An altered look about the hills —
A Tyrian light the village fills —
A wider sunrise in the morn —
A deeper twilight on the lawn —
A print of a vermillion foot —
A purple finger on the slope —
A flippant fly upon the pane —
A spider at his trade again —
An added strut in Chanticleer —
A flower expected everywhere —
An axe shrill singing in the woods —
Fern odors on untravelled roads —
All this and more I cannot tell —
A furtive look you know as well —
And Nicodemus’ Mystery
Receives its annual reply!
—Emily Dickinson, #90, Franklin’s Reading Edition
Dickinson did not use titles, and when we see that her first editors headed this poem “April,” we can wince at the degree of foreclosure a title brings. The aesthetic point of this list-poem is to keep the reader guessing as a blank canvas is filled in, piece by piece. [Dickinson, by Helen Vender, p. 32]
As if it weren’t enough that early editors changed all Dickinson’s dashes to semi-colons —
Lou Harrison, Suite For Violin And American Gamelan, First Movement
The remaining movements may be heard at the links below:
The entire work may be heard on Spotify here.
The Suite opens with a Threnody in which the violin spins out a long, sinuous line spiced by double stops and mild dissonance. The gamelan accompaniment is very spare here, for the most part just a few strokes to mark off the violin’s long phrases. The second movement is an Estampie, a dance from Medieval Europe and one of Harrison’s favorite musical forms (he has used it in over a dozen compositions). It features an ornate melodic line over a lively, irregular rhythm. In the third movement, Air, the violin plays slowly and melodically over a repetitive and hypnotic pattern in the gamelan. Then comes a trio of Jhala movements, the first two fast in tempo, the third slow. The Jhala comes from north India; its main feature is the frequent repetition of a single note between the notes of the melody, or what Harrison has called an “interrupted drone.” The Suite ends with the initial Chaconne that Harrison and Dee wrote. Typically, the Chaconne features melodic variations over a repeating bass line, here sounding sonorously in the lower-pitched gamelan instruments. The violin joins in, as do other instruments in the gamelan. The texture gets gradually richer, bringing the work to a grand and solemn conclusion. [citation]
Credits: The sources for quotations may be found at the links in the text. As always on the blog unless indicated otherwise, the photographs (in this case, of Innisfree taken on April 30) are mine.
Terrific post, Sue! Gorgeous photos – I am especially fond of fiddleheads. Loved the music, unexpectedly! — Elizabeth
Elizabeth: The fiddleheads are always a delight to see, as an early harbinger of spring. I’m pleased, of course, you enjoyed the music, too.
Thanks Susan – I can quite see why Emily didn’t want to the poem titled … let us think what will come … and use our imagination. Lovely photos … cheers Hilary
Hilary: Well put!
I wish more composers would set Emily Dickinson to music – well (can’t bear the Copland settings; love Adams’ treatment of ‘Because I could not stop for death’ in the second movement of Harmonium. Exquisite flower pics. Hope you’re seeing more of the same in Derbyshire…
David: She’s tricky to set, I suspect. The Adams you mention is a beauty, and a rare success. (I love his setting of Whitman’s The Wound Dresser, too.) We saw a lot of wild beauty and lovely gardens in Derbyshire; am just now beginning to go through the photographs, reminding myself of just how much.
As a great lover of dashes, I’ve always felt a certain punctuational affinity with Dickinson. I didn’t realize at all that some editors had burdened her with semi-colons. I’m glad you mentioned that little fact, because it reminded me of one of my favorite quotations, from Fernrdo Pessoa: “To have touched the feet of Christ is no excuse for mistakes in punctuation.”
By any chance, did you see the Dickinson exhibit at the Morgan Library? I wouldn’t want to live in NYC, or its suburbs, for that matter, but every now and then I wish I could just pop in for this or that.
The poem you chose so beautifully reflects my sense of this season: filling in, but also passing more quickly than I remember ever happening. I’m desperately behind on everything from blog reading to housecleaning, but I was determined not to let the season pass me by. There have been several three and four day weekends spent with the camera. Now, I have plenty of raw material, and can settle in for a little inside work — and a little inside pleasure. I have your Sicily posts all lined up to read, like a new and wonderful book.
shoreacres: I haven’t seen the Morgan Library exhibit and am chagrined that I won’t be able to get there before it closes. I did see an exhibit, some time back, of her “envelope poems,” and that was a stunner. I didn’t know this poem of hers and felt incredibly lucking to have spotted it when casting about for something to accompany the season. (It may amuse you to know it came up in a search for “April” poems!)
The first book of Dickinson poems I bought had “regularized” all her punctuation. Only when I got home and settled in to read did I discover it. Needless to say, I raced right back to the store to exchange it.