Saturday, 7 November 2009

Dirge for Two Veterans

The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finish'd Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking,
Down a new-made double grave.

Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
Immense and silent moon.

I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-key'd bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they are flooding,
As with voices and with tears.

I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring
And every blow of the great convulsive drums,
Strikes me through and through.

For the son is brought with the father,
(In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans son and father dropt together,
And the double grave awaits them.)

And nearer blow the bugles,
And the drums strike more convulsive,
And the daylight o'er the pavement quite has faded,
And the strong dead-march enwraps me.

In the eastern sky up-buoying,
The sorrowful vast phantom moves illumin'd,
('Tis some mother's large transparent face,
In heaven brighter growing.)

O strong dead-march you please me!
O moon immense with your silvery face you soothe me!
O my soldiers twain! O my veterans passing to burial!
What I have I also give you.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music,
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

-Walt Whitman

(we sang this the other day)


Anonymous said...

That would have been interesting. I must organise my life to hear your choir sometime -- what's on the programme between now and Christmas?

Gordon Cheng said...

Hi anonymous—actually if you want to hear us, there is a broadcast tomorrow just after 11 am Sydney time of this very concert on ABC classic fm.

Gordon Cheng said...

And if you want to listen to us you can see the full programme on the website here.

I'm not singing anything for the rest of this year, which means that I'm missing Handel's Messiah on December 10, 12 and 13. I think the choir is singing this from memory this year; it should be huge.

I'm not sure of what I'm singing next year, it's going to be a bit tricky working it out TBH.

Andrew said...

Do you also know John Adam's "The Wound-Dresser", also a setting of Whitman's poetry?

Gordon Cheng said...

Hi Andrew, I don't. I will keep a look out for it.

Poindexter said...

Walt Whitman's words of advice:
"whatever satisfies the soul is truth"
(see below for reference)

I love poetry. It often has an honesty and frankness rarely found in other forms of literature. It can be lyrical. Or it can be simply the opportunity for one to get the stuff of life off ones chest. For our dear friend Walt Whitman, well it was the domain of his sexual indiscretions and fantasies. He was quite obviously gay, and if you do read some of his other works, they were very obviously written with erotic intent. Does this make his poetry bad!? Good question. Does it stop me reading poetry? Definitely not. There are heaps of authors whose poetic works are absolute works of sheer brilliance, but their lives were anything short of pious. The most obvious example is that of King David who is believed to be responsible for many of the verses numbered in the book of Psalms in the Old Testament of our Holy Bible. His indiscretions included murder
and adultery, but was he not declared by God as "a man after my own heart"? Did he not dance naked before the Old Testament covenant box - the very one that could knock down a person dead if mishandled? (my biblical understanding is rather limited, so feel free to correct me) Interesting.


(Walt Whitman quote and info:
Schnakenberg R., 2008. "Secret lives of great authors". Quirk books, Philadelphia, USA.
ISBN-13: 9781 594 742 118)