Reading For An Epic

LETTER TO JOSEPH COTTLE
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

April 1797

Observe the march of Milton—his severe application, his laborious polish, his deep metaphysical researches, his prayers to God before he began his great poem, all that could lift and swell his intellect, became his daily food. I should not think of devoting less than 20 years to an Epic Poem. Ten to collect materials and warm my mind with universal science. I would be a tolerable Mathematician, I would thoroughly know Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Optics, and Astronomy, Botany, Metallurgy, Fossilism, Chemistry, Geology, Anatomy, Medicine—then the mind of man—then the minds of men—in all Travels, Voyages and Histories. So I would spend ten years—the next five to the com- position of the poem—and the five last to the correction of it.

So I would write haply not unhearing of that divine and rightly whispering Voice, which speaks to mighty minds of predestinated Garlands, starry and unwithering.

God love you,
S. T. Coleridge

Continue reading “Reading For An Epic”

A Child’s Heart

the-voyage-of-life-childhood.jpg!Large
The Voyage of Life: Childhood (detail)
Thomas Cole

Emily Dickinson

Dew — is the Freshet in the Grass —
‘Tis many a tiny Mill
Turns unperceived beneath our feet
And Artisan lies still —

We spy the Forests and the Hills
The Tents to Nature’s Show
Mistake the Outside for the in
And mention what we saw.

Could Commentators on the Sign
Of Nature’s Caravan
Obtain “Admission” as a Child
Some Wednesday Afternoon.

Luke 18:15-17

And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them.

But Jesus called for them, saying,

“Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”


RickFor John Steinbeck, as for William Wordsworth and William Blake, a child’s lucid vision captures the essentials. Steinbeck scrawled reminders to himself: capture a “child’s vision” because “adults haven’t the clear fine judgment of children.” That meant to write with precision and freshness. Truth is like clear pure water.

In his book The Sea of Cortez, Steinbeck wrote:

We have not known a single great scientist who could not discourse freely and interestingly with a child. Can it be that the haters of clarity have nothing to say, have observed nothing, have no clear picture of even their own fields? A dull man seems to be a dull man no matter what his field, and of course it is the right of a dull scientist to protect himself with feathers and robes, emblems and degrees, as do other dull men who are potentates and grand imperial rulers of lodges of dull men.

When Emily Dickinson wrote of “obtaining admission as a Child” to Nature’s Caravan, she evoked the words of Jesus who reminded his listeners that entering into the kingdom of God requires doing so as a child. In all of the complexity of such a profound truth, the picture is that of a wide-eyed child whose heart is filled with joy and delight.

Wonder and worship are the beginning of understanding.

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

D I G  D E E P E R


 Children in Literature and Liturgy

The relationship between God and his chosen people, often described in the Bible as a marriage, is also figured in terms of a parent-child relationship (e.g., Deut. 14:1; see also Pss. 73:15; 103:13). Occasionally in the OT Gentiles are also referred to as children of God (e.g., Isa. 45:11). In the NT what the Israelites were by birthright Gentile Christians, according to the apostle Paul, could hope to be by adoption: “He hath chosen us. … Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself” (Eph. 1:4–5; see also Rom. 8:15–23; Gal. 4:5). Just as there are children of the flesh, then, so there are also “children of the promise,” and these may be as Isaac was to Ishmael—“not children of the bondwoman, but of the free” (Gal. 4:22–31).

