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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Light and Gold - Edward Esch

Light,
warm and heavy
as pure gold,
and the angels sing softly
to the newborn babe.


Some of you readers made be more familiar with this poem in a Latin setting, as used by composer Eric Whitacre, as his "Lux Aurumque."  But before I embed a wonderful video of it being performed, I'm going to talk a bit about the lovely images and presentation of the poem.  Lovely as it is, I don't want the music to inform your opinion of the text just yet.

My favorite aspect of the poem would have to be the seeming disconnect between the poem's first three lines and its last two.  The lack of connecting phrases makes the contrast more natural, as it is free from the awkward stranglehold of prepositional phrases.  The light connects directly into the image of the babe, just as one's eyes would follow a beam of light down to its resting place.

I also really like the way light is equated with sound in the poem.  The light, which is warm and rare, beautiful as gold, is one of two sensory images provided; the other is the angels singing.  Sound and light are equated, and the result is an all-enveloping gold, which, since it is for the Christ child, is meant as an image of universal love.  The light is the sound is the love is the poem.  It's a wonderful image, and one that surpasses the limits of individual senses.

As promised, here is the Eric Whitacre setting,"Lux Aurumque."  It's a surpassingly beautiful setting which I feel captures that feeling of light, and it does so, appropriately, through sound, warm and heavy as pure gold.

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