The room fills with a charming melody—
A choir of violins in soaring flight
With basses, cellos pulsing—one, two, three—
Drum-snaps, flute-trills, horn-calls, rich and bright—
A dance of grace and suave gentility.

The music conjures up a spectral scene,
A world lost long—but not so long—ago,
A memory no living eye has seen.
Better than sight those elegant tones show
Glimpses of fading ghosts of what has been:

Bright gilded, filigreed rococo halls,
Not lifeless relics yet but still possessed
Of life and laughter in their age-old walls
That proudly bear double-eagle crest
Of Hapsburg, to which Caesar’s crown yet falls —

Filled with white-coated nobles decked in sash
And medals; their voluptuous, laughing dames
In flowing satin gowns and gems aflash;
Staid clerics in whose gaze pure Faith yet flames;
And prim valets who gladly bow and dash—

From snowy Alpine crags, the woods and moors
Of Slav and Teuton, verdant Magyar plains,
Sun-kissed Italian hills, blue Croat shores—
A dozen tongues all hailing one who reigns
As One reigns, Whom the angels’ host adores.

The couples glide across the marbled floor
Arm linked in arm, eye staring into eye,
One man, one woman—knight and paramour.
Their dance, their world, it seemed, could never die,
The crown of all endeavors theretofore.

Only the music lives now; all the rest
Crashed in the throes of cataclysmic war.
Their world and all its glory evanesced,
Dissolved like mist not at dawn but before
The bleakest, blackest night to have oppressed—

A night of demons roving, hating Good
And Truth and Beauty. With no sign of day,
They grow yet bolder, smashing all that would
Recall that world, to sweep its ghosts away
And mute the waltz’s music if they could.

Against their shrieks and howls that vanished age
Echoes its waltz, still to entice the ear.
Such music! Wrath, despair, and longing rage
To hear what has been lost, unseen, yet dear—
Until the music’s charms themselves assuage.

The power that at once can stir and quell
The self-same torments marks the waltz divine,
Its world immortal, daring yet to dwell
In every soul to hear its strains and pine
At beauty lost, at light eclipsed by Hell.

 

 

Adam Sedia (b. 1984) lives in his native Northwest Indiana, with his wife, Ivana, and their children, and practices law as a civil and appellate litigator. In addition to the Society’s publications, his poems and prose works have appeared in The Chained Muse Review, Indiana Voice Journal, and other literary journals. He is also a composer, and his musical works may be heard on his YouTube channel.


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15 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    An absolutely beautiful elegy to the Hapsburg empire, the only truly multicultural state in old Europe.

    The closing words (“light eclipsed by Hell”) are soul-shaking.

    Reply
  2. Peter Hartley

    It never ceases to amaze me how a Ieper of music can transport me, gives me a far stronger sense of place than any painting has the power to do. And I worked in an art gallery for 25 years. When you say ”Better the sight those elegant tones show”, it is so true. Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides”Overture is far more graphically descriptive than the stormiest seas of Turner.It also takes me into the music room of our local C18th Wyatt Stately home with its ubiquitous Adam pea green and the elegant Pompeian Decoration on its pilasters. And the Habsburg empire (the second reich, between the Roman Empire and Hitler’s?) truly was a melting pot for Europe in the Eighteenth century (whose music I much prefer to Strauss’s era). Very atmospheric poetry, though.

    Reply
    • Joseph S. Salemi

      The first Reich was the unified Germany of 1870, accomplished by Bismarck. The second Reich was the Weimar Republic, created and imposed on Germans after the First World War. The Third Reich was the Nazi regime.

      Reply
    • Julian D. Woodruff

      Mr. Hartley,
      I also worked in an art gallery; but I am far more familiar with M’s Hebrides than with any of Turner’s representations. It’s interesting that The Hebrides overture seems to have been Wagner’s favorite Mendelssohn, probably for reasons similar to yours. (W, as you probably know, was not favorably disposed to M on the whole.) My thinking is that M gets it absolutely right in many individual phrases & passages, but misses both musically & pictorially in that the piece is so resolutely four-square, almost as if he’d been writing a minuet or contredanse.

