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Month: April, 2013

XXXVl. When we met first and loved, I did not build – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXVl. When we met first and loved, I did not build

When we met first and loved, I did not build
Upon the event with marble. Could it mean
To last, a love set pendulous between
Sorrow and sorrow? Nay, I rather thrilled,
Distrusting every light that seemed to gild
The onward path, and feared to overlean
A finger even. And, though I have grown serene
And strong since then, I think that God has willed
A still renewable fear . . .O love, O troth
Lest these enclaspèd hands should never hold,
This mutual kiss drop down between us both
As an unowned thing, once the lips being cold.
And Love, be false! if he, to keep one oath,
Must lose one joy, by his life’s star foretold

Elizabeth Barrett Browning


some poems cross the line of scrutability,
the line of even credibility sometimes,
being too cute for their own artful ever
nevertheless intentions, too abstruse,
clever, for their own too weighted words,
having let artifice overwhelm whatever

the beginning here is straightforward,
Elizabeth hasn’t cast her dreams in
“marble”, she hasn’t engraved her
illusions in stone, she dutifully allows
for disappointment in the promise of
fulfilment that lies between what has
lain before for her and what lies ahead
be this promise not fulfilled, or
eventually, in any case, forthwith
thwarted, as inexorably it must, for
she is, they are, we all are, inescapably
mortal, we come to the end, ineluctably,
of all our projected dreams

but the danger of breaking, however
inadvertently, so magical a spell,
prevents her from moving even a
finger, as though a breath, a bristle,
a brush, could threaten its tenuous,
as she would have it, enchantment

and haven’t we all been there, I
remember the death of a possible love
in the momentary merely, and utterly
arbitrary, obstruction of our charged
line of sight, a sure sign of discordance,
a clear and irrevocable omen

but should their own conjunction not
hold, “This mutual kiss drop down
between us both”,
she enjoins, allow
it to take hold as an independent, an
“unowned”, thing, a tribute ever to the
ineradicability of the moment, she urges,
even beyond their “lips being cold”, which
is to say, each beyond their, indomitably
separated, extraterrestrial existences

but why “drop down” instead of “raise”,
[t]his mutual kiss …. between us”, one
incidentally wonders, shouldn’t a kiss
move up

“Love”, she then continues, “be false”,
out of, it seems, nowhere, do not hold
your promise of forever, she says, should
her suitor’s “oath” in any way betray his

hn, I asked, where did that come from

what are you talking about here, Elizabeth,
I pondered, which “oath” is to be kept, and
what “joy” is being threatened, you’ll have
to be more specific, dear

and how, furthermore, does this statement
follow from your otherwise reasonably
consecutive text

your love, I’m afraid, is a literary muddle in
this sorry construction, you’re generally,
though always metaphorically intricate,
more penetrable than this, you’ve let your
literary impulse trump your logic on this
one, Elizabeth, we’re not getting it

a poem must be, by definition, coherent, I
think, otherwise it’s nothing but hogwash,
doing damage to the very idea of poetry,
an affront, in the instance, indeed a

for poetry, to my mind, is sacred

then again maybe I’m being too ardent,
too harsh, too inflexible

and, for that matter, what, indeed, is

you define it

you be, for you are, the judge


Beethoven Strinq Quartet no 14, opus 131‏

if Beethoven had written merely one transcendental
work we would still have been beholden, but that he
wrote neither two, nor three, but several immutable
pieces is extraordinary, super-, apparently, human,
though, of course, manifestly not, unless you want
to bring Jesus into the picture as such a dual being,
then we’ll talk, but Beethoven is a staunchly secular
voice, devoid of the spiritual considerations of a
Bach, for instance, Beethoven speaks for humanity,
its longings, consternations, aspirations, its essence,
no longer the discredited primacy of the Cross and
Its imperial derivatives, Human Rights have trumped

what Beethoven maintains however is the reverence,
his later pieces – you’ve heard the Hammerklavier“,
already, the 32nd piano sonata – are manifestly
spiritual experiences, as opposed to religious

the 14th String Quartet will do the same

if the Hammerklavier is akin to Moses delivering
his peremptory tablets, the 14th String Quartet is
the Sermon on the Mount, in the history of music
they have so great an impact

briefly, as briefly as I can, I’ll say a few introductory
words, then let your soul and the music do the rest,
see what happens to your karma