The injunction to “honour thy father and thy mother” is prominent among the Ten Commandments and the first commandment with a promise attached. Dependence, trust, and humility are taken as normative in a child’s relationship to his or her parents and, indeed, in that of the children of God to their heavenly Father: “LORD my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty … as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child” (Ps. 131:2). Thus, when Jeremiah was called by God, he pleaded inadequacy in terms of childlike dependence: “Ah, Lord God! behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child.” Exemplary obedience and trust are likewise emphasized in the story of the child Samuel, as well as in canonical accounts of Jesus’ childhood. (Extrabiblical childhood narratives, by contrast, are concerned to demonstrate that Jesus’ divine powers were already present in his early years.) Such qualities are also assumed in Christ’s words, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:13–16; cf. Matt. 11:25; 18:3). It was a child whom St. Augustine heard in his garden, saying, “Tolle, lege; tolle, lege” (“Take it up, read; take it up, read”) (Conf., bk. 8). Since Augustine was struggling at this time against (among other things) his Manichaean desires for special knowledge, the child seems to recall not only humility like Jeremiah’s but also the biblical tradition of divine wisdom which is often seen as foolishness in the eyes of the world (1 Cor. 1:18–27).

In English literary tradition Vaughan, Traherne, Herbert, Herrick, and Crashaw among others adopt a posture of comparable humility: each writes poems using a child, or a childlike persona (see, e.g., Herrick’s “To his Saviour, a Child; a Present, by a Child” and Herbert’s “H. Baptisme II”). Chaucer’s Prioress, too, wants to be seen as a participant in this tradition. She realizes that God can be praised “by the mouth of children” as well as “by men of dignitee” (Prologue to the Prioress’s Tale) and so hopes that, like the child in her tale, she might sing a song of praise. But since she neglects her adult and spiritual responsibilities, the apostle Paul probably provides the aptest gloss: “In malice be ye children, but in understanding be ye men” (1 Cor. 14:20; cf. Matt. 10:16). Paul is expressing his displeasure that the Corinthians are still spiritual children at a time when they ought to have developed in the faith. As Augustine puts it, “Let your old age be childlike, and your childhood like old age; that is, that neither may your wisdom be with pride, nor your humility without wisdom” (Enarr. in Ps. 113.2 [NPNF 8.548]; see also Enarr. in Ps. 131.5 [NPNF 8.615).

The Bible has little to say about the innocence of children. Even Christ’s “Except you be converted, and become as little children” (Matt. 18:3) has more to do with humility and obedience than innocence per se. In traditional Christian thought, innocence is attached to infancy but not to childhood. The infant, although guilty of original sin, has not the capacity to turn the inclination to sin into actual sin; hence the phrase “the slaughter of the innocents” used of Herod’s murder of infants (cf. Augustine’s comment that “the infant’s innocence lies in the weakness of his body and not in the infant mind” (Conf., bk. 1).

The notion of childhood innocence arose in connection with the Enlightenment’s rejection of the doctrine of original sin and belief in naturally good human nature being perverted by evil social customs. Rousseau’s Emile is the key statement of this view, although Locke’s philosophy of education had already shifted the understanding of human nature away from original sin to human potentialities and so made the education of children more important—because more promising—than hitherto. Wordsworth’s “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” is an important Romantic expression of the Enlightenment view of childhood, as are Blake’s “Songs of Innocence” and “Songs of Experience,” which together reflect the author’s gnostic belief that good has to encompass evil but that innocence can be recovered on a higher level of inclusive gnosis.

Victorian literature is characterized by a sentimental view of children. Many of Dickens’s child protagonists, embodying a kind of Edenic innocence, act as parents to their elders, protecting adults who have become victims of an evil environment. Thus Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop embodies both the tradition of the innocence of the child—being contrasted with the evil Quilp and with all the ancient instruments of war which surround her in the Shop—and the tradition of the wisdom of the child—as in her reversing roles with her grandfather (chaps. 15 and 16).

By the end of the 19th cent., reaction to Victorian sentimentality gave rise to a more realistic (and sometimes Christian) portrayal of children as by nature inclined to evil rather than good and deserving to be made accountable for their actions. Literary examples of this changed attitude include Harry Graham’s Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes, Hilaire Belloc’s Bad Child’s Book of Beasts and More Beasts for Worse Children, and the stories of P. G. Wodehouse. Wodehouse’s early school stories show children as displaying the same good and evil characteristics found in adults.