      Reply
  3. Peter Hartley

    Translation of the predictive text Ieper in line one is probably key to understanding my first sentence above and I should be grateful for any assistance in the matter.

    Reply
  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Dr. Salemi and Mr. Hartley say it all so much better than I can. I would just like to add that this admirably composed elegy, with the majesty, beauty and tragedy of an era, paint a vivid picture that fires the mind and touches the heart. Very well done, indeed.

    Reply
  5. Monty

    In the three years I’ve been affiliated with the SCP, there’ve been 7 or 8 contributors from whom I’ve felt compelled to collect one or more of their poems, to keep in storage. You’re one such contributor, Adam, and I’ve got three of your previous offerings – All Hallows Eve: Arise, You Bones: Let None Dare Call It Beauty – safely tucked away to revisit (maybe once a year) until my train’s ready to depart.

    Thus it comes as no surprise to me in finding your latest offering above to be so immaculately written; no surprise to note your extensive use of our language; no surprise to note the clarity and lucidity of your diction/phrasing; no surprise to note the strength and consistency of your rhymes; and no surprise to note that, yet again, your chosen subject-matter is not in the ‘everyday’, and not concerning current topics.

    I noticed a few anomalies in the metre, but I assume they were intentional on your behalf (poetic license?); for me, they were immediately rendered into insignificance owing to the quality of the piece . . which will now be added to my collection of your work, making four pieces in total. You may wish to know that of the 8-9 aforesaid contributors, there’s only one from whom I’ve collected more than four pieces . . Amy Foreman.

    Reply
  6. Peter Hartley

    Joe S – Thank you for the correction. My statement, I’ll admit, was a wild stab in the dark.

    Reply
  7. Margaret Coats

    An exquisite poem. One of the metric anomalies noticed by Monty may have been a mistake in line 14. Shouldn’t this read, “That proudly bear the double-eagle crest”? The missing “the” makes the meter regular.

    Reply
  8. Rob Crisell

    Beautiful poem. I remember listening to a podcast on this performance not too long ago. Your poem is like a vivid portrait of a single moment. Thank you.

    Reply
  9. David Watt

    A memorable poem which possesses a richness of language and phrasing to match the sumptuous occasion. Very well done!

    Reply
  10. Peter Hartley

    Julian – I wrote a little poem about the Hebrides overture which I hope Evan will publish in a couple of weeks’ time. I remember this and Haydn’s string quartets were my first introduction to classical music at the age of about eight and I was instantly hooked, though I never learned to read music. Oratorio I am most fond of, and I must grudgingly admit Elijah must be in the top three overall with the Creation and Messiah. I don’t know how far all three may plummet in the list if Susan ever takes up sacred choral composition.

    Reply
  11. Ewald E. Eisbruc

    Though one may be at odds with his approach to literary criticism, even his literary values, it is heartening to have Mr. Phillips back in these comments. It was nice to learn he was banned, and not simply that he had gone by the wayside. I hope he will remain with his otiose, yet refreshingly individualistic, poetic observations. [As an aside, I miss the enthusiastic comments of Mr. William Krusch and the thoughtful comments of Mr. J. Simon Harris as well.] Like Mr. Phillips, I too enjoy the poetry of Ms. Foreman, and Mr. Sedia; and I think Mr. Phillips is right on target to save Mr. Sedia’s “All Hallow’s Eve”, which I think would fit nicely into any New Millennium anthology.

    Although I very much like the topic, having been an Austrophile since before I was a teenager, and likewise appreciate Mr. Sedia’s New Millennial piano sonatas, I do not have the same unabashed praise that Mr. Phillips has for this poem.

    What I liked about the poem was its attempt at a larger vision (in iambic pentameters). As I read “Elegy on a Strauss Waltz”, particularly Mr. Sedia’s brilliant, opening stanza, I kept thinking “one-two-three…one-two-three…one-two-three”. I wonder if there is any New Millennial writer in English who could pull off an anapestic tetrameter poem on a Straussian waltz—a Byron or a Browning?

