away, so that I quickly lost my curiosity as to its
proponents, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Rimbaud, Verlaine,
Baudelaire, were all too ornate, and abstruse, obscure,
for me to see anything but artifice and decoration,
when I required clarity and direction as a young pup

here and there an idea struck a chord that would not
not reverberate, about Truth and Beauty for instance,
or They also serve who only stand and wait“, and of
course the plangent How do I love thee? Let me
count the ways
“,
which had none of these infringing
pretensions

it took me a while to understand that this was the idiom
of another age, that poetry could transcend its heritage
and become relevant

urgent

vital

Aornus, I ask you, is a mountain in, of all places, India,
which Alexander purportedly conquered way before
our time

to “advert/To” is to refer to

despite these irritations, Elizabeth Barrett Browning
remains unexpectedly direct and even still poignant
in her self-disparagement, her self-abnegation, even
after eleven poems, perhaps because she touches,
beyond the idiosyncracies of self-conscious style,
masochistic maybe even neurosis, an underlying
true chord of love in all its quivering manifestations,
one of our major ever existential concerns

Richard

beat (Mozart Piano Concerto no 13 in C major, K 415)

it should be considered that even without tonalities
here – another word for “notes”, tonal divergences – 
just the rigorously held beat is enough for this riff 
to be called music
 
pretty impressive music at that
  
the reverse hasn’t always been true, is still not
for many, the history of Western music has been
the attempt to change that, to find music in the 
discordant ordinary, trust in an underlying cosmic
flow, melody even in tonalities devoid of any 
immediately recognizable rhythms 
 
hidden rhyme, where the beat of a verse obscures
the usual accent given to the last word of a line,
which usually sings thereby in conjunction with its
sister word at the end of a following one, performs 
in verse a similar function   
 
instances of hidden verse abound in for instance
 
 
     from “Sonnets from the Portuguese
 
            X. Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful …   
 
                        Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed
                        And worthy of acceptation. Fire is bright,

                        Let temple burn, or flax; and equal light
                        Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed:
                        And love is fire. And when I say at need
                        I love thee … mark! … I love thee—in thy sight
                        I stand transfigured, glorified aright,
                        With conscience of the new rays that proceed
                        Out of my face toward thine. There’s nothing low
                        In love, when love the lowest: meanest creatures
                        Who love God, God accepts while loving so.
                        And what I feel, across the inferior features
                        Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show
                        How that great work of Love enhances Nature’s.
 
 
                                                          Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
 
 
listen to Mitsuko Uchida blur the staunch rhythmic
line of Mozart’s 13th Piano Concerto delivering again
thereby absolute transcendence, Mozart himself
would’ve been, I’m sure, ultra wowed  
 
 
Richard  
 
 
 

Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, K365‏

  Blind Man's Bluff - Jean-Honore Fragonard

                               Blind Man’s Bluff(1769-70)

                                               Jean-Honoré Fragonard
 
                                                      _______________
 
 
the spirituality that is everywhere in Bach, the
sense of musical exploration and ultimate solace,
will not be found again in the history of music
for another hundred years, in Anton Bruckner
then, 1824 – 1896, a profoundly devout Catholic
organist – Bach, 1685 – 1750, was Lutheran –
then for another hundred years again, in Olivier
Messiaen, 1908 – 1992, again a profoundly
devout Catholic organist, perhaps a
reincarnation, like a Dalai Lama 
 
already in his day Bach was being considered
old-fashioned, gasp, the new age was revelling
in courtly extravagance, see also for instance
François Boucher, and Fragonard, featured for
your convenience above
   
Mozart would fit right in, for a good time call
Wolfgang Amadeus  
 
 
Mozart takes the tools that Bach created, the
newly installed well-tempered clavier and does
what kids do with their parents heritage, play
with it, Mozart doesn’t explore, he entertains,
notes are the toys in his sandbox, and he makes
the very most of it, never leaving his kindergarten
sanctum, nor would anybody be as effervescent
again for, this time, another 150 years, with
Prokofiev, 1891 – 1953, even more outrageous,
though ultimately not for that more famous,  
being perhaps for many too out there, fun like
jack-in-the-box, too unnervingly unpredictable, 
still 
 
Mozart, though eminently delightful, is
appropriately predictable for his epoch
 
 
of all of his works my favourite, is what I put
on for instant exhilaration
 
it never fails me
 
 
enjoy
 
Richard 
 
 
 

 

 

J.S. Bach – Sonatas for Violin and Keyboard

though Bach wrote several works for solo violin – 
the astonishing feat of keeping you entertained
for again, like his work for the cello, with one
note only at a time for a couple of nevertheless
rapturous hours – this performance of the sonatas 
for violin and keyboard, which at the time would’ve
been the harpsichord, is live, complete, and too
sublime not to take precedence over his equally
mesmerizing solo stuff, unavailable anyway yet
cohesively on the Internet, before taking leave
of this mighty master, as we eventually must, 
for more contemporary pastures 
 
