Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, FIDDLER'S FAREWELL, by LEONORA SPEYER

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FIDDLER'S FAREWELL, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Fold now the song within the songster
Last Line: Above your tuneless sobbing?
Subject(s): Music & Musicians; Violins

Fold now the song within the songster.
Small sturdy one,
Roistering down the centuries,
Drunk with the fiddlers' fingers,
(Never a dearth of these,
The living crowding where the dead have been),
Pure promiscuous dandled violin!
Caesar of sound, my songs in passing, cry,
Morituri te salutamus! . . . and passing, die.

Fold now the song away.
Close the lid down
Upon the gradual dismay
Of disconcerted singing,
Unloose the fingers' clinging
That has so lost its cunning,
Turn from the faltering renown,
Fame of the little town
After the flag-hung city;
Deny the ruin pity!

Pity? Yes, for the failing song
That like a droughty stream
Crawls, drips
Over an arid land,
(Yet deep enough to drown) --
O violin that slips
From the relinquishing hand,
Brown brightness hid --
Let fall the incurious lid.
* * * * *

Let me find words
With which to sing of silence,
Better than all this blurred half-sound
Of tattered music trailing on the ground,
(That was a banner in the wind),
And their pacing pride
For the frustrated heart,
That stoic singer in the side,

Be not afraid,
My songs, my full-throats,
Be not stampeded into muffled herds,
Mouthing and terrified --
O fierce white music that I made,
Proud notes,
Chords, choirs of taut tuned strings,
And slender strength
Of bow that was a bough;
Tread this last length
Of singing, mellow and muted, staid,
Pass unbewildered now
With this processional of rhymed recording words.
Be not afraid.
* * * * *
What is a violin?
Who shall reveal this mystery of thin
Vibrating wood?
Of forest voices multi-voiced --
Wind, rain, on many leaves,
Bent branches moaning under
The crash of clouds that meet,
The cool pale hiss of snow?
And birds?
And pattering furry feet?
(Young cries along the leaves!)
All musics and all seasons
Seeping and soaking in,
Into the very core
Of the green bud
Of destined fiddle-wood --
Long long before
The master-mind conceives,
The hand achieves
The carven whole,
The curving sides, the twisted scroll,
Shapes it and stains it to this red russet thing
Of expectant string,
Names it, invests it
With its adolescent voice,
Fondles it, fingers it,
Breasts it!

How light it seems,
Swinging between the abdicating finger and thumb,
How frail this unbarred stronghold
Of sweet gold --
All fortunes and all raptures and all dreams --
Kind horn of plenty!
And who shall count the glittering sum?
* * * * *
Words for my fiddle now,
Abundance of goodly words:
My deft, my dear,
My witty one
With your brave answer ever ready,
My box of birds,
Crony and hearty,
Winged hubbub,
And tear --

Fiddler, fiddle,
To leave you lying here!

What then?
Stand stripped of music?
Resolutely attain
A dull and obdurate ear
For the blithe hurricane?
Shiver, and gather closer these aphonous rags
Like a begger's coat;
Shut the bland thunder out?

Acknowledge silence --
But what if there be none?
What if all sound go sounding on and on
Upon a loftier air,
The green note and its fellow
Roused to a greener loudness
Forever lifting there?

Let me declare
That music never dies;
That music never dies.
Let me in potent mood create
Of this my fantasy a faith,
A little paradise
True as the tested string is true,
For all the lovely cries
Of all the violins --
And of mine too!
* * * * *

In time
A stranger with the supple fiddler's hand,
And the rapt eye
That sees the sound sublime,
Will come,
(Must come, I wish it so!)
To coax these stagnant strings,
Kindle their numb
And awful apathy with one imperative blow
Of the fleet accurate bow;
Release the fiddle-cry.

O faithless --
Faithful only to sound,
(That loud-lipped passer-by),
You will forget straightway
The player for the player;
And both for the tune you play!

In time I too shall turn
To others' music,
Shall learn
A niggardly delight
In some slight
Lord of nimble fingers
Tossing me sops of song;
The long
And measured wisdom of wide symphonies
Will find me listening;
A singer, a child's hand on the candid keys,
A whistle on the wing;
All these!

I'll not disdain the fine
And effervescent draught,
Filling the echoing cup
(That was so full!)
With others' wine.
I'll not refuse to drink.

But first
I must know thirst.

So must this violin of mine,
I think.
* * * * *
How still it lies;
An empty shell along the empty sand
Is not more still;
But put your hand
To the shining thing
As music passes!
Do you feel the quickening
Of the languid wood?
Come, lay your ear
To the shell --

Heart, leaning near,
So near --

Do you hear
The stirring and the throbbing
Above your tuneless sobbing?

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