Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
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Vol. 2 No. 3 Apr 2003

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Beethoven, Opus 92
Beethoven started writing his Symphony No. 7 in A major in 1811, while staying at the spa town of Teplitz.


Why this has always been
as a pool of dark still water
set in polished stone,
I cannot tell. I like to think
he knew the human thirst for life
and our equal need for rest;

Yet here is no repose Ė
Singing on the edge
Of an abyss of thought
The soul, strung out
Taut and white,
Aching into silence.


Herr Ludwig, at it again. You can tell,
You know, all that hammering and knocking,
So loud my old ears would fain be deaf soon.
Little wonder, then, what they all say:
The old man upstairs is deaf! I wonít know,
Of course, not I, I just serve his tea, and
Good Lord thatís enough to take it out of
Any woman half my age... Yes, if not
For the money Iíd never have agreed.
But beggars canít be choosers, and the old man
Pays on time, that much Iíll say, though where the
Money comes from is the devilís work, I warrant.
You, speak to him? Ha! Better ask to see
The Emperor himself, at least youíll be
Refused civilly. Last fellow that came
Left half in tears, they say, though I werenít in
And canít tell you why. Ah, those were the days,
When fellows would visit me and leave
Half in tears themselves. Little spitfire,
They called me, and I was too proud to care.
Long ago... Sir! Youíre leaving now? Sit down,
Have some tea. No? Oh, all of you young ones,
You donít know what youíve got. Well, suit yourself,
But donít say I didnít ask. Herr Ludwig,
Heís better Tuesdays, when the music folks
Come in. Try your luck then. Yes, goodbye sir,
And take care with those books! Goodbye, sir.


Teplitz, 1811.

The people here are good and kind,
Good and kind. They speak to me
In loud slow syllables, but not so much
As would cause offence. It embarrasses me
To see through their charade.

Daily this sea of silence
Roars ever louder. At mealtimes
I imagine the clink of wineglasses, the
Clatter of cutlery. A dozen mouths
Open and shut in a surreal dumbshow.

When Goethe called my name
His words were swallowed by air.
Enmeshed in a net of thought,
What comfort wraps itself round the skin,
Insinuates itself into dull flesh?

Yesterday the woods were a calm
Dark cool green. I wrote the silent stream
Into fugal counterpoint, set down the arching sky
As one more woodwind solo.
One should not ask for more.

Yet the music swells to a charged con brio,
It will be more, take more than it should Ė
Life holds it captive still.
I shake out my well-worn ink-stained quill
And remake the day anew.

By Zhang Ruihe

QLRS Vol. 2 No. 3 Apr 2003


About Zhang Ruihe
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Return to Vol. 2 No. 3 Apr 2003

  Other Poems in this Issue

The Wall
By Eugene Datta.

By Eugene Datta.

By Ng Shing Yi.

The News
By Joanne Leow.

Second Day of Mourning
By Gaston Ng.

You make it easy to leave you
By Wendy Gan.

By Grace Chua.

Memento Mori X
By Yeow Kai Chai.


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