Bruce Vogt (BA HONOURS MUSIC, 1974;[ MASTER
OF MUSIC, U.OF TORONTO])
Song of Damjana
[With no apologies whatsoever to Longfellow]
Sing I now of dauntless Bratuz!
Sing with phrases ostentatious;
Sing to praise and make immortal;
Sing to codify precisely.
Well I know my song may falter;
Great the task, a hack the poet.
Hagood Hardy playing Chopin.
It is fortunate our subject
Has a taste for incongruities.
In time of war, then first we see her.
But a child for all her cares, yet
Married to the café's rhythms,
Taking in a simple lesson:
Humankind and rationality
Bartókian values planted early
Give enduring consolation:
Rhythms of life are ever tragic,
But in sources, pure and vital
Where communal values linger,
Can be found some inspiration:
They become our consolation.
Guggenheim-empowered she came here
To this continent be-numbing.
Yet with courage she embraced it:
Gave her soul to Howard Johnson,
Gave her heart to Perry Mason.
Then with fearless, fateful prescience
Did she choose a home in London
'Midst us gentle, sweet Canadians.
We are known for our goodness,
For our bounteous commonality,
For our never-ending tolerance,
For our freedom from aggression,
For our stultifying passivity.
Perhaps it seemed to Damjanina
We were but a race of zombies:
Perhaps we were a race of zombies.
But what tools had she brought with her
For to fight this sweet passivity!
First she brought her ever-active
Never off-line curiosity
For to give with resolution
Gould and Frye back to Canadians.
Next there was her matchless energy
Which inspires us decades later.
All who pass through its pulsation
Can remain unaltered never,
Can no more be simply simple.
It seemed clear to us disciples
That in circa 1600
She would not have lived past 30:
They would certainly have burnt her.
Thirdly was her pedagogy
With its lethal combination
Of her myriad musical insights
With her powers of liberation
For our bodies self-imprisoned.
With these, in perpetual counterpoint
Was her world of western culture,
Which she gave presto feroce,
With Socratic penetration.
Then there was her never-ending
Talent for a shocked reaction
To the virtuosic ignorance
Which she found in us, her students:
"You have never heard of Dante?
Kåndinsky, Matisse, Brancusi?
Emerson or yet Calvino?"
What a shock to all of us! To
Have a mentor of such intellect
Who (before there were such creatures)
Was a daunting semiotician
So sing we all now of this mentor,
Who has left us ever altered,
Shocked us into greater striving,
Given freely, gifts so precious.
Let her now enjoy the loss of
Student needs, ideals, ambitions:
She belongs to all the world.
But lét us too, with grateful wonder
Insist an our perpetual slavery
To hér and to her glorious legacy.
We wish no freedom from this memory:
To bé enslaved by such a legacy
Is tó be free from enervation.
And só con molto strepitoso
Let us raise our glasses skyward.
Let us celebrate this fellowship
Of a mentor and apprentices.
Let us thank her for her gifts: there
Are no words for gifts so priceless.
Gifts of planned non-obsolescence.
Yet wórds are all we have to utter.
Such a simple, quiet message,
Seven words so quiet and artless,
Words that are not smart or clever:
"Dr. B., we thank you ever."
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