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Category: reflections on love

“The Transformation of Daphne into a Lawrel” (III) – Ovid

laurel-1901.jpg!Large

       Laurel”  (1901) 

 

             Alphonse Mucha

 

                         _______

 

 

however ardently might’ve Phoebus 

been pleading his case before 

Daphne, his, however recalcitrant,  

intended, flashing his divine pedigree, 

vowing to put all that aside to serve 

only her


               She heard not half; so furiously she flies;
               And on her ear th’ imperfect accent dies, 

 

th’ imperfect accent might be the 

unnatural tone of a divinity Daphne 

might be hearing, the unusual timbre 

of a deity’s voice, I can’t imagine Ovid 

would be suggesting that Daphne and 

Phoebus spoke different Greek dialects

 

perhaps th’ imperfect accent is the

unsettling manner of his entreaties,

his indecorous urgency

 

poets can be confounding


               Fear gave her wings; and as she fled, the wind
               Increasing, spread her flowing hair behind;
               And left her legs and thighs expos’d to view:
               Which made the God more eager to
pursue. 

 

the pagan gods were notoriously 

mischievous, spirited, impulsive,

quite human, never sublime and

irreproachable as is the Abrahamic 

Supreme Deity

 

the pagan gods lived in the fields

and streams, the hills and vales,

the seas and mountains, that 

surrounded Greek and Roman 

communities, Olympus was their 

steepest height, never the 

supernatural elevations, beyond 

even our visible heaven, that our 

present pervasive monotheism 

proclaims

 

               The God was young, and was too hotly bent
               To lose his time in empty compliment:
               But led by love, and fir’d with such a sight,
               Impetuously pursu’d his near delight. 

 

often, the gods of antiquity were

perverse, not at all blameless,

not innocent, not irreproachable, 

like the one and only god that, 

today, in its several interpretations, 

even murderously conflicting, rules,

oversees, mostly, our present, at 

least Western, faith communities

 

 

               As when th’ impatient greyhound slipt from far,

               Bounds o’er the glebe to course the fearful hare,

 

glebe, fields


               She in her speed does all her safety lay; 
               And he with double speed pursues the prey; 
               O’er-runs her at the sitting turn, and licks 
               His chaps in vain, and blows upon the flix: 

 

flix, fur, the greyhound’s pelt 

 

perhaps greyhounds do this, blow

upon their flix, you’ll have to ask 

Ovid, or maybe Dryden, his 

translator

 

               She scapes, and for the neighb’ring covert strives, 

 

 a covert, a bush in which to hide


               And gaining shelter, doubts if yet she lives: 

 

doubts if yet she lives, she can’t 

believe she made it 

 

               If little things with great we may compare,
               Such was the God, and such the flying fair, 

 

the flying fair, Daphne, the God,

Phoebus


               She urg’d by fear, her feet did swiftly move,
               But he more swiftly, who was urg’d by love. 

 

love, as Ovid, or is it, once again,  

Drydenwho defines it, urg’d, 

compelled by hormones, not at all 

our romantic conception of it

 

               He gathers ground upon her in the chace:
               Now breathes upon her hair, with nearer pace;
               And just is fast’ning on the wish’d embrace. 

 

Red Riding Hood and the Big

Bad Wolf


               The nymph grew pale, and in a mortal fright,
               Spent with the labour of so long a flight; 

 

Spent, defeated


               And now despairing, cast a mournful look
               Upon the streams of her paternal brook; 

 

her father, Peneus, was a river god, 

if you’ll remember, paternal brook, 

the rill, the rivulet, of her father


               Oh help, she cry’d, in this extreamest need!
               If water Gods are deities indeed: 

 

if there is a god, be with me, she 

cry’d, you, yourself, I’m sure, have 

been there, though Daphne‘s faith 

was grounded in help, in this case, 

from her father, god of, appropriately

in this instance, streams


               Gape Earth, and this unhappy wretch intomb; 

 

I’d rather die, Daphne pleads, I’d

rather the earth swallowed me up, 

I’d rather be intomb[ed]


               Or change my form, whence all my sorrows come. 

 

transform me, rid me of what makes 

me appealing, Daphne pleads


               Scarce had she finish’d, when her feet she found
               Benumb’d with cold, and fasten’d to the ground:
               A filmy rind about her body grows; 

 

a condition I’ve found not unlike the 

ravages I call, ironically, bark, crusty 

imperfections that afflict my own 

ageing body

 

               Her hair to leaves, her arms extend to boughs:
               The nymph is all into a lawrel gone; 

 

Daphne is turning into a tree,

a lawrel 


               The smoothness of her skin remains alone. 

 

of Daphne, only her smoothness 

remains


               Yet Phoebus loves her still, and casting round
               Her bole, his arms, some little warmth he found. 

