“One of the difficulties in assessing the skill of the medical practitioners of the time is the almost complete absence of any records of the patients who had come for treatment.”
—From a review of Medicine in Medieval England, T. L. S. Jan. 11,
NYR: We were sorry to hear you had to go to the hospital a second time, Mr. Stravinsky.
I.S.: I appreciate the sympathy. And I need it, too. It has seemed to me lately that the greater the medical advances the narrower the patient’s chances of surviving doctors and hospitals. Until this last adventure I was unaware of the extent to which medicine men, like generals and politicians, enjoy the right to be wrong; and unaware of the breach between medical science for its own disinterested sake—“operation a success, patient dead”—and medical practice for the sake of interested people. Some of the publicity concerning the late Mr. Washkansky’s new heart helped to obviate the distinction, incidentally, by too transparently showing that the man’s life was less important than the symbiotic experiment for which it provided the opportunity. Freshly inspired by my own experience, I worried not only about Mr. Washkansky but about his news-unworthy fellow patients as well. While the nurses were posing for Life, and the doctors talking to the cover-story team of Time, who was distributing the digitalis?
My second confinement was twice as long as the first and, the so-called maharajah care notwithstanding, a hundred times more harrowing. I was too drugged, luckily, to have been aware of the worst of it, but clear enough to realize that a great deal was going wrong quite apart from what was wrong with me. My confidence in doctors had begun to dwindle, too, though the preoccupation with status in their profession—the AMA must harbor many a “médecin malgré lui“—had already disaffected me, even more than the surgical Schadenfreude and the pillpushing indifference (equanimity, if you prefer, but I am smarting from my experience). Nor was my confidence in routine hospital functions on the upswing. I was fed the wrong X-ray dye on one occasion; and on another nearly perfused with the wrong intravenous fluid; when the right bottle was found, moreover (probably about to be piped into a visitor) and finally attached to my arm, the needle slipped out and inflated the skin like a balloon. I “blew my stack,” as one of the nurses used to say, with less reason, but this protest could not have been frighteningly stentorian for the spigot on the next bottle was too loose, which so over-irrigated me that I began to wonder how much of the deleted me was the erstwhile me and how much the synthetic.
Identity problems of this type will become increasingly common as more and more brains are washed, and as—overcoming complications of histology and apartheid—spare-part banks, relays of still-functioning organs, and surgical mergers (“grafts” and “transplants” in the horticulturalized, anti-vivisectionist terminology) become more efficient. Another eventuality to be allowed for is the accidental transference of the soul and the id. This of course would lead to a revival of Eleatic divisibility/ indivisibility arguments (the One and the Many), as well as to theological tangles concerning prevenient grace, and to forensic medical arguments in personal property suits (very personal property) as to the exact contents of a “me” or a “you,” the settlements of which could end by hyphenating the donors’ and the donees’ names. After all, since molecular biologists activated the laboratory-made DNA last year former definitions of “life” itself have become obsolete. But I am straying.
NYR: You were talking about harassments in the hospital.
I.S.: Most of the other incidents were excusable. In any event it would be difficult to fix responsibility for the invasion of our floor by an escapee from the neuropathic ward on the neuro-warpath; or for the replacing of my broken windowshade one night by a black screen so that I was uncertain in the morning whether I really had awakened or had already gone over. (Hospital beds are peculiarly bier-like, too, from between the railings.) Nor is it reasonable to blame the staff for a mis-aimed “painkilling” injection that would have won me first prize for the horizontal highjump, if the hospital had been a sports arena instead of a Circus Maximus. The psychological technique of the staff in dealing with pain, incidentally, is to coax the victim into classifying its intensities himself—as if he were matching a color on a color chart—according to a scale of euphemisms ranging from “very slight” to “somewhat severe.” No headway was made with this martyrizing appeal in my case, needless to say. I am insusceptible to masochistic enticements, and I recognized long ago that the arrows in all those Sebastians of the Godwardrolling eyes are really Cupid’s flèches d’amour. (“With Phoebus’ amorous pinches black,” as Cleopatra says.) To me all pain is extreme, and the question is not how much but how long.
It also could not be helped that my dose of radioactive phosphorous had to be consigned by the Atomic Energy Commission and transported, like money, in a kind of Brink’s armored van. But my guilt feelings at the thought of burdening the War Effort were less unnerving than the jitters of an administering technician who seemed to regard me as a one-man test-site, or human atomic atoll. Perhaps I shall find consolation eventually in the knowledge that I am magnetic to fireflies and glow-worms, if not to mine-detectors, but this has not happened yet.