    I also appreciated his splendid stereotypical pictures metamorphosed into a picture of the Austro-Hungarian Empire—not its horrid sides: “prim valets who gladly bow and dash”—but its beauty. Because I like particularity, I wish he had chosen one specific waltz, and moved from there. I too, like others in this strand, have been been captivated by German music for decades, even supposed light-weights, like Mendelssohn, the Strausses and Wagner [sic]. [Just this week I published a sonnet on the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.]

    At the end of the poem, I felt I was at the end of Poe’s “The Bells”; and I have never thought of, say, for example, the “Blue Danube”, in terms of Poe. However, I do agree with Mr. Sedia’s point about the demolishers of culture; but I prefer Modernist American poet Edna Saint Vincent Millay’s response in “Upon Hearing a Symphony of Beethoven”:

    Sweet sounds, oh, beautiful music, do not cease!
    Reject me not into the world again.
    With you alone is excellence and peace,
    Mankind made plausible, his purpose plain.
    Enchanted in your air benign and shrewd,
    With limbs a-sprawl and empty faces pale,
    The spiteful and the stingy and the rude
    Sleep like the scullions in the fairy-tale.
    This moment is the best the world can give:
    The tranquil blossom on the tortured stem.
    Reject me not, sweet sounds; oh, let me live,
    Till Doom espy my towers and scatter them,
    A city spell-bound under the aging sun.
    Music my rampart, and my only one.

    I did appreciate Mr. Sedia’s stanzas of ABABA rhyme scheme; and in the following stanzas

    “Against their shrieks and howls that vanished age
    Echoes its waltz, still to entice the ear.
    Such music! Wrath, despair, and longing rage
    To hear what has been lost, unseen, yet dear—
    Until the music’s charms themselves assuage.

    The power that at once can stir and quell
    The self-same torments marks the waltz divine,
    Its world immortal, daring yet to dwell
    In every soul to hear its strains and pine
    At beauty lost, at light eclipsed by Hell.”

    I was reminded of one of my favourite conversations of all time, that between Jessica and Lorenzo at the beginning of Act V in scene i of “The Merchant of Venice” by William Shakespeare.

    Jessica:
    I am never merry when I hear sweet music.

    Lorenzo:
    The reason is, your spirits are attentive:
    For do but note a wild and wanton herd,
    Or race of youthful and unhandled colts,
    Fetching mad bounds, bellowing and neighing loud,
    Which is the hot condition of their blood;
    If they but hear perchance a trumpet sound,
    Or any air of music touch their ears,
    You shall perceive them make a mutual stand,
    Their savage eyes turn’d to a modest gaze
    By the sweet power of music: therefore the poet
    Did feign that Orpheus drew trees, stones and floods;
    Since nought so stockish, hard and full of rage,
    But music for the time doth change his nature.
    The man that hath no music in himself,
    Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
    Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
    The motions of his spirit are dull as night
    And his affections dark as Erebus:
    Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

    Finally, Mr. Sedia’s poem did stir me to write a tennos not on music, but on the Danube; and I am thankful for that.

    Reply
    • Monty

      The next time you’re in your kitchen, Bruce, would you care to take one of your pots from out of its cupboard, and place it next to your kettle? Then take three or four backward steps, compose yourself, and stare intently and intensively at the two objects, listening carefully. Within a few minutes, you should be able to hear the pot utter the word ‘black’ to the kettle.

      Once you’ve heard that, kindly keep it in mind while referring back immediately to your above comment, in which you described all my previous comments on these pages as “otiose”. I readily admit that I wasn’t familiar with that word until today, so I duly made further enquiries, and . . . bingo, it just so happens to be a word which perfectly describes every comment YOU have ever made on these pages in all the time I’ve been affiliated with the SCP.

