Monday, 21 March 2016

Clare and the allness of all things


O little rondure, swimming at the gym,
your husband's not Walt Whitman so this image pleases him.

That couplet was written in 2001, taking its cue from Walt Whitman's 'The explorers' -- one of several Whitman poems set by Ralph Vaughan Williams in his Sea symphony.  My couplet's only claim to publication before this blog post is that I tweeted it on Sunday 20 March 2016.  I was led to do so partly by the fact that the Cambridge Philharmonic Society, in which I sing tenor, is preparing a performance of the Sea symphony, as it was when I wrote the poem.  Part of the score cover appears in the photograph above.

Clare, as many readers of the blog may know, is my wife Dr Clare Sansom.  The brooch in the picture is by Jane Bower, another Cambridge Philharmonic singer, and was made to commission as my valentine to Clare in 2002.

"The allness of all things" is my phrase for one of Whitman's favourite themes.  A classic instance is another Whitman poem in the Sea symphony, 'On the beach at night alone'.  In some moods one might say that the theme is instantly self-exhausting, but Vaughan Williams' setting of Whitman's texts, here and elsewhere, is very fine.

The Cambridge Phil's performance of the Sea symphony will be at 19:30 on Saturday 9 July in Ely Cathedral.