EVENING PIANO

image

Her hands remember the piano

And soon she is remembering her sorrow

As he, who is older, smiles without regrets

And listens to her music her music forgets.

The evening does not see the evening,

The world cannot see the world.

He smiles, remembering when she was a girl

And he worried about everything.

Her sorrow is surprised how much her sorrow seems

To be the music she is playing for him—who loves to sleep, a sleep lovely for its dreams.

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20 Comments

  1. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 3, 2016 at 11:21 pm

    a good piano piece. Hours after I read this, I thought of this poem and I heard faintly, as if hearing could be distilled through an aural mirror in a mirror in a mirror, something faintly resembling the old fashioned tune: “Love’s Old Sweet Song” and the piano slightly, familiarly a little out of key. And the lamplight on it all. The faint smell of posies (posies being one of my Grandmother’s words for flowers if she was in that mode).

    On another “note”, can you recommend any antique lectures on Shakespeare. I have Hazlitt’s and the Lambs? I don’t want to know what they thought of him in the 20th century so much.

  2. thomasbrady said,

    January 4, 2016 at 12:50 am

    As you know, Mary:

    Keats adored Shakespeare.

    I wonder how many realize that two of Keats’ most famous observations from his Letters involved Shakespeare: 1. negative capability, which he said Shakespeare was the best example, and 2. the poet has no poetic character himself but with gusto partakes of all life—high and low—“Iago or Imogen” outside himself.

    Keats argued the poet values warm beauty and sensation over cold thought and reason; Keats admired Shakespeare to the point of worship and one can argue that reasoning on Shakespeare’s greatness merely diminishes him, even if it is praise: Shakesepare is such a genius that Shakespeare is always better than *talk* of Shakespeare. And Keats would probably agree.

    Keats, Poe, Shakespeare believed in what has largely been forgotten today: beauty in literature is smarter than “smart.”

    • maryangeladouglas said,

      January 4, 2016 at 1:05 am

      Thank you Thomas Graves. That is exactly the word I needed to hear. In all aspects. I remember that “Bright Star” was first inscribed in his volume of Shakespeare at the time. By the way, did you ever want to go to see Keats grave in Italy or whatever there is of his effects in the UK? Or in collections. I can imagine it would be an amazing experience if you could see, in the British Museum for example, if that’s in fact where anything is (I don’t know) related to him, anything, for example, in his own handwriting. Though I definitely can’t imagine you (horrors) in any kind of tour group tromping around the mulberry tree he used to heard the birds sing within.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        January 4, 2016 at 1:08 am

        hear not heard I got transported so far back in time thinking I slipped into heard melodies are sweet, but unheard…at least, I think that’s what happened. Protein is needed at this juncture. protein being necessary for poets and those who spend all their money on books.

    • powersjq said,

      January 4, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      The sophia of philosophy is cold. But the philia is hot. Knowledge of eternal verities is cold. But human love is hot. Philosophy is a fusion of opposites, a tempering of the soul (which includes both heart and mind). Nothing human is ever wholly cold.

      Poesis is making. Plato (in the Republic) claims that the poet (he’s thinking Homer, not Shakespeare, if that matters) makes phenomena. The poet makes appearances, and it is in appearances that beauty resides. But thoughts are also phenomena, which means that they can be beautiful, too.

      Literature is an activity in common. Shakespeare’s greatness cannot belong only to him. Authorship is a social function as well as a personal practice. Shakespeare can only ever be as great as the talk about him.

      Talk can be beautiful. Conversations–even superficial ones–can move us. Beauty can be small. The virtue of humility teaches that diminishment is no evil. The greatness of eternal verities trivializes all human endeavor, though their infinite coldness cannot quench even the tiniest human warmth.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        January 4, 2016 at 3:33 pm

        “Shakespeare can only ever be as great as the talk about him?” i can’t really agree with this. Light is light, irregardless. And it is true, quite often, as it says in the Holy Bible, “The Light shines in darkness and the darkness does not comprehend it”. But the beautiful thing is (to me) is that, irregardless, THE LIGHT STILL SHINES. THE LIGHT, INTRINSICALLY, IS STILL THE LIGHT even as I believe Christ is the Light of the world no matter what people say one way or the other, about it. Who you are remains. What you have done or left undone remains. People talking or not talking has nothing to do with it.

