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Friday, June 5, 2015

Albert Anker, Hector Berlioz - Harold in Italy, Robert Browning - A Tale

Are you enjoying summer yet?  For me, it gets harder to set aside the time for art, music, and poetry as we take summers off from formal schooling to garden.  But then, we also find so many more natural opportunities for nature study and exploration, which makes summer a pleasure.  For the past few summers we've tried to fit most of our work into Monday through Thursday so we can clean house quick Friday morning and head to a local park for lunch and nature time, swimming, hiking, and playing on the playground.  The older girls often bring a book and Lizzy sometimes brings her harp - it's very peaceful and relaxing.  I'm looking forward to our Fridays at the park this summer.  This week's painting by Albert Anker looks like a grand nature walk in progress. 

Today's piece of music by Hector Berlioz is from Harold in Italy.  You can listen to the First Movement of Harold In Italy here. I like the part featuring the viola.  Here is Wikipedia's article on Harold in Italy.  You can also listen to the entire work here.  You may also want to pursue the poem that this work is named for Childe Harold's Pilgrimage by Lord Byron and the poem itself - Gutenburg Project's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.  I haven't read this poem yet, but it may see if I can find time yet this week. 

Our poem this week by Robert Browning 
                A Tale
What a pretty tale you told me
  Once upon a time
--Said you found it somewhere (scold me!)
  Was it prose or was it rhyme,
Greek or Latin? Greek, you said,
While your shoulder propped my head.Anyhow there's no forgetting
  This much if no more,
That a poet (pray, no petting!)
  Yes, a bard, sir, famed of yore,                                           10
Went where suchlike used to go,
Singing for a prize, you know.

Well, he had to sing, nor merely
  Sing but play the lyre;
Playing was important clearly
  Quite as singing: I desire,
Sir, you keep the fact in mind
For a purpose that's behind.

There stood he, while deep attention
  Held the judges round,                                                     20
--Judges able, I should mention,
  To detect the slightest sound
Sung or played amiss: such ears
Had old judges, it appears!

None the less he sang out boldly,
  Played in time and tune,
Till the judges, weighing coldly
  Each note's worth, seemed, late or soon,
Sure to smile "In vain one tries
Picking faults out: take the prize!"                                         30

When, a mischief! Were they seven
  Strings the lyre possessed?
Oh, and afterwards eleven,
  Thank you! Well, sir,--who had guessed
Such ill luck in store?--it happed
One of those same seven strings snapped.

All was lost, then! No! a cricket
  (What "cicada"? Pooh!)
--Some mad thing that left its thicket
  For mere love of music--flew                                               40
With its little heart on fire,
Lighted on the crippled lyre.

So that when (Ah joy!) our singer
  For his truant string
Feels with disconcerted finger,
  What does cricket else but fling
Fiery heart forth, sound the note
Wanted by the throbbing throat?

Ay and, ever to the ending,
  Cricket chirps at need,                                                    50
Executes the hand's intending,
  Promptly, perfectly,--indeed
Saves the singer from defeat
With her chirrup low and sweet.

Till, at ending, all the judges
  Cry with one assent
"Take the prize--a prize who grudges
  Such a voice and instrument?
Why, we took your lyre for harp,
So it shrilled us forth F sharp!"                                            60

Did the conqueror spurn the creature
  Once its service done?
That's no such uncommon feature
  In the case when Music's son
Finds his Lotte's power too spent                                           65
For aiding soul development.

No! This other, on returning
  Homeward, prize in hand,
Satisfied his bosom's yearning:
   (Sir, I hope you understand!)                                             70
--Said "Some record there must be
Of this cricket's help to me!"

So, he made himself a statue:
   Marble stood, life size;
On the lyre, he pointed at you,
   Perched his partner in the prize;
Never more apart you found
Her, he throned, from him, she crowned.

That's the tale: its application?
   Somebody I know                                                           80
Hopes one day for reputation
  Thro' his poetry that's--Oh,
All so learned and so wise
And deserving of a prize!

If he gains one, will some ticket
   When his statue's built,
Tell the gazer "'Twas a cricket
   Helped my crippled lyre, whose lilt
Sweet and low, when strength usurped
Softness' place i' the scale, she chirped?                                   90

"For as victory was nighest,
  While I sang and played,--
With my lyre at lowest, highest,
   Right alike,--one string that made
'Love' sound soft was snapt in twain
Never to be heard again,--

"Had not a kind cricket fluttered,
   Perched upon the place
Vacant left, and duly uttered
   'Love, Love, Love,' whene'er the bass                                    100
Asked the treble to atone
For its somewhat sombre drone."

But you don't know music! Wherefore
   Keep on casting pearls
To a--poet? All I care for
   Is--to tell him that a girl's
"Love" comes aptly in when gruff
Grows his singing, (There, enough!)

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