THE WORST of the hospital, nevertheless, was the musical frustration. My pilot-light may not be very gem-like or hard any more, but it is still burning even when the stove is not in use. Musical ideas stalked me, but I could compose them mentally only, being unable to write at the time and unable to remember now. And the mind needs its daily work at such times, far more than the contemplation of its temporality. To be deprived of art and left alone with philosophy is to be close to Hell.
NYR: And your convalescence, Mr. Stravinsky?
I.S.: My nurses and “physiatrists” are flourishing, I assure you, and if my “rehabilitation” continues for long at the present rate I will soon be obliged to apply to the Rolling Stones, or Von Mehta, or other successful musicians for a loan. But I don’t flourish. And in spite of assurances by the medical moguls that I have recovered (what else, after those prices, could they say?), I feel like a centenarian, am as thin as Kafka’s Hunger Artist, and as pale—in spite of being kept in the garden, apparently for photosynthesis—as the mid-afternoon moon.
But I complain too much, and too splenetically (which is reasonable, trouble having been found in that department as well); if my caducity were as bad as I make it sound some College of Fine Arts would have rushed in by now with a lastminute doctorate. Besides, positive cause for elation has been found in my encephalogram, which seems more important now than ever for the reason that I am not permitted to sit for long at the piano and must compose, most of whatever I can compose, in my head. This is hampering because the instrument helps to push my imagination into position; and ironic because I am writing my first solo-piano piece since 1925. Yesterday I worked at the piano for the first time in five months (the feel of dust on the keys was unpleasant), beginning with a C- to B-flat trill, very slow, like the vibrato of a prima donna on her farewell tour. The trilling impulse came, I think, from exposure to a Christmas-present canary (someone had overstimated my fondness for The Pines of Rome) whose finest fioriture appear to be mating responses to our electric juice-squeezer.
“Neue Kraft fühlend“
NYR: Have you noted any fresh developments in the musical world, Mr. Stravinsky?
I.S.: The Ivesian vogue of “simultaneous strands”—the musical equivalent to multiple projection films—is at high tide. So is pop, to the extent that the record companies spend most of their money panning, like old-time prospectors, for pop hits. But certainly there has been no “breakthrough” in the classical establishment. Conductors are still the lapdogs of musical life, and the laps are still not much like “the gods’,” The most dazzling instrumental virtuosity hardly counts in comparison. It may be true, of course, that an infant phenomenon playing Turangalîla “pour la main gauche” could make a certain bruit d’estime, but the histrionic range of infant phenomena playing instruments is obviously more constricting than that of men playing themselves. Instrumental mastery is acquired at an expense of time and work, moreover, whereas the musical training of conductors—who before all else must be experts in jet schedules, international tax laws, body English, hair-styling (the expression “the silver-haired Karajan” having attained myth-like status comparable to “the rosy-fingered dawn” in Homer)—is briefer with each season’s increasingly rapid turnover in the stupormundi market.
But I have already “made my representations” against the visual standards of an activity that is contiguous to music without always being of it. It may even be time now to redress the criticism slightly, pointing out that while amateurism is deplorable, so is too much professionalism. In the sense of technique the most admired conductor in the country—by me too though I often wish his templ a heartbeat slower—is the ombudsmanelect of the New York Philharmonic. But what about that goal toward which conducting is hardly more than a necessary evil? Is it not possible that a chef with lesser technical powers but a wider and deeper scope might make better music; a musician such as Von Mehta, for instance, who has no sense of tempo and style, and who has apparently never even heard of articulation and dynamics (both very important in gorilla language, incidentally), but who can give humid and intensely suffered performances of Dvorák symphonies, and ingenuously felt and at times even searing ones of Rumanian, Hungarian, and other rhapsodies (including some with different titles by composers who did not actually intend that sort of thing)?
Part of what I mean by scope is simply a larger stretch of sympathies. But I fail in the first place to see how a musician based almost exclusively in last-century repertory can ombudsmanize the affairs of the fast-getting-on present one. Imagine my pleasure therefore in the discovery that at least this sort of limitation no longer impedes the swell of progress in the Quaker City, the conductor there having proclaimed the new state of enlightenment (see my italics below) while lifting the veil from the long-cherished secret of his acquaintance with Alban Berg. “At that time I was not as well versed in the twelve-tone school of music as I am now,” he says, and goes on to compliment Berg for giving “logical, intelligent, and understandable” answers to his questions. I like that “understandable.” As for the Philharmonic I think it might do better in the Yellow Pages.
