the chorus, Uncategorized

Into the woods, it’s time to go,

it may be all in vain, you know–
Into the woods, but not forgetting
Why we’re on the journey…

Yes, please try to remember why you’re on the journey. You know it is time for the semester to be over when you have discovered how to use Amazon’s Video On Demand. Recap:

Wednesday: very successful chorus recording session for Auden’s “The Dead Echo” (originally titled “Death’s Echo”) When poets write choral texts, they don’t give stage/staging directions. I had thought, for years, that the italicized portions of that poem ought to be spoken by many voices, and the non-italix by a single voice. The reverse is true. Auden’s “chorus” in the poem, in the sense of a refrain, is better actualized by a single voice, and the “verse” by a group of choral speakers. He is so smart, and so difficult. The texts resists being performed. Reminds me of the way I felt trying to memorize Dickinson. I’ve pasted it below if anyone cares to see what a trip it is. Note the tripping-up-of-rhythm. Recap will continue after the poem.

The Dead Echo (Death’s Echo) – W. H. Auden

“O who can ever gaze his fill,”
Farmer and fisherman say,
“On native shore and local hill,
Grudge aching limb or callus on the hand?
Father, grandfather stood upon this land,
And here the pilgrims from our loins will stand.”
So farmer and fisherman say
In their fortunate hey-day:
But Death’s low answer drifts across
Empty catch or harvest loss
Or an unlucky May.
The earth is an oyster with nothing inside it,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The end of toil is a bailiff’s order,
Throw down the mattock and dance while you can.

“O life’s too short for friends who share,”
Travellers think in their hearts,
“The city’s common bed, the air,
The mountain bivouac and the bathing beach,
Where incidents draw every day from each
Memorable gesture and witty speech.”
So travellers think in their hearts,
Till malice or circumstance parts
Them from their constant humour:
And slyly Death’s coercive rumour
In that moment starts.
A friend is the old old tale of Narcissus,
Not to be born is the best for man;
An active partner in something disgraceful,
Change your partner, dance while you can.

“O stretch your hands across the sea,”
The impassioned lover cries,
“Stretch them towards your harm and me.
Our grass is green, and sensual our brief bed,
The stream sings at its foot, and at its head
The mild and vegetarian beasts are fed.”
So the impassioned lover cries
Till the storm of pleasure dies:
From the bedpost and the rocks
Death’s enticing echo mocks,
And his voice replies.
The greater the love, the more false to its object,
Not to be born is the best for man;
After the kiss comes the impulse to throttle,
Break the embraces, dance while you can.

“I see the guilty world forgiven,”
Dreamer and drunkard sing,
“The ladders let down out of heaven,
The laurel springing from the martyr’s blood,
The children skipping where the weeper stood,
The lovers natural and the beasts all good.”
So dreamer and drunkard sing
Till day their sobriety bring:
Parrotwise with Death’s reply
From whelping fear and nesting lie,
Woods and their echoes ring.
The desires of the heart are as crooked as corkscrews,
Not to be born is the best for man;
The second-best is a formal order,
The dance’s pattern; dance while you can.

Dance, dance, for the figure is easy,
The tune is catching and will not stop;
Dance till the stars come down from the rafters;
Dance, dance, dance till you drop.