Friday, April 20, 2007

Mozart on Marriage

On occasion of his sister Nannerl’s (Maria Anna) marriage to Johann von Berchtold

Du wirst im Ehstand viel erfahren
was dir ein halbes Räthsel war;
bald wirst du aus Erfahrung wissen,
wie Eva einst hat handeln müssen
daβ sie hernach den kain gebahr.
doch schwester, diese Ehstands Pflichten
wirst du com Herzen gern verrichten,
denn glaube mir, sie sind nicht schwer;
doch Jede Sache hat zwei Seiten;
der Ehstand bringt zwar viele freuden,
allein auch kummer bringet er.
drum wenn dein Mann dir finstre Mienen,
die du nicht glaubest zu verdienen,
in seiner üblen Laune macht:
So denke, das ist Männergrille,
und sag: Herr, es gescheh dein wille
beytag – und meiner bey der Nacht.

Wedlock will show you many things
Which still a mystery remain;
Experience soon will teach to you
What Eve herself once had to do
Before she could give birth to Cain.
But all these duties are so light
You will perform them with delight.
Yet no state is an unmixed joy
And marriage has its own alloy,
Lest us its bliss perchance should cloy.
So when your husband shows reserve
Or wrath which you do not deserve,
And perhaps a nasty temper too,
Think, sister, ‘tis a man’s queer way.
Say, ‘Lord, thy will be done by day,
But mine at night you’ll do.’

W.A. Mozart, 18 August 1784

From Mozart’s Women (2005) by Jane Glover; Painting is the Mozart family, c 1781.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Luz do teu caminho, Light on your way

Lyrics to a Portuguese fado, for A.V.

Deixa-me ser a luz do teu caminho
Deixa-me ser um pouco do teu ser
Deixa que eu seja o guia do destino
Que destina a razão de teu viver.

Eu queria ser a brisa morna e leve
Que agita o teu cabelo com meiguice
Poder estar um momento’ inda que breve
Junto de ti sem que outro alguem me visse.

Se eu conseguisse ser teu pensamento
Quando fitas serena o azul do céu
Jámais escutarias o lamento
Desta paixão por ti que Deus me deu.

Eu queria ser o sol que te beija
Tornando bronzea a cor de tua tez
Por Deus, amor, deixa ao menos que eu seja
Ainda que seja o nada que tu és.

António Rocha

Let me be the light on your path,
Let me be a little of your being,
Let me be the steersman of the fate
That determines the meaning of your life.

I want to be the light and gentle breeze
That softly ruffles your hair,
And for a moment, however short,
To be with you without another seeing me.

If I managed to be your thought
When you're quietly looking at the blue of the sky,
You would not once hear any complaint
At this passion for you which God has sent me.

I want to be the sun that kisses you
And brings a tan to your complexion.
By God, beloved, let me at least,
Even if this being is nothing, be what you are.

Translation by Harold Baker, 1996

The song can be heard on the cd Tears of Lisbon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Grant on the Cause of the Civil War

While looking for another quote, I came across these paragraphs (one from the conclusion of his memoirs, the other from an early 1861 letter). Grant is not an impartial source, but I like when people agree with me.

The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United States will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that “A state half slave and half free cannot exist.” All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.

Slavery was an institution that required unusual guarantees for its security wherever it existed; and in a country like ours where the larger portion of it was free territory inhabited by an intelligent and well-to-do population, the people would naturally have but little sympathy with demands upon them for its protection. Hence the people of the South were dependent upon keeping control of the general government to secure the perpetuation of their favorite institution. They were enabled to maintain this control long after the States where slavery existed had ceased to have the controlling power, through the assistance they received from odd men here and there throughout the Northern states. They saw their power waning, and this led them to encroach upon the prerogatives and independence of the Northern States by enacting such laws as the Fugitive Slave Law. By this law every Northern man was obliged, when properly summoned, to turn out and help apprehend the runaway slave of a Southern man. Northern marshals become slave-catchers, and Northern courts had to contribute to the support and protection of the institution.

This was a degradation which the North would not permit any longer than until they could get the power to expunge such law from the statute books. Prior to the time of these encroachments the great majority of the people of the North had no particular quarrel with slavery, so long as they were not forced to have it themselves. But they were not willing to play the role of police for the South in the protection of this particular institution.

