Haydn Leaves London

This reading was recorded by Alessandro Mistrorigo at Phonodia LAB in Venice, Italy, on the 18th of April, 2014.

Read by Rita Dove on 18 April 2014

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.

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