there are seven movements in the 14th, uninterrupted,
no pauses between the movements, though each is
easily identifiable, tempo therefore becomes incidental
instead of Classically ordered, the first movement, for
instance, is an adagio, a Classically improbable spot

the sections therefore play much as chapters in a
novel, advancing according to the logic and emotions
of the moment, always, as in all of Beethoven, moving
inexorably forward despite the intricacies of the, not at
all predictable, plot, as had been the case in the more
regimented Classical model, Beethoven takes you,
instead of around the corner, into the clouds, into a
spiritualized heaven, a place of profound existential

try listening to the 14th String Quartet attentively
without thinking about your soul, its existence,
its mission, in the very face of its ineradicable,
and fateful, actuality, the human conundrum,
Beethoven lets us know we’re not alone

some mountaintop Sermon indeed, watch what
happens to your sensibility, your very sacred
self, or maybe I should say, listen

may your path be decked meanwhile with laurels,
and your days be blessed with grace, be it ever
so merely, maybe, human

who knows



psst: if you’ll allow me to pursue my series of
similarities you’ll imagine piano sonata
no 32
as Beethoven’s “Last Supper”,
this one in particular five luminous stars

Schubert – Piano Sonata D959‏

to my utter surprise when I checked I’d never
but only once in the many months I haven’t
been able to shut up since I started spouting
my bristling endorsements, like a very rushing
river gushing with the overflowing bounty of
an inveterate spring, mentioned Schubert, an
incandescent voice from surely heaven

it was about his String Quartet in C major, the
D956, not surprisingly, it is utterly enchanting,
D for Otto Erich Deutsch still, incidentally

here’s an alternate version of it, an utterly
inspired one

but if I’ve reintroduced Schubert it’s specifically
this time to compare him with Beethoven, they’re
easily confounded, I even did it once myself, to
my crushing embarrassment, in erudite and
unflinching company, oof, I cringe to even
remember it

the D959, moments only after the 956 of course,
has all the idioms of a Beethoven, and exercises
them as expertly, the beat, however, is always
on, unlike Beethoven, whose beat is always off,
contrary, rebellious, against the prevailing

though this variance might seem slight, one
senses already in the younger and later
Schubert a return to form, elegance, and civility,
the First Empire had indeed taken hold during
the transformation of Napoleon from hero of
the Revolution to a different incarnation of
Emperor, Chopin as well would be beholden
to later similarly reinstated French courts

so seemingly trivial an alteration speaks
volumes when one attentively listens, one
must do this with one’s heart

such a return to aristocratic principles is not
uncommon, incidentally, we seem, indeed, to
thirst for dynasties, if you’ll note the return of
late, of the Bushes, the Clintons, and most
recently the Canadian Trudeaux

Putin is another, though arguably somewhat
less democratic, version of that principle

Beethoven is off the beat then, Schubert on, you
won’t find much else that’s different upon first
listening, you’ll note only that their music is very
much the same, rigorous beat, tonal, essentially,
harmonics, and the return eventually of the
melodies, Classical imperatives, but with the
distinction of the new Romantic,
transformational however, sensibilities

Schubert might’ve even outpaced Beethoven
had he survived, I think, but he didn’t, he died
much too young, at the most tender age of
only 31, younger even than the more
celebrated Mozart, famous for succumbing
prematurely at the still early age of 36

may they rest, may they all rest, Schubert,
Mozart, and the somewhat longer-lived
Beethoven, still early deceased at 56, in
eternal peace, for they have brought us
but wonders


psst: here’s a movie to go with the earlier
, The Company of Strangers“,
the very best film Canada has ever had
to offer, bar none, a gaggle of old women
are stranded in the Laurentians after their
tour bus breaks down, Schubert would’ve
loved it

and been honoured

Beethoven’s piano sonata no 29, “Hammerklavier”, revisited, as promised

upon listening to Beethoven’s 29th sonata
one doesn’t imagine its originality, having
been showered for centuries now with its
miracles and majesties, nothing would’ve
been heard like it before, so great a project,
a work of not only temporal magnitude, an
astonishing fifty minutes, but evidently of
more than just mere entertainment, a work
of philosophical, even, amplitude