NYR: Have any new developments on the critical front caught your attention, Mr. Stravinsky?
I.S.: I am in arrears, but the new thing seems to be the “critic as hero.” Not long ago an advertisement in the Times for a new Broadway play featured a photograph not of the author, or director, or set, or leading lady or animal, but of the Times reviewer who had given it a rave; which should help to restore a sense of importance to a function heavily inroaded by the pre-reviewing of producers’ and publishers’ blurbs.
MOSTLY, HOWEVER, reviewing is the unabated old thing, music, dance, drama still being treated primarily as means of easing unemployment among roving all-purpose journalists, rather than as fairly specialized assignments. I used to think the “intellectual community” responsible for the failure to demand better, and in fact have only lately realized that no such community exists, or even very much respect for the individual voices who might have formed it. An appeal on behalf of an American Jean Genet (unthinkable as the equivalents may be, not only to Genet but to his entreaters Gide, Claudel, and Sartre) would very likely receive no acknowledgment, let alone result in effective action. And the press would most likely deride the petitioners, as Time derided Mr. Lowell for declining a certain invitation to dinner. But if the “intellectual community” has no representation in public affairs it cannot claim a great deal more in the public arts. One wonders whether any student, or artist, or writer has ever ventured among the tiers of bankers, stock-brokers, and board-chairmen who comprise the “public” of New York’s ghetto of the performing arts (granting, of course, that Martha and Hansel could be deterrents as formidable as the ticket prices).
As for my own PR, I have seen no sign of the suspension of normal uncouthness for the sake of defunct traditions about courtesy to older people. But I have no intention of calling a moratorium either, or abiding by rules of games I neither made up nor agreed to play. And since I take the abuse of The New Yorker as a compliment—a stupidity so solid that lasers would be unable to penetrate it can hardly be taken otherwise—so should The New Yorker take my knowledge-biased assessment, instead of crying lèse majesté.
NYR: Debussy predicted that you would “tolerate no music whatever as an old man,” Mr. Stravinsky.
I.S.: But I love more music than ever before; if I seem to stint unduly on the Smetana tone poems, Mendelssohn oratorios, and the type of concerto employed at pianists’ Olympic Games, the reason is simply to have more time for the Beethoven quartets. I have revisited a great deal of music lately, some of it after sixty- and seventy-year interims, and therefore heavily buffeted by past involvements and discoveries of radical differences between remembered and renewed experiences. Certain songs and piano pieces by Schumann, for instance, have jolted me as sharply as a dentist’s drill striking a nerve. Schumann is the composer of childhood (first childhood; I will not say who I think is the composer of second childhood), both because he created a children’s imaginative world and because children learn some of their first music in his marvelous piano albums. In fact I have just realized that the reason I dislike Carnaval is not, as I had supposed, that my musical “personality” lacks corresponding identities to the Florestan and Eusebius archetypes of all of Schumann’s music, but simply that I was told to like it as a child; and the force of these childhood atavisms is such that I am not old enough to dislike it independently even now.
I must have been insufferably proscribing (look at me now) when Debussy projected that estimate of me. He also referred to me, I think in the same letter, as a “primitive” and “instinctual,” rather than a “schooled” composer. And he was right. Like Ramanujan, who did his mathematics without any formal mathematical education, I have had to depend on “natural” insight and instinct for all the learning I would have acquired if I had taken a Ph.D. in composition, except that I would have flunked the finals and never taken it.
NYR: What is the outlook for Ph.D. composers at the moment, Mr. Stravinsky?
I.S.: They must compose for themselves last, as well as first, since they are their only audience. What they compose, in further subtraction to being unuseful, unsought—except by their own logging enterprises—and uninteresting, is also largely unprintable, partly because of the minuteness of sales, and partly because it is a part of the game that each new opus has to have a new notation. In short, while the big movement, confirmed as such by the band-wagoning of musical big business, is toward a public art of pop images and mass-produced “accidents,” the “serious” audience of the “serious” composer is reduced to himself; the hardest part of which, for him, is that his need to be needed seems to operate in inverse proportion to the degree in which he no longer is. The universities still feed, clothe, and otherwise maintain him, however, in return for which he breeds, by conversion, and through technical analyses that are also used as compulsory reading for certain types of criminals, a great many more of his kind.