        • powersjq said,

          January 4, 2016 at 4:04 pm

          “Who you are remains. What you have done or left undone remains. People talking or not talking has nothing to do with it.”

          This is undeniable. What happened, happened. What you did, you did.

          And yet “what you have done” is _also_ quite complicated, as any trial lawyer can attest. An _account_ of what you did is a _literary_ event, with all the ambiguity that implies. Witnessing–even when it’s us witnessing ourselves–is as crooked as anything else human. Well, it’s crooked when we humans do it. If God is a witness–and I believe this is one of God’s most important jobs–then perhaps his witnessing is straight (though I wonder how we humans would know his straight from our crooked).

          There are a lot of assumptions built into our knowledge that Sonnet #18 was written at such-and-such a time by a person named Shakespeare. (There’s that wild, borderline plausible argument, for example, that Shakespeare is Francis Bacon’s pen name.) Sonnet #18 is Sonnet #18–its words are (more or less) fixed. Whatever we feel when we read those words must be real. Yet crediting those feelings to Shakespeare is more slippery. And making that author out to be a “genius” draws in another large armature of assumptions.

          I’m not opposed to assumptions. Assumptions are the foundation of knowledge. There are stronger and weaker assumptions. To treat all knowledge as having an equal claim to our credence is a non-endearing form of naivety. We do not know (or understand) big socially-constructed abstractions–like Shakespeare’s reputation–with any great certainty. Much of their utility depends on their ambiguity.

          What does it mean to be a literary genius? In its original Latin version (ingenium), the word simply referred to inborn talent. Doesn’t every human–we all have at least one natural language–have literary genius? How is Shakespeare’s different?

          • maryangeladouglas said,

            January 4, 2016 at 4:37 pm

            Sophia. Philia. Beautiful words that seem to carry their own light within them. You raise many questions. Very interesting to think about each question and follow it alone the lane that opens up from it wherever it might lead. But the light filled (Greek?) words seem to me to raise no questions but just quietly shed the radiance they convey. I want to make poems like that, where the light shines through. Not me. The Light. I took rudimentary rhetoric in college. I understand the bare outlines, the rules of argumentation, of building an argument. The importance of building it well. I love to read essays that have been made in this way on diverse subjects and then (especially from past centuries) embroidered, embellished as they may be, coloured as they may be in a peculiar, wonderful way by the person writing the essays, building the arguments. But when it comes down to it, in the way I “think” about things in my own mind I have a certain baseline compounded of things that to some seem insubstantial, maybe, if they were able to look more closely would something nothing more than a little fairy dust, a few moonbeams. I don’t believe that everything in human beings, of mysel,f is crooked. I believe there must be something clear in us (maybe God’s original imprint, brand on us, still vital and alive), maybe just Grace; if there were not something clear in us why would we even have words for “crooked” vs. “straight” or, I mean, that construct. We would just live ignorantly in the sea of crookednesss without these distinctions.

            I don’t worry myself with these things that worry. When I read Shakespeare I feel a difference I can’t rationally explain or finally even defend. I feel something in the core of my being from the words, all the words, that is so luminous, so breathtakingly beautiful that I CAN’T really analyze it. Someting I feel with no other writer except certain passages in the Bible, particularly, the book of John and the Psalms. The poetry I love creates in me a similar affect, like the wind on an aeolian harp. Or even nature itself. The music I love also, especially Beethoven, Chopin, Faure, Debussy and Ravel.

            Whether Shakespeare’s writing is genius or not, I don’t know. In the end all I really know is what happens to me when I read it. And it saddens me greatly to think that whole generations of children, young people, even older people who perhaps now have the chance finally to read all they want would suffer from either diminishing intepretations that would block them from having this experience, or ultimately (if we don’t do anything about this trend), not having this experience at all, because the social, collective bsers were sucessful (from the point of view of available human manuscripts) of consigning him to oblivion or to a social realist warped interpretation, or merely a collection of data comradely coexisting with all the other data where teamwork is the only remaining human impetus and dream.

