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Tag: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Op. 115 – Johannes Brahms

the-wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog.jpg!Blog

    “The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog / 

            “Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer (1818)   

          Caspar David Friedrich

                     ___________

                              for Collin, who’ll appreciate
                                        especially, I’m sure, the 
                                             Chopin


while I’m on the subject of clarinet quintets,
since there are so few significant ones, let 
me pull Brahms’ out of my hat and celebrate 
it, a worthy challenge to Mozart’s own utter
masterpiece

but over a century has gone by, it’s 1891, 
Beethoven, the French Revolution, the 
Romantic Era is reaching its end, ceding 
to Impressionism, after the disruptions of 
rampant industrialization, and its 
consequent effects on the social contract

Marx has proposed a theoretical master 
plan to equitably protect the rest of us 
from the 1%, however too politically 
fraught, eventually, such a system – see
Communism

furthermore, Darwin had suggested that 
we weren’t all descended from Adam and 
Eve, but from larvae, which is to say, 
millennially morphed, modified, through
time, genetically, leading to festering still 
ideological  objections

Elizabeth Barrett Browning had written 
her unadulterated love poems to her 
husband, RobertCaspar David 
Friedrich had shown us his wanderer’s 
back while facing the mountainous 
challenges of the upcoming world, 
godless now after NietzscheAnna 
Karenina had thrown herself in front 
of a train, Madame Bovary had taken 
poison, and Ibsen‘s Nora had left her 
husband for a fraught, if not even 
dangerous, life on her own, to escape 
his safe but insufferable dominance, 
while Jane Eyre was finding ghosts
in her cobwebbed, and insufferable, 
to my mind, though admittedly  
aristocratic, attic 


you’ll note the clarinet is not sitting
centre stage, but has nevertheless 
a place at the table, by this time, 
though not not honoured, familiar,
and is more integrated to the 
conversation, the idea of democracy 
has taken hold, with everyone having
an equal, and even a vociferous, say

Brahms modelled his Clarinet Quintet,
on Mozart’s, the Classical structure is 
still the same, movements, tonality, 
musical recurrence, all to wonderful 
effect

that he would do that is not a given, 
but a tribute to the power of that form, 
take the waltz for instance, alive from 
even before Strauss, not to mention 
Chopin, to approximately the middle 
of the Twentieth Century

think about it, who waltzes anymore,
though they might’ve enchanted still, 
residually, the  50’s – see Patti Page
for instance – its lustre having 
dissipated, with the wind, as it were, 
the gust, before us, of the unending 
ages 


R ! chard

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“I’ve Got a New Attitude”‏


as the Beatles once sang, Roll Over Beethoven

I’d been touching up my blog, specifically my
Elizabeth Barrett Brownings
, which WordPress
had to my dismay defaced, when one of my
submissions, the XXXlst, gave me the choice
of his Appassionata or Patti LaBelle, to
accompany me on the dishes, my ritual
homage to Sisyphean labour before the
limitless

both are electrifying

but I opted for a change, the effect of, maybe,
springtime, chose Patti, who’d awakened by
her very name a world of magical memories
for me, even inspiring me to find finally a
long lost friend, an ardent fan, then, of Patti

I looked for an appropriate, concert, length,
enough to finish my dishes, this is what I
found

I’ve been hooked on divas ever since

I hope you’re also enjoying them

Richard

psst: more Patti

“Why Do I Love You?” – from “Behind the Candelabra”

just when you thought you’d never see
Elizabeth Barrett Browning again, here
she pops up in, of all places, a movie
about Liberace, Behind the Candelabra“,
a not undistinguished representation of
the high life, the over the top life, of an
aging and flamboyant superstar with his
much younger companion, feathers fly,
Ferraris too, and so do tempers

but at one point Liberace recites this
poem, “Why do I love you?”

where have I heard that line before, I
said to myself, and needed no one, of
course, to answer, here was Elizabeth
handing over her mantle to someone
in the XXlst Century, maybe

you decide

Richard

psst: Liberace also said, “too much of a good
thing is wonderful”,
I’ll drink to that

__________________

Why do I love you?

Why do I love you?
I love you not only for what you are,
but for what I am when I’m with you.
I love you not only for
what you have made of yourself
but for what you are making of me
I love you for not ignoring
the possibilities of the fool in me,
and for accepting
the possibilities of the good in me.

