I couldn’t shoehorn this into 14 lines. It’s shoe-horned anyhow. It was a fabulous evening at the Lincoln Center.
On attending a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor by the American Classical Orchestra
For me, once, Mass was sacramental,
the cosmic human sacrifice
made present. Hymns were incidental,
and often bad: almost a vice
for Credo, Kyrie or Sanctus
to stand apart. A concert yanked us
from colloquy with the divine
to savouring the prayers like wine.
Now, I’m among the non-believers,
see sacrament as metaphor,
know this world’s it, there’s nothing more.
I seek no Gods, not even divas,
yet there is more than taste to art:
some sacred music scruffs my heart.
Tonight, from start to Agnus Dei
seemed one long plea for mercy. Bach
was not a happy-clappy chap, the way he
Gloria’d – whistling in the dark –
and, in the Credo, crucifixion
(jauntiness to make you weep
at your life’s margins). Herd the sheep
of doubt into Faith’s fragile pen, or
face the raging storm outside!
‘Who takes away the world’s sin,’ cried
a solitary counter-tenor,
‘Have mercy.’ Then all plead as one:
‘Give peace!’ This prayer is never done.