Increasingly, though, his fiction portrays children as consistently adult in their capacity for evil but lacking in adult social conscience. Wodehouse’s spirited female adults encourage girl children to act on their antisocial impulses. His male adults view with dismay the destructive deeds of their boy counterparts, often expressing sympathy for Herod’s solution to the problem of their continued existence.

Freud’s theories of sexuality in infants support the new antisentimental view of childhood innocence which is reflected in such books as Richard Hughes’s High Wind in Jamaica. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is in the same tradition, having been written, the author says, as a deliberate refutation of the view of boyhood projected in R. M. Ballantyne’s popular adventure story, Coral Island (1858).

Bibliography. d’Ariès, P. Centuries of Childhood (1962); Marcus, L. S. Childhood and Cultural Despair: A Theme and Variations in Seventeenth Century Literature (1978); Stone, H. Dickens and the Invisible World (1979); Walquist, D. J. “The Best Copy of Adam: Seventeenth-Century Attitudes Toward Childhood and the Poetry of Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, and Traherne.” DAI 39 (1979), 6785A. David L. Jeffrey, A Dictionary of Biblical Tradition in English Literature (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1992).

 

 

 

The Pearl by John Steinbeck

img_0216Like many people, I read The Pearl in 7th grade English and like every single 7th grader on the planet, I was too young to fully appreciate it. I wish I could spank the genius who thought it was a good idea to force adult literature into junior high school curriculum.

Steinbeck’s short novel is a masterful morality tale and he says

“as with all retold tales that are in people’s hearts, there are only good and bad things and black and white things and good and evil things and no in between anywhere.”

At about 100 pages it can be read in a single sitting but please take the time to chew the words slowly because Steinbeck is both efficient and effective with equal power. A beautiful example is the passage below where the protagonist Kino begins to understand the dark implications of his new-found fortune –

“Every man suddenly became related to Kino’s pearl, and Kino’s pearl went into the dreams, the speculations, the schemes, the plans, the futures, the wishes, the needs, the lusts, the hungers, of everyone, and only one person stood in the way and that was Kino, so that he became curiously every man’s enemy. The news stirred up something infinitely black and evil in the town; the black distillate was like the scorpion, or like hunger in the smell of food, or like loneliness when love is withheld. The poison sacs of the town began to manufacture venom, and the town swelled and puffed with the pressure of it.”

I won’t spoil the plot, and you should really find a quiet afternoon or evening to enjoy and savor the acquired taste of deep, soul drenched writing.

You certainly didn’t in the 7th grade.


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck

rocinante1Wb

“I saw in their eyes something I was to see over and over in every part of the nation- a burning desire to go, to move, to get under way, anyplace, away from any Here. They spoke quietly of how they wanted to go someday, to move about, free and unanchored, not toward something but away from something. I saw this look and heard this yearning everywhere in every states I visited. Nearly every American hungers to move.”


Rick WilcoxWhen my wife and I visited the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, I was surprised by what turned out to be my favorite item. I’ve been a Steinbeck fan since I was introduced to him by way of The Pearl in seventh grade English. No other writer commands his sense of place and his eye for landscape in context of character is matchless. I read his masterpiece East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath a few summers ago. The museum memorabilia of these works and other favorites like The Red Pony certainly delighted me, but my heart was captured by an old GMC pickup with a large white camper on back.

Travels with Charley is one of those books I’ve always sort of known about but never truly considered. I knew he wrote it at the end of his career, and that was about it. Seeing the truck, which he named Rocinante after Don Quixote’s horse, made me dig in and boy am I glad I did. The book is about a 3 month, 10,000 mile road trip of America Steinbeck made with his French Poodle Charley.

