A shadow and a dream

November seems to be the time to remember those we love and honor.  All Saints and All Souls days are just behind us; Veteran’s Day is just ahead. The exuberance of spring and summer are past, the earth’s winter quiet approaches.  Melancholic might be the mood, but I sometimes appreciate the perspective of melancholy.  The ancient Greeks after all believed that an imbalance in the four humors – choleric, melancholic, sanguine, and phlegmatic – caused disease.  They connected each of the humors with a season, and, no surprise, melancholia was attached to autumn for them.  Melancholy as part of a balance of “humors” needed for our wholeness is not something I’ve ever thought about before.

John Tavener’s elegiac work, Song for Athene, was composed after the tragic death of a young actress and made famous at the funeral for Princess Diana.  Grief has turned to melancholy in this music and text, both of which communicate, for me at least, a sense of being drawn into something immense.  The immensity of God’s love for us?  Tavener had heard Athene reading Shakespeare not long before her death, and used a text which drew inspiration from the Orthodox church to which they both belonged and Shakespeare.

Alleluia. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.  (Hamlet, V:ii and In paradisum)
Alleluia. Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
Alleluia. Give rest, O Lord, to your servant, who has fallen asleep.  (Orthodox funeral)
Alleluia. The Choir of Saints have found the well-spring of life and door of Paradise.
Alleluia. Life: a shadow and a dream.    (Hamlet, II:ii)
Alleluia. Weeping at the grave creates the song: Alleluia. Come, enjoy rewards and crowns I have prepared for you.  Alleluia.    (Orthodox funeral)

Life: a shadow and a dream is the line that might be the most melancholic of all.  Hamlet’s gloominess is condensed into a few short words on the nature of life.  That life in which we are merely players is fragile, tenuous, fleeting.SonyaFirst004

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St. Alban’s choirs will sing Tavener’s work this Sunday.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=itDW7U9ZzIA

This entry was posted in Sonya Subbayya Sutton and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to A shadow and a dream

  1. Carlyle Gill says:

    Reminds me of Buddhism’s wisdom about impermanence. Never easy to accept about ourselves or those we love.

  2. We all love Sony’s gift for music and the beauty she brings to our worship. Lest her scholarship and depth of wisdom go unappreciated, consider what a beautiful, thoughtful little devotion she has given us today.

  3. Jo says:

    Yet even at the grave, we make our song: Alleluia.

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