Sibelius 7

‘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



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