Afgelopen maandag had ik het voorrecht – want zo mag dat gerust genoemd worden – om in het Amsterdamse Concertgebouw aanwezig te zijn bij een optreden van de beroemde Amerikaanse sopraan Renée Fleming. Ze zong, begeleid door het Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, onder andere een prachtig stuk van de bekende Amerikaanse componist Samuel Barber (1910 – 1981), Knoxville: Summer of 1915. De tekst is ontleend aan de grote autobiografische roman “A death in the family”van de schrijver-dichter James Agee (1909 – 1955). Het is een fraai en weemoedig stuk muziek dat hier ook door Renee Fleming gezongen wordt. De schoonheid ervan komt het meest tot zijn recht als de tekst, zoals ze gezongen wordt, enigszins gevolgd kan worden. Vandaar dat ik die hier integraal en gearceerd heb afgedrukt.
(We are talking now of summer evenings in Knoxville, Tennessee, in the time I lived there so successfully disguised to myself as a child.)
It has become that time of evening when people sit on their porches, rocking gently and talking gently and watching the street and the standing up into their sphere of possession of the trees, of birds hung havens, hangars. People go by; things go by. A horse, drawing a buggy, breaking his hollow iron music on the asphalt; a loud auto; a quiet auto; people in pairs, not in a hurry, scuffling, switching their weight of aestival body, talking casually, the taste hovering over them of vanilla, strawberry, pasteboard and starched milk, the image upon them of lovers and horsemen, squared with clowns in hueless amber.
A street car raising its iron moan; stopping, belling and starting; stertorous; rousing and raising again its iron increasing moan and swimming its gold windows and straw seats on past and past and past, the bleak spark crackling and cursing above it like a small malignant spirit set to dog its tracks; the iron whine rises on rising speed; still risen, faints ; halts, the faint stinging bell; rises again, still fainter, fainting, lifting, lifts, faints forgone: forgotten.
Now is the night one blue dew. Now is the night one blue dew, my father has drained, he has coiled the hose.
Low on the length of lawns, a frailing of fire who breathes. Parents on porches: rock and rock: From damp strings morning glories : hang their ancient faces.
The dry and exalted noise of the locusts from all the air at once enchants my eardrums.
On the rough wet grass of the back yard my father and mother have spread quilts.
We all lie there, my mother, my father, my uncle, my aunt, and I too am lying there. First we were sitting up, then one of us lay down, and then we all lay down, on our stomachs, or on our sides, or on our backs, and they have kept on talking. They are not talking much, and the talk is quiet, of nothing in particular, of nothing at all in particular, of nothing at all. The stars are wide and alive, they seem each like a smile of great sweetness, and they seem very near. All my people are larger bodies than mine, quiet, with voices gentle and meaningless like the voices of sleeping birds.
One is an artist, he is living at home. One is a musician, she is living at home. One is my mother who is good to me. One is my father who is good to me.
By some chance, here they are, all on this earth; and who shall ever tell the sorrow of being on this earth, lying, on quilts, on the grass, in a summer evening, among the sounds of night.
May god bless my people, my uncle, my aunt, my mother, my good father, oh, remember them kindly in their time of trouble; and in the hour of their taking away.
After a little I am taken in and put to bed. Sleep, soft smiling, draws me unto her: and those receive me, who quietly treat me, as one familiar and well-beloved in that home: but will not, oh, will not, not now, not ever; but will not ever tell me who I am.