Why do I love you?
I love you for
closing your eyes to the discords in me,
and for adding to the music in me
by worshipful listening.
I love you
for helping me to construct my life,
not a tavern, but a temple.
I love you because
you have done so much to make me happy.
You have done it without a word,
without a touch, without a sign.
You have done it by just being yourself.
Perhaps, after all,
that is what love means,
and that is why
I love you.

“Ambush at Five O’clock” – Stephen Dunn‏


from the New Yorker, February 3, 2014

Ambush at Five O’clock

We were by the hedge that separates our properties
when I asked our neighbors about their souls.
I said it with a smile, the way one asks such a thing.
They were somewhat like us, I thought, more
than middle-aged, less dull than most.
Yet they seemed to have no interest
in disputation, our favorite game,
or any of the great national pastimes
like gossip and stories of misfortunes
about people they disliked.

In spite of these differences, kindred
was a word we often felt and used.
The man was shy, though came to life
when he spotted an uncommon bird,
and the woman lively, sometimes even funny
about barometer readings and sudden dips
in pressure, the general state of things.
We liked their affection for each other
and for dogs. We went to their house;
they came to ours.

After I asked about their souls
they laughed and stumbled towards an answer,
then gave up, turned the question back
to me. And because I felt mine always was
in jeopardy I said it went to the movies
and hasn’t been seen since. I said gobbledy
and I said gook. I found myself needing
to fool around, avoid, stay away from myself.

But my wife said her soul suffered from neglect,
that she herself was often neglectful
of important things, but so was I.
Then she started to cry. What’s the matter? I asked.
What brought this on? She didn’t answer.
I felt ambushed, publicly insensitive
about something, whatever it was.

It was a dusky five o’clock, that time
in between one thing and another.
Our neighbors retreated to their home,
but the women returned
and without a word put her arms
around my wife as if a woman weeping
indicated something already understood
among women, that needn’t be voiced.
They held each other, rocked back and forth,

and I thought Jesus Christ, am I guilty again
of one of those small errors
I’ve repeated until it became large?
what about me? I thought. What about
the sadness of being stupid?
Why doesn’t her husband return
with maybe a beer and a knowing nod?

Stephen Dunn

____________

poetry is a conversation, of course, a poet
has with all the other poets who’ve come
before him, her, here Dunn is evidently
channelling Robert Browning, “This is
my last Duchess”,
Browning writes,
“painted on the wall / Looking as though
she were alive.”,
from his My Last
Duchess
“,
a poem I’ve never forgotten,
wherein the speaker discusses the
portrait of his earlier wife, one he’d
summarily purportedly got rid of

Robert Browning had learned his craft,
the dramatic monologue, from, of course,
Shakespeare, down to even its dramatic
content

Elizabeth meanwhile had been inspired
rather by Shakespeare’s sonnets, by his
thee, thy, thine, and thou’s

in Dunn the Browningian drama is
significantly less dour, nobody out and
out dies, though the dilemma is never
not existential, however less morally
compromised, less psychologically
and tragically fraught

neither does Dunn rhyme

but that just sends us back to Homer
of course, less epic, more, maybe,
middle class, very, and distinctively,
XXlst Century

but that’s how you read between the
lines, the verses, in this case, and
thus across the centuries

poetry is a conversation

Richard

“Gate C22” – Ellen Bass‏

Gate C22

At Gate C22 in the Portland airport
a man in a broad-band leather hat kissed
a woman arriving from Orange County.
They kissed and kissed and kissed. Long after
the other passengers clicked the handles of their carry-ons
and wheeled briskly toward short-term parking,
the couple stood there, arms wrapped around each other
like he’d just staggered off the boat at Ellis Island,
like she’d been released at last from ICU, snapped
out of a coma, survived bone cancer, made it down
from Annapurna in only the clothes she was wearing.

Neither of them was young. His beard was gray.
She carried a few extra pounds you could imagine
her saying she had to lose. But they kissed lavish
kisses like the ocean in the early morning,
the way it gathers and swells, sucking
each rock under, swallowing it
again and again. We were all watching —
passengers waiting for the delayed flight
to san jose, the stewardesses, the pilots,
the aproned woman icing cinnabons, the man selling
sunglasses. We couldn’t look away. We could
taste the kisses crushed in our mouths.

But the best part was his face. When he drew back
and looked at her, his smile soft with wonder, almost
as though he were a mother still open from giving birth,
as your mother must have looked at you, no matter
what happened after — if she beat you or left you or
you’re lonely now — you once lay there, the vernix
not yet wiped off, and someone gazed at you
as if you were the first sunrise seen from the earth.
The whole wing of the airport hushed,
all of us trying to slip into that woman’s middle-aged body,
her plaid bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouse, glasses,
little gold hoop earrings, tilting our heads up.