No impartial man can conceal from himself the fact that in all these troubles the South have been the aggressors and the Administration has stood purely on the defensive, more on the defensive than she would dared to have done but for her consciousness of strength and the certainty of right prevailing in the end….In all this I can but see the doom of Slavery. The North do not want nor will they want, to interfere with the institution. But they will refuse for all time to give it protection unless the South shall return soon to their allegiance.…Letter to Frederick Dent, 19 April 1861

From Ulysses S. Grant Memoirs and Selected Letters (published by Library of Congress in 1990)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I found Him Whom my heart and soul love; I held Him and I will not let Him go.

I'm less than a month away from the defense of my thesis, and am currently working on the final draft of that thesis. I am very busy, to say the least, so I apologize if my posting is sporadic. Below is the post I meant for Easter. Above is a picture of me on my second Easter in a pale pink dress, my favorite color as a child. Didn't my parents have great shag green carpeting? At least they could monitor my height.

When I was a young child, on Easter Sunday my family would go to Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter for beignets. It is right next to the Mississippi River, so we could see the sun gradually rising higher in the sky over the West Bank (because of the way the Mississippi curves in N.O., the West Bank is across the river and east of the Central Business District and French Quarter - it flows northward). Covered in powdered sugar, we then walked through Jackson Square and in front of St. Louis Cathedral.

For me as a child, decked out in pink dress, white patent leather shoes with bows, and jewelry decorated with flowers (I was such a girly-girl), Jackson Square was the perfect place to dream of a fairy-tale prince. In the right mid-morning lighting, St. Louis Cathedral bears the faintest of resemblances to Cinderella's Castle at Disneyworld, and Jackson Square is the flower-filled garden right outside the gates. The perfect place for Mary Magdalene to look for the Lord, and mistake him for a gardener. Adding to the image were the society women who would parade through the French Quarter on Easter Sunday in horse-drawn carriages on their way to Sunday Mass at the Cathedral. Royalty, going to greet the Savior on the first day of a new world.

I will rise then and go about the city;
In the streets and crossing I will seek Him whom my heart loves.
I sought him but I did not find him.
The watchmen came upon me,
As they made their rounds of the city: Have you seen him whom my heart loves?
I had hardly left them
When I found Him whom my heart loves.
I took hold of him and would not let him go. Song of Songs 3:2-4

I loved to get dressed up, walk near those trees and by those emerald green hedges - and I love grass that looks velvety - and dream of encountering a prince. (The sugar high from the beignets also helped.) In the Disney cartoon fairy tales, the princess almost always meets her prince in the darkness, whether it be of death (Sleeping Beauty and Snow White) or of twilight (Cinderella). However, they must await the triumphal ringing of bells and the new morn that their love brings.

Seek ye the Lord, and be strengthened:
seek His face evermore. Psalm 105:4

In numerous symphonies, those bells toll to symbolize death, and celebration. But it's the upwards arpeggios that really get me. Upwards arpeggios, when performed slowly and deliberately, are the clouds slowing parting in the sky to make way for the sun. Performed fast, they are the flutterings of the heart in love. In Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake, over and over again that F sharp pierces the otherworld where beautiful maidens are trapped in the bodies of swans, and suggests the hovering between tragedy (B minor) and happiness (B major). Finally, after the double suicide of Odette and Siegfried, the dawn comes, and the lovers are united as the strings trill in the key of B major.

There's a cheery secular song written in the 30's that I think encapsulates this feeling, this joy of finding the beloved, and refusing to let Him go:

Dear when you smiled at me,
I heard a melody
It haunted me from the start!
Something inside of me
Started a symphony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart!

I still recall the thrill
I guess I always will
I hope 'twill never depart
All nature seemed to be
In perfect harmony
Zing! Went the strings of my heart

St. Gregory Nazienzen wrote of the soul: organum pulsatum a Spiritu Sancto. When the Holy Spirit is there, your heart and soul trill with joy. Before you find Him, it is darkness. But when you do, you cannot let Him go.

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. Psalm 63: 1-8

P.S. Titian's
Noli me tangere is already featured on my blog. I've always liked Thomas Wyatt's secular use of the phrase is in "Whoso list to hunt..." For those unfamiliar with it, the white hind in the verse has a diamond inscription on its collar that reads: "Noli me tangere, for Caesar's I am, And wild for to hold, though I seem tame." The rumor is that the hind was Anne Boleyn, and Henry VIII was Caesar. Wyatt may have been quite infatuated with Anne (shh! they may have been lovers!), and he was in prison when she got her head chopped off.