German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, while conducting a concert of his works in Budapest, in 1984, suddenly decides to take up the study of palmistry
"MESSENGER Know well That he has passed away from life to death.
CHORUS How? By a god-sent, painless doom, poor soul?
MESSENGER Thy question hits the marvel of the tale.
How he moved hence, you saw him and must know;
Without a friend to lead the way, himself
Guiding us all. So having reached the abrupt
Earth-rooted Threshold with its brazen stairs,
He paused at one of the converging paths,
Hard by the rocky basin which records
The pact of Theseus and Peirithous.
Betwixt that rift and the Thorician rock,
The hollow pear-tree and the marble tomb,
Midway he sat and loosed his beggar's weeds;
Then calling to his daughters bade them fetch
Of running water, both to wash withal
And make libation; so they clomb the steep;
And in brief space brought what their father bade,
Then laved and dressed him with observance due.
But when he had his will in everything,
And no desire was left unsatisfied,
It thundered from the netherworld; the maids
Shivered, and crouching at their father's knees
Wept, beat their breast and uttered a long wail.
He, as he heard their sudden bitter cry,
Folded his arms about them both and said,
"My children, ye will lose your sire today,
For all of me has perished, and no more
Have ye to bear your long, long ministry;
A heavy load, I know, and yet one word
Wipes out all score of tribulations--love.
And love from me ye had--from no man more;
But now must live without me all your days."
So clinging to each other sobbed and wept
Father and daughters both, but when at last
Their mourning had an end and no wail rose,
A moment there was silence; suddenly
A voice that summoned him; with sudden dread
The hair of all stood up and all were 'mazed;
For the call came, now loud, now low, and oft.
"Oedipus, Oedipus, why tarry we?
Too long, too long thy passing is delayed."
But when he heard the summons of the god,
He prayed that Theseus might be brought, and when
The Prince came nearer: "O my friend," he cried,
"Pledge ye my daughters, giving thy right hand--
And, daughters, give him yours--and promise me
Thou never wilt forsake them, but do all
That time and friendship prompt in their behoof."
And he of his nobility repressed
His tears and swore to be their constant friend.
This promise given, Oedipus put forth
Blind hands and laid them on his children, saying,
"O children, prove your true nobility
And hence depart nor seek to witness sights
Unlawful or to hear unlawful words.
Nay, go with speed; let none but Theseus stay,
Our ruler, to behold what next shall hap."
So we all heard him speak, and weeping sore
We companied the maidens on their way.
After brief space we looked again, and lo
The man was gone, evanished from our eyes;
Only the king we saw with upraised hand
Shading his eyes as from some awful sight,
That no man might endure to look upon.
A moment later, and we saw him bend
In prayer to Earth and prayer to Heaven at once.
But by what doom the stranger met his end
No man save Theseus knoweth. For there fell
No fiery bol[t] that reft him in that hour,
Nor whirlwind from the sea, but he was taken.
It was a messenger from heaven, or else
Some gentle, painless cleaving of earth's base;
For without wailing or disease or pain
He passed away-- [an] end most marvelous.
And if to some my tale seems foolishness
I am content that such could count me fool."Oedipus at Colonus
Translated by F. Storr
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Andrew Imbrie served in the U.S. Army, from 1944 to 1946, as a cryptanalytic translator of Japanese and immediately after, he spent two years composing while a resident of the American Academy in Rome.
-- Robert P. Commanday in San Francisco Classical Voice
"I was trained as a Japanese translator, but I was stationed in Arlington, Virginia, the entire time. I was never on the battlefield, and later on I was so curious about Japan that I applied for a Guggenheim when I was on sabbatical, and I spent eight or nine months in Tokyo, the vicinity, and was fascinated by the culture. I was trying to understand a little more myself about where these people were coming from—and they are very wonderful people—but I think they themselves must also face the ... come to terms with the past as well as the Chinese people that they massacred at that time. I think they themselves have to come to terms, and that's why I believe that this project is a very necessary one.
DO: Would you say a little more about that? Why you think a commemorative event is important? What's the value of bringing this up again?
AI: I think that the people have to acknowledge things. I think that they will feel better. I think that will heal everybody if everybody acknowledges these things. I don't know to what extent. For example, the Germans have come to terms with Hitler these days, but you get the impression ... I haven't been in Germany long enough to understand, really, but I understand—I've been given to understand one way or another—come to terms with this and are trying to show that they are democratic and that they are human, because in Hitler's time, you wondered whether these people were really human. I think now they are succeeding in convincing us that they are. And I think that's very necessary. Now I think the Japanese have convinced us of this, too, but they have to convince themselves as well as us." ...
Hun Quio Bridge of Souls
Andrew Imbrie interview transcript from Minnesota Public Radio
Recorded May 29, 2001
Posted September 10, 2001
James Weldon Johnson, 1871-1938God's Trombones. Seven Negro Sermons in Verse.
New York: The Viking Press, 1927.
Photo credit: (c) Agence France Presse and Getty Images via New York Times
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