Thursday, April 7, 2011

Capriccio - Rita Dove

Miklos the Magnificent,
otherwise known as Nikolaus Josef
of the clan Salamon in the Czallokoz
and successor to the seat of Esterhazy in Galanta,
royal instigator of the Baroque castle at Fertod,
Lieutenant Field Marshall of the Austrian Empire (decorated),
musician (practiced), sober, honest,
and educated by Jesuits,

had a fantasy: to assemble an array
of Nature's eccentricities - a dwarf, an African perhaps a gypsy
or ferocious Turk or flat-faced Borneo,
summoning each before him dressed in the deep blue and red livery
of the House of Esterhazy
to see who among them would bear
with the most decorum
the imperial trappings.

He would hold a masquerade.
Haydn could work up an opera.

All this transpired within a crescent
of ochre stone run aground in the marshlands of Neusiedlersee,
rural western Hungary,
in the year 1785


from Sonata Mulatica Rita Dove, former United States Poet Laureate has written a collection of poems and a play on the life of George Bridgetower a violin prodigy born to a white European woman and (in her words) a black "African Prince." This violinist travels through the courts of 18th and 19th century Europe and inspires Beethoven to write his Kreutzer Sonata. This poem appears early in the collection and describes the world that Bridgetower will enter.

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