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“The Transformation of Battus to a Touch Stone” – Ovid


      Mercury and Battus(1610)


             Adam Elsheimer





            Sore wept the centaur, and to Phoebus pray’d;


Phoebus, the Latin name for Apollo,

the Greek name for the same god of 

the Sun among several other things


Phoebus / Apollo was the centaur

Chiron‘s father


            But how could Phoebus give the centaur aid?
            Degraded of his pow’r by angry Jove,
            In Elis then a herd of beeves he drove;


Jove / Jupiter / Zeus, god of gods

had [d]egraded Phoebus of his

pow’r by overruling him in having

him return, however unwillingly,

to his position as Charioteer of

the Sun after having just killed

his son, Phaeton


Elis, a region still of Greece


beeves, plural of beef, however

presently obsolete, but compare

leaf, leaves, or loaf, loaves, wife,

wives, shelf, shelves for similar


            And wielded in his hand a staff of oak,
            And o’er his shoulders threw the shepherd’s cloak;
            On sev’n compacted reeds he us’d to play,
            And on his rural pipe to waste the day.


Phoebus / Apollo was god, as well,

of Music


            As once attentive to his pipe he play’d,
            The crafty Hermes from the God convey’d
            A drove, that sep’rate from their fellows stray’d.


the grammar is here incorrect, he

in the first verse should agree with

the subject of the principal clause,

[t]he crafty Hermes, of the second,

but it refers, rather, to Phoebus /

Apollo, who’d been attentive to the

same rural pipe he’d been playing,

wast[ing] the day, in the earlier



Hermes, the messenger god, was

leading, convey[ing], away from

its fellows, indeed stealing, some

of the God Phoebus / Apollo‘s

beeves, his cattle


drove, a large group, singular of



            The theft an old insidious peasant view’d
            (They call’d him Battus in the neighbourhood),
            Hir’d by a vealthy Pylian prince to feed
            His fav’rite mares, and watch the gen’rous breed.


Pylian, of Pylos, a town still in



vealthy, wealthy, surely a typo,

however unusual in so respected

an edition


Battus, an old insidious peasant,

had seen, view’d, Hermes, god

as well of Thieves, incidentally,

steal Phoebus / Apollo‘s beeves


            The thievish God suspected him, and took
            The hind aside, and thus in whispers spoke:


suspected, Hermes, [t]he thievish

God, supposed that Battus had

seen him stealing the cattle

            “Discover not the theft, whoe’er thou be,
            And take that milk-white heifer for thy fee.”


Discover not, don’t tell


the milk-white heifer, [t]he hind

            “Go, stranger,” cries the clown, “securely on,
            That stone shall sooner tell,” and show’d a stone.


the clown, Battus, assures Hermes

that [t]hat stone, an inanimate, and

therefore mute, thing, is more likely

to tell about the theft than he, Battus,

would be

            The God withdrew, but strait return’d again,
            In speech and habit like a country swain;


The God this time is Hermes, who

has returned disguised as a country

swain, a bumpkin


            And cries out, “Neighbour, hast thou seen a stray
            Of bullocks and of heifers pass this way?
            In the recov’ry of my cattle join,
            A bullock and a heifer shall be thine.”


help me find my cattle, Hermes asks

of Battusand I’ll reward you with 

[a] bullock and a heifer

            The peasant quick replies, “You’ll find ’em there
            In yon dark vale”; and in the vale they were.


Battus has gone back on his word to

the first stranger who’d accosted him,

and reveals the whereabouts of the

stolen herd to the second

            The double bribe had his false heart beguil’d:


double bribe, the first, the milk-white

heifer, the second, a bullock and

[another] heifer

            The God, successful in the tryal, smil’d;


tryal, trial, it’s interesting to see

here the root of the word trial

            “And dost thou thus betray my self to me?
            Me to my self dost thou betray?” says he:


Battus has in either instance

unwittingly betrayed both Hermes,

the original stranger, then Hermes

again, the country swain

            Then to a Touch stone turns the faithless spy;
            And in his name records his infamy.


