Symphonies and Their Meaning Part 33

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Wherever mankind swarms, without rest, summer and winter, h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning.

From alcove to hall, and on the railways, the Devil, prowling, runs about.

He is Mr. Seen-at-Night, who saunters with staring eyes. h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning.

There floating as a bubble, here squirming as a worm, the Devil, prowling, runs about.

He's grand seigneur, tough, student, teacher. h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning.

He inoculates each soul with his bitter whispering: the Devil, prowling, runs about.

He promises, bargains, stipulates in gentle or proud tones. h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning.

Mocking pitilessly the unfortunate whom he destroys, the Devil, prowling, runs about.

He makes goodness ridiculous and the old man futile. h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning.

At the home of the priest or sceptic, whose soul or body he wishes, the Devil, prowling, runs about.

Beware of him to whom he toadies, and whom he calls "my dear sir."

h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning.

Friend of the tarantula, darkness, the odd number, the Devil, prowling, runs about.

--My clock strikes midnight. If I should go to see Lucifer?--h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning; the Devil, prowling, runs about.

[Footnote A: A few translated verses may give an idea of the original rhythm:

h.e.l.l's a-burning, burning, burning.

Cackling in his impish play, Here and there the Devil's turning,

Forward here and back again, Zig-zag as the lightning's ray, While the fires burn amain.

In the church and in the cell In the caves, in open day, Ever prowls the fiend of h.e.l.l.

But in the original the first and last lines of the first verse are used as refrains in the succeeding verses, recurring alternately as the last line. In the final verse they are united.--The prose translation is by Philip Hale.]

In the maze of this modern setting of demon antics (not unlike, in conceit, the capers of Till Eulenspiegel), with an eloquent use of new French strokes of harmony, one must be eager to seize upon definite figures. In the beginning is a brief wandering or flickering motive in furious pace of harp and strings, ending ever in a shriek of the high wood. Answering

[Music: _Presto (il piu possibile)_ (Woodwind) (Strings with rhythmic chords in the tonic) (With opposite descending chords)]

is a descending phrase mainly in the bra.s.s, that ends in a rapid jingle.

[Music: (Bra.s.s with quicker figures in strings and wood)]

There are various lesser motives, such as a minor scale of ascending thirds, and a group of crossing figures that seem a guise of the first motive. To be sure the picture lies less in the separate figures than in the mingled color and bustle. Special in its humor is a soft gliding or creeping phrase of three voices against a constant trip of cellos.

After a climax of the first motive a frolicking theme begins (in English horn and violas). If we were forced to guess, we could see here the dandy devil, with pointed mustachios, frisking about. It is probably another guise of the second motive which presently appears in the ba.s.s.

A little later, _dolce amabile_ in a madrigal of wood and strings, we may see the gentlemanly devil, the gallant. With a crash of chord and a roll of cymbals re-enters the first motive, to flickering harmonies of violins, harp and flutes, taken up by succeeding voices, all in the whole-tone scale. Hurrying to a clamorous height, the pace glides into a _Movimento di Valzer_, in ma.s.sed volume, with the frolicking figure in festive array.

To softest tapping of lowest strings and drums, a shadow of the second figure pa.s.ses here and there, with a flash of harp. Soon, in returning merriment, it is coursing in unison strings (against an opposite motion in the wood).

At the height of revel, as the strings are holding a trembling chord, a sprightly Gallic tune of the street pipes in the reed, with intermittent flash of the harp, and, to be sure, an unfamiliar tang of harmonies and strange perversions of the tune.[A] In the midst is the original flickering figure. As the whole chorus is singing the tune at the loudest, the bra.s.s breaks into another traditional air of the Revolutionary Song of 1789.[B] While the trip is still ringing in the strings, a l.u.s.ty chorus breaks into the song[C] "La Carmagnole," against a blast of the horns in a guise of the first motive.

[Footnote A: "A la villette," a popular song of the Boulevard. Mr.

Philip Hale, who may have been specially inspired, a.s.sociates the song with the word "c.r.a.pule," "tough," as he connects the following revolutionary songs, in contrapuntal use, with the word "magister,"

"teacher,"--the idea of the pedagogue in music. It may be less remote to find in these popular airs merely symbols or graphic touches of the swarming groups among which the Devil plies his trade.]

[Footnote B: The famous "Ca ira."]

[Footnote C: In the wealth of interesting detail furnished by Mr. Hale is the following: "The Carmagnole was first danced in Paris about the liberty-tree, and there was then no b.l.o.o.d.y suggestion.... The word '_Carmagnole_' is found in English and Scottish literature as a nickname for a soldier in the French Revolutionary army, and the term was applied by Burns to the Devil as the author of ruin, 'that curst carmagnole, auld Satan.'"]

Grim guises of the main figures (in inverted profile) are skulking about to uncanny harmonies. A revel of new pranks dies down to chords of muted horns, amid flashing runs of the harp, with a long roll of drums. Here _Grave_ in solemn pace, violas and ba.s.soon strike an ecclesiastical incantation, answered by the organ. Presently a Gregorian plain chant begins solemnly in the strings aided by the organ while a guise of the second profane motive intrudes. Suddenly in quick pace against a fugal tread of lower voices, a light skipping figure dances in the high wood.

And now loud trumpets are saucily blowing the chant to the quick step, echoed by the wood. And we catch the wicked song of the street (in the English horn) against a legend of h.e.l.l in lower voices.[A]

[Footnote A: The religious phrases are naturally related to the "priest or sceptic." In the rapid, skipping rhythm, Mr. Hale finds the tarentella suggested by the "friend of the tarantula."]

In still livelier pace the reeds sound the street song against a trip of strings, luring the other voices into a furious chorus. All at once, the harp and violins strike the midnight hour to a chord of horns, while a single impish figure dances here or there. To trembling strings and flashing harp the high reed pipes again the song of the Boulevard, echoed by low ba.s.soons.

In rapidest swing the original main motives now sing a joint verse in a kind of _reprise_, with the wild shriek at the end of the line, to a final crashing height. The end comes with dashes of the harp, betwixt pausing chords in the high wood, with a final stifled note.

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Symphonies and Their Meaning Part 33 summary

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