Sunday, June 29, 2014

Siegfried Sassoon: Died of Wounds





His wet white face and miserable eyes 
Brought nurses to him more than groans and sighs: 
But hoarse and low and rapid rose and fell 
His troubled voice: he did the business well. 

The ward grew dark; but he was still complaining 
And calling out for ‘Dickie’. ‘Curse the Wood! 
‘It’s time to go. O Christ, and what’s the good? 
‘We’ll never take it, and it’s always raining.’ 

I wondered where he’d been; then heard him shout, 
‘They snipe like hell! O Dickie, don’t go out... 
I fell asleep ... Next morning he was dead; 
And some Slight Wound lay smiling on the bed. 


Siegfried Sassoon: Act of Willful Defiance





Appalled by the slaughter on the trenches, Siegfried Sassoon wrote his Act of Willful Defiance as a statement that he was not going to return to arms. Sassoon had gained a reputation as a poet by the time he took this decision so if such an act gained mass publicity, especially as it was titled 'Willful Defiance', it would have been a major embarrassment to the army and government. Sassoon did, in fact, put himself in danger of being court-martialled and if found guilty could have faced severe punishment. His friend and fellow officer Rober Graves persuaded the military hierarchy that Sassoon was suffering from shell-shock and he was sent to recover in Scotland where he met Wilfred Owen who was recovering in the same hospital. It was here at Craiglockheart that Sassoon urged the unknown Owen to put his heart and soul into his poems.



"I am making this statement as an act of willful defiance of military authority because I believe that the war is being deliberately prolonged by those who have the power to end it. I am a soldier, convinced that I am acting on behalf of soldiers. I believe that the war upon which I entered as a war of defence and liberation has now become a war of aggression and conquest. I believe that the purposes for which I and my fellow soldiers entered upon this war should have been so clearly stated as to have made it impossible to change them and that had this been done the objects which actuated us would now be attainable by negotiation.
I have seen and endured the sufferings of the troops and I can no longer be a party to prolonging these sufferings for ends which I believe to be evil and unjust. I am not protesting against the conduct of the war, but against the political errors and insincerities for which the fighting men are being sacrificed.
On behalf of those who are suffering now, I make this protest against the deception which is being practiced upon them; also I believe it may help to destroy the callous complacency with which the majority of those at home regard the continuance of agonies which they do not share and which they have not have enough imagination to realise."


Robert Graves: A Dead Boche




Robert Graves, in uniform, 1915


To you who’d read my songs of War 
And only hear of blood and fame, 
I’ll say (you’ve heard it said before) 
”War’s Hell!” and if you doubt the same, 
Today I found in Mametz Wood
A certain cure for lust of blood: 

Where, propped against a shattered trunk, 
In a great mess of things unclean, 
Sat a dead Boche; he scowled and stunk 
With clothes and face a sodden green,
Big-bellied, spectacled, crop-haired, 
Dribbling black blood from nose and beard. 


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Paul Valéry: Le Cimetière Marin




Ce toit tranquille, où marchent des colombes, 
Entre les pins palpite, entre les tombes;
Midi le juste y compose de feux
La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée!
O récompense après une pensée
Qu'un long regard sur le calme des dieux!

Quel pur travail de fins éclairs consume
Maint diamant d'imperceptible écume, 
Et quelle paix semble se concevoir!
Quand sur l'abîme un soleil se repose, 
Ouvrages purs d'une éternelle cause, 
Le Temps scintille et le Songe est savoir.

Stable trésor, temple simple à Minerve,
Masse de calme, et visible réserve,
Eau sourcilleuse, Oeil qui gardes en toi
Tant de sommeil sous un voile de flamme, 
O mon silence!... Édifice dans l'âme,
Mais comble d'or aux mille tuiles, Toit!

Temple du Temps, qu'un seul soupir résume,
À ce point pur je monte et m'accoutume,
Tout entouré de mon regard marin;
Et comme aux dieux mon offrande suprême,
La scintillation sereine sème
Sur l'altitude un dédain souverain.

Comme le fruit se fond en jouissance,
Comme en délice il change son absence 
Dans une bouche où sa forme se meurt, 
Je hume ici ma future fumée,
Et le ciel chante à l'âme consumée 
Le changement des rives en rumeur.

