The Reconstructions, I: Beethoven – Große Fuge

The first poem of Donald Mace Williams’ melodic-ekphrasis The Reconstructions tetraptych on/in music by different composers, published in The Decadent Review (this Beethoven, a Vaughan Williams, a Ravel, and a Brahms).

Study for a “Resurrection of Christ”, Michelangelo

The late sun lies across
The meadow and half-lights the upturned
Faces, the thick, muscular trunks
And arms of the men, the warm,
Soft skin of the woman. She is the leader, if
Four such can have a leader. All
In some way pay attention
To her voice, so that, when that bursts through
The top of the carved frame–
When it screams “Orest!” or, to the stabbed
Police chief on the carpet, “Muori!”
And they, too, each in turn, follow with their
Distinctive cries–a unity remains,
A shared idea, hope,
Conviction to which all adhere
After, even amid, the futuristic
Outbursts. The postures also
Show it. Though the faces look
Each its divergent upward way
With each its own degree and kind
Of passion, the shoulders agree
On one way forward. Soon the eyes,
And then the heads, in this mutating scene,
This painted sculpture, though of moving flesh,
Follow the bodies. Even the man in skins,
Dark-stubbled, stooped, mistrustful, violent,
Conforms, as do the solid fifty-year-old,
A paternal figure now, his eyes and face
Gone gentle, and the youngest, golden haired,
Impassioned, noble, but, like all the rest,
Consumed with sureness that the good at least
Exists, that it is worth titanic striving
To keep only in sight, though nothing closer
Is gained. The good: the idea itself
Draws all the figures into deep accord,
The sunlight turning over in flowing hair
And in the knots of arm or flank, while doves
And smaller, treble birds on every side
Give back the warmth. The final surge is yet
To come, when the transmuted rage,
Still struggling, still expecting loss
And ruin, even so is calmed,
Revived by this clear interlude of sight
When the whole is proven worth its parts and more,
Resentment, bitterness, defeat, defiance
Subordinated now to the last truth,
Not far across the field, that focuses
These tortured lives on the sweet road of strife.