Beethoven is not just trying to delight, he’s
trying to engage here, bring together, stir,
more profound human responses, evoke
thought, responsibility, compassion, a
spiritual complicity in the new
post-Revolutionary secular order, he is
establishing new metaphysical ground

the subject is existential, the audience
no longer merely aristocratic, masses
now were talking, an affluent bourgeoisie,
artists were responding to a new Romantic
Age, about rights, and what it means to be
human, both men and women, incidentally
– and I stress that newly pertinent at the time
conjunction – above and beyond those of
God, for each couldn’t both hold the
supreme, the earlier Classical, pinnacle,
the rights of Gods and, by extension,
Kings, Queens if you lived in England,

secularism was needing new oracles

see Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for
instance, for the emergence of

see also, of course, otherwise,

the difference with Beethoven is that
he achieved, ultimately, profound
wisdom, I can think of no other
comparable poet, save, of course,
Marcel Proust, both of whom proved
to be, in the same breath, philosophers,
able to stake that exalted claim, certainly
no painter, a difficult medium through
which to philosophize admittedly, to
bring logical and existential constructions
together to enunciate a transcendental

then again, before Proust and Beethoven,
who’d ‘a’ thunk one could’ve transformed
words or music into very grace, mystically
transubstantiated gold, notwithstanding
the misguided alchemists

Pink Floyd did some of that in the Seventies
but retreated into historic and more personal,
less oracular, reminiscences, philosophizing
isn’t easy, see the punishment of Prometheus,
or, for that matter, John Lennon

Beethoven was completely deaf by the time
he composed the Hammerklavier“, lost in
his own isolation, like Homer, blind to,
though obviously not unaware of, his art

not lost, not unaware either, more like
having been given extrasensory, outright
extraordinary, manifestly, perception

to our utter and everlasting, both of them,


“Mrs Dalloway”‏

if you’re not afraid of Virginia Woolf
you might enjoy Mrs Dalloway“, the 
film version of one of her novels,
introspective, discreet ever, and 
only carefully and politely ever ardent,
existentially awash in civilities, with
feeble only attempts at philosophically
sounder, maybe, positions, all ultimately,
of course, inconclusive, an aristocratic
inversion of Van Gogh, but with statelier,
which is to say, more opulent, 
surroundings and, of course, corollary
attendant pretensions, all of it, incidentally, 
marvelously filmed  
the performances are all first rate, with
Vanessa Redgrave being, as usual,
but Rupert Graves, as the shell-shocked
First-World-War veteran, turns in a
wrenching performance, one you’re not
likely to soon forget, one pointedly at
odds with the gentried airs of the rest of
the story, a terse, and damning, Woolfian
comment, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf 
indeed, the institutionalization of
murderous insensitivities, and the
consequent blight of the blunting
of love  
nor did Virginia Woolf survive her own
condemnation, of course, famously
taking her own life in 1941   
all the other performances here are 
impeccable, up, admirably, each, to
the illustrious task  
I could’ve done without the two
time periods, however, Virginia Woolf,
the wordsmith, had it all going in her,
which is to say, Mrs Dalloway’s, 
sedentary head, leading up to her,
their, climactic party
may Septimus Warren Smith meanwhile,
and all others like him, rest ever in
ascendant, and proliferating, peace       

Beethoven piano sonata no 29, the “Hammerklavier”

take a few minutes, well, nearly an hour,
to watch, imbibe, incorporate, integrate,
this video, to smell this miraculous
flower, Beethoven’s piano sonata no 29,
the monumental Hammerklavier“, the
equivalent, to my mind, of the Eiffel
Tower, the Coliseum, the Parthenon,
Homer’s Iliad“, I promise it will
transform you

I’ll talk about it later, I also promise


psst: you might need some Kleenex

Beethoven piano sonata no 28 in A major, opus 101

Erte - "The Angel"

The Angel



Beethoven’s piano sonata no 28, opus 101,
in A major
, is the first of what is considered
to be his late piano sonatas, as opposed to
early and middle, three entirely distinct
periods that are easily recognizable upon
closer listening, the early ones are bold,
even headstrong, with Beethoven’s ever
characteristic vigor and Promethean authority,
the length themselves of his early works are
a testament to his sense of his own great
personal validity, the first four, to my mind,
go on much longer than often enough they
should, a typically youthful presumption on
his part, and are musically at best trite, I find,
after their first expositions, the repeats come
as redundant, and tolerable merely, surprises,
even the famous 8th, the Pathétique“, opus 13,
is, I think, too brash and impudent, however in
this manner, nevertheless admittedly, entirely
effective, listen