Beau ciel, vrai ciel, regarde-moi qui change!
Après tant d'orgueil, après tant d'étrange
Oisiveté, mais pleine de pouvoir,
Je m'abandonne à ce brillant espace,
Sur les maisons des morts mon ombre passe
Qui m'apprivoise à son frêle mouvoir.

L'âme exposée aux torches du solstice,
Je te soutiens, admirable justice
De la lumière aux armes sans pitié! 
Je te tends pure à ta place première: 
Regarde-toi!... Mais rendre la lumière 
Suppose d'ombre une morne moitié.

O pour moi seul, à moi seul, en moi-même,
Auprès d'un coeur, aux sources du poème,
Entre le vide et l'événement pur,
J'attends l'écho de ma grandeur interne, 
Amère, sombre et sonore citerne,
Sonnant dans l'âme un creux toujours futur!

Sais-tu, fausse captive des feuillages,
Golfe mangeur de ces maigres grillages,
Sur mes yeux clos, secrets éblouissants,
Quel corps me traîne à sa fin paresseuse,
Quel front l'attire à cette terre osseuse?
Une étincelle y pense à mes absents.

Fermé, sacré, plein d'un feu sans matière, 
Fragment terrestre offert à la lumière,
Ce lieu me plaît, dominé de flambeaux,
Composé d'or, de pierre et d'arbres sombres,
Où tant de marbre est tremblant sur tant d'ombres;
La mer fidèle y dort sur mes tombeaux!

Chienne splendide, écarte l'idolâtre!
Quand solitaire au sourire de pâtre,
Je pais longtemps, moutons mystérieux,
Le blanc troupeau de mes tranquilles tombes, 
Éloignes-en les prudentes colombes,
Les songes vains, les anges curieux!

Ici venu, l'avenir est paresse.
L'insecte net gratte la sécheresse;
Tout est brûlé, défait, reçu dans l'air
A je ne sais quelle sévère essence...
La vie est vaste, étant ivre d'absence,
Et l'amertume est douce, et l'esprit clair.

Les morts cachés sont bien dans cette terre 
Qui les réchauffe et sèche leur mystère. 
Midi là-haut, Midi sans mouvement 
En soi se pense et convient à soi-même... 
Tête complète et parfait diadème, 
Je suis en toi le secret changement.

Tu n'as que moi pour contenir tes craintes! 
Mes repentirs, mes doutes, mes contraintes 
Sont le défaut de ton grand diamant... 
Mais dans leur nuit toute lourde de marbres, 
Un peuple vague aux racines des arbres 
A pris déjà ton parti lentement.

Ils ont fondu dans une absence épaisse,
L'argile rouge a bu la blanche espèce,
Le don de vivre a passé dans les fleurs!
Où sont des morts les phrases familières,
L'art personnel, les âmes singulières?
La larve file où se formaient des pleurs.

Les cris aigus des filles chatouillées,
Les yeux, les dents, les paupières mouillées,
Le sein charmant qui joue avec le feu,
Le sang qui brille aux lèvres qui se rendent,
Les derniers dons, les doigts qui les défendent,
Tout va sous terre et rentre dans le jeu!

Et vous, grande âme, espérez-vous un songe
Qui n'aura plus ces couleurs de mensonge
Qu'aux yeux de chair l'onde et l'or font ici?
Chanterez-vous quand serez vaporeuse?
Allez! Tout fuit! Ma présence est poreuse,
La sainte impatience meurt aussi!

Maigre immortalité noire et dorée,
Consolatrice affreusement laurée,
Qui de la mort fais un sein maternel,
Le beau mensonge et la pieuse ruse!
Qui ne connaît, et qui ne les refuse,
Ce crâne vide et ce rire éternel!

Pères profonds, têtes inhabitées,
Qui sous le poids de tant de pelletées, 
Êtes la terre et confondez nos pas,
Le vrai rongeur, le ver irréfutable
N'est point pour vous qui dormez sous la table, 
Il vit de vie, il ne me quitte pas!

