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Monday, July 30, 2007

Beer and Late Nights and Hopeless Love

Someone else has been listening to people sing Henry Purcell.

And she writes for the Economist:

'Everything in nature springs up, flourishes, dies, springs up again: we do the same. Bodies form and decay all the time. What the spirit does, being outside nature, has the potential to be much more interesting. But since we have forgotten that life, if we ever knew it, we are left with physical dissolution, and we don’t like it much.

Our ancestors were much better at facing this, and, in their sheer melancholy, celebrating it. Consider the lovely “Funeral Sentences” of Henry Purcell, set to the words of Isaiah:

Man that is born of a woman
Hath but a short time to live,
And is full of misery.
He cometh up, and is cut down like a flow’r;
He fleeth as it were a shadow,
And ne’er continueth in one stay.

On “ne’er continueth” Purcell makes the tenors swoop in with all the plangency that beer and late nights and hopeless love can give them. It sums up how much we want to cling to life―and how death, all the same, stalks and claws at us on every side.'