Volume > Issue > In Memoriam 1685-1750

In Memoriam 1685-1750


By Mark A. Noll | June 1984

“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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