Touch stone, or touchstone, a stone

used for testing the purity of precious

metals, a criterion, a basis


in his name, Battusrecords his infamy,

though unclear, this verse suggests to

me that the name Battus will always be

associated with being a faithless spy,

a betrayer



R ! chard


psst: Mercury, or Mercurius, is the

          Latin equivalent of Hermes,

          see above

Chopin / Beethoven


     “The Sonata 


            Childe Hassam




what’s the difference between


        one, Chopin’s Andante spianato et

            grande polonaise brillante


        two, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 32, 

            opus 111


you tell me


that one is Chopin, the other Beethoven

doesn’t, of course, count



R ! chard


psst: if you considered the intervening

         pause between the two distinct 

         musical segments, you’re on, the 

         pause makes clear the separate

         sections, though these be 

         nevertheless profoundly, and 

         incontrovertibly, interconnected,

         you can feel it


         the pause determines the form, 

         once there are two portions, you 

         have movements, movements 

         are the essential components of

         a sonata, no movements, no 



         the Chopin has no movements,

         just one continuous elaboration,

         however multiply constructed, 

         and is so called – Andante 

         spianato et grande polonaise 

         brillante” – note the conjunction


         both, however, juxtapose 

         contrasting, though intimately 

         conjoined, musical pairings to 

         be experienced as couplings,

         for better or, as ever, for worse


         both, incidentally, are profoundly,

         and inexorably, Romantic, which 

         is to say, personal, and probing 



“I Can’t Stand the Rain” – Tina Turner


                Tina Turner                     


finding it difficult lately to endure the
late winter, early spring, besetting 
our, however, not unbearable yet, 
unpleasant meteorological conditions, 
Tina Turner picked it up for me with 
her irresistible rendition around her 
perspective about such intemperate
weather, tightly wound, in my 
instance, with emotionally resonant 

call me Tina, I cried, and burst into
earnest collaboration, ever so, as 
much as possible, mellifluously

won’t you too, haven’t you, for that
matter, already, join, joined in

R ! chard 

C***mas Oratorio – Camille Saint-Saëns


                                      Nativity (1470-1475) 

                                      Piero della Francesca


what’s the difference, I too wondered, 
between an oratorio and a cantata, an 
oratorio is longer, but otherwise not 
much else

then again, this oratorio, of Camille
Saint-Saëns, is only about forty 
minutes long, so go figure 


and merry C***mas

R ! chard

psst: here’s Bach’s

“La traviata” – Guiseppe Verdi


             La Dame aux camélias

       Charles Chaplin (1825 – 1891)


this version of La traviata has no
subtitles, but it should be remembered
that only a few years ago none of them
not even in opera houses

I learned to love La traviata on CD,
either see the performance
now the internet supplies us,
gratis, with complete operas, from
Gluck‘s to very Philip Glass
with the text 
translated throughout

a synopsis 

Violetta is a courtesan, a traviata, a
allen woman, who’s fallen all the way
to the top of Parisian 
society, she has
just recovered from malaise and is 
hosting a celebration, her salon 
entertains many who’ve been 
instrumental in securing her not 
unsullied reputation, it is the world 
of Marcel Proust

a new suitor arrives, Alfredo Germont, 
who pledges his love undying, she is 
eventually seduced, by his, no doubt,
impressive arias, croce e delizia, he
sings, she counters, agony and 
ecstasy, indeed

the ups and downs of love ensue,
Germont’s father objects to the match,
claiming Alfredo’s sister’s chances
at marriage would falter should her 
name, their name, be defiled, he 
convinces Violetta to leave Alfredo
for the sake of his family, whereupon 
everyone feels betrayed

Alfredo, Alfredo, she cries, di questo 
core non puoi comprendere tutto 
l’amore, Alfredo, Alfredo, you cannot 
understand fully the love I have in 
my heart, she moans, begrudges
but love conquers all in the end, 
though not life, as it turns out, Violetta 
succumbs to her malaise, which had 
all along been consumption, 
tuberculosis nowadays

you’ll see Spanish dancers, gypsies,
they are part of Violetta’s entertainment,
have nothing to do with the story,
otherwise the music itself tells all

the camellia, note, which you’ll see 
highlighted here and there, is a 
reference to Violetta’s inspiration,  
the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, 
or junior,  his La Dame aux camélias“, 
which the same author shortly 
thereafter made into an equally 
successful play, Camille” in English, 
the lady of the camellias, incidentally, 

Renée Fleming has taken over the role,
from Maria Callas in the Fifties, then 
from Joan Sutherland in the Eighties, 
she is the traviata for this generation

she is perfect, her arpeggios will 
shoot up your spine 



Concierto de Aranjuez – Joaquín Rodrigo (Cañizares)‏


                                                  El Jaleo (1882) 

                                             John Singer Sargent



not much is heard from Spain during
Western music’s Golden Ages, Baroque,
Classical, Romantic, Impressionist,
now even Pop’s, Rock’s, Punk’s, 
Post-, in all their incarnations, Modern’s 