In 1960 the world was exploding and Steinbeck was feeling lost. He was 58 years old and his health was failing. His masterworks were behind him and (what turned out to be) his final novel, The Winter of Our Discontent was finished. In letters to friends Steinbeck stated that he wrote Winter to address the moral degeneration of American culture. This of course was not a new theme for him and his social activism often had him on defense during the red paranoia of the McCarthy era.

John Steinbeck’s son Thom later said the real reason for the trip was that his dad thought he was dying and wanted to see the country one last time. I think that’s a disservice to the author. The fact is, Steinbeck lived almost another decade and remained active in using his celebrity to influence social cause. The book itself is clearly a blend of nonfiction travelogue and contrived conversations with people encountered along the way. It gives me no pause that some of them may be composites to give the author a vehicle to air out his story.

Standing back over fifty years later, it’s easy for me to see his agenda. Travels with Charley is a wake-up call to America. Steinbeck mined the heart of our country in search of its character and ultimately discovered more about himself than us. He realized near the end of the trip that his experience was entirely subjective and that he only really found what he brought to it. To his credit, the last years of his life found him actively engaged with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson as well as Martin Luther King Junior, among others.

He was out there still.

A few months after Steinbeck’s trip, Ernest Hemingway committed suicide. When Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize several months later, he called his friend William Faulkner (a previous winner) for a little advice about what to say. Faulkner said he couldn’t offer much help because “I was drunk at the time”. In just a matter of weeks Faulkner was dead too – largely from drinking himself to death as F. Scott Fitzgerald did a decade earlier.

In a private journal entry Steinbeck complained about the tendency – specifically here, Faulkner – for famous writers to lose touch with people.

He wrote

“A letter today enclosed an interview with Bill Faulkner which turns my stomach. When those old writing boys get to talking about The Artist, meaning themselves, I want to leave the profession. I don’t know whether the Nobel Prize does it or not, but if it does, thank God I have not been so honored. They really get to living up to themselves, wrapped and shellacked. Apparently they can’t have any human intercourse again.”

The self destructiveness of his contemporaries isn’t easily summarized, but a large measure must be placed on their brooding, angst-riddled and egotistical introspection. Steinbeck stands apart because he found the balance. He understood that yes, wisdom is gained only by the clear eyed examination of one’s heart, but he also knew that none of it mattered if it didn’t benefit other people – specifically, the common man.

To know Steinbeck is to know a man driving Rocinante down the highway with his shirt sleeves rolled up, one arm out the window, engaging the world.

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God.

 

 

 

 

The Creation by Franz Joseph Haydn (1798)

Distant Echo by Josephine R. Unglaub

THE CREATION
Franz Joseph Haydn

Now heav’n in fullest glory shone;
earth smiles in all her rich attire.
The room of air with fowl is fill’d,
the water swell’d by shoals of fish;
by heavy beasts the ground is trod.
But for all its glory, “the work was not complete.”
There wanted yet that wond’rous being,
that grateful should God’s pow’r admire,
with heart and voice his goodness praise.


Man is the pinnacle of creation because he alone is made in the image of God. This is sufficient to establish his worth, whether his esteem agrees or not.  There are many bright souls whose gifts are apparent and on display, and we reward these people with praise.  This works well as long as conditions are right, but unlike God, ours is a conditional love.  We are harsh and judgmental, beating each other down to a form where God’s image is barely recognizable.

This is where miracles occur.  The image of God is inextinguishable.  As John Steinbeck wrote in The Grapes of Wrath

For man, unlike any other thing organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments. This you may say of man — when theories change and crash, when schools, philosophies, when narrow dark alleys of thought, national, religious, economic, grow and disintegrate, man reaches, stumbles forward, painfully, mistakenly sometimes. Having stepped forward, he may slip back, but only half a step, never the full step back. This you may say and know it and know it.

