I am not an earth nor an adjunct of an earth,
I am the mate and companion of people, all just as immortal and
fathomless as myself,
(They do not know how immortal, but I know.)
Every kind for itself and its own, for me mine male and female,
For me those that have been boys and that love women,
For me the man that is proud and feels how it stings to be slighted,
For me the sweet-heart and the old maid, for me mothers and the
mothers of mothers,
For me lips that have smiled, eyes that have shed tears,
For me children and the begetters of children.
With the resumption of music after the sermon, it takes a second or two for us to realise where we have got to in the story. Superficially nothing appears to have changed. The scene is still Gethsemane, now after nightfall. The Daughter of Zion is found distractedly searching for her captured lover, though Jesus, bound hand and foot, has long since gone, taken to face trial in front of the High Priests. Then, as the Passion moves towards its climax, Bach’s strategy of pulling us into the action (in ariosi), and then arranging the angles from which we can contemplate its application to ourselves (in the arias and chorales), becomes ever more clear. By settling on a specific voice and selecting a specific obbligato timbre for each aria—whether solo violin, flute, oboe (and oboes da caccia) or viola da gamba—he determines the most appropriate accompaniment: this might be for the full string ensemble from either left or right, or subtle combinations of sonorities. With these arioso/aria pairings, for all their apparent oppositions of mood, the chosen instrumental timbre is the common denominator: a linking of voice and narrative thread. The kaleidoscopic permutations of instrumental colour that Bach finds seem boundless. It is also intriguing in theatrical terms to observe how Bach has evolved a fluid movement of instrumental dramatis personae jockeying for position, ready to advance or retreat, or simply awaiting their turn. Then, when a dialogue is struck up with another player or singer, we as listeners gain a vivid sense of separate human subjectivities locked in animated dialogue, just as we might encounter on the pages of a novel.
Though he and his musicians were only partially in view of the congregation, Bach’s music was essentially dramatic: music intended to appeal to—and even occasionally to assault—the senses of his listeners. From the very beginning of his employment as Thomascantor Bach had been warned that he ‘should make compositions that were not too theatrical’, yet his purpose was unimpeachable: to re-enact the Passion story within his listeners’ minds and to affirm its pertinence to the men and women of his day, addressing their concerns and fears and directing them towards the solace and inspiration to be found within the Passion narrative. Bach balanced the central thread, Matthew’s retelling of the Passion story, with instant reactions and more measured reflections by concerned onlookers, so as to bring it into the present. It would be hard to better it as an essentially human drama, one involving immense struggle and challenge, betrayal and forgiveness, love and sacrifice, compassion and pity.
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise,
Regardless of others, ever regardful of others,
Maternal as well as paternal, a child as well as a man,
Stuff'd with the stuff that is coarse and stuff'd with the stuff
that is fine,
One of the Nation of many nations, the smallest the same and the
largest the same,
A Southerner soon as a Northerner, a planter nonchalant and
hospitable down by the Oconee I live,
A Yankee bound my own way ready for trade, my joints the limberest
joints on earth and the sternest joints on earth,
A Kentuckian walking the vale of the Elkhorn in my deer-skin
leggings, a Louisianian or Georgian,
A boatman over lakes or bays or along coasts, a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye;
At home on Kanadian snow-shoes or up in the bush, or with fishermen
At home in the fleet of ice-boats, sailing with the rest and tacking,
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners, (loving
their big proportions,)
Comrade of raftsmen and coalmen, comrade of all who shake hands
and welcome to drink and meat,
A learner with the simplest, a teacher of the thoughtfullest,
A novice beginning yet experient of myriads of seasons,
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion,
A farmer, mechanic, artist, gentleman, sailor, quaker,
Prisoner, fancy-man, rowdy, lawyer, physician, priest.
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The boy I love, the same becomes a man not through derived power,
but in his own right,
Wicked rather than virtuous out of conformity or fear,
Fond of his sweetheart, relishing well his steak,
Unrequited love or a slight cutting him worse than sharp steel cuts,
First-rate to ride, to fight, to hit the bull's eye, to sail a
skiff, to sing a song or play on the banjo,
Preferring scars and the beard and faces pitted with small-pox over
And those well-tann'd to those that keep out of the sun.
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The little plentiful manikins skipping around in collars and tail'd coats
I am aware who they are, (they are positively not worms or fleas,)
I acknowledge the duplicates of myself, the weakest and shallowest
is deathless with me,
What I do and say the same waits for them,
Every thought that flounders in me the same flounders in them.