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LITERATURE ISSUES

John Keats: ON THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE CRICKET

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The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's -- he takes the lead
In summer luxury, -- he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills
.

Keats wrote the sonnet for an impromptu contest.  Although we have the conventional stop after both of the first two quatrains, the short clause, “That is the grasshopper’s,” linking the quatrains and sounding like a coda to the first, gives the rhythm a brilliant asymmetry.  The syllable ‘creek’ or ‘kreek,’ providing an accompaniment counterpoint throughout should be sung with a forceful ‘r’—best, I think, would be a front-trilled r like the Spanish double rr, but any consistent solution might do.  The final ‘ah’ in the bass and tenor should be the same vowel sung in ‘grass’, that is, in ‘grasshopper’ and ‘grassy’.  I like it back in the throat, the English way, though the narrower North American ‘agh’ can be equally musical.

 BY David Lidov

THE CITY OF EMBER