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For just a few bars you can hear the fury
With which he crossed the Emperor’s name
Off the Eroica. If you first have that,
Then later Florestan and Leonore
Can come back to each other’s arms.
It’s said of him he wrote only one opera
And yet he wrote the only opera,
But here, too, we are listening to voices:
It’s just that they’ve been turned to wood and catgut
Like metamorphoses from Ovid.
Out of the tumult drifts serenity
All the more calm from being so hard-won:
Sweetness from bitterness, a prisoner
Released into the sunlight.
As from the white break of the vault there slides
The surf rider
Trailing his seaside fingertips
Like a stylus through the wave’s green face,
Out of the conflict a new concord comes
With an extra grace,
A bride’s glide,
Like the peaceful grief on the Madonna’s lips
Of the St Peter’s Pietà.
It’s sixty years since I first heard the Seventh
And knew I would write poetry for life,
And we, for all that time, have known each other,
And for most of it been man and wife,
And, now it has been proved not even I
Could quite destroy all that,
We are still here, together for as long
As life permits. Next stop, eternity:
Which could be what he’s trying to say now.
Did he know his death was close? No one can tell.
He might have thought it had already come
When deafness did. This loveliness might sound
Like a summation, but we should beware
Of teleology. He left a sketch
For a Tenth symphony. Art masters have
Rarely packed up to leave the studio:
They live in it, and always would do more.
Though they might turn their faces to the wall,
They sing in silence. After this last note
Silence returns, but is not the same void
We heard before the start. In silence squared
We rise up from the couch and live again,
As if on the first day we ever touched.

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