At a Solemn Musick

By Delmore Schwartz 1913–1966 Delmore Schwartz
Let the musicians begin,
Let every instrument awaken and instruct us
In love’s willing river and love’s dear discipline:
We wait, silent, in consent and in the penance
Of patience, awaiting the serene exaltation
Which is the liberation and conclusion of expiation.

Now may the chief musician say:
“Lust and emulation have dwelt amoung us
Like barbarous kings: have conquered us:
Have inhabited our hearts: devoured and ravished
—With the savage greed and avarice of fire—
The substance of pity and compassion.”

Now may all the players play:
“The river of the morning, the morning of the river
Flow out of the splendor of the tenderness of surrender.”
Now may the chief musician say:
“Nothing is more important than summer.”

And now the entire choir shall chant:
“How often the astonished heart,
Beholding the laurel,
Remembers the dead,
And the enchanted absolute,
Snow’s kingdom, sleep’s dominion.”

Then shall the chief musician declare:
“The phoenix is the meaning of the fruit,
Until the dream is knowledge and knowledge is a dream.”

And then, once again, the entire choir shall cry, in passionate unity,
Singing and celebrating love and love’s victory,
Ascending and descending the heights of assent, climbing and chanting triumphantly:
Before the morning was, you were:
Before the snow shone,
And the light sang, and the stone,
Abiding, rode the fullness or endured the emptiness,
You were: you were alone.

Delmore Schwartz, “At a Solemn Musick” from Summer Knowledge: Selected Poems (1938-1958). Copyright © 1959 by Delmore Schwartz. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Summer Knowledge: Selected Poems (1938-1958) (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1967)

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Poet Delmore Schwartz 1913–1966

Subjects Relationships, Love, Arts & Sciences, Music, Nature, Social Commentaries, Romantic Love