4 Jan, 2021

‘In Memoriam’ …. how?

For want of anything better to write about I’ll just mention this: emails from friends commenting on the poem in the 1/1/21 blog, three days ago.

It seemed so apt, they said. There was Alfred, Lord Tennyson in 1850, ringing out the old and ringing in the new.  Out with falsehoods, he wrote.  Pray God an end to untimely deaths and grief.  Out with the battles between rich and poor.  Party strife, be gone.  Away with want and sin, slander, spite, foul disease, lust for riches, and wars.

Those are eternals, for sure.  They were true 170 years ago but aren’t they oh-so-relevant now?  I looked back on 2020 and thought, “That just about sums up our year”.  So into the blog it went.  It’s part of milord’s In Memoriam.

 “Aren’t you clever”, someone wrote, “You must know a lot of poetry”.  Not so.  I’ve never read In Memoriam. It’s 90 pages long!  This what happened: I was searching for some way of welcoming the new year and saying good riddance to the old one, but without the routine phrases that we all use.  Something different was needed.  Thinking of ‘old’, ‘new’, and other ways of expressing it, a vague memory drifted to the front of the consciousness.  It was a memory of long ago, of a song sung just once in a small choir when I was a teenager at school: “Ring out, wild bells”.  And with the memory of the title and a little of the music came also memory of some of the lines, the verses, and they seemed to fit what I needed.  So, over to the internet to check it out, and yes, it did fit.  It was just right, I thought.

That’s it.: the power of music and words lodged somewhere in the memory ever since I’d sung it just once, about 60 years ago.  Isn’t that amazing?  It’s not so special in fact: we all have this long-term deeply-hidden memory bank.  But it’s still amazing.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks for your lovely Christmas video, and thoughts about New Year – you’re right, Tennyson got it just perfectly. Yesterday 5 valiant members of my choir sang the lovely but mysterious New Year’s Carol set by Benjamin Britten: ‘Here we bring new water from the well so clear,/ For to worship God with, this happy New Year.// Sing reign of fair maid, with gold upon her toe,/ Open you the West Door and let the old year go.// Sing reign of fair maid with gold upon her chin,/ Open you the East Door and let the New Year in’, all with the wonderful refrain: ‘Sing levy dew, the water and the wine, The seven bright gold wires, and the bugles that do shine.’ All wonderfully rich and strange, though presumably Levy dew is the same as ‘levez Dieu’, and ancient customs had water fetched from ‘Holy Wells’ (there’s one down in our valley about 1/2 an mile away) to purify the church, and ceremonies of chasing the old year out of one door of the church and welcoming the new in at the other are quite believable. Where the bugles and gold wires come from, I’ve no idea. The tune is gorgeous, though. (Carols for Choirs book 2!) Happy New Year

    Reply
  2. You could not have chosen a more appropriate poem to capture not only Tennyson’s mood, but the relevance of, as you sa, to today. I’ve never been a great lover of poetry, but having said that, have sometimes been touched by poetry in a way that prose has never managed. I suspect it’s the musical element that makes the vital difference. I re-read Wilde’s ‘Ballad of Reading gaol’ the other day and wondered if if was more powerful for me this time, than before, because I understood a little better the notion of confinement. Stay safe and strong.

    Reply
  3. Such an apt and amazing piece. And amazing memory (even with help of google) to recall it. But here’s another amazing thing: through a chance online encounter with the lovely chaplain of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge (which appears in this blog sometimes!) I’ve just discovered that Ring Out also featured in their carol service last month. Great minds… 🙂

    https://youtu.be/PQWtcMcc7sA – at 38 mins (bit of bonus descant to set scene before).
    Service sheet here: https://www.caths.cam.ac.uk/sites/default/files/files/Advent%20and%20Christmas%20Carol%20Service%202020%281%29.pdf
    From this page: https://www.caths.cam.ac.uk/chapelservices

    Reply
    • This is me, DP himself. Thank you Chris. Extraordinary! No idea my old college had included it in its carol service. Alfred Lord T would be delighted, as I am.

      Reply

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