the Pastorale“, of the middle period, opus 28,
no 15
, is where I deem the music to become
henceforward sublime, it has a settled
confidence that brims with not only technical
wizardry but with also positively enchanting
and entrancing musical ideas, bursting like
very flowers in springtime, with colour and
inspired, effervescent, imagination

the late period is where Beethoven becomes,
however, a sage, a prophet, and indeed a
hierarch in the new secular order of a
reconstituted Heaven, after all, someone
had to take the place of the now discredited
angels, Nietzsche called them Übermenschen,

the 28th sonata starts out slowly, or rather,
more slowly than the earlier forthright ones,
already a sign of less physical, more
measured and considered reponses, my
impression here is of a grandfather visiting
his granchildren, jovial but not too disportive,
merely jaunty, always cheery but for a moment
of haunting melancholy, at the adagio, before
becoming congenial and avuncular again,
with then a big, boastful ending, snapping
staunchly his patriarchal suspenders,
getting the last, and traditional, word, with
a firm, which is to say, a foursquare-major-
chord, finish, the aural equivalent of turning
out the lights

musically, however, the progressions are
exploratory, incremental, more and more
layered with possible, and often apparently
rejected outcomes, in order to try out
something more fitting, maybe, more
accurate, a deconstruction, in other words,
of musical ideas, an investigation, in search
of a viable musically cohesive path

in the 28th sonata Beethoven, I think, is
doodling, however, coming up with the
methods of his great addresses, the
language here is not yet philosophically
precise, a smattering merely of pianistically
plausible ideas, musical sketches, the first
stirrings here, you’ll gather, of formal jazz

in the next sonata, the 29th, the still
unsurpassed “Hammerklavier”, he writes
the definitive book, speaking for music in
the forthcoming history of the world, and
determining its future path, we are still
moving along on his transcendent carpet,
no one ‘s come along still to give us a
more assured ride, kind of like Homer,
some would say Shakespeare, others
Albert Einstein, other, incidentally,
post-Christian, post Revolutionary

who do you presently pray to, who are
your angels, who your Superwomen,
towards what do you aspire,
towards whom

Superwomen, -men, incidentally,
cultivate their own efflorescence,
manifest their own, I think, destinies,
or, if you like, their own Heaven

much as I believe angels also do

Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor on the
same program
shows him in a nearly
Beethovenian mode atavistically, much
more somber than he usually is, but he’s
nevertheless easily distinguished by
his much less intricate musical
accompaniment and his much more
rigorous melodic line, you’re more
likely to hum it

Mozart also composes from the nursery,
I find, the exhilaration of playful discovery,
you can see the toy soldiers, the golden
tresses on little milkmaids in dirndls with
red circles for cheeks

Mozart’s pieces are like nursery rhymes

Beethoven progresses to literature

before you judge me too harsh on Mozart,
by the way, consider that my favourite
piece of the two in this program is the
Mozart, it’s like comparing apples and
oranges, though, it depends on your
mood that day which you’ll favour



psst: just in case you missed it, this version
of the Pathétique is the best I’ve ever
heard, indeed, of all the pieces here
the most extraordinary, don’t miss it

Katharine Hepburn, among the prophets‏

to the icons of my art-infused philosophy,
Proust, primarily, and Beethoven, I am
adding this day, on the strength of this
very video, the indomitable Katharine
Hepburn, a veritable cultural treasure
and, here, a fierce and guiding light   

Rodin on Descartes

Rodin on Descartes

“The Thinker” – Auguste Rodin

just saying


Nemo – “Ennead I” by Plotinus (17 )‏

Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2013 00:08:23 +0000
Subject: [New comment] “Ennead I” by Plotinus


You wrote, ” should there, in the instance, however, be a One, an Absolute, we would not, nor can anyway ever, from our intrinsically divergent perspectives, be able to, in any meaningful way, know It”

Our opinions are not “intrinsically”, but “accidentally” divergent. If they are intrinsic, they would not be affected by changes in our circumstances. But often times our opinions are affected by external circumstances. Therefore, they are not “intrinsic”. For instance, your story about the color of the wall reminds me of a similar story of how the English chemist John Dalton discovered color blindness. He himself was color blind but never realized it until his mother (or aunt) disagreed with him on the color. Without such a defect, there would be no disagreement.

Truth cannot be a sum of opinions or even an unanimous decision of all people. Why? Because the sum of contrary opinions amount to nothing, and the sum of contradictory opinions only lead to confusion, since people are never unanimous about anything.

