By John F. Deane
I am listening to Bach, the St John Passion: I live,
the pleasures of love enjoying, and thou
art dying. How the attic space
has grown luxurious with the music, oboe
d'amore, a thunder-storm, a dulcet
rending of the heart in sorrow; and I fill,
if only for a moment, with
transcendental energy. Clouds
through the skylight window shift, reform,
there falls a huge knocking on the glass
from the opened sky. Peter's
ham-fisted attempt at violence, the swung
sword; then the music of healing, the forgiving
hand. And what is truth? I'm drawn away
by mating-shouts of pheasants
In the high grass outside. Bach's slow chorales
lift the soul, through time, out
beyond time, till the music tells how death
is the perfect state of innocence.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: St. John Passion (Part 1 excerpts) by J.S. Bach
We said that art is out of love with life.
Here we approach a love that is not pity.
This antique discipline, tenderly severe,
Renews belief in love yet masters feeling,
Asking of us a grace in what we bear.
Form is the ultimate gift that love can offer -
The vital union of necessity
With all that we desire, all that we suffer.
A too-compassionate art is half an art.
Only such proud restraining purity
Restores the else-betrayed, too-human heart.
By Charles Tomlinson
he would have heard
all those notes
suspended above one another
in the air of his ear
as the differentiated swarm returning
to the exact hive
and place in the hive,
topping up the cells
with the honey of C major,
food for the listening generations,
key to their comfort
and solace of their distress
as they return and return
to those counterpointed levels
of hovering wings where
movement is dance
and the air itself
a scented garden
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Prelude & Fugue in C Major, from WTC I by J.S. Bach
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor Partita,
but what kind of a world?
A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.
where the soprano-line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters' axes,
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child's ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater's silence before Bach.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Violin Sonata in A minor by J.S. Bach