Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Three more music poems

These poems were written at various times, and entered in a competition organized by Rhyme and Reason, the poetic fundraising arm of Rennie Grove Hospice Care. They didn't win any prizes, but they were published in the charity's 2016 desk diary.


honk and five drum-knocks
flock of strings in flight and dive
voices crunch the snow


This church, wool-rich East Anglian, half-built
at Reformation, lit like Dutch paintings,
cathedralled 1914, recomposing,
hears Ulysses awake, hears Europe's strings
sombrely weave, unweave. The programme note
is the composer's own. It gives bare facts.


The Alla sarabanda's slow rise shows
smoke from a woodland cottage, early morning,
a thin grey line. It fades against the sky.

Can smoke be guiltless? after cattle trucks?
people at stakes? hell and its mirrors? sati?
cancer? emphysema? culled herds? carbon,
carbon we need but get more than the cycle?
carbon too much? carbon a weight, a choking?
That's smoke from fire. So smoking's lately banned.
But smoke without fire, from a sarabande?
Should that line rise, or is it one that ought
to go down with its freight of perished thought?
Maybe; but after worse of our devising,
I hope I see the thin grey line still rising. 

'Jauchzet, frohlocket' evokes the first movement of Bach's Christmas oratorio: "Jauchzet, frohlocket! auf, preiset die Tage" -- "Shout for joy, exult! Rise up, glorify the day" says one rendering I can't improve on.  The image of voices crunching the snow was used by conductor Tim Redmond in a rehearsal exhortation to us of the Cambridge Philharmonic Society, and worked by me into a haiku early in 2011.

'Music in St Edmundsbury' was written after hearing a performance of John Woolrich's Ulysses awakes by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in St Edmundsbury Cathedral in 2002.  Yes, I stoop to pun on the composer's name.  Wealth from wool played a great part in the building or extension of this and many other medieval churches in East Anglia.

'Phantasy quintet by Vaughan Williams' dates from 2007 and arises from a very strong visual image that was suggested to me by the opening phrase of the quintet's Alla sarabanda movement.