Ellen Bass – from “The Human Line” (2007)

_____________________

the line, as it were, is blurred here between
prose and poetry, what is the one and what
is the other, the answer, of course, is in the
eye of the beholder, what do you think

I cannot profess to be able to give you an
answer, to be able to tell you your difference,
I can only know what I know, and how that
accords with what I think poetry is, or
prose, for that matter, what for me are
their definitions

these have been tested, much as my
definitions of love, for instance, or
friendship as well, throughout my ages,
and for the very same reasons, to get to
know myself, to somehow learn there life’s
lessons, for art and affections have been
the most profitable sources of my
metaphysical scrutiny, who am I, where
am I, and why, these and ill health, and
the looming inexorability of its
consequence, of course, death

a simple answer to the question, is
Gate C22 a poem, would be that it is
written in iambic pentameter, like
Shakespeare, like Elizabeth Barrett
Browning
, and a host, of course, of
others, if that is for you sufficient
grounds to validate, not to mention
its metaphors, even allegories,
alliterations, onomatopeiae

the more difficult answer is in its
articulation, its condensation and
distillation, of a very magical and
immutable, perhaps even oracular,
moment

which, for me, already, is, in and of
itself, very poetry

but I’m a poet, I look for stuff like
that, you’ll have to forgive me
that idiosyncrasy, it has provided
me ever, however, with wonders

Richard

psst: loved “vernix“, who knew

“Aubade” – Philip Larkin‏

if I said about To be, or not to be that it
had never been equalled with respect to its
broodingly existential substance, this next
poem comes pretty close to doing that

note the link to Hamlet in the word
“indecision”, a consequence of the
“standing chill / That slows each
impulse down”

note also, incidentally, that the metre is
entirely Shakespearean, read “Aubade“
out loud

any further comment I’ll cede with
gratitude and delight to moonbeamtickseed,
a promise of shrewd insight I recently
discovered on the Internet, reciprocally,
as it happened, after moonbeamtickseed,
serendipitously supposedly, had discovered,
having happened on some of my Elizabeth
Barrett Browning
and alerted me to it, me,
not at all adverse, of course, to being
discovered

___________

Aubade

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
– The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

Philip Larkin

“COMMENTARY: Martin Heidegger says somewhere–I can’t seem to find the
quote online–that’s it only in solitude that people face the angst of
death and fully understand what it means to be temporary. When we have
company the logical awareness of death doesn’t produce an emotional
response because, in those self-forgetful moments, the “I” that dies
is taken over by the “we” that doesn’t. Something like that. Notice,
as the poem progresses, how Larkin switches from ‘I’ to ‘we’–as a
means of comfort? as a way of letting philosophical rhetoric displace
fear? And also notice how he ends the poem with a bitter but also
freeing description of the outside world–the world of offices and
phone-calls and correspondences–banal, clay-white, and sunless as it
may be–is also mankind’s medicine, the means of deflecting these
critical fears. Postmen are doctors in that they bring contact and
correspondence (a suggestion here of language and poetry) into the
solitude of the house.

The language in “[Aubade]” is a little uneven, but there are some
moments of dead-on description. “Arid interrogation,” “furnace fear,”
“uncaring, intricate rented world” and several dark maxims:
“religion….that vast moth-eaten musical brocade/ invented to pretend
we never die” and “being brave/ let’s no one off the grave/ death is
no different whined at than withstood.” The rhymes (set in a 10 line
pattern that has a name I can’t think of) are natural and unforced and
add to the solitary desire to “link” as he says in the second stanza.

I should say, as a sort of afterthought that it’s interesting to
compare this poem with Donne’s aubade “[The Sun Rising]“.
I think they may have more in common that the genre,
though I’m hard pressed at the moment to say what it is.
I should say, as a second afterthought,that, aptly
but unfortunately, this was the last great poem Larkin
wrote. After its publication in 1977, he had 7 years ahead
of him in which he wrote little.”

moonbeamtickseed

go, moonbeamtickseed

Richard

XLlll. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLlll. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, – I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! – and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

