Haydn Leaves London
I work too slowly for their appetites.
I am a plow horse, not a steed; and though
the plow horse cultivates the very grain that gild
their substantial guts, they will thrill to any chase,
lay down a tidy fortune and their good
on the odds of a new upstart darling.
The first trip, I took up Pleyel's unspoken dare
and promised a new piece every evening
for the length of the concert series.
Intrigue fuels the coldest ambitions;
the daily newspapers thickened
with judgements on the drummed-up duel
between the Maestro and his student yore.
What was I thinking? I am old enough to value,
now and then, an evening spent with starlight–
not one twittering fan or lacy dewlap obscuring
my sidelong glance - yet I came back
to these noisome vapors, the fog-scalded moon,
fat and smoking, in its lonely dominion.
The black Thames pushes on. I close my eyes
and feel it, a bass string plucked at intervals,
dragging our bilge out to the turgid sea–
a drone that thrums the blood, that agitates
for more and more. . . .
----------------------------Well, it is done.
I bore down for half a dozen occasions,
wrote a four-part canon to a faithful dog,
wheedled a few graceful tunes
from Salomon's orchestra, that bloated fraternity
of whines and whistles–and now I can return
to my drowsy Vienna, wreathed in green
and ever turning, turning just slowly enough
to keep the sun soft her face.
from Sonata Mulattica (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., © 2009 by Rita Dove). All rights reserved. Copying to other websites or any kind of reprint is a violation of international copyright laws and strictly forbidden.