As for his “creative activity,” this used to take place under one or the other of two totalitarian banners, the first proscience, both in method and materials, the second anti, to the extent that the scientific pieties of the data-processed society were the main target. Now, however, the lines of these affiliations have crossed, “infighting” has ceased, and even the bitterest factions have linked up, perhaps under the influence of the Maharishi, for the one commodity everybody seems willing to buy comes from the Royal Liverpudlian Academy of Music. Well, not quite everybody. A few, at least, of the tougher scientific-minded have resisted the general wash away into mixed-media entertainments, as I learn from their claims of “electrifying” new reductions in encoding time, and the developments of new systems able to accept both digital and analog input. In short, the final goal, computer facilities for all, is getting closer.
BUT I AM HARDLY A BELLWETHER myself. I am losing patience with music that not only does not sing or dance (the day has long gone by since we have had very much of that) but that makes no other gesture I can understand except to reflect mechanical processes that quickly set me adrift. Nor am I satisfied by the promise of “consequentiality” in these processes; I am only interested in, at my age I can only afford to be interested in, content. A further obstacle is that I am a craftsman more than a computer or an engineer, and I find no common ground of craftsmanship in most new machine-made products; which is much the same thing that an “uncool” easel painter of my epoch might feel about some of the latest creations in liquid fiberglass.
But I also admit to a need to go from a beginning to an end and through related parts. Perhaps in sympathy with my diminished bodily mobility my mind seems to be no longer willing or able (a “hang-up” in fact) to jump from isolated “present” moments to other isolated “present” moments. I have been listening all week to the piano music of a composer now greatly esteemed for his ability to stay an hour or so ahead of his time, but I find the alternation of note-clumps and silences of which it consists more monotonous than the four-squares of the dullest eighteenth-century music. (How one misses in all so-called post-Webern music the tremendous leverage which Beethoven makes of time, to say nothing of harmonic and other leverages, though in this age of The Emperor’s New Clothes such things are said only in parenthesis.) The matter of the music is so limited in effect, too, and so solemn and so boring (immediately as well as ultimately), that I was sustained only by the hope, during each longer silence, that finally the pianist might have “had it,” too, and shot himself.
NYR: Would you amplify your remark about “consequential processes”?
I.S.: It is progressivist jargon. Of course it sounds better to be consequential than not to be, and the promise of higher development in forthcoming stages naturally implies superiority. But lineal historicism is a strictly academic invention whose purpose is to open to Ph.D. candidates more mid-western territories of the mind.
The most consequential must often be simply the better sited, the more easily seen or heard; and the inconsequential (historical sense) merely the less accessible, owing to innovations of thought and communication both internal and external. Works of the highest value of all, such as the posthumous quartets, are naturally inconsequential, I should think, though incalculable in those terms anyway because a value history would move cyclically at times, and wholly out of chronology at others, skipping generations and even centuries in both directions. I would conclude that fashion plays the largest role, apart from the biological law that beginnings are naturally consequential and endings the other thing. But such speculations are in danger of leading to more historicity, whereas what I believe in is the divine (aesthetic sense) unpredictability, sometimes rising above period, style, school, context, historical circumstance, of Beethoven.
NYR: An essential quality of your own work is the balance in it between past and present, and the continual discovery of the one in the other.
I.S.: Thank you. But it is precisely that debate of yesterday and today that is now relegating me to the past; to an annex of the nineteenth century, as I have been told, among less flattering rulings. “Nothing happened before us,” the “post-contemporary” composer proclaims; and, “Don’t bug me with Beethoven.” He is perfectly right. The nonexistence of the past is obviously a necessary hypothesis to anyone proposing to “start from scratch”; and protection from annihilating comparisons is no less necessary to a modus vivendi, an amusement that withers along with the giggles it provokes not deserving exposure to music that is without a wrinkle after a century and a half.
