The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I've already written a few posts concerning a classical composer who's dear to my heart (and not just for obvious reasons), Aram Khachaturian. There is another, similarly little known, composer who shares a place with him in the classical pantheon: Antonin Dvorák (pronounced Dvorzhak).

(First, a qualification: by "little known" I mean little known to all but the most ardent votaries of classical music. It would be absurd to say that Khachaturian or Dvorák are as well known in popular culture as Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, etc).

I recently played one of my very favourite classical pieces, Dvorák's 9th Symphony, known as the "New World" Symphony. It is in my opinion the most "perfect" piece. By this I mean that from start to finish, it is a masterpiece, without a second wasted. Besides this, I first discovered the piece back in my 3rd year, so it has the nostalgic appeal (especially the 2nd movement, Largo). My 3rd year was one in which much happened and much changed for the better, and the music is inextricably linked to that time. The human mind is a curious thing indeed.

On a less sappy note, I'm reading tons of Restoration literature (also a favourite of mine). I just finished reading a little known play by Samuel Tuke, The Adventure of Five Hours. It's no Hamlet, but an enjoyable and readable play.
I know I'll get a lot of heat for this, but it must be said: Shakespeare is undoubtedly the greatest dramatist, but I find that Restoration drama is, on the whole, far more readable. I rarely find myself scratching my head trying to figure out what an expression means, for example. The Restoration comedies are also actually funny, and in general the drama of the period is more refined and polished. It's a curious matter since many of these playwrights are writing only two or three generations after Jonson, Shakespeare, and Middleton (by the way, reading Middleton's comedies was like walking through mud!).

In my Romantic poetry class, we finished reading Wordsworth's Prelude. It is not the greatest work of literature, but I admire Wordsworth when he is at his best. I'm inclined to agree with A.C. Bradley's assessment, i.e., that Wordsworth was not our best poet, but surely the most original. Next week, we will cross the plains into the heroic world of Byron's Don Juan, a work that is nearly as long as Homer's Odyssey. I look forward to it.


Blogger Dr J said...

Wordsworth was our most original poet? Tsk, tsk, tsk.... I can think of many more "original" poets. Emily D., for one; Robert B., for another. And what of Mr Hopkins, or Mr Spenser?

Word(s)y had his virtues, but originality, I fear was seldom one of them, even if that assessment discords with the venerable, and certainly estimable, Mr Bradley. Wordsworth, or as we used to call him in my undergrad days, "Wordswords," was the literary equivalent of Richard Burton: when he was ON, he was stunning; when he was off, my Lord oh Darwin, was he OFF. He rarely allowedly much room in-between.

Added, sorry, caveat: Byron's weaknesses, I think, are mitigated by his youth; he possessed magnificent talent and, sadly, a short life. Wordsy, methinks, possessed exactly the opposite.

2:39 AM  
Blogger Pious Labours said...

Wordswords, haha. That's a good one.
I tend to agree with you: When Wordsy was on, he was great, but he was rarely so (my metaphor is "he had a low batting average, but a lotta homers").
Yes, one thing Wordsy had that the other Romantics didn't was time and age. I think he's one of the few cases where one is glad he died when he did, simply so he wouldn't write anymore.

10:58 AM  

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