Thursday 9 November 2023

A Literary Centenary

 I missed most of Radio 3's Shakespeare Day, marking the 400th anniversary of the First Folio (I was in transit – Worthing again) but saw enough of BBC2's Shakespeare: Rise of a Genius to know it was best avoided (i.e. about 5 minutes). There's another literary anniversary today, of infinitely less significance but worth marking – the centenary of the birth of poet James Schuyler, a leading light of the 'New York School'. He wrote a handful of fine poems, including this one – 

Fauré's Second Piano Quartet

On a day like this the rain comes
down in fat and random drops among
the ailanthus leaves—'the tree
of Heaven'—the leaves that on moon-
lit nights shimmer black and blade-
shaped at this third-floor window.
And there are bunches of small green
Knobs, buds, crowded together. The
rapid music fills in the spaces of
the leaves. And the piano comes in,
like an extra heartbeat, dangerous
and lovely. Slower now, less like
the leaves, more like the rain which
almost isn’t rain, more like thawed-
out hail. All this beauty in the
mess of this small apartment on
West Twentieth in Chelsea, New York.
Slowly the notes pour out, slowly,
more slowly still, fat rain falls.

And here is the slow movement, Adagio non Troppo, from that quartet – a movement described by Copland as 'a long sigh of infinite tenderness, a long moment of quiet melancholy and nostalgic charm'...

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