  3. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 4, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    SOMETIMES THE REAL SEEPS UNDER THE DOOR

    sometimes the Real seeps under the door
    and you are happy and you can’t think why
    though there’s no sunshine in the sky.

    sometimes a Gold is with you, unexpectedly;
    the Beautiful: the one they turned away
    from many doors or never even noticed

    it invisibly shimmering while they were
    shivering at the bus stop.
    a leaf falls from a tree in polished red

    with a message; take a Holiday, won’t you?
    and you don’t understand how it was
    that it fell just at the moment when

    you appeared, as if it had been waiting to,
    throughout the year, and there it is:
    a telegram from God, or valentine

    maple scripted; meant for you;
    you’ll press in a book, later
    to recall this vivid day.

    mary angela douglas 4 january 2016

  4. thomasbrady said,

    January 4, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Well I think we have our own Shakespeare right here with us and it is Mary Angela Douglas. You write with a beautiful urgency, Mary. You have such a perception of beauty in you and you have to shine.

    I think Powers is speaking for those on the sidelines who need to sort it all out and make sense of all the beauty and poetry. The Internet is full of poems, criticism, personal anecdote, politics, advice, etc.

    We “creators” shine our light and we can’t worry too much about how it’s being received, or we might get overwhelmed ourselves. We take it for granted that Keats and Shakespeare “got noticed” because they were “good,” but it’s more complex than that. Or, maybe it isn’t. Maybe to make it more complex is a sign of the times we are living in: a nation of five million internet poets, few of whom want to contemplate how much they are dwarfed by Shakespeare. But Shakespeare’s fame probably owes more to his plays (and movie scripts) than his poetry—though, fortunately, his poetry is not easily separated out from the plays.

  5. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 4, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    I know how much I don’t resemble Shakespeare; I feel lucky just to be able to break off even a twig from that golden tree and grateful this is not regarded as poaching. But how extravagantly consoling and kind you are to make such an absurd comparison which, in its kindness, is not absurd, but very beautiful to me. I pray everyone, anyone who wants so desperately to express something, anything in an artistic form can receive such consolation. Thank you.

    I like very much what Powers said about conversation as beautiful; perhaps, he meant, even in the Platonic sense “the Beautiful” itself, and where I mean always and only Christ. About the Homeric I am woefully ignorant, being able to catch the light of Greece only as it glints through the trees of those more capable of grasping it than I: (just about anyone).

    I’m a short person who can only take small steps who has survived life by a string of rather bleak clerical jobs, a strong imagination and a tendency to look at the clouds in order to see again the Cross of Constantine or was it Charlemagne? Haha. My sense of history is REALLY appalling.

    What the heck can I know about the epic. I catch it by indirection as in Keat’s wondrous poem “On Looking Into Chapman’s Homer”. And I have always felt like a dunderhead though happily reading in English The Divine Comedy (especially Ciardi’s translation of the Paradiso) that I hadn’t any clue about Virgil except that he was Dante’s guide and lived in Greece in antiquity. And Dante must have considered him a Master poet.

    But my ignorance didn’t keep me from being dazzled by that whole architecture of light (the most perfect of all perfect phrases: “the Love that moves the sun and the other stars”) and looking at the italian on the opposite page somehow sensing the glory of the original language and the extreme miracle of that language (as Dante received it and shaped it) as it appeared to enfold Divine Light itself in waves, in endless waves.

    I like your essays (and poems) very much, Thomas Graves, because they also break out into unaccustomed (it feels as if it is unaccustomed to you) light even without your seeming to know about it, though you are the one writing. Or perhaps Someone is invisibly writing with you.

    When I say “Shakespeare” I always mean the plays and poetry together which I regard as a whole. I cannot separate them in my Shakespeare “consciousness”; they comprise one thing because I receive them (what I can receive, being still too shallow to receive all, but even the small amount is overwhelming to me) as the same Goldenness. So you see, despite my elliptical orbit, my “learnedness” as full of holes as Swiss Cheese, I’m still happy with the glints off the great waters and with your conclusion being so concisely, beautifully stated: “his poetry is not easily separated out from the plays”.