Franz Joseph Haydn was such a man

Terry Glaspey explains in 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know :

Writing music never came as easily for Haydn as it did for his contemporary, Mozart, from whom great music seemed to pour effortlessly. Ever industrious, Haydn had to work hard throughout his life, disciplining himself to keep regular hours for composing every day. When inspiration failed to come, he would pray for God’s help.

The result of his hard work and his prayers is an almost bewilderingly large number of pieces of various kinds, which sustain a very high level of consistency in their quality. Haydn was one of the most productive composers in history because he was one of the hardest working. His output includes 104 symphonies, more than sixty-eight string quartets (these two forms he brought to a perfection never heard before), more than one hundred piano pieces, a dozen masses, and two dozen operas. His renown grew to the point where he was in demand throughout Europe, and he even spent a number of very productive years in England, where some of his most accomplished symphonies were written.

Those who knew Haydn were always struck by his geniality and kind nature, joyous embrace of life, and love of good food, good music, and good company. He loved to joke and play pranks on his friends, and this mischievousness shows itself in many of his compositions. He seemed to enjoy making audiences smile, and surprising them with the playfulness that he worked into the pieces. For his famous Surprise symphony (no. 94, 1791), he inserted a jarring chord meant to awaken any listeners who had been lulled to sleep. His Clock symphony (no. 101, 1793–94) has the stately beat of a pendulum clock, and La Poule (no. 83, 1785) imitates the sound of a clucking hen. When some church leaders criticized his music for not being serious enough, he replied, “God gave me a cheerful heart, so he will surely forgive me if I serve him cheerfully.”2 Mozart, with whom he shared a deep and lasting friendship, referred to him as “Papa Haydn,” and the name caught on with his admirers. When the younger Mozart died, Haydn grieved the loss deeply and spoke with unstinting praise of his talent. Theirs was a relationship of respect and admiration rather than competition.

His cheerfulness was not the result of his circumstances, for Haydn did not have an easy life. He experienced extreme poverty while trying to establish his musical career, he was married for forty years to a woman who showed no interest or appreciation for his music and was even known to roll up his written musical scores in order to use them to curl her hair, and he sometimes worked for patrons who treated him more like a slave than a man of genius. But through it all, the music he composed was a reflection of his personality: beautiful and orderly but also cheerful, joyous, and with a good bit of wit and humor.

How has the image of God emerged through your life?


John 1: 1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

D I G  D E E P E R


The Creation

Franz Joseph Haydn

 

 

Franz Joseph Haydn

(1732–1809) Austrian composer; luminary of Western music of the classical era

In early life Haydn was a choirboy at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He subsequently studied the theoretical works of Fux and Matthesohn and studied composition under Porpora. After having as patrons Baron K. J. Furnberg and Count F. M. Morzin, Haydn began service in the house of Prince Esterhazy, where he became first kapellmeister (chapelmaster) by 1766. Although Haydn had become wealthy, internationally known, and virtually independent by 1790, he remained in the service of the Esterhazys until his retirement in 1801. His contribution as composer of opera, symphonic, and chamber music is of the highest caliber, approaching that of Ludwig van Beethoven and Wolfgang Mozart.

Haydn’s music for the church spans nearly his whole career. He wrote fourteen masses, a Stabat Mater, two Te Deums, two major oratorios: The Creation (1798), his most popular choral work, and the secular The Seasons (1801). He also composed offertories, cantatas, and The Seven Last Words-originally seven instrumental sonatas written for the cathedral of Cadiz, later rescored as String Quartets, Op. 51 and as an oratorio with soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

Among his best-known masses are the “Great Organ Mass” (Mass in Honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 1766), the St. Cecilia Mass (1770), the Mass in Time of War (1796), the “Lord Nelson Mass” (Missa in Angustiis, 1798), and the Harmony Mass (1802).

His techniques are of great historical importance. His uses of fugue, for example, often are symphonic in technique, while operatic influences come into many of his arias. Choral pieces are often written in sonata style, involving the contrasts and developments/recapitulations of instrumental music. His instrumental scorings are very interesting and colorful, particularly in uses of wind instruments.

