Hard Times

“Stephen bent over his loom, quiet, watchful, and steady. A special contrast, as every man was in the forest of looms where Stephen worked, to the crashing, smashing, tearing piece of mechanism at which he laboured. Never fear…that Art will consign Nature to oblivion. Set anywhere, side by side, the work of God and the work of man; and the former, even though it be a troop of [workmen] of very small account, will gain in dignity from the comparison.”

~Charles Dickens, Hard Times

Come Away, Death

Did you know that there is a unique Dewey decimal number just for books written by or about William Shakespeare? A few days ago I went to the library to check out a copy of Twelfth Night, hoping to have the time to read it in the next month before seeing a production in May, but I was blown away by the sheer number of books that have been written about a single man’s works!

Anyway, thinking about Twelfth Night reminded me of poem in the play, “Come away, come away, death,” sung by a clown as entertainment for a duke. In the play, it serves merely as amusement, and it certainly is an over-dramatic lament, but it has been extracted and set to music numerous times by various composers. One setting, by Gerald Finzi, a 20th century British composer, has become one of my favorites. I first discovered it on the album The Vagabond, which also happens to include one of my favorite song cycles by Ralph Vaughan Williams, sung by Bryn Terfel (so many things to love!). This set of songs, with texts by Robert Louis Stevenson, demonstrates Vaughan Williams’ ability to write perfect but playable piano accompaniments. Each one is just suited to the text and supports the singer while retaining its own independent musical value.

I highly recommend the entire CD, but for now, check out “Come away, come away, death” and “Youth and love“.

An Impressive Vocabulary

Theodora had an impressive vocabulary, which can be charming if it is used at a convenient time. But if you are in a great hurry…then an impressive vocabulary is quite irritating. Another way of saying this is that it is vexing. Another way of saying this is that it is annoying. Another way of saying this is that it is bothersome. Another way of saying this is that it is exasperating. Another way of saying this is that it is troublesome. Another way of saying this is that it is chafing. Another way of saying this is that it is nettling. Another way of saying this is that it is ruffling. Another way of saying this is that it is infuriating or enraging or aggravating or embittering or envenoming, or that it gets one’s goat or raises one’s dander or makes one’s blood boil or gets one hot under the collar or blue in the face or mad as a wet hen or on the warpath or in a huff or up in arms or in high dudgeon, and as you can see, it also wastes time when there isn’t any time to waste.”

~Lemony Snicket, “When Did You See Her Last?”