__________________________

there are two lines of verse in English
poetry which are early trumpeted by even
those who would have no truck in general
with poems, one about life, one about love,
paraded by already youths with all the
passion of their unbridled years, if not
oratorically advocating, at least sardonically
making fun of perhaps too mannered, even
irrelevant, in their opinion, I would think,
matter, namely Shakespeare‘s To be, or
not to be
and Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

nothing much of the rest of these two
poems generally is known, though their
introductions be, even at the level of the
succeeeding ages, panoramic, neither,
either, incidentally, has ever, in its
substance, been equalled

To be, or not to be upon first exploring
it surprises for being, not, as supposed,
a paean to glory, for its declamatory, I
suspect, and engaging, cadences, but a
treatise on the very value of life, Hamlet,
despairing of the state of Denmark, where,
“something”, if you’ll remember, “is rotten”,
where his mother and murderous stepfather
have evilly, he imagines, conspired to steal
his real father’s throne, who hovers now
as a disturbing, and exhortative, presence,
keeping the action, or inaction in this case,
going, can never reach an answer, come to
a decision, To be, or not to be“, “that is the
[inexorable] question”

more specifically, “Whether ’tis nobler
in the mind to suffer”,
he asks, “The slings
and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to
take arms against a sea of troubles, /
And by opposing end them:”,
is life
worth living if the cost is so dire

Hamlet will not do the deed himself,
ultimately, of securing his own demise,
but will actively eventually allow it

one will wonder then, is life worthwhile,
Shakespeare never gives us a direct
answer

Elizabeth, however, talks about love, its,
essentially, apotheosis, an expression,
yet unrivalled of how we would like to
love, be loved

her declamation becomes somewhat
elaborate, even morbid, at the end,
macabre, but the force of the initial
statement has weathered already
several unforgiving ages, fresh and
true and captivating, fundamentally,
as ever

Richard

XLll. “My future will not copy fair my past” – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLll. My future will not copy fair my past

“My future will not copy fair my past”
I wrote that once; and thinking at my side
My ministering life-angel justified
The word by his appealing look upcast
To the white throne of God, I turned at last,
And there, instead, saw thee, not unallied
To angels in thy soul! Then I, long tried
By natural ills, received the comfort fast,
While budding, at thy sight, my pilgrim’s staff
Gave out green leaves with morning dews impearled.
I seek no copy now of life’s first half:
Leave here the pages with long musing curled,
And write me new my future’s epigraph,
New angel mine, unhoped for in the world!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

_________________________

“You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this
matter to be actually something which I think I would never understand.
It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me.
I am looking forward for your next post, I will try
to get the hang of it!“

because there was no return address
on this comment, and because its
uncorroborated website, a gaming site,
seemed to me suspect, I’ve chosen to
reply within the safer body of my
discussion, rather than within the
thickets and brambles of the more
treacherous Internet

but I profoundly respect the, not at all
uncommon, opinion

therefore this

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is not
immediately accesible to us in the
early 21st Century, this comment is
such an example, unsolicited but
honest, and it is the cry of the
uninitiated through no fault of their
own before time’s obfuscating,
even linguistic, even literary, but
ever ineffable, shroud, I had the
same sense of its, often, preciosity
when I first started reading poetry,
not only even but especially the
greats who’d been recommended,
it took a poet who spoke my
language before I could take
verse seriously

but since then it has become for
me a garden of existential, of
transcendental, delights,
revelations I can’t help but want
to share, not only substantial
stuff, but, I think, sacred

no one has said it better to date
than Pamela Spiro Wagner in
How to Read a Poem: Beginner’s
Manual

“Read just one poem a day.
Someday a book of poems may open in your hands
like a daffodil offering its cup
to the sun“

even a daffodil like Elizabeth
Barrett Browning

Elizabeth is a siren here, I asked of heaven,
she says, “My future will not copy fair my
past”,
and along comes, goodness, a
miracle in the form of, more or less, an
angel – “not unallied / To angels in thy
soul”,
she describes him in her particular
Victorian dialect, not always immediately
penetrable

she was so happy then, she grew ”green
leaves”,
she asserts, evidently exaggerating,
“with”, even, “morning dews impearled”,
she further enthusiastically confides, but
of which we won’t out of discretion, of
course, inquire

let’s just say she will hitch her wagon
therefore to his, [n]ew angel mine”, star,
for the foreseeable, however “unhoped
for”
, future

which man could resist being called “not
unallied / To angels“,
Elizabeth, seductress,
enchantress, I call my man Apollo, my
golden god of light

Richard

XLl. I thank all who have loved me in their hearts – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XLl. I thank all who have loved me in their hearts

