The Seventh

The Third is heroic.

The Fifth is iconic.

The Ninth is a miracle.

But of all the Nine symphonies, my favorite has always been the Seventh. I don’t know why exactly. It just appealed to me immediately, the rhythms and melodies, the energy pulsing through yet not overwhelming. More subtle than the others, yet somehow truer to itself.

And there is a joy that runs through it, different from the Ode to Joy of the Ninth, more self-contained and pure, especially in the Allegretto, the second movement. You can hear something similar sometimes in Bach and Mozart. I don’t know what it is. But I think of it as the joy of a master engaged only in the work.

Just vague impressions I know.

Hard to explain.

How do you judge a symphony?  Or greatness? Or art?

Mozart and Shakespeare are at the top for me. Old Bach is not far behind. Michelangelo perhaps belongs near. And somewhere not too far down the list is Beethoven.

To some extent, maybe a great extent, it is a personal decision. You could break it down into categories I suppose. Originality. Breadth of expression. Depth of emotion. Uniqueness. Capacity.

But in saying that the Seventh is my favorite, I am not really judging it. I’m just expressing a preference. Though somewhere down deep maybe there is little difference, since judgement has to be based on something, and if you go far enough down there are likely personal choices supporting whatever criteria you elect. 

So I was delighted today, listening to it on the radio, when the announcer noted that the Seventh was Beethoven’s favorite too. When asked why it was not as well-known as the others, Beethoven reportedly said: “Because it’s better.”

Who am I to argue with the master?

(Image: A Beethoven Enthusiast by Moriz Jung. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/649890)

 

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Melbung smellee welly high

 

It’s hard to imagine that almost 130 years ago, Melbourne in Australia was considered the smelliest city in the world when today, it’s voted the world’s most liveable city.

The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was established in 1891 to manage Melbourne's sewage. Its crest bears the motto 'salas mea publica merces', meaning ‘public health is my reward’.

I think they call that transformation.

 

∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

 

How fine this grand Dame of cities is, my Melbourne town. Yet such a past has she, before the first sewage flows from the All England Eleven Hotel in Port Melbourne traversed pastures of graded green at the Metropolitan Farm in 1897.

Ten years earlier, mortality rates from diphtheria and typhoid in our fair Melbourne town numbered 86.3 for every 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 16 in London and 66 in Paris. The idea to establish a Royal Commission to inquire and report on Melbourne’s sanitary condition was indeed, a splendid one. It came at the eleventh-hour when our fair city was gripped by demonic disease.

Very soon after, in 1891, the authoritative and very official Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was formed. Their business was to provide water supply, sewerage and sewage treatment for our fair city.

Until that time, this admired Queen City of the South had a rather unsavoury means for disposing sewage.

All liquid waste, one day to become known as liquid gold, was thrown into the streets to mix as free as those on the recline of debauchery at Madame Brussels in Bourke Street. My Melbourne town had ‘borne testimony to her evil reputation among travellers as one of the unhealthiest cities in the world,’ according to a journalist of the time.

We all saw it, couldn’t hide from it. Slums in Melbourne town as far back as the 1850s spored faster than mushrooms in an asexual orgy steeped in high humidity and moist damp. People lived in squalor, with no bathrooms or sewerage and in homes held together on scant thread. Rooves leaked and drafts blew through holes in walls. People crammed in close and often shared beds. There was little room to hang laundered washing out to dry and keeping it clean was nigh impossible.

slumsStrolling through streets and children playing outdoors meant an Irish jig within a cesspool of urine, night soil, kitchen and bath water, soap suds from washing clothes, drainage from stables and cow sheds, liquids from trades and manufacturers, and water running off rooves and overland. All would meet in open street channels made from stone, often running into earthen ditches as sluggish glob or collecting in pools that would flood and overflow in rain, giving it free reign to meander into waterways.

