‘The Finns pronounce it: “SOO-belus,”’ he said.
The woman in front made an instant pirouette
on her posterior. ‘You are Finnish!’ she cried.
He apologised. ‘Sorry. No.’ She must have thought
she’d met a fellow countryman, but we
were foreigners, too. Strange
that we should be there to celebrate
the day that foreign troops had left Vienna.
On this day, every wonder that the city
has to offer is a gift, and no-one pays
for art or prose or music. So we came
to see the Vienna Symphony play Sibelius
and, in that far-off place, I thought of home
for, amateur though I was, I’d played
some works of his. At seventeen
his Symphony Number Two had boiled my blood.
At nineteen, Number Seven cooled my passions
and now, at twenty-one, his Fifth rejoiced
as those who heard it first rejoiced to hear
the War was over. Seven holds the first place
in my heart, though. Each time I hear the grumble
of the kettle-drum and the grinding of the
low gears and the stuttering ascent
to that first muted dissonance, I feel again
the joy of being home though still in exile.
First published in Sarsvati