 

bole, the stem of a tree


               The tree still panted in th’ unfinish’d part: 

 

where Daphne had not yet become

a tree, she still panted, pulsed


               Not wholly vegetive, and heav’d her heart. 

 

heav’d her heart, passionately

reacted


               He fixt his lips upon the trembling rind; 

 

rind, bark


               It swerv’d aside, and his embrace declin’d. 

 

kisses not at all sweeter than wine,

said the lawrel 


               To whom the God, Because thou canst not be
               My mistress, I espouse thee for my tree: 

 

Phoebus begins to speak directly 

here, Because thou canst not be, /

My mistress, he says, I espouse 

thee for my tree: 

 

espouse, marry


               Be thou the prize of honour, and renown; 

 

you will be, he continues, the 

prize that will represent heroes


               The deathless poet, and the poem, crown. 

 

honour, first of all, worthy, deathless, 

poets, Phoebus commands, let the 

laurel wreath crown deserving 

wordsmiths

 

Ovid had reason to champion poets,

he’d been exiled from Rome by the

Emperor, Augustus, his catering to

the Roman ruler becomes 

intermittently evident throughout 

this masterpiece

 

               Thou shalt the Roman festivals adorn,
               And, after poets, be by victors worn. 

 

victors, Olympic champions, notably


               Thou shalt returning Caesar’s triumph grace; 

 

Ovid curries imperial favour here with 

Augustus, by simply immortalizing in

poetry the name of Caesar, the new

Emperor’s great-uncle, and adoptive

father, making his own personal 

nemesis shine, for what it might be 

worth, by association


               When pomps shall in a long procession pass. 

 

the parades will be long ones


               Wreath’d on the posts before his palace wait; 

 

the laurel leaves will garland the 

posts, stations, before, in front of, 

the imperial palace

 

               And be the sacred guardian of the gate.
               Secure from thunder, and unharm’d by Jove, 

 

even Jove / Jupiter, god of gods,

will stand by, honour, the symbol 

of the laurel

 

               Unfading as th’ immortal Pow’rs above: 

 

Unfading, into very eternity

 

it’s interesting to note that the 

laurel has not lost its significance

despite the intervening centuries, 

epochs, we find reference to it even 

in the honorific title of laureate, as 

in Nobel laureate, or even in the

accolade of baccalaureate, the

bachelor’s degree, the prestigious

academic accomplishment 

 

Unfading indeed


               And as the locks of Phoebus are unshorn, 

 

Phoebus always sports perfect 

hair


               So shall perpetual green thy boughs adorn.

 

it would seem that, according to 

this, laurel leaves, perpetual 

green, don’t ever lose their 

colour, but I can’t attest to this,

being a poet rather than an

arborist, a gardener, though

bay leaves, laurel, even dry,

don’t turn brown, I’ve since

noticed

 

               The grateful tree was pleas’d with what he said;
               And shook the shady honours of her head. 

 

and they all lived happily ever 

after

 

or didn’t

 

 

myths are the enduring fairy tales 

that adults continue to believe in, 

according to their culture, about 

men and women rather than 

boys and girls, they help us, like

fairy tales, make up our moral 

order

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

on love – “Nature Boy”

99_9

    unidentified

 

       _______

 

                               for Danielle and Joe

 

a few nights ago, friends came over, a 

young couple, in the bloom of youth,

relatively speaking, half, approximately, 

my age, I’m seventy, for a glass of wine

 

during a conversation about the many

knickknacks scattered about my 

apartment, pictures, paintings, 

assorted paraphernalia, memorabilia,

they asked, was there one piece of 

information I could give them, 

something not just physical, but 

metaphysical, that could lead to a  

good and meaningful life

 

after cautioning that any answer would

be way too complex, the question way 

too broad, I nevertheless trotted out, 

convivially, a few words of ready 

wisdom, a couple of trusted and true 

maxims I hold in store for such 

occasions, personal precepts, 

however seemingly flippant, I 

faithfully and diligently live by

 

pray for grace, for instance, make sure 

your tie’s on right, the only two 

practicable positions in any 

predicament, I’ve found

 

 

later, after privately thinking more 

about it, I realized there is indeed a 

specific answer, I’d been singing it 

already for a while, to help me deal 

with recent, and even accumulated, 

loss, it is the punchline to this 

wonderfully enchanted 

composition, called Nature Boy

 

      the greatest thing you’ll ever learn,

 

it knowingly advises 

 

      is just to love, and be loved in return 

 

words eminently worth retaining

 

listen

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

“The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

lipstick-1908.jpg!Large.jpg

    Lipstick (1908) 

 

          Frantisek Kupka

 

               __________

 

 whenever my heart is broken, I’ve recently 

noted, I’ve learned to sing a corresponding

song, it didn’t happen by design, but  

organically, it seems, as a response to my 

periods of anguish, a song would come up, 

each time, to contain the dimensions of my 

rue 

 