I thank all who have loved me in their hearts,
With thanks and love from mine. Deep thanks to all
Who paused a little near the prison-wall
To hear my music in its louder parts
Ere they went onward, each one to the mart’s
Or temple’s occupation, beyond call.
But thou, who, in my voice’s sink and fall,
When the sob took it, thy divinest Art’s
Own instrument didst drop down at thy foot
To hearken what I said between my tears, –
Instruct me how to thank thee! Oh, to shoot
My soul’s full meaning into future years,
That they should lend it utterance, and salute
Love that endures, from Life that disappears!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

______________________

addressing everything that came before
Elizabeth seems to be addressing also
everything that comes after, which is to
say eternity, infinity, her legacy

her hope is that she will be able to express
the thanks she owes to someone, among all
others who loved her indeed but could only
move on after listening to her, who didn’t

inadvertently she therein defines true love,
he, or indeed she, who would “thy divinest
Art’s / Own instrument”
– in this instance
Robert‘s poetry – “didst drop down at thy
foot / To hearken what I said between my
tears”
– who would suspend his work, and
pay attention to her sorrow, to even her
inanities, I here interpolate advisedly, her
achievements, her very joys

for fleeting love loves mostly itself in passing,
a love which easily overlooks, and dissipates

I believe Elizabeth in this poem has thrust
herself into significant poetic history, finally,
combining her account of her personal love
with a voice which for the first time in the
sonnets
addresses itself to, however
circuitously, some would say surreptitiously,
even circumspectly – for she’s speaking still
to him – to history, to “future years, / That they
should lend it utterance“,
a literary marriage,
she’s effected by this extrapolation, this
synecdoche – supplanting the part for the
whole – of the personal and the, at the very
least anthropologically, profound

topped off with a toast, “salute”, even to a
coveted, though perhaps only apocryphal,
I interject, ideal, “Love that endures, from
Life that disappears”

how, and by very definition, Romantic, is
that

Richard

XL. Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

                            Click!

Polyphemus Surprising Acis and Galatea (1852-18623)

Auguste Ottin

____________

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XL. Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours

Oh, yes! they love through all this world of ours!
I will not gainsay love, called love forsooth.
I have heard love talked in my early youth,
And since, not so long back but that the flowers
Then gathered, smell still. Mussulmans and Giaours
Throw kerchiefs at a smile, and have no ruth
For any weeping. Polypheme’s white tooth
Slips on the nut if, after frequent showers,
The shell is over-smooth, – and not so much
Will turn the thing called love, aside to hate
Or else to oblivion. But thou art not such
A lover, my Belovèd! thou canst wait
Through sorrow and sickness, to bring souls to touch,
And think it soon when others cry “Too late.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

___________________________

esoteric references blur today the meaning of
many Romantic poems, something I remember
distancing me from poetry when I was a boy,
and therefore considered poems such as
this one mannered, not to say pretentious

Polypheme was apparently the name of the
cyclops Odysseus blinded on his return to
Ithaca and his wife, Penelope, in Homer’s
Odyssey“, I know nothing about his white
tooth, slipping on a nut, the frequency of,
wherever, showers, nor smooth, or
otherwise, shells, despite some research
and my generally extended poetic
information, if you’ll allow me here to,
however immodestly, refer to this
erudition

but the message of the poem is not lost,
your love, she says, to her suitor, is like
no other’s, true despite all obstacles,
which often have swayed earlier less
stalwart models in her experience

Polypheme had indeed also loved the lovely
Galatea, in another mythical incarnation,
hopelessly of course, having only one eye
would’ve been necessarily a deal breaker,
both practically and aesthetically, so he
crushed his rival, Acis, under a huge rock,
and that, as they say, was that

others have done worse

“Mussulmans” are of course Mohameddans,
or Muslims, Giaours are their unbelievers,
which is to say, Christians, all of this being
evidently relative, both parties having
discredited, essentially therefore disqualifed,
each others’ deities, therefore Nietzsche, but
that’s another story

all of them nevertheless “Throw kerchiefs
at a smile”,
speak louder than their actions,
all of them “have no ruth / For any weeping”,
cry easily at melodramas, humans all, after
everything, despite conflicting theological
intractabilities

“gainsay”, to refute, deny, she will not deny
that others have loved, she can still “smell”
even, sense the shiver of, when she was
young, its promises

all these nothing, however, to compare to
his unflinching anchor

you’ll note that Elizabeth is again talking
about Robert, she’s probably had enough
by now of herself, not an uncommon
development, I propose, in any interaction

Richard