Post-contemporary composers are unusually modest or hermetic concerning their materials and origins. I have been able to discover little about either, apart from “no content,” a limit backwards of three years, and an explanation that the youngsters’ “style” has “changed several times recently,” owing to the evolution of “Rock” from Baroque to kinetic, with spray-ons of Shankar and Josquin des Près. All school-taught traditions are out, of course, though it seems a bit late for that sort of complaint, some time having elapsed since there was any school worth flouting. But the youngsters’ own platform, the “celebration of ‘now’,” presumably by spontaneously combustible means, seems a little lacking in sustenance, a little likely to run out of fuel. Before it is too late they should apply to the science musicians for instruction in improbability theory. The next three years and the three after that will soon be over, even as telephone booth-packing, hamsters, and batmania were soon over, and the “no-past” a part of the “non-past”; though to begin with the past is difficult to deny, the tabula, however looked at, being a long way from rasa. I have a growing suspicion, in fact, that the pot at the end of this particular rainbow contains only pot.
NYR: Have you ever tried any drug yourself, Mr. Stravinsky, perhaps during your association with Cocteau?
I.S.: I am an unquenchable user of a very ordinary one procured, in the forms I favor, chiefly from Scotland and France. But Cocteau’s opium-taking, at least when I knew him, was of a kind with Mr. Plimpton’s percussion-and foot-ball-playing; i.e.: book-making.
The late Max Reinkel of M.I.T. was conducting his pioneer experiments with LSD when I first became his patient, and I was therefore aware of the drug fifteen years ago. Soon after that my friends Aldous Huxley and Gerald Heard, who were among its first white-collar users, invited me to try it to see in what ways my experience of music would change. But I am a “straight.” Increased sensory intensity, time dislocation, the altering of consciousness: these are the very last sensations I am looking for. I have never even had a “bennie” let alone smoked a “joint,” and the one “mind-bending” artificial paradise I care about is the ataraxia—or is it acedia?—induced by the aforementioned law-abiding (comparatively) and agreeable-tasting potations. Society being what it is, however, and drug dependency certain to increase, legalized control is urgently needed, an opinion I formed after seeing a disturbing film of teen-agers on the way down from “speed” and “glue-sniffing” trips.
“O tempora, O mores“
NYR: May we return to the question of the ineffectual or non-existent intellectual community? What is your notion of the “intellectual” in the first place?
I.S.: Not the literary men, the philosophers, and the artists that my remark implied, but someone more like Gramsci’s “Everyman who outside of his own job shares a conception of the world, has a conscious line of moral conduct, and so contributes toward maintaining or chaning that conception and encouraging new modes of thought.” Everyman, Emperors to beggars, wrote the poems of the Manyoshu, after all. (Elsewhere Gramsci appears to have forgotten this Marxist idyll as when he notes that “Intellectuals have been produced in numbers beyond what is justified by the social need.”)
But I should have attributed my remark to the experience which provoked it. This was that I had joined a petition to the West German, American, and South Korean governments for the reprieve of the Korean composer I Sang Yun who had been kidnapped in West Germany by his own government as an alleged communist spy, and returned to and condemned in Seoul. I was unaware of the evidence, and even unaware of Mr. Yun, who could have been the ghost arranger of “We Love Chairman Mao” for all I knew (Mr. Yun’s first names are good for a musician, less good for a spy). I signed the request, however, for the reason that I do not believe in judicial murder (or any other kind). Perhaps I should add that so far from being a scrutator I tend to shirk my social duty of agreeing on one matter with people concerning whom I am in permanent disagreement about virtually everything else.
Mr. Yun was spared, but whether because or in spite of our protest I have no idea. My only proof that it ever existed, in fact, is a note from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, to whose care some of the cablegrams were mistakenly directed. It said that Academy policy—a nuisance-avoiding expedient, I hope, rather than an attempt to preserve the “neutrality” of arts and letters—precluded it from taking a hand in such recommendations.
NYR: And your idea of “community”? Should society, as a moral body, be “qualitatively distinct” (Durkheim) from the individual bodies comprising it?
I.S.: No such social unit is making itself very conspicuous at present, in any case, nor is the perfectibility of the collective mini-mind showing greater signs of success than the perfectibility of the individual one. But I would be content with lesser ideas myself; a less “human,” more mechanical system, perhaps, but one capable of achieving a balance between the safety in numbers and the danger in numbers.
