Saturday, March 12, 2016

Son of Ares

Cycnus beheld the Nymphs transform'd, ally'd
To their dead Brother, on the Mortal Side,
In Friendship and Affection nearer bound;
He left the Cities and the Realms he own'd,
Thro' pathless Fields and lonely Shores to range,
And Woods, made Thicker by the Sisters Change.
Whilst here, within the dismal Gloom, alone,
The melancholy Monarch made his Moan,
His Voice was lessen'd, as he try'd to speak,
And issu'd through a long extended Neck;
His Hair transforms to Down, his Fingers meet
In skinny Films, and shape his oary Feet;
From both his Sides the Wings and Feathers break;
And from his Mouth proceeds a blunted Beak:
All Cycnus now into a Swan was turn'd,
Who, still remembring how his Kinsman burn'd,
To solitary Pools and Lakes retires,
And loves the Waters as oppos'd to Fires.
Mean-while Apollo in a gloomy Shade
(The native Lustre of his Brows decay'd)
Indulging Sorrow, sickens at the Sight
Of his own Sun-shine, and abhors the Light:
The hidden Griefs, that in his Bosom rise,
Sadden his Looks, and over-cast his Eyes,
As when some dusky Orb obstructs his Ray,
And sullies, in a Dim Eclipse, the Day.
Now secretly with inward Griefs he pin'd,
Now warm Resentments to his Griefs he joyn'd,
And now renounc'd his Office to Mankind.
" E'er since the Birth of Time, said he, I've born
" A long ungrateful Toil without Return;
" Let now some Other manage, if he dare,
" The fiery Steeds, and mount the burning Carr;
" Or, if none else, let Jove his Fortune try,
" And learn to lay his murd'ring Thunder by;
" Then will he own, perhaps, but own too late,
" My Son deserv'd not so severe a Fate.
The Gods stand round him, as he mourns, and pray
He would resume the Conduct of the Day,
Nor let the World be lost in endless Night:
Jove too himself, descending from his Height,
Excuses what had happen'd, and intreats,
Majestically mixing Pray'rs and Threats.
Prevail'd upon at length, again he took
The harness'd Steeds, that still with Horror shook,
And plies 'em with the Lash, and whips 'em on,
And, as he whips, upbraids 'em with his Son.
- Joseph Addison, "The Transformation of Cycnus into a Swan"


FreeThinke said...

Thanks, I needed that! ;-)

A particularly beautiful rendition of one of the most enduring popular classics.

Now I need to look up Addison, and learn something about him. I enjoyed his poem. Laying aside the burdens of mortal existence to live a quieter, simpler life as an integral part of Nature has always had great appeal –– at least as long as the hurly burly implicit in urban life has existed.

I suppose that's why people of means have long favored the purchase of a Country Retreat somewhere removed from the workplace and the tedium of dealing with jostling crowds, raucous political factions and fractious, nosey neighbors.

Be it a palatial marble "cottage" at Newport, a rambling brown-shingled house with many porches overlooking the foaming Atlantic on the rockbound coast of Maine, a one-room cabin in the woods, or a private island, –– or even an afternoon picnic at a local park ––, the urge to withdraw is often compelling.

To discard one's humanity altogether in favor of assuming the identity of another sort of creature seems bit too extreme, but I'm sure something of what I've outlined must have inspired Addison as it doubtless inspired the ancient Greeks.

I never hear the word "escape"
Without a quicker blood ––
A sudden agitation ––
A flying attitude.

I never hear of prisons broad
By soldiers battered down,
But I tug –– childish –– at my bars ––
Only to fail again.

~ Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)

Thersites said...
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Thersites said...

More swansongs

FreeThinke said...

___________ The Silver Swan ___________

The Silver Swan, who living had no note,
When death approached, unlocked her silent, silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore
Thus sang her first and last, then sang no more.
Farewell all joys, O, Death, come close mine eyes.
More geese than swans now live, more fools than wise.

~ Orlando Gibbons

FreeThinke said...

Franz Schubert's final, painful days in November 1828 included bouts of delirium, requests for novels by James Fennimore Cooper, ceaseless singing and snatches of lucidity, when he actually worked on music.

Schubert had been seriously ill for about three years, but it's impossible to tell in the quantity and consistency of his compositions. In just his final 14 weeks, he wrote his last three piano sonatas (among his most transcendent), the heart-melting C-Major String Quintet, Der Hirt auf dem Felsen (The Shepherd on the Rock) and the 14 songs that came to be grouped — by his publisher — under the title Schwanengesang, a "Swansong" of sorts from a man who had written more than 600 songs in a truncated, 31-year life. ...

FreeThinke said...

IF you'd like to get better acquainted wit h Schubert's Schwanengesang, the following link will take you to an excellent performance of most of the work:

"SCWANENGESANG" by Franz Schubert

Hermann Prey, tenor,
Gerald Moore, piano

Liebesbotschaft (Ludwig Rellstab)

Kriegers Ahnung (Ludwig Rellstab)

Frühlingssehnsucht (Ludwig Rellstab)

Ständchen (Ludwig Rellstab)

Aufenthalt (Ludwig Rellstab)

In der Ferne (Ludwig Rellstab)

Abschied (Ludwig Rellstab)

Der Atlas (Heinrich Heine)

Ihr Bild (Heinrich Heine)

Das Fischermädchen (Heinrich Heine)

Die Stadt (Heinrich Heine)

Am Meer (Heinrich Heine)

Der Doppelgänger (Heinrich Heine)

Die Taubenpost (Johann Gabriel Seidl)

-FJ said...

I'm ashamed to admit that I had to get out the subtitles... :(

FreeThinke said...

Nothing to be ashamed of, FJ. I'm glad you had sufficient interest to bother to do what I probably should have done myself. So, perhaps, it is I who should be ashamed?

The performance I love most of these last 14 songs by Schubert was recorded by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Gerald Moore before 1960. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it on YouTube in its entirety, although some of the songs are available singly.

-FJ said...

I;m afraid that I'm unqualified to comment. This was the first time I'd heard Schubert's Swan Songs.