Friday, January 06, 2006

And this is why he got the job

The sheer intellectual exuberance of this wonderful post from New Yorker music critic Alex Ross takes my breath away and fills me with wicked envy. One of the most enviable gifts of people with this kind of quicksilver brain is the combination of a rich horde of varied, detailed knowledge with an ability to make instant connections across those bodies of knowledge: music to poetry to history, all with no apparent effort. Do check out both of Ross's links even just briefly because neither that post nor this one makes much sense without them.

A 'chaconne' is a particular kind of musical form in slow waltz time. I know this because I have just looked it up.

And just to prove (since I have been sounding more than usually snarky lately about Christians when actually it's not Christians as such that I mind at all, it's morons) that I am actually not particularly anti-God, here for the hell of it is the poem to which Ross is referring, which has been one of my favourites since I first struggled through it at school. If there's one thing that I love it that John Donne loves, it's labyrinthine grammar, and if there's another, it's the inescapable erotic dimension of religious ecstasy, which he had the brains neither to repress nor to deny.

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for You
as yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
that I may rise and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
labour to admit You, but O, to no end;
reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
but is captived, and proves weak or untrue.

Yet dearly I love You, and would be loved fain,
but am betrothed unto Your enemy.
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again;
take me to You, imprison me, for I,
except You enthrall me, never shall be free,
nor ever chaste, except You ravish me.

3 comments:

Zoe said...

Only one link there, Ms Cat. What's t'other one then?

Pavlov's Cat said...

Sorry Zoe, I meant both the links in the Ross post. Will clarify.

genevieve said...

I had a tutor who did not like the whole notion of the ravishing much. Said it was lazy of Donne to expect God to do all the work, or words to that effect. But it's a fine piece of rhetoric all the same.
Thanks for the link to the Ross blog - what a treasure trove!