Sonnet #2 for the Unknown Helper (reflections on Mahler)

The emerging antagonism between music and its language reveals a rift within society. The irreconcilability of the inward and the outward can no longer be harmonized spiritually, as in the classical age. This induces in Mahler that unhappy consciousness that that age believed overcome. The historical hour no longer allows it to see human destiny as reconcilable in the existing conditions with the institutional powers that force human beings, if they would earn their livings, into conditions contrary to them in which they can nowhere find themselves. This message was hammered, to the point of physical destruction, into a composer confined to the vacations months by a music business that even as Director of the Vienna Opera and star conductor he did not cease to despise.

T. W. Adorno, Mahler: a Musical Physiognomy

The sun peers down in the middle of the day
On this the bird of paradise for rent
Maternal care eternal, need to stay
A refugee was to the family sent.
A free atom of care, found anywhere
Men find oil. Then they clear the land
Of needless Ogoni or other people, whom they scare
Away from their plan: a desert without sand.
She’s paid fairly, yet that somehow doesn’t cancel
Your debt. What you see is what you get:
The power of oil and the sun all rolled into one
Patience enough to take work until sunset.
A colorburst, then, like the stunning sun
Might alert you to she who cares for the little one.


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