On May 27, 1784,
   as he followed Vienna’s