‘Tis no wonder typhoid and diphtheria proliferated. No adult or child was safe, even when many claimed it was purely in the slums. 'Twas an inclement falsity. From mine church cometh my dark demise.

 

Riverine Grazier, Friday 15 February 1889

MARVELLOUS SMELLBOURNE.

[by an original in the Adelaide Observer]

"Those who know say that Port Said is the champion filthy city of the universe. If we are to believe Mr Cosmo Newbury, Melbourne, which claims to be 'the Queen City of the South,' is in a fair way to thrust Port Said from that eminence" - Register.

“Bill,' said I to my erratic Friend, who's travelled just a bit,

"Name the strongest aromatic City you have ever hit.”

Then he bowed his head in silence, And a study that was brown,

And - when out of reach of violence - Said "I name your Melbourne town!"

“William,” said I, “thou art witty with the music of thy mouth!

Knowest thou that glorious city is the Queen of all the South?"

"Yes," he answered; "well I know it! Heard it till mine ears do ache;

And, believe me, gentle poet Still in this she takes the cake!"

Then I asked a chewing Yankee, Lantern-jawed and most uncouth,

One of that cadaverous lanky Sort who always tells the truth.

Wal, Siree, he kinder reckoned Melbourne's people like to blow,

So he'd mark her down as second, Just to give Port Said a show.

Then I asked a dark Egyptian, Who had sojourned in the East,

Answering the true description Swathed in linen like a priest;

Rarer far, he said, and rankers than others Melbourne's ware

Ah, she had a lot to thank her stars for in the way of air!

Then a frugal child of China for an answer I cajole -

One of those who can combine a head and tail upon one poll;

One who'd found a way of making both ends meet.

To him I cry –

And he says, with laughter shaking –

"Melbung smellee welly high!"

Then said I, the fates are in it! When will Melbourne's honours stop?

Others have no chance to win it, For she always comes out top!

Energy? She'd do without it! And ascribes it not to pluck!

This it is, and do not doubt it - Melbourne's wonderful for luck!

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Awakening Silence

  

I hear the rotating motion of the fan.

My fingers typing on the keyboard.

 

It’s Tuesday, 4am.

I hear my thoughts in this moment’s silence.

 

I think I’ll wear something blue today.

 
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Sofia's Bakery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The village sleeps while a few coyotes
prowl and scuff through the alley
that passes for a dusty street.

They own the night. We are
only tenants here at the edge
of the desert; close by the river.

A light is on at the bakery,
as it is every morning in the
long hours before the first glow.

The coyotes are used to it. They
watch her quietly pass by each
morning as regular as the dawn.

Sofia is immersed in the day's
work. Everything is in its place
and ready from the day before.

The old oven heats; the chill fades;
flour in her hair; her morning routine.
Lumps become loaves or anise biscochitos.

The first oven smells are drifting
down the street before sunrise.
She stops for a drink of her coffee.

She likes her coffee strong and sweet;
flavored with cinnamon or cardamom.
She indulges herself at this hour.

Working alone, she enjoys this time of day.
She has a place here in this little village;
like the mortar between the stones.

She recalls her mother, with flour
in her hair, greeting the men on their
way to the fields with fresh bread.

She is ready for the day as she hears
the first sounds from the street.
She smiles and steps out the door.

*     *     *

2018 - The Home Place

 

 

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Latest Comments

Rosy Cole We Don't Say Goodbye
23 June 2018
Much deep wisdom here. Thank you!To be honest, I'd rather never say goodbye... No matter what plans ...
Stephen Evans We Don't Say Goodbye
15 June 2018
Sound advice Ken.
Ken Hartke We Don't Say Goodbye
13 June 2018
I may have posted this before -- I sometimes need to revisit it. I occasionally need to give myself ...
Katherine Gregor Rise
12 June 2018
I like it!
Katherine Gregor R. R. R.
12 June 2018
I hope you're right. Thank you for your comment.

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