When embellishments get out of hand
And threaten to eat through even the cadenza,
All over the melody swarming in a frenzy,
Fleas of the Baroque con forza or senza
Breed in partituras where they land.
Improvisations — even before they climb
In variations over and under each leaf,
Pull in their lines, and strangle the motif —
Have hung their deadly weights one drop at a time.
But every concert contradicts a diagnosis
And proves blood’s inability to tell apart
The parasites of symphony and symbiosis,
The passages and pathogens of art.
NOTES for Students of English
Con forza – In musical notation, Italian for “with force.”
Senza – Italian for “without.”
Partitura – In music, a full score.
“Feast in the Time of Plague” – This title (“Pir vo Vremya Chumy”) was created by Russian poet Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) for a short drama in blank verse that he wrote in 1830. Pushkin based his work on a scene from “The City of the Plague,” a blank verse drama written in 1816 by English poet John Wilson (1785-1854). Pushkin’s verse drama was in turn the inspiration for the opera “A Feast in Time of Plague” written in 1900 by Russian composer Cesar Cui (1835-1918).