Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Desire for Hermitage

Stephen & John among the tombs

Seeing San Salvatore with my Umbrian Serenades buddies Stephen and John meant finding our way to the basilica through Spoleto's cemetery. Yes, we could have gone up the road which bypasses the dead and entered by a side door, but making our way through the tombs made for an interesting experience as well as a bit of theatre, since one must climb up to San Salvatore's monumental door by way of a long, steep stairway, which ascends from shade to a spacious, light-filled terrace.

Making our way through the family vaults, I started hearing Samuel Barber's "Desire for Hermitage" as sung by Leontyne Price in my head; which is the price one pays for being a musician and lover of song, beauty knowing no bounds and songs having a way of singing themselves in the oddest of places: it's what I heard when I raised my head, looked up at San Salvatore's resplendent white-marbled framed door and climbed the stairs.  

The desire for hermitage

Ah! To be all alone in a little cell
with nobody near me;
beloved that pilgrimage before the last pilgrimage to death.
Singing the passing hours to cloudy Heaven;
Feeding upon dry bread and water from the cold spring. 
That will be an end to evil when I am alone
in a lovely little corner among tombs
far from the houses of the great.
Ah! To be all alone in a little cell, to be alone, all alone:
Alone I came into the world
alone I shall go from it.

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