The Creation

Fortunately, shortly before his composing days were over, Haydn was given a religious text that lent itself perfectly to his greatest gifts as a composer. While in England, inspired by Handel’s oratorios, he began to think of composing an oratorio. He asked his friend and colleague François Hippolyte Barthelemon for advice concerning a subject for an oratorio. Barthelemon picked up a Bible and said, “There, take that, and begin at the beginning” (Landon 4, p. 117). As it turned out, that is what Haydn did—quite coincidentally. Just before he left England, he received a libretto on the subject of the Creation written by an unknown English author who had probably intended it for Handel. We do not know why Handel did nothing with it—or even if he received it. It probably came to Haydn via Salomon. Haydn took the libretto with him back to Vienna. Baron van Swieten, who had first introduced Haydn to Handel’s oratorios back in the ’80s, was as enthusiastic as Haydn about the project. Swieten translated the original English libretto into German, and then, after Haydn had composed the music to the German text, he adapted the original English text to fit the music. The score was published in 1800 with both the German and English texts set to the music.

The Creation is divided into three parts. (See the Appendix for an outline of the entire oratorio.) Part I tells of the first four days of Creation, Part II of days five and six, and Part III of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The core text of Parts I and II comes from the Creation story in Genesis 1 and 2:7. Each day begins with a secco recitative in which one of the three soloists (each representing an angel) tells, directly from Genesis, what God did that day. Their proclamation of God’s creative act is followed by two types of response: first, amazed and delighted description (accompanied recitative or aria); then, grateful praise (chorus). Books VII and VIII of Milton’s Paradise Lost were the source of inspiration for some of the response texts, and nos. 12, 13, and 27 are from the Psalms. Although each day includes all three components—proclamation, description, and praise—the musical structure of each day varies considerably. Only the second and fourth days follow the “typical” structure of secco recitative (proclamation), accompanied recitative or aria (description), and chorus (praise).

Part I

Part I begins with one of Haydn’s greatest challenges—an instrumental depiction of chaos—which resulted in one of his greatest achievements. Just as the disordered elements in the dark void struggled for form before God spoke, so do the empty C octave at the beginning and the disordered musical elements that follow struggle for sonata form and the “light” of C major tonality. Both the cosmic and the musical struggle are futile until God speaks a creative word: “Let there be light.” The blazing C major chord on “light” is the greatest surprise in all of Haydn’s music, just as light devouring darkness at God’s word was the greatest surprise in the creation story.

The telling of God’s act on Day One is followed by an aria with chorus in which description and praise are combined. The tune the choir sings on the words “A new created world” is one of Haydn’s simplest, and yet most profound. Like Donald Tovey “I am proud to ally myself with the company of persons who are as completely bowled over by it as by anything in Bach’s B minor Mass.”

Day Two illustrates the “typical” structure, and Day Three follows with what might be called a double version of the typical structure: act—description/act—description—praise. The double structure is due to the two parts of God’s act on that day—the creation of bodies of water and dry land. In addition Day Three has a recitative that introduces the chorus of praise. Day Four follows, again with the typical structure. Although Haydn gave it no special structure, he did underscore its special position as the end of Part I by framing it with two of the highlights of the oratorio—the orchestral depiction of the sunrise at the beginning, and at the end, the splendid and ever-popular chorus celebrating cosmic order, “The heavens are telling the glory of God.” The chorus not only concludes Day Four; it is also the climax of praise that marks the end of the creation of inanimate things.

Part II

Both of the days in Part II have variants of the double structure. Day Five has the creation of fish and birds, but there is a different reason for its double structure. God’s words on this day include the command, “Be fruitful.” So Haydn omitted description of the fish. Instead he composed an arioso for God’s words (uniquely scored for violas I and II, cellos I and II, and string basses). That is followed by an introduction to a trio in which the angel soloists contemplate God’s work prior to the angelic chorus of praise.

