Edmund Bolton’s Palinode – (2)

Temperance” from “The Allegory of Good and Bad Government” (c. 1338) by Ambrogio Lorenzetti in the Palazzo Pubblico, Siena, Italy


As withereth the primrose by the river,
As fadeth summer’s sun from gliding fountains,
As vanisheth the light-blown bubble ever,
As melteth snow upon the mossy mountains:
So melts, so vanishes, so fades, so withers
The rose, the shine, the bubble and the snow
Of praise, pomp, glory, joy – which short life gathers –
Fair praise, vain pomp, sweet glory, brittle joy.
The withered primrose by the mourning river,
The faded summer’s sun from weeping fountains,
The light-blown bubble, vanishéd for ever,
The molten snow upon the naked mountains,
Are emblems that the treasures we up-lay
Soon wither, vanish, fade and melt away.

For as the snow, whose lawn did overspread
The ambitious hills, which giant-like did threat
To pierce the heaven with their aspiring head,
Naked and bare doth leave their craggy seat;
Whenas the bubble, which did empty fly
The dalliance of the undiscernéd wind,
On whose calm rolling waves it did rely,
Hath shipwreck made, where it did dalliance find;
And when the sunshine, which dissolved the snow,
Coloured the bubble with a pleasant vary,
And made the rathe and timely primrose grow,
Swarth clouds withdrawn (which longer time do tarry) –
Oh, what is praise, pomp, glory, joy, but so
As shine by fountains, bubbles, flowers or snow?

(Edmund Bolton (c.1575-c.1633))

See earlier notes on this poem – here

AG: So let’s do that together, shall we? [a class recitation of Edmund Bolton’s  “Palinode]  It’s like music, though. One, two, three – “Like to a falling star…”…”As shine by fountains, bubbles, flowers or snow?”

It’s really balanced, it’s really balanced, like a nice see-saw. They must have missed, we must have missed a period after,  “Is straight called in, and paid to night”, there must be three.. again.

One more time, let’s do it one more time – because I made a mistake, I said “Or bubbles..”, I don’t know, “..bubbles which on water stood”.. or,  “like a wind that chafes the flood” – I don’t know what I said wrong. What did I say wrong?

Student:  Single “bubble” dies    ( (and) everybody just followed me)

AG: Oh, “the bubble dies”, okay.  (They did?).  Okay – one-two-three (Allen and the class read the poem in unison once again)

That’s a perfect thing for singing. I mean, it’s a perfect lyric. Why don’t you try and write the music for it? – Yeah – I’d love to hear it sung – [ Allen begins..] – “Like to the fresh spring’s..”  “Like to the falling of a star” (and you’ve got the lyric on “fall”) – or  “as the flight of as eagles are” (you know, one would fall and one would rise) and then one would be like “the fresh spring’s gaudy hue” and one would be staccato, or something – [sings] “Or silver drops of morning dew”. – “Bubbles which on…”  Then you get that “Bubbles which on water stood”  (so you get a little bubbly sound on that one)  – or  “Bubbles which on water stood” – E’en such is man” – “E’en such is man”  (you see what cadence comes, so “e’en such”, (or, above, da-da da-dada-da,  then, it reverses –  “E‘en such” –  “E’en such is man” ) – It’s so pretty.. I think this is a…  (it)  haunts me, all the time. I keep wanting to write like that, sometime, or show it to (Bob) Dylan, or something. You want to show it  to Mick Jagger, or something, and say, “Try that!”, “Taste that in your Broadway show  What would someone like Jagger do with that (because it’s so pretty) – or Donovan? – You know it’s as pretty as anything they’ve produced. They could do something great with it.

[Audio for the above can be heard here. beginning at approximately seventy-four-and-three-quarter minutes  in and concluding at approximately seventy-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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