Academic journal article Field

A Celebration of Seven Stanzas

Academic journal article Field

A Celebration of Seven Stanzas

Article excerpt

I have long admired Tranströmer's "Allegro" for its casual surrealism, which, like a good trope, blends the ordinary and the strange. The reader is taken by surprise but nevertheless, in a state of pleasant shock, recognizes the accuracy of the poem's imagery.

Most often I re-visit "Allegro" in Robert Bly's graceful translation.

1. The first line poses the poem's two forces. "Black" is cold, a cold felt in the extremities, felt in extremis, against which the hands' small atmospheres of warmth appear weak.

2. Since the keys are always ready, better to go to the muse than to wait for her. We sit on the bench with the speaker, not in the black robes of judgment but in green. Kindness counters the cold day, implying as it does a connection with other people. Or does it? Metta is a Buddhist term for loving-kindness toward all beings, including oneself. The speaker has summoned the reader(s), at least, and so is not alone.

Our spirits rise with the speaker's; they hear beyond black.

3. Our freedom is ready, too, when we are.

4. How better to make Haydn one's own than to pocket him? The lower-case h is one of Bly's many small successes, showing that haydn is Haydn democratized, a hybrid of him and the speaker and you and me. …

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