To use a classic Platonic analogy: If you have a serious disease and want to be healed. Will you call everyone in from the street, hold a public assembly and have them vote for a treatment of your disease? Of course not. You’ll seek out the specialist in the field and have him examine you and give you the proper diagnosis and treatment. Because he possesses the knowledge, whereas the others don’t. Even a grain of truth is worth more than a boatload of false opinions.

Having said the above, however, I agree that the truth may be multifaceted, like the color of light shining through a prism. Because our senses have their limitations, we can only see part of the spectrum, similarly, our rational faculty may also be limited, and we only see the Truth in part. This is why dialogues such as we’re having are meaningful. That we may see the rainbow, while not losing sight of our own color.

“So please your majesty
That we may wake the king: he hath slept long.”
King Lear Act IV Scene VII



oof, Nemo, again where do I start, I’ll try to
tackle merely Truth here, deconstruct It, so
that we can know what we’re even talking
what do you mean by Truth
something corresponds to what it is that
we see, hear, feel, I would think, to be
locked in my head, my spirit, a fundamental
unity, without the support of an underlying
Reality, would be horrible, a profound, and
unbearable, solitude, I don’t want any more
to even try to imagine it, though, in my
youthful invincibilty, I once did, it would
nearly drive me, sometimes, I remember, 
I would try to guess what people would
say in their next breath and found that
mostly I could do it, that mostly I could
get it right, which didn’t do much for an
outside Reality
but, again, babies must learn to separate,
not easily, their suddenly unfamiliar world
from their initially undifferentiated senses,
their identity from what we understand to
be Reality, I’d been merely atavistically
revisiting that fundamental experience 
I first fell in love, incidentally, when I met
someone I wasn’t able to preempt, to my
utter fascination, at which point I was
forced to acknowledge not only Reality
but also probably a Heaven, it has
become a condition, I fall in love with
only people from other planets, or, if
you like, dimensions
so, Nemo, I am also subservient to an
ideal, or even an Ideal
but it, or It, is my utter fabrication, though,
manifestly, not an uninformed one
my Truth is that ethereal, a bedrock, 
however, of my nevertheless basically 
nebulous view of life, made out of,
indeed, thin air
my opinions are therefore entirely
speculative, except for my
understanding of myself
I think, according to Descartes, therefore
I am, and of that, of myself, I am not at
all speculative, for I think, listen   
Truth, incidentally, is a function of our
species, assuming that it is a formal
Reality is akin to placing ourselves,
as we once did, at the centre of the
Universe, we were apparently
egregiously wrong about that, it
seems to be generally now agreed,
I suspect an Absolute, or Idealized,
potential Reality, is asking for hubris,
and too often, incidentally, we get it,
see wars, torture, man’s inhumanity
to not only man
about the world which has mathematical
dimensions we are mostly in agreement,
two plus two will always equal four in our
rational construct, and Science seems to
flow pretty smoothly from that
therefore Truth with respect to matter I
will not question, it is the grid we are all
at least comfortable with, like speaking
the same language, despite its even
basic insufficiencies, these fairly easy
mostly to patch up with persistence
and ingenuity   
but Plato’s Truth, Ideal, or Absolute, is
of a more noumenal, spiritual, which is
to say, abstract, order, and as such, like
Beauty, is in the eye of the beholder,
Truth is what we think it is
is John Dalton wrong to have seen a
divergent colour, and who could tell
him that his blue was green, his red,
orange, when these were categorically
his impressions, dissent is a matter
merely of concensus  
Truth, I believe, is our accommodation,
and is no more than the sum of its
collective parts, the truths that
scientists unearth are Science, not
Truth, Reality, not Wisdom     
other worlds would have entirely
different conceptions of the Universe
for being other than we, us
we are assuming we have the answer,
Nemo, to imponderables 
therefore, not Philosophy, I insist,
but Art, and metaphorical rather
than categorical imperatives
see Beethoven for that, and / or Proust   
psst: according to these two excellent
                  Bernard Williams on Descartes      
                  Bernard Williams on Descartes (cont.)
           two parts of an interview with an
           authority on Descartes, I could’ve
           easily been a figment of his
           imagination for sounding nearly 
           word for word, to my surprise
           and delight, very much like him
           though he probably wouldn’t,    
           by my calculations, therefore,
           have loved me