In Memoriam 1685-1750
“Bach is my best friend.
He is the God of music.”
— Pablo Casals
O, rejoice to imagine the scene up above
midst the jamming that brightens the mansions of love
at the midpoint along the Century of Light
with the host at full voice — the innumerable throng
with their bellow and bray for the Lamb-from-the-dead,
and the much smaller band for whom song
is an art, as the world quickly spread,
“Old Bach is here!”
The former monk is first to grasp his hand.
Then family gathers round, with some reserve,
but other countrymen fly out pell mell,
an echo of the watchman’s voice. Johan
and Paul, Philip, Dietrich Buxtehude,
and one brisk hug from Silberman. Then soon
above their heads he spies the circle of
the Roman South: Great Gregory, Ambrose,
with Giovanni and Antonio.
His eyes light up, reflecting no surprise;
he shouts — in middling Latin — starts of course
to hum. The din expands, it surges like
the waves on Galilee until his lips
begin to move — Shh, aah, the master speaks.
And once again he whispers as he had
in such profuse magnificence before,
“Jesus help me. God alone be praised.”
The song resumes. At first it sounds
the same, but soon its peaks stretch higher.
Chorales and preludes, masses, rounds,
cantatas, fugues strike brighter fire
in Cross-drawn counterpoint. Thus those
with skill. The rest, the milling mass of sheep,
add bleat, with joy, to ever safer bleat.
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