Amour, peut-être, ou de moi-même haine?
Sa dent secrète est de moi si prochaine
Que tous les noms lui peuvent convenir!
Qu'importe! Il voit, il veut, il songe, il touche!
Ma chair lui plaît, et jusque sur ma couche,
À ce vivant je vis d'appartenir!

Zénon! Cruel Zénon! Zénon d'Elée!
M'as-tu percé de cette flèche ailée
Qui vibre, vole, et qui ne vole pas!
Le son m'enfante et la flèche me tue!
Ah! le soleil... Quelle ombre de tortue
Pour l'âme, Achille immobile à grands pas!

Non, non!... Debout! Dans l'ère successive
Brisez, mon corps, cette forme pensive!
Buvez, mon sein, la naissance du vent!
Une fraîcheur, de la mer exhalée,
Me rend mon âme... O puissance salée!
Courons à l'onde en rejaillir vivant.

Oui! Grande mer de délires douée,
Peau de panthère et chlamyde trouée,
De mille et mille idoles du soleil,
Hydre absolue, ivre de ta chair bleue,
Qui te remords l'étincelante queue
Dans un tumulte au silence pareil,

Le vent se lève!... Il faut tenter de vivre!
L'air immense ouvre et referme mon livre,
La vague en poudre ose jaillir des rocs!
Envolez-vous, pages tout éblouies!
Rompez, vagues! Rompez d'eaux réjouies
Ce toit tranquille où picoraient des focs!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Wilfred Owen: 1914





War broke: and now the Winter of the world
With perishing great darkness closes in.
The foul tornado, centred at Berlin,
Is over all the width of Europe whirled,
Rending the sails of progress. Rent or furled
Are all Art's ensigns. Verse wails. Now begin
Famines of thought and feeling. Love's wine's thin.
The grain of human Autumn rots, down-hurled.

For after Spring had bloomed in early Greece,
And Summer blazed her glory out with Rome,
An Autumn softly fell, a harvest home,
A slow grand age, and rich with all increase.
But now, for us, wild Winter, and the need
Of sowings for new Spring, and blood for seed. 


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Laura Riding: The Simple Line




The secrets of the mind convene splendidly,
Though the mind is meek.
To be aware inwardly
of brain and beauty
Is dark too recognizable.
Thought looking out on thought
Makes one an eye:
Which it shall be, both decide.
One is with the mind alone,
The other is with other thoughts gone
To be seen from afar and not known.

When openly these inmost sights
Flash and speak fully,
Each head at home shakes hopelessly
Of being never ready to see self
And sees a universe too soon.
The immense surmise swims round and round
And heads grow wise
With their own bigness beatified
In cosmos, and the idiot size
Of skulls spells Nature on the ground,
While ears listening the wrong way report
Echoes first and hear words before sounds
Because the mind, being quiet, seems late.
By ears words are copied into books,
By letters minds are taught self-ignorance.
From mouths spring forth vocabularies
To the assemblage of strange objects
Grown foreign to the faithful countryside
Of one king, poverty,
Of one line, humbleness.
Unavowed and false horizons claim pride
For spaces in the head
The native head sees outside.
The flood of wonder rushing from the eyes
Returns lesson by lesson.
The mind, shrunken of time,
Overflows too soon.
The complete vision is the same
As when the world-wideness began
Worlds to describe
The excessiveness of man.

But man's right portion rejects
The surplus in the whole.
This much, made secret first,
Now makes
The knowable, which was
Thought's previous flesh,
And gives instruction of substance to its intelligence
As far as flesh itself,
As bodies upon themselves to where
Understanding is the head
And the identity of breath and breathing are established
And the voice opening to cry: I know,
Closes around the entire declaration
With this evidence of immortality—
The total silence to say:
I am dead.

For death is all ugly, all lovely,
Forbids mysteries to make
Science of splendor, or any separate disclosing
Of beauty to the mind out of body's book
That page by page flutters a world in fragments,
Permits no scribbling in of more
Where spaces are,
Only to look.

