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

 Delmore  Schwartz

Biography

Delmore Schwartz had, writes Alfred Kazin, "a feeling for literary honor, for the highest standards, that one can only call noble—he loved the nobility of example presented by the greatest writers of our century, and he wanted in this sense to be noble himself, a light unto the less talented.... So he suffered, unceasingly, because he had often to disappoint himself—because the world turned steadily more irrational and . . .

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Poem Categorization

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

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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