nor of Art, for that matter, where most 
of its bright lights seem to have fled 
to Paris for its freedom and inspiration
and where other nationalities, rather, 
sang or painted their praises more 
successfully – think of “Carmen”, for 
instance, of France’s Georges Bizet,
or, of course, Picasso
but listen to this wonderful concerto
Aranjuezwhich nearly single-handedly
should allow compatriots to claim their 
place among the very cherished elite
like Grieg did for Finland, for Poland, 
Chopin, for instance, who also, 
incidentally, found his fame in Paris, 
perhaps because France had only 
recently then become republic, if 
you’ll remember, maybe
the Concierto de Aranjuez is for guitar
and orchestra, an unlikely, though not
at all unwelcome, prime position among
a swell of other musicians, especially 
after listening to bassoons, for example,
take in front of them centre stage 
Cañizares, a flamenco guitarist of 
extraordinary gifts, deft fingers flying,  
fashioning frets into filigree, latticework,  
lacework, of irresistible artistry, does the   
coveted honours, along with an impeccable 
Simon Rattle wielding brilliant baton, 
while the Berliner Philharmonikerhowever 
improbably, make up the rest of this dream 
this is one you won’t want to miss, I utterly,
and unreservedly, promise
enjoy it
psst: remarkably, Rodrigo, blind from the 
         age of three, having lost his sight to 
         diphtheria, wrote all of his music in 
         Braille, for it to be transcribed later
          to the question, how would you like 
          to die – he lived to be ninety-seven –  
          he answered, I think, cleverly, and 
          delightfully enigmatically, under no 


Mary MacMullen – a trooper‏

Mary MacMullen

Mary writes

“Hello friends,

I’m backpacking around Bali for a month on my own and am blogging about it. I didn’t think I would be back in Asia just 2 months after returning from Cambodia but here I am!

If you are interested in reading about my trip, which is being posted in The Province Newspaper online, here it is;


Sent from my iPad”

Mary and I met about 40 years ago, when
Mary, Gary and I happened upon each
other, each on our own individual
missions, of exploring the German city
of Mainz, a length of it along the Rhine,
up front from the riverside hotel where
our crews stayed, we hadn’t known
each other before then

the sun was out, we were young, others
with us preferred to go have breakfast,
we opted for a cruise up the river

we got to Rüdesheim and Bingen, one
across the water from the other, we had
dinner in one, celebrated Oktoberfest
in the other, sitting across from three
older ladies who couldn’t speak a word
of English so we had to make do with
my meagre then German and singing
along with the other beer drinkers in
the full and boisterous hall

what an event

the ladies ended up walking us to our
last train home, all of us soulfully
singing “Happy Birthday to You”,
cause that’s all the ladies knew how
to sing in English

later we partied in the lounge on the top
floor of our hotel, the three of us dancing
up a storm on an otherwise quiet evening,
keeping the band alive, we were intrepid
and joyous, playing duly in the fields of
a not unapproving Lord

the next day our flight was delayed,
three hours, surely only through the
intercession of that same benevolent

Mary has done, and is now continuing,
an exploration of Southeast Asia,
remarkably, on her own, first Cambodia,
now Bali, read all about it in her blog,
it’s riveting, you’ll want to be also 63,
already or all over again

her blog is wonderful for even just its
pictures, bright, sun-filled, glorious, but
she writes also like a trooper, you’ll be
completely enthralled, inspired

bookmark her site, she’s got a lot more
coming, to be dooby sure


on odes

                          "The Daphnephoria" - Frederic Leighton

The Daphnephoria (c. 1875)

Frederic Leighton


odes, with their suggestion of music
– despite a history of merely words
spoken in the intervening interim,
counting on meaning and rhythm
without music’s attendant tonality –
go back to the Greeks, the Seventh
Century, BCE, Sappho, for instance,
one of history’s most honoured
women poets, surely quite an
achievement for her in an age of
predominant, indeed
disenfranchising, masculinity

the ode was meant to accompany
tributes to people, events, things,
thereby acquiring an element of
acclamation and praise within its
dimensions, Pindar, ca 552 – 442
BCE, wrote odes for heroes of the
original Greek Olympics, for

by the time of Horace, 65 – 8 BCE,
odes had become stylized,
independent of music, here’s one,
not inappropriately in this season’s
vernal context, to spring

odes remained spoken throughout
their resurrection in the wake of the
rediscovery of the Ancient World
during the Renaissance, onwards
through some famous Romantic
ones, Shelley, for instance, Keats,
up to even this one, by Stanislaw
, which I found in the
New Yorker
, April 20th, a gem, I
think, and in the very spirit of our
Age of Irony


O plywood, second best to the real stuff,
believe me, one day I will say “Enough”

to my stooping shoulders, my slouched spine;
my sloped shape and your stiff boards will align,

and you’ll see how my backbone will unbend
and I’ll be standing straight until the end

of my makeshift but rectilinear
prayer, one stiff-backed as a chest of drawers

when we shove heavy furniture around;
I will rise from the dead, though on what ground

and which I, I don’t know; I’ll stand erect,
though my vertebrae’s hierarchic sect

won’t outlive plywood, no, it just can’t win
against that vertical eternity, so thin

and yet so sturdy in its ersatz pride;
as if the moon had shown me its dark side,

I lean, my ear glued to a cupboard’s back,
and I can hear its hollow and exact

hymn to its own cheap immortality;
no, wait, I still can straighten, still can be

square with this upright world (you knew I could),
just as plumb as four planks of real wood.