WHATEVER THE RELATIONSHIP between the collective morality and the “new instruments of communication” the double standard is now the one and only, at least in public life. No statement by any public figure not made under sodium pentothal or hypnosis can be taken as entirely candid, so long, at least, as the said figure is primed by popularity polls and persuaded that he has been tipped for the top (which belief is betrayed by slips into Presidential prose). As we are already in the second generation of “lip service,” moreover, the public figures of the near future will soon be unable even under truth serums to tell the difference between their own “true opinions” and their blue-chip political investments, much less understand the tale of Ananias, or the idea that silence can be a lie. Mr. McNamara’s sudden change of occupation, for example, set me wondering whether a measure of personal victory might not have been salvaged from the defeat by a Parthian shaft of his own thoughts and differences; this on the grounds that if it is impossible both to say what one believes to be true and to survive politically, then one should get on with the political suicide. But perhaps I misunderstand the breed “organization men” in assuming that they have thoughts of their own; I offer my own, such as they are, simply as my piece of “cross-section.” Mr. McNamara, to give him the benefit of the doubt, appeared to be merely dumbfounded. Still, it would have been so interesting to know what a “peace offensive” is really like, and who could have been in a better position to say?
And who now, what telegenic younger Senator, will remind us that our judgment against the Nazi War Criminals, a judgment independent of the differences between Nuremberg and now, was that even soldiers under orders are responsible for “crimes against humanity”? That, after all, is what Dr. Spock, Miss Baez, Captain Levy, and others have had the courage to say. And somebody higher (and safer) had soon better say it too. In view of the vindictiveness toward Mr. LeRoi Jones, it is beginning to look as though we may have some Daniels and Sinyavskis of our own.
While and if he were about it, incidentally, the same spokesman could repeat the no less pertinent question of Marlowe’s Machiavelli: “What right had Caesar to the empire?” Was it the right of self-defense, I wonder, and if so, how far does self-defense go?
“Since we are deprived of acquired experience and former practice by each new case, we do not know what to do.”
NYR: Have you thought about the future fortunes of your works, Mr. Stravinsky?
I.S.: I have already lived through some of my own posterity—as soon as a work is performed that is what it becomes, after all—and the more experience I have of it the less I care about it. It is satisfying, in a way, to see “settled” estimates unsettled, in my case that my works were all “effigies” and successions of “periods” one or another of which was always under interdict. But I care less about my “works” than about composing. This is partly because one never composes exactly the piece one sets out to compose, just as I am not now saying exactly what I had in mind to say but what the extenuating words that come to mind as I go along lead me to say. But the threat of posterity is worse now than it used to be for other reasons as well. I have changed my mind, for example, about the advantages of embalming my performances in tape. The disadvantages, which are that one performance represents only one set of circumstances, and that mistakes and misunderstandings are cemented into traditions as quickly and canonically as truths, now seem to me a greater price to pay. The Recording Angel I am concerned with is not CBS, in any case, but the One with the Big Book.
NYR: And your own future, Mr. Stravinsky?
I.S.: I will have to stay closer to home for a while, and my object world will be more limited. But I have been thinking of how Vermeer was able to reflect a world of perfect making in his own studio; and Chardin a richer representation of life in his kitchen than other painters managed to achieve with all Versailles. So I must try, in my way, to look closely close by, and to bring more life to my own still-life. One difficulty is that I am now being handled like an object, some priceless piece of porcelain it sometimes seems, myself. And this crockery is my greatest enemy. I hope nothing else befalls it for a spell, but if something does that it comes “during office hours.” As for the “content,” we are not given our talents with any tenure, and “we” may well outlast them, but I know I have more music in me, nevertheless. And I must give; I cannot live a purely receiving life.
Of the two hardest problems of age the first is simply the lack of preparation, the lack of a natural or acquired provision of experience. We observe other people in the condition all our lives but fail to learn biologically from the spectacle, and somehow even fail to believe that the same thing can and will happen to us. When it has happened, the suddenness is something like Levin’s awareness in the peasant village, that the sky had changed and that this change, like the transformation in himself, was unnoticeable as a process.
The more difficult problem is inevitableness. It is put very gently by Augustine in his last sermon, and I would prefer to have him say it for me, as Mr. Peter Brown quotes the scene in his Augustine of Hippo. After appointing the priest Eraclius as his successor, Augustine reminds the congregation that:
“As boys we can look forward to being youths; as youths to being grown up, and as young men to reaching our prime and, in our prime to growing old. Whether this will happen is uncertain; but there is always something to look forward to. But an old man has no further stage before him. Now I have grown old.”
But the end of the story reminds me of something, which is that I have been talking too much:
Eraclius stood forward to preach, while the old Augustine sat behind him: “the cricket chirps,” Eraclius said, “the swan is silent.”
March 14, 1968