The sixth day—the creation of animals and humans—has the most elaborate structure of all for two reasons: it includes the creation of humans, and it meditates on the whole of God’s “glorious work.” So after the description of animals (no. 21) there is another aria (no. 22) that briefly summarizes the whole and introduces the creation of Adam.

Now heav’n in fullest glory shone;
earth smiles in all her rich attire.
The room of air with fowl is fill’d,
the water swell’d by shoals of fish;
by heavy beasts the ground is trod.

But for all its glory, “the work was not complete.”

There wanted yet that wond’rous being,
that grateful should God’s pow’r admire,
with heart and voice his goodness praise.

After this introduction, the creation of Adam is presented in the normal pattern of proclamation (no. 23) and description (no. 24), but the third component, praise, is enlarged considerably. First, it is preceded by an introductory recitative (no. 25), which turns our attention back to the whole with the words from Genesis 1:31—“And God saw ev’ry thing that he had made; and behold, it was very good,” and an allusion to Job 38:7—“and the heav’nly choir, in song divine, clos’d the sixth day.” This is followed by the expected chorus of praise. But there is more. After the chorus, the three angels meditate on God’s power and mercy in the words of Psalm 104:27–30. Then the angel chorus returns with the previous chorus’s words and music (“Achieved is the glorious work”). But soon the chorus goes on to a glorious climax with new words (“Glory to his name forever”) and new music (a mighty fugue).

Part III

The story from Genesis 1 finished, the librettist turned to Books IV and V of Paradise Lost for the picture of Adam and Eve in Eden in Part III. With just six numbers, it is by far the shortest of the three parts. It has a double structure like the fifth and sixth days, but God’s glorious work has already been completed, so the first component of the pattern, God’s act, is missing. Instead it begins with an accompanied recitative whose function is both descriptive and introductory. As usual in Haydn’s descriptive recitatives, the orchestra depicts the words instrumentally before they are sung. Here a ravishingly beautiful flute trio accompanied by pizzicato strings depicts the “rosy mantle” of “morning young and fair” and the “pure harmony” that descends “from the celestial vaults” upon the newly created earth. Then the recitative (sung by Uriel) turns our attention to the “blissful pair” who will utter “a louder praise of God,” and invites all the angels to join them: “Then let our voices ring, united with their song!” Indeed they do! Adam and Eve, the angel choir, and all creation join in singing what Tovey called the greatest movement that Haydn ever wrote!

After this one cannot help but think the rest can only be anti-climactic and superfluous. It may be anti-climactic, but it is not superfluous. The human creature is unique in all creation. Genesis points out that uniqueness by telling us not only that Adam was created out of the dust of the earth on the same day as the animals, but also that God breathed into him the breath of life and made him in God’s own image. For want of better terminology, we can say that human nature has a “high” and a “low” aspect, provided we do not denigrate the “low.” Like everything else, God pronounced it good. So the next two numbers complete the picture of the human creature by showing its “low” aspect. Adam and Eve now sing by themselves to each other, not, as in their previous duet, to God with the angels. Their music is correspondingly “lower”—more earthy and folksy—without any suggestion that “lower” somehow falls outside of that which God pronounced good.

Theologian Helmut Thielicke wrote that Genesis “recognizes our earthy, beastly side.” If The Creation ended with the great duet and chorus (no. 30), it would have presented a one-sided view of humans as (in Thielicke’s words) “a spiritual being who somehow hovers above all that is creaturely.” But by going on to nos. 31 and 32, it affirms the biblical view that “the whales, the sparrows, and Homo sapiens are all created together on the same sixth day of creation and thus included in a whole.” Therefore the “struggle of nature also determines our human life, that we too are controlled by instincts and urges, needs and desires, just as are the birds and the beasts of the field.” Haydn said and believed that “an infinite God would surely have mercy on his finite creature, pardoning dust for being dust.” And he added, “These thoughts cheer me,” just as Thielicke said he was cheered “beyond all measure” that “the Lord’s Prayer does not pretend that we are only religious people, but that we have the urge to eat—again like the animals—that we must have our daily ration of bread.”