Bach was the end of an era, of civility, of order,
of, after Newton, the apparently clockwork
universe, where all would be ultimately
mathematically comprehensiblethough God, 
somewhere beyond the paradoxically
indecipherable still infinite, would remain
obstinately for a while the watchmaker
 
you can hear this in Bach’s music, each intricate
piece coming to an always thoroughly satisfying
end, like absolution, like sonic grace 
 
 
this would change, the dissolution of the idea
of God, the basis of the rights of kings, would
logically have to founder on the primacy of
individual rights, democracy, and the
positioning of the heart at the centre of
philosophical speculation, which is to say, 
after a Classical intervention, the Romantic
Age  
 
yes, of course, it was saying, to staunch and
irrevocable reason, indeed the mind, but the
heart has also its ratiocinations of which
reason knows naughtas Blaise Pascal,
1623-1662, iconic mathematician, physicist,
philosopher, had so incisively stated, who
even so early had understood the ineluctable
place of passion in the affairs of men   
 
 
you’ll note the more languid pace of the violin
that the keyboard at this point cannot accomplish,
but that the pianist here mimics with only spare
use of the hold petal, which would give notes
otherwise a too reverberant, too self-indulgent 
tone 
 
 
the music of Bach by the time of Mozart was
considered unfashionably dated, and was lost
for nearly a hundred years, to be revived
decisively by conductors and performers only
in the mid-nineteenth century, Mendelssohn
among the most noteworthy of these proponents 
 
today I can think of no other more consistently
profoundly satisfying composer, pace even the 
very Homer of music, the monolithic Beethoven  
 
but of course that’s just my opinion   
 
 
Richard
 
psst: Polling Abbey is a monastery in Upper
         Bavaria, a short distance from Munich
 
 
 

X. Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

X. Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful…

Yet, love, mere love, is beautiful indeed
And worthy of acceptation. Fire is bright,
Let temple burn, or flax; and equal light
Leaps in the flame from cedar-plank or weed:
And love is fire. And when I say at need
I love thee … mark! … I love thee—in thy sight
I stand transfigured, glorified aright,
With conscience of the new rays that proceed
Out of my face toward thine. There’s nothing low
In love, when love the lowest: meanest creatures
Who love God, God accepts while loving so.
And what I feel, across the inferior features
Of what I am, doth flash itself, and show
How that great work of Love enhances Nature’s.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

___________________

we are witness to the “transfigur[ation] that occurs at
the conferment of love, the sacred trust one receives of
infinite empathy for another, others, in order to glimpse
maybe something of the mystical dimensions of our
universe, the place within it of miracles, should one
chance to go there

and it is, well, transformational, a quantum leap of the
very soul

note structurally the rush of emotion that blurs a
usually dominant rhyme, the stop for breath in the
very middle of a verse instead of its usual place at
the end of the line, to suggest the lost parameters,
the breached social norms, of her emotion

note the urgency of her sentiment – “I love thee …
mark! … I love thee”
– despite being “the lowest”,
and being unworthy under normal conditions of
even being heard

yet she is aware, cognizant, that this grace she
has received changes the world – “How that great
work of Love enhances Nature’s.”
– her “new rays”
burn ever bright, a constant flame keeping vigil at
her lover’s altar, and sheds light thereby, hope and,
it appears, undying inspiration, on all of us

wow, man

note also, incidentally, how, this time, there is not
a word about him, even a descriptive trait, except
as a necessary, though maybe incidental, catalyst,
a primal engine

we’ll see

Richard

lX. Can it be right to give what I can give? – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

lX. Can it be right to give what I can give?…

Can it be right to give what I can give?
To let thee sit beneath the fall of tears
As salt as mine, and hear the sighing years
Re-sighing on my lips renunciative
Through those infrequent smiles which fail to live
For all thy adjurations? O my fears,
That this can scarce be right! We are not peers,
So to be lovers; and I own, and grieve,
That givers of such gifts as mine are, must
Be counted with the ungenerous. Out, alas!
I will not soil thy purple with my dust,
Nor breathe my poison on thy Venice-glass,
Nor give thee any love — which were unjust.
Belovèd, I love only thee! let it pass.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

________________________

though it might seem unworthy, this is my condition,
she says, I have only my misery to offer, and my
intemperate, ineradicable, love, my very destiny,
should it be of any consequence, best were for you,
therefore, to move on

at which her abnegation brought me to a shiver, and,
marvelously, to, in my very body, compassion

there is something awesome, even sacred, in this
unbound sincerity

Richard