08 July 2013

Poem of the Week 2013/28


Those who don't like it say it's
just a mutant violin
that's been kicked out of the chorus.
Not so.
The cello has many secrets,
but it never sobs,
just sings in its low voice.
Not everything turns into song
though. Sometimes you catch
a murmur or a whisper:
I'm lonely,
I can't sleep.

Adam Zagajewski, trans. Clare Cavanagh

It's difficult for me to believe that anyone doesn't like the cello, but I've learned there's always someone who doesn't like what "everyone" likes, particularly with music. Zagajewski draws an amusing distinction between the star turn of the violin, with its sobbing and its constant songfulness, and the deeper (in meaning as well as sound, perhaps) world of the cello, where we can catch a companionable glimpse of those secret sadnesses that haunt us all - the evanescent feelings that music often evokes and lyric poetry also tries to capture.

Adam Zagajewski is a contemporary Polish poet. I took this poem from Music's Spell: Poems about Music and Musicians, edited by Emily Fragos for the Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series.

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