Body as Body lies more than still.
The rest seems nothing and nothing is
If nothing need be.
But if need be,
Thought not divided anyway
Answers itself, thinking
All open and everything.
Dead is the mind that parted each head.
But now the secrets of the mind convene
Without pride, without pain
To any onlookers.
What they ordain alone
Cannot be known
The ordinary way of eyes and ears
But only prophesied
If an unnatural mind, refusing to divide,
Dies immediately
Of too plain beauty
Foreseen within too suddenly,
And lips break open of astonishment
Upon the living mouth and rehearse
Death, that seems a simple verse
And, of all ways to know,
Dead or alive, easiest. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Robert Graves: An Old Twenty-Third Man





“Is that the Three-and-Twentieth, Strabo mine, 
Marching below, and we still gulping wine?” 
From the sad magic of his fragrant cup 
The red-faced old centurion started up, 
Cursed, battered on the table. “No,” he said,
“Not that! The Three-and-Twentieth Legion’s dead, 
Dead in the first year of this damned campaign— 
The Legion’s dead, dead, and won’t rise again. 
Pity? Rome pities her brave lads that die, 
But we need pity also, you and I,
Whom Gallic spear and Belgian arrow miss, 
Who live to see the Legion come to this, 
Unsoldierlike, slovenly, bent on loot, 
Grumblers, diseased, unskilled to thrust or shoot. 
O, brown cheek, muscled shoulder, sturdy thigh!
Where are they now? God! watch it struggle by, 
The sullen pack of ragged ugly swine. 
Is that the Legion, Gracchus? Quick, the wine!” 
“Strabo,” said Gracchus, “you are strange tonight. 
The Legion is the Legion; it’s all right.
If these new men are slovenly, in your thinking, 
God damn it! you’ll not better them by drinking. 
They all try, Strabo; trust their hearts and hands. 
The Legion is the Legion while Rome stands, 
And these same men before the autumn’s fall
Shall bang old Vercingetorix out of Gaul.” 


Sunday, June 1, 2014

Anton Bruckner: Symphony Nr. 8 - Sergiu Celibidache




Anton Bruckner



Sergiu Celibidache




Anton Bruckner - Symphony Number 8 in C minor
Version 1890 - Edition: Leopold Nowak

Münchner Philharmoniker conducted by Sergiu Celibidache

Live Suntory Hall Tokyo, 20 October 1990

1. Allegro moderato
2. Scherzo. Allegro moderato - Trio, langsam
3. Adagio. Feierlich langsam, doch nicht schleppend
4. Finale. Fierlich, nicht schnell

Robert Graves: Retrospect: The Jests Of The Clock




He had met hours of the clock he never guessed before-
Dumb, dragging, mirthless hours confused with dreams and fear,
Bone-chilling, hungry hours when the Gods sleep and snore,
Bequeathing earth and heaven to ghosts, and will not hear,
And will not hear man groan chained to the sodden ground,
Rotting alive; in feather beds they slumbered sound.

When noisome smells of day were sicklied by cold night,
When sentries froze and muttered; when beyond the wire
Blank shadows crawled and tumbled, shaking, tricking the sight,
When impotent hatred of Life stifled desire,
Then soared the sudden rocket, broke in blanching showers,
O lagging watch! O dawn! O hope-forsaken hours!

How often with numbed heart, stale lips, venting his rage
We swore he'd be a dolt, a traitor, a damned fool,
If, when the guns stopped, ever again from youth to age
He broke the early rising, early sleeping rule.
No, though more bestial enemies roused a fouler war
Never again would he hear this, no never more!

'Rise with the cheerful sun, go to bed with the same,
Work in your field or kailyard all the shining day,
But,' he said, 'never more in quest of wealth, honour, fame,
Search the small hours of night before the East goes grey.
A healthy mind, an honest heart, a wise man leaves
Those ugly impious times to ghosts, devils, soldiers, thieves.'

Poor fool, knowing too well deep in his heart
That he'll be ready again: if urgent orders come,
To quit his rye and cabbages, kiss his wife and part
At the first sullen rapping of the awakened drum,
Ready once more to sweat with fear and brace for the shock,
To greet beneath a falling flare the jests of the clock. 

William Blake: "Jerusalem". Music by Hubert Parry. Orch. Edward Elgar


And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon Englands mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!

And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?

Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!

I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In Englands green & pleasant Land.


The Parry/Elgar version:



The progressive rock version by Emerson, Lake & Palmer: