Amy Lowell: Part Third

Part Third

The `Residenz-Theater' sparked and hummed With lights and people.  Gebnitz was to sing, That rare soprano.  All the fiddles strummed With tuning up; the wood-winds made a ring Of reedy bubbling noises, and the sting Of sharp, red brass pierced every ear-drum; patting From muffled tympani made a dark slatting
Across the silver shimmering of flutes; A bassoon grunted, and an oboe wailed; The 'celli pizzicato-ed like great lutes, And mutterings of double basses trailed Away to silence, while loud harp-strings hailed Their thin, bright colours down in such a scatter They lost themselves amid the general clatter.
Frau Altgelt in the gallery, alone, Felt lifted up into another world. Before her eyes a thousand candles shone In the great chandeliers.  A maze of curled And powdered periwigs past her eyes swirled. She smelt the smoke of candles guttering, And caught the glint of jewelled fans fluttering
All round her in the boxes.  Red and gold, The house, like rubies set in filigree, Filliped the candlelight about, and bold Young sparks with eye-glasses, unblushingly Ogled fair beauties in the balcony. An officer went by, his steel spurs jangling. Behind Charlotta an old man was wrangling
About a play-bill he had bought and lost. Three drunken soldiers had to be ejected. Frau Altgelt's eyes stared at the vacant post Of Concert-Meister, she at once detected The stir which brought him.  But she felt neglected When with no glance about him or her way, He lifted up his violin to play.
   The curtain went up?  Perhaps.  If so,    Charlotta never saw it go.    The famous Fraeulein Gebnitz' singing    Only came to her like the ringing    Of bells at a festa    Which swing in the air    And nobody realizes they are there.    They jingle and jangle,    And clang, and bang,    And never a soul could tell whether they rang,    For the plopping of guns and rockets    And the chinking of silver to spend, in one's pockets,    And the shuffling and clapping of feet,    And the loud flapping    Of flags, with the drums,    As the military comes.    It's a famous tune to walk to,    And I wonder where they're off to.    Step-step-stepping to the beating of the drums.    But the rhythm changes as though a mist    Were curling and twisting    Over the landscape.    For a moment a rhythmless, tuneless fog    Encompasses her.  Then her senses jog    To the breath of a stately minuet.    Herr Altgelt's violin is set    In tune to the slow, sweeping bows, and retreats and advances,    To curtsies brushing the waxen floor as the Court dances.    Long and peaceful like warm Summer nights    When stars shine in the quiet river.  And against the lights    Blundering insects knock,    And the `Rathaus' clock    Booms twice, through the shrill sounds    Of flutes and horns in the lamplit grounds.    Pressed against him in the mazy wavering    Of a country dance, with her short breath quavering    She leans upon the beating, throbbing    Music.  Laughing, sobbing,    Feet gliding after sliding feet;    His — hers —    The ballroom blurs —    She feels the air    Lifting her hair,    And the lapping of water on the stone stair.    He is there!  He is there!    Twang harps, and squeal, you thin violins,    That the dancers may dance, and never discover    The old stone stair leading down to the river    With the chestnut-tree branches hanging over    Her and her lover.    Theodore, still her lover!
The evening passed like this, in a half faint, Delirium with waking intervals Which were the entr'acts.  Under the restraint Of a large company, the constant calls For oranges or syrops from the stalls Outside, the talk, the passing to and fro, Lotta sat ill at ease, incognito.
She heard the Gebnitz praised, the tenor lauded, The music vaunted as most excellent. The scenery and the costumes were applauded, The latter it was whispered had been sent From Italy.  The Herr Direktor spent A fortune on them, so the gossips said. Charlotta felt a lightness in her head.
When the next act began, her eyes were swimming, Her prodded ears were aching and confused. The first notes from the orchestra sent skimming Her outward consciousness.  Her brain was fused Into the music, Theodore's music!  Used To hear him play, she caught his single tone. For all she noticed they two were alone.