      Generally, whenever a poem has been submitted here on which you’ve chosen to comment, you’ve always referred to the poem only ostensibly, just in your first line or two – and have then immediately dived into your usual mode of name-checking myriad famous poets and/or their poems (along with their respective dates of birth and death), while pretending to draw fatuous comparisons in order to justify your use of such names. Out of sheer disbelief, I once counted how many poets you name-checked in a single comment: I can’t remember the exact figure, but it was in the high twenties! In one comment! In the futile pretence that each of those poets were relevant to the poem on which you were commenting. You fool. If you’re gonna tell such fibs, you’ve got to make them plausible.

      Are you not able to recognise how consistently you disingenuously use other members’ poems solely as an attempt to impress upon the readership that you’re supposedly well read (I say ‘supposedly’, ‘coz I’ve never been able to quite make up my mind as to whether you really are as well read as you try to convey . . or just a phoney with a good grasp of internet-usage! I’ve always leant towards the former, but I’ve never been able to completely dispel the latter, on the grounds that anyone who WAS so well read would just be content to be so; and wouldn’t feel the need to constantly hijack other members’ pages in a seemingly-desperate attempt to prove themselves)? And as well as your outrageous name-checking, your comments generally contain at least one of your own attempts at a poem (which you always claim to’ve wrote years before; but which seem suspiciously like they were written the day before.. in response to the poem on which you’re supposedly commenting: in the sense that “anything you can do I can do also”). And then there’s your repeated use of the word ‘tennos’ in your comments (a simple conundrum of a REAL word, in the same way that your aliases are simply a conundrum of your REAL name), which you constantly try to espouse as being some sort of ground-breaking new addition to the the poetry world; but which is, in reality, nothing more than your own personal plaything! And yet, you still use other people’s pages to desperately draw other reader’s attention to it. You’re so determined . . and it’s so predictable.

      I’ve now learnt that the word ‘otiose’ means, amongst other things: ‘serving no practical purpose’ . . I put it to you that your comments always ‘serve no practical purpose’ in relation to the poem on which you’re supposed to be commenting; you just use them as an inflated biography of your poetry life. That same word also means ‘functionless’; would you not agree that your own comments are always functionless, as in they don’t serve their necessary function of appraising another person’s poem; they only serve your ego? And it also means ‘redundant’: well, when a comment is made which bears no relevance to the poem above it, instead containing one’s own spiel to glamourise their own sense of importance . . I’d say that that comment was redundant in relation to the poem above it. Are you beginning to see now that it’s YOUR comments that are consistently and predictably ’otiose’?

      In contrast, MY comments on these pages are always entirely genuine, and relevant to the poem on which I’m commenting. I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’m not as well read as many other members, and that I never had an education. Hence, I’ve never used my comments to try giving the impression that I AM well read. I’ve also never made any secret of the fact that I’m no expert on meter: hence my comments rarely contain remarks about such. I never try to get above my station. My comments are generally directed only towards the following criterions – on which I feel I’m qualified to judge: (in order of importance to me) a/ A subject to which I can relate.. b/ Clear and consise diction and a full use of grammar.. c/ Strong rhymes from start to finish; no corner-cutting when the going gets tough.. d/ Does the author really feel what they’re saying: do they mean it (as opposed to writing a poem just for the sake of it: e.g. “Oh, it’s Easter next week: I’d better write an Easter poem”.. or poems concerning major current-affairs). And the reason I feel qualified to comment on such things is because they’re all criterions about which it doesn’t matter if one’s not well read: it doesn’t matter if one didn’t have an education . . . to judge a poem by those criterions is all about feeling, not mere academia! Feelings are everything when reading poetry. Thus, in that sense, my comments are always heartfelt, sincere, and consistent. The criterions by which I praise a poem will always be the same criterions by which I criticise a poem.

      And yet, in spite of all the above.. you had the audacity to label all my comments with the very word which is positively tailor-made to describe every comment you’ve ever made on these pages.

      You can now return your pot to its cupboard, ‘coz you now know why it decided to call your kettle black?

      Reply

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