Stanisław Barańczak

(Translated, from the Polish,
by Clare Cavanagh and the author.)


though you mightn’t’ve caught an “Ode”
in the title, the clue to its essence is in
the initial “O”, an acclamation

and yes, “O, Canada” is therefore also
an ode, as would be most anthems

incidentally Beethoven put the music
back into the form with his incendiary
use of Schiller’s poem for his vocal
triumph in his ninth Symphony, An
die Freude
the Ode to Joy,
incomparable in this rendering for
an improbable 10,000
, yes 10,000, just


Beethoven’s tribute to spring

Sandro Botticelli - "Primavera"

Primavera (1478)

Sandro Botticelli


if there’s a musical work to perform for
spring what Botticelli‘s Primavera
does with painting, celebrate it, that is,
for the ages, it must be Beethoven’s
“Pastorale”, German for “Pastoral”,
Symphony, usually referred to thus,
with the accent on the last “a”

the composition is expressly narrative,
Beethoven even sets the scene for every
movement, five of them

1 Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside
2 Scene by the brook
3 Merry gathering of country folk
4 Thunderstorm
5 Shepherd’s song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm

he is manifestly using music as language,
descriptive language, you can nearly hear
the flowers grow, you can most definitely
imagine them, you bristle at the crack of

the subject isn’t specifically spring, but
the spirit is undeniably so, the spring of,
indeed also, the spirit, the buoyancy of

it’s 1808, Beethoven is at the height of
his euphoria, his admiration, and
celebration, of physical nature, he’s
sowing his wild oats

later he’ll address the metaphysical,
but for now he’s still bursting with
unmitigated life, his spring


psst: see also his “Spring” Sonata, opus 24,
for still more, though less familiar,
vernal, purportedly, magic, Beethoven
didn’t name the sonata, his publisher
did, which is why the “Pastorale”
sounds more springlike
than this other more direct, apparently,

which had never been there, essentially,
Beethoven’s primary, anyway, intention,
however lovely the eponymous, the
titular, work
might have in comparison
proven to be

you be the judge, listen


septet / schleptet – Beethoven / Schikele‏

"The Swing" ("Les hasards heureux de l'escarpolette") -  Jean Honoré Fragonard

The Swing (“Les hasards heureux de l’escarpolette“) 1767

Jean Honoré Fragonard


though I’ve spent the last forty years
exploring Beethoven, I still haven’t
heard, much less seen performed
all of his music, unexpected gems
pop up still to prick up even my
weathered ears

but a septet this time, who’d ‘a’
thunk it

the opus 20, not unexpectedly, sounds
like Mozart, formal, musically inventive,
but not prompted by Beethoven’s later
transcendental passions, it was 1800,
he was still showing off his Classical
shoes, spinning andante cantabiles
out of minuets, for no less than Maria
Theresa in this instance, the Empress,
its august dedicatee, not yet having
profoundly outgrown them, the tiara,
the shoes, though you’ll find
expressions of his surpassing majesty
already throughout this masterpiece

six movements, for instance, uppity,
impudent, bold, an impertinence
towards imperial time and its
exigencies, unless it’s worth it, of
course, even in the case of my own
more relaxed schedule

but a precursor to his seven-part
C# minor String Quartet, opus 131,
for its breadth, for its ambition, for
the prefiguring of a monument, a
cultural institution, for its
proclamation of the advent of a
veritable sonic Parthenon

you’ll note a peculiarity, he uses
in the Septet‘s third movement
the same air that served him well
in his 20th piano sonata, opus 49,
no 2
, second movement – why not,
it’s his – an earlier composition
despite the later opus number

don’t ask

opus 49, no 2 has only two
movements, incidentally, like his
earlier opus 5, no 1, or his later
incandescent no 111, to shed light
on the chronology of his musical
evolution, his eventual historical

find the movement with variations
in the Septet, your body will tell
you, much like it does slow tempi
from fast ones, you merely listen
with your senses, not just your
ears, your unconsciousness, while,
distractedly, you’re, say, washing
dishes, you’ll say, hey, I’ve just
heard this before, but different,
only this minute

hence the term variation

compare this Schleptet in Eb major,
from Peter Schikele for fun, from
the year 2000, a spoof on Beethoven’s
in the identical key the
better to roast him, but in five
movements this one, in the Classical
style, but where the mood is neither
Classical, nor even Romantic, it’s
ironic, satirical, wry, even cynical,
note the slapstick tempo markings

I. Molto Larghissimo – Allegro Boffo
II. Menuetto con brio ma senza Trio
III. Adagio Saccharino
IV. Yehudi Menuetto
V. Presto Hey Nonny Nonnio

the voice, for better or worse, of our