The picture of humanity completed, a final chorus of praise is in order. But first a small recitative precedes it—not to introduce it, but to give listeners a warning, a much-needed warning at a time when there was much “enlightened” optimism about human nature.

O happy pair, and always happy yet,
if not misled by false conceit,
ye strive at more, as granted is,
and more to know, as know ye should.

Sources and Resources

D.S. Cushman, “Haydn, Franz Joseph,” ed. J.D. Douglas and Philip W. Comfort, Who’s Who in Christian History (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1992), 305–306.

Calvin R. Stapert, Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2014), 237–241.

Greenburg, Robert. Haydn: His Life and Music. DVD. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2000.
Hogwood, Christopher, Emma Kirby, Anthony Rolfe Johnson, and Michael George. Haydn—The Creation: Orchestra of the Academy of Ancient Music. DVD. Directed by Chris Hunt. London: Decca Classics, 2007.
Stapert, Calvin R. Playing Before the Lord: The Life and Work of Joseph Haydn. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2014.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

 

Josephine R. Unglaub

 

Josephine R. Unglaub
Josephine R. Unglaub

Art: Distant Echo

Josephine Unglaub is a German-based artist and photographer with a passion for surrealism. Her work can be found here: https://lemanshots.wordpress.com

 

 

Terry Glaspey

 

Terry Glaspey

I’m really looking forward to discussing my book, “75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know,” with the members of Literary Life Book Club. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and perspectives on some of the art, music, and literature you’ll discover in the book. I’m interested in how it speaks to you in your life and the ways it inspires, challenges, or maybe even annoys you! I’ll try to share some “deleted scenes” stuff I had to leave out and will tell a few stories about what I experienced while doing the writing and research. Hope that many of you can join us as we look at he stories behind some truly wonderful art.

Let’s explore together!

Terry

Join the discussion with Terry on Facebook HERE

Terry Glaspey is a writer, an editor, a creative mentor, and someone who finds various forms of art—painting, films, novels, poetry, and music—to be some of the places where he most deeply connects with God.

He has a master’s degree in history from the University of Oregon (Go Ducks!), as well as undergraduate degrees emphasizing counseling and pastoral studies.

He has written over a dozen books, including 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know:  Fascinating Stories Behind Great Art, Music, Literature, and Film, Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, The Prayers of Jane Austen, 25 Keys to Life-Changing Prayer, Bible Basics for Everyone, and others.

Terry enjoys writing and speaking about a variety of topics including creativity and spirituality, the artistic heritage of the Christian faith, the writing of C.S. Lewis, and creative approaches to apologetics.

He serves on the board of directors of the Society to Explore and Record Church History and is listed in Who’s Who in America Terry has been the recipient of a number of awards, including a distinguished alumni award and the Advanced Speakers and Writers Editor of the Year award.

Terry has two daughters and lives in Eugene, Oregon.

Dig Deeper at TerryGlaspey.com

 

Some of the greatest painters, musicians, architects, writers, filmmakers, and poets have taken their inspiration from their faith and impacted millions of people with their stunning creations. Now readers can discover the stories behind seventy-five of these masterpieces and the artists who created them. From the art of the Roman catacombs to Rembrandt to Makoto Fujimura; from Gregorian Chant to Bach to U2; from John Bunyan and John Donne to Flannery O’Connor and Frederick Buechner; this book unveils the rich and varied artistic heritage left by believers who were masters at their craft.

Terry Glaspey, 75 Masterpieces Every Christian Should Know: The Fascinating Stories behind Great Works of Art, Literature, Music, and Film (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015).

Order it HERE today.