I need to learn the notes, which are usually 

tonal and melodic, with the characteristic

that they pretty consistently span a vocal

range that requires some intimate attention, 

work that tears me away, studiously and 

diligently, from my own private concerns

in order to consider, through his, her, very 

articulated lyrics, those of another, not to

mention the response of my proposed 

audience

 

I have developed quite a repertoire 

 

recently, this has been my aria

 

 

I was especially impressed by the 

irony in the composition, the 

songsmith laughing at himself, 

melodramatizing his sentiments, 

taking the sting out of his despair, 

if you’ll pardon the allusion
with over-the-top, it must be 
admitted, metaphors, allegories 

I mean, I walk along a street of

sorrows, a boulevard of broken 

dreams, you need a big floppy 

hat, and very red lipstick to pull

that one off

 

you ought to see me

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard  

 

 

   

“Orfeo ed Euridice” – Christoph Willibald Gluck

6-orpheus-leading-eurydice-from-the-underworld-plein-air-romanticism-jean-baptiste-camille-corot.jpg!Large

   Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld (1861) 

 

           Camille Corot

 

              _________

 

the question of the afterlife comes up

in several places in art history, from

very Homer to the present, my very

favourite is Gluck‘s opera Orfeo ed 

Euridice“, 1762

 

Orpheus, because of the sweetness 

of his music, his ability on the lyre, 

is granted, by the rulers of the 

Underworld, the return, among the 

mortals, of his recently deceased 

beloved, Eurydice 

 

the condition is that he not turn back

to look at her as he leads her back 

to the world of the living, our 

sensate world

 

it’s a journey I’ve taken often for its

utter enchantment and inspiration,

you’ll find it irresistible

 

watch, listen 

 

you won’t want to not go back,

I didn’t


 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

“Death is nothing at all…” – Henry Scott Holland

St_Paul's_by_Thomas_Hosmer_Shepherd_(early_19th_century)

     “St Paul’s Cathedral 

 

           Thomas Hosmer Shepherd


                          _____________

 

upon learning of the recent demise 

of my younger sister, my only sibling,

a friend sent me the following passage

 


    “Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away 

     into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains 

     exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we 

     lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we 

     were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar 

     name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put 

     no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or 

     sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we 

     enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my 

     name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be 

     spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. 

     Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. 

     There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death 

     but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because 

     I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, 

     somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing 

     is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was 

     before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we 

     meet again!”


 

it is usually presented as a poem, but 

was part of a sermon, rather, given by 

Henry Scott Holland, the very pastor 

who composed it, at St Paul’s 

Cathedral, in London, after the death 

of Edward Vll

 

listen

 


it expresses well the experience I’ve

had with others of my beloved 

departed

 

intimations of my sister are already 

popping up in my reality, soon, I told 

another friend, I’ll be talking to her 

more often than when she was not 

gone

 

much as is the case with my father, 

for instance, away some 30 years 

now, but an abiding presence, 

however mystical, still, and, 

it appears, forever

 

I consider myself profoundly 

blessed

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

“Requiem” – Antonin Dvorak

1024px-Notre_Dame_de_Chartres.jpg


        Chartres Cathedral – View from south-east


                           _____________________

 

                                               for Donna

 


a few days before a dear friend was due 

to pass away, which is to say with medical 

assistance, I had taped from television, 

whether coincidentally or not, Antonin 

Dvorak’s “Requiem”, though I hadn’t yet 

listened to it

 

on the day of the procedure, I lit candles, 

put the music on, and sat in attendance 

as its flights of angels s[a]ng [her] to

[her] rest

 

the piece is somber, probably reserved for

somber occasions, but upon their instance, 

the work is glorious, and salutary

 

here, it is performed at the Cathedral

of Chartres, suffused with the solemnity 

and the splendour appropriate to such 

a fateful moment   

 

may you journey forth in peace, 

dear friend

 

 

R ! chard 

 

 

 

“The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross” – Joseph Haydn

lord-s-crucifixion-1990.jpg!Large.jpg

     Lord´s Crucifixion (1990) 

 

           George Stefanescu

 

               ____________

 

 

my sister is not well, her situation, 

though blessed throughout with 

grace, is dire, in such moments I 

turn to music for consolation, for 

courage, and for a serene 

acquiescence to whatever might 

be the outcome, the hour that I 

spend thus with her becomes in

that light a meditation, a mass,

private prayer

 

I’ve lit a trinity of candles in her

honour, one nearby for our dad,

gone these already thirty years, 

on something of an altar I’ve 

fashioned, however all the while 

unconsciously, about my 

fireplace, by their flickering 

silence, I find a place for 

solemn contemplation 

 