    Reply

  6. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 4, 2016 at 8:18 pm

    Oops. Just looked up Virgil on Wikipedia which seems like such a tacky thing to do and see, once again, i have flunked history. I had Virgil happily but solemnly enshrined in the olive groves somewhere, who knows where, in Greece all this time and now I realize through Wikipedia the whole time he was in ancient Italy, in Rome. I’m glad I don’t believe that salvation depends on perfect knowledge because I’m afraid I would wind up at least in Purgatory for this. I had a history exam once taught by an actual Greek professor who was alternately strict and kind. I think my pathetic disregard for actual time and dates, historical timelines evoked his pity rather than his strictness. We had an exam question on the fall of Rome as in in: who sacked Rome and I wrote down the wrong tribe. Oops. In small tiny red handwriting he took only five points off and wrote in parenthisis the tribe I had named (visigoths or goths, can’t remember) had actually lived and plundered 500 years prior (or was it after) the fall of Rome. Perhaps I could blame this on a small volume I read as a child from my Grandmother’s bookshelf which my sister and I took for absolute truth. It was called 1066 and All That and everything in it was hilariously wrong. After that we watched Rocky and Bullwinkle.

    • powersjq said,

      January 5, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Ignorance is the natural, normal human condition. The wisdom of Socrates is perhaps the only wisdom we can be sure of. I consider my education (by which I do NOT mean my schooling) to be useful mainly in that has made me more aware of just how ignorant I really am. The only shame is pretending to knowledge we don’t have. There’s nothing tacky about Wikipedia–or any other crutch. None of us will ever know as much as we should.

      I like very much your sense of humor. And your professor sounds like one worth remembering.

      • maryangeladouglas said,

        January 5, 2016 at 4:41 pm

        He was very eccentric. I think he was partial to me because he was very dedicated to Greek culture and history in the extreme being Greek himself of course and his favorite topic to expound on with great emotion was the iconoclasts and the horror of that in history: The ones who destroyed actual icons (meaing that mystical tradition of religious painting peculiar to the Eastern Orthodox for centuries). I think he would despise the now common corruption of the word icon in computer language and, worst of all, as a synonym for a mentor, or person to look up to. I know it gives me the creeps.

        On the same test (as the question with the fall of Rome)- which was part essay- I wrote a very fiery essay on that historical tragedy because I never had trouble with historical events that had strong imagery in their presentation and substance and I also had really felt his personal pain and emotion regarding that; I think that’s why he was lenient with me about the Visigoths. Or was it Goths.

        The way the course was set up, though, you would be starving by the end of class. It was a 3 hour course straight through with no breaks and it went past lunch time. With each passing minute he would speak faster and faster and, copious note taker that I was, I actually kept up. I considered that also a religious miracle.

        I love to read the Socratic dialogues. I like the Jowett translation a lot. But also the Edith Hamilton one. It drives me crazy, though, that looking at a list of the dialogues, I can never remember what they are about though I remember generally the golden meandering quality of them and the heartache of Socrates last day on earth.

        Also the poetic images here and there or rather I remember the feeling of reading those images beneath the trees at my little Catholic college in the early seventies. The chill golden sunshine of the surrounding autumn complementing the golden words poured out on the page. I have to have a sense of humor. I’ve been through too many embarrassing things in life and not just in junior high school. Otherwise, I would have turned into “Carrie”.

  7. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 4, 2016 at 10:12 pm

    THE SEA MAID’S DREAM ON DECK

    [to Hans Christian Andersen]

    far from the orchid Heavens still,
    mermaid like as I may be, swimming
    through the vastness of possible words

    I don’t yet understand-
    may I not be caught in the fishing lines
    of so many footnotes to the poems

    of my heart; bewildered by
    words on land or gold spangled,
    tangled in

    the motes that reach me here
    where it’s hard, sometimes
    for the Light to get through.

    baffled, I try to sing
    forgetting where I am or that
    they have taken

    my voice from me…

    all this was in a dream she had First Night
    in broken pearl, on deck
    when the Seas grew ragged,

    violet as Spring
    with every wave murmuring, murmuring
    don’t forget – don’t forget me.

    mary angela douglas 4 january 2016

  8. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 5, 2016 at 12:49 am

    THE LAND OF GOING AWAY

    [after the tale of Hansel and Gretal}

    this is all that we have left, we said to ourselves-
    in the Land of Going Away;
    the flood waters at our feet fresh purled,

    still swirling-
    and up on high,
    the bridge of the sky.

    this is what we will carry
    in our hands to the rainbow lands;
    the ones we’ve almost seen

    on breaks from work
    half watching the clouds,
    the clouds that are trees,

    soft green, and rippling in
    finite mirrors there, in the parking lots
    after the rain.

