up my eccentricities / the Ides of March


        “The Death of Caesar (1798) 

               Vincenzo Camuccini


in looking up a requiem to commemorate 
the Ides of March, today, a date imprinted  
on our collective consciousness since 
Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, act l, 
scene ll –

    Soothsayer:   Beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar:   What man is that?

    Marcus Brutus:   A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar    Set him before me, let me see his face.

    Cassius:   Fellow, come from the throng, look upon Caesar.

    Julius Caesar:   What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

     Soothsayer:   Beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar:   He is a dreamer, let us leave him. Pass.

– I found an entirely appropriate work,
though with more contemporary, and 
consequently more immediate, 

but first, let me say more about both 
Julius Caesar and Shakespeare

Caesar died on the Ides of March, 
notoriously, and ignominiously – 
though ruthless in his own way, 
not to mention also flamboyant,  
Caesar had been a ruler conscious 
of his constituency, and therefore 
socially responsive, giving, for 
instance, citizenship to residents 
from far away, a contentious issue 
still nowadays, and support for 
veterans, another hot political 

he was also the lover of Cleopatra, 
among apparently many other trysts, 
not to mention, it has been suggested, 
of King Nicomedes lV of Bithynia

regardless, he is the template for 
modern rulers, eclipsing Alexander
the Great by a long shot, who else 
has a very month, July, named after 
him, apart from Augustus, Caesar‘s
heir and successor

his complete literary works have only 
recently come out in English, an
apparently, and most undoubtedly,
significant enterprise, Caesar would 
be, of course, subjective, therefore
probably indifferent to, or more 
unforthcoming about, his less savoury
excesses – he’d apparently cut off the 
hands of soldiers he had conquered,
something he never mentioned  

should we consider the impunity of our 
own 21st-Century autocrats – who will
blithely destroy communities with 
lethal chemical agents, and even, in
like manner, specifically target 
individuals – with less condemnation
and horror

nobody cared, by the way, about the 
Ides of March, until Shakespeare 
suggested, for all time, that we 
should beware of it

and we’ve been doing so ever since 

March 11th, 2011, was the date of the
Japanese tsunami, the earth shook, 
thousands died, the devastation was 
unimaginable, including nuclear 
radioactive explosions

Tōru Takemitsu‘s Requiem, written
in 1957, though not specifically 
related to that national tragedy, is
not at all unrelated to their agony

and through the power of music to
bring souls together, manifestly, 
here and now, his thoughtful
evocation, however dissonant, 
however arhythmic, however 
unhinged from Western Classical 
musical precepts, which might 
very well, I remark, be the point, 
brings souls, if you’ll listen
demonstrably together

R ! chard

psst: did I mention that the words 
          “Tsar” and “Kaiser” are 
          derivations of the name