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Tag: Romantic Age

XXXVll. Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXVll. Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make

Pardon, oh, pardon, that my soul should make,
Of all that strong divineness which I know
For thine and thee, an image only so
Formed of the sand, and fit to shift and break.
It is that distant years which did not take
Thy sovranty, recoiling with a blow,
Have forced my swimming brain to undergo
Their doubt and dread, and blindly to forsake
The purity of likeness and distort
Thy worthiest love to a worthless counterfeit:
As if a shipwrecked Pagan, safe in port,
His guardian sea-god to commemorate,
Should set a sculptured porpoise, gills a-snort
And vibrant tail, within the temple-gate

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


though Elizabeth Barrett Browning is ever
abstruse, dare I say, even Baroque – the
epoch of distorted perspectives and
dimensions which preceded the Classical
Era – in her not only grammatical but also
metaphorical constructions, to the point of,
as in the last, her XXXVlth sonnet, being
incomprehensible, too athwart for my taste,
or even my tolerance, here she returns to
form to shine again in her own Romantic
Age, a more literate time, as opposed to
our more visual one, where straight talk
would not ‘ve passed muster as worthy
of any art, that would happen only later
as a reaction to too elaborate artifice,
which you might already even decry,
for instance, in these sonnets

but to make distinctive the form – the sonnet
goes back to at least Shakespeare, who is
even an obvious inspiration for Elizabeth
she would’ve had to embroider her own
version of it, which she could only have
done with fresh artifice upon the ancient
structure, like decorative elaborations on
the traditional tablecloth

if they work it’s because the artifice meets
the substance equally, enough to give
meaning to the poem, verve to the
reinvigorated tabletop

but often, dear Elizabeth, for me, and I would
think for many others in our Twitter age, for
the most part your poems do only just, albeit
enough to make you nevertheless iconic

for Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Chopin
represent for us now more than any of the
other Romantics their distinctive Age, and
with great, let there be no doubt, and easily
demonstrated, authority

Pardon, oh, pardon is not a breeze but it
expands admirably, and distinctively, on her
other masterpieces, or should I say here,

forgive my soul, she asks, for mistaking your
“strong divineness” for something as fleeting
as “sand”, something “fit to shift and break”

his “sovranty” – sovereignty, which finds its
etymological roots in the French word
“souveraineté”, should you be wondering –
had not been a part of her past, her “distant
and therefore led to her confusion,
her “swimming brain”, imagining he might
be “a worthless counterfeit” – haven’t we all
been there – instead of the “worthiest love”

she compares herself to a “shipwrecked
who, saved, “safe in port”, gives
thanks, pays homage, to “a sea-god”, “a
sculptured porpoise, gills a-snort”,
than, of course, her One and True
Christian God, an interesting instance
of religious iconographical inflexibility,
as though her Christian God had more
authenticity than the sea deity

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, it should be
noted, remained ever to her Divinity devout
despite the intermittent fluctuations of her
less religiously committed husband

who nevertheless remained ever to her
true, and ever, both romantically and
Romantically, by her, stalwart


Beethoven’s piano sonata no 29, “Hammerklavier”, revisited, as promised

upon listening to Beethoven’s 29th sonata
one doesn’t imagine its originality, having
been showered for centuries now with its
miracles and majesties, nothing would’ve
been heard like it before, so great a project,
a work of not only temporal magnitude, an
astonishing fifty minutes, but evidently of
more than just mere entertainment, a work
of philosophical, even, amplitude

Beethoven is not just trying to delight, he’s
trying to engage here, bring together, stir,
more profound human responses, evoke
thought, responsibility, compassion, a
spiritual complicity in the new
post-Revolutionary secular order, he is
establishing new metaphysical ground

the subject is existential, the audience
no longer merely aristocratic, masses
now were talking, an affluent bourgeoisie,
artists were responding to a new Romantic
Age, about rights, and what it means to be
human, both men and women, incidentally
– and I stress that newly pertinent at the time
conjunction – above and beyond those of
God, for each couldn’t both hold the
supreme, the earlier Classical, pinnacle,
the rights of Gods and, by extension,
Kings, Queens if you lived in England,

secularism was needing new oracles

see Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for
instance, for the emergence of

see also, of course, otherwise,

the difference with Beethoven is that
he achieved, ultimately, profound
wisdom, I can think of no other
comparable poet, save, of course,
Marcel Proust, both of whom proved
to be, in the same breath, philosophers,
able to stake that exalted claim, certainly
no painter, a difficult medium through
which to philosophize admittedly, to
bring logical and existential constructions
together to enunciate a transcendental

then again, before Proust and Beethoven,
who’d ‘a’ thunk one could’ve transformed
words or music into very grace, mystically
transubstantiated gold, notwithstanding
the misguided alchemists

Pink Floyd did some of that in the Seventies
but retreated into historic and more personal,
less oracular, reminiscences, philosophizing
isn’t easy, see the punishment of Prometheus,
or, for that matter, John Lennon

Beethoven was completely deaf by the time
he composed the Hammerklavier“, lost in
his own isolation, like Homer, blind to,
though obviously not unaware of, his art

not lost, not unaware either, more like
having been given extrasensory, outright
extraordinary, manifestly, perception

to our utter and everlasting, both of them,


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
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 
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   
psst: Polling Abbey is a monastery in Upper
         Bavaria, a short distance from Munich