The Seven Last Words of Our

Saviour on the Cross is to my 

mind Haydn’s greatest 

masterpiece, its subject is

self-explanatory, but you might

want to read again here what I 

wrote about it earlier for 

greater context 

 

it is sung in the Oratorio de la

Santa Cueva, the Oratory of 

the Holy Cave, in Cádiz, Spain

for which it had been originally

composed

 

it is transcendent

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

Symphony no 7 – Anton Bruckner

cathedral-1991.jpg!Large.jpg

   Cathedral (1991) 

 

          George Stefanescu

 

                          _________

 

 

it’s funny, upon the imminent demise 

of my only sister, I chose to listen to,

instinctively, for solace, Bruckner’s 

Symphony no 7, lighting candles,

everywhere in my apartment, at 

dusk, like settings, for my somber

reveries

 

listen, you might understand why

 

Bruckner was a profoundly Catholic

composer, composing liturgical

works expressive of his profound

beliefs, fit, aurally, for, indeed,

cathedrals, ceremonial, arresting

 

his 7th, grand and utterly convincing,

is not an ineffective consolation, is

not an easily disregarded promise 

of something, however ephemerally

manifested, beyond the meagre

aspirations of merely faith

 

and which finally produces an epiphany,

a human understanding, that just being,

just responding to our condition, within

the confines of our station, is, 

eventually, nothing short of grace

 

art, in other words, is praying

 

 

R ! chard

String Quartet no 15, Opus 144 – Dmitri Shostakovich

title-page-and-key-monogram-of-the-mountain-lover.jpg!Large

     Title page and key monogram of “The Mountain Lover” (c. 1895)

                                         

          Aubrey Beardsley

 

               ___________

 

 

after John passed away, I read, at a

gathering we had for him, something 

that I’d written in his honour, it began,

adagios always remind me of John,

John was a dancer, he walked like

one

  

a few days later, immersed as I

was in memories of him while 

mechanically washing some 

dishes, I heard, from symphony 

I’d put on in the background to

keep me company in my reverie,

its adagio

 

I dried my hands, put my arms

around myself, and we danced

to the end of the movement, I’d  

found, I understood, utterly, I

believed, miraculously, a key to

the very hereafter, adagios

would henceforth always

remind me of John

 

some time later, flipping aimlessly

through string quartets, of

Shostakovich among others, I  

happened upon this one, his 15th

String Quartet, Opus 144, which

had, to my astonishment, not one,

not two, not three, not even four

nor five, but six whole adagios,

this was John talking, I knew,

I’ve loved it ever since

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst:

 

   String Quartet no 15, Opus 144

 

        l – Elegy: Adagio  

      ll – Serenade: Adagio  

     lll – Intermezzo: Adagio

     lV – Nocturne: Adagio

      V – Funeral March: Adagio molto

    Vl – Epilogue: Adagio

 

                              Dmitri Shostakovich

from act 4, scene 3 – Othello

jealousy-from-the-series-the-green-room-1907.jpg!Large

 

when Desdemona learns that Othello

suspects her of adultery, she asks 

her maidservant

 

      Dost thou in conscience think,–tell me, Emilia,–
      That there be women do abuse their husbands
      In such gross kind?

 

Emilia, older, wiser, replies

 

      There be some such, no question.

 

 

       But I do think it is their husbands’ faults
       If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,
       And pour our treasures into foreign laps,
       Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
       Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,
       Or scant our former having in despite;
       Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
       Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know
       Their wives have sense like them: they see and smell
       And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
       As husbands have. What is it that they do
       When they change us for others? Is it sport?
       I think it is: and doth affection breed it?
       I think it doth: is’t frailty that thus errs?
       It is so too: and have not we affections,
       Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
       Then let them use us well: else let them know,
       The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

 

 

fall” in the second verse, for this is 

indeed a poem, in iambic pentameter, 

could easily be replaced by “fail

nearly even calls out for it, 

homophones but for the timbre of 

their vowels 

 

say that their husbands slack, she says,

then lists the several manners in which 

husbands might betray their marital 

duties, by “foreign, she means “other“, 

foreign to the family circle  

 

laps“, incidentally, is a wonderful 

metaphor to accompany “treasures,

suggesting intimate physical contact,

much more so, say, than hands

would’ve, for instance, been

 

restraint” means conditions, stress,

impositions  

 

scant our former having“, to diminish

that which formerly had been given,

of either material or psychological 

goods – “having” is a noun here, not

a participle

 

in despite, which is to say, “out of 

spite

 

galls“, a synecdoche for internal

organs, a synecdoche, the word

that means a part which signifies

the whole  

 

affection” is “lust

 

 

we’re equal partners, Shakespeare 

says, men and women, in a shared 

humanity, indeed Shakespeare is

one of the first Humanists after  

centuries of religious subjugation,

centuries of the suppression of

independent thought, a defining

notion, not incidentally, of the

Renaissance

 

 

R ! chard