    someday in the woods
    the little house roofed with candy
    and no witches will appear

    and bright! with the raspberry shrubs.

    but today today we shift our loads
    and long for home;
    still here to stay perpetually

    with breadcrumbs in our hands
    at the party with the light refreshments;
    till the Dream boughs all give way-

    and golden nights becomes black days in the Land of Going Away.

    mary angela douglas 4 january 2016

  9. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 5, 2016 at 12:25 pm

    THE BLOSSOM THAT FELL FROM THE POETRY TREE

    [for Sara Teasdale]

    the blossom that fell from the Poetry Tree
    I cupped in my hands: was it the colour of snow?
    was it pink like promises of roses?

    was its centre of a pale, pale green?
    how can I answer you, this far from Spring?
    it was the mysteries.

    it was all colours singing;
    it was none; the prism flash;
    the new dress sash of velvet.

    it was the flaming out of stars

    above my head, work left undone
    the arrow through the heart
    as a school project

    edged with paper lace
    the ache of missing God
    under ivoried moonlight

    in a city space
    and more than this,

    the face of cliffs
    october like, the tang of afternoons and
    the cold of apples

    in their winter dream
    the circumvented stream
    reappearing where the ice gives way

    the hidden, bidden Word
    I longed to find day after day.
    and say to no one yet.

    it was though petal-small,
    the whole of May.
    what flowers streaked in violet rains

    leant down to pray
    in winds that have no names.

    mary angela douglas 5 january 2016

  10. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 5, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    SIMPLE IT WAS THEN AND LOVELY TO BE TOLD

    simple it was then and lovely to be told
    that all the leaves were red and gold
    and this was named, autumn

    or that clay could be moulded into shapes
    blue pink yellow or green
    and you would indicate snow

    in the picture falling down on the town
    in silver or gold
    or fill the whole page with roses

    corner to corner
    but blue is your favorite
    because it soars

    you tell yourself streaked with
    pink until it shades into violet
    you tell yourself you love the

    fairy tales best and always will

    what good is rest from wishing wells
    when there are picture books to be read
    and turning the pages crisp like Christmas

    is all you want to do anyway
    and so you stash them under the covers
    not meaning to deceive but just because

    it’s possible to dream like this
    even when you’re wide awake
    in the middle of the day

    and counter your fears for years and years
    away from the windows that opened onto
    the playgrounds, the little stream

    the honeysuckle vines
    the stalwart pines

    on grown-up sleeting days, on the days of
    infinite reprimands at work
    in the identical way

    you did then.

    mary angela douglas 5 january 2016

  11. maryangeladouglas said,

    January 6, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    Thomas Graves, in your poem Evening Piano, I especially loved these lines in and of themselves and the mood they evoked by virtue of where they occured in the poem:

    “The evening does not see the evening,
    The world cannot see the world.”

    exceptionally beautiful

  12. noochinator said,

    April 26, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    From The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks by Robertson Davies

    OF THE FIEND CZERNY

    A little girl was showing me some of her piano exercises today. They were simple things with fanciful names, and she seemed to like them. When I was a child piano lessons involved an intimate acquaintance with the exercises of a fiend named Carl Czerny, all of which were intended to be performed at incredible speed. The pupil of those days began with a variety of Czerny, and soon passed on to thick books called The School of Velocity, The School of Finger Dexterity and so forth until he approached a work of blood-chilling difficulty called The Virtuoso Pianist. I never scaled this awful eminence (I broke down and was flung aside in Finger Dexterity) but I heard other students playing it, and such swoops, crashes and wrist-paralysing convulsions of sound were never heard. The object of learning all this, I was told, was so that if, in later life, one broke down in the performance of a concerto, one could always fill in with a few spasms of Czerny; the musically ignorant in the audience would never know the difference, and the musically élite would understand that the pianist was perfectly capable of playing anything.

    Czerny (1791-1857) came by his piano bashing habits in the greatest style, for he was a pupil of Beethoven and his most celebrated pupil was Franz Liszt, of whom it was written –-

    The Abbé Liszt
    Hit the piano with his fist;
    That is the way
    He used to play.

    Music is identified by its composers in large hunks, called opuses. Many composers are content with a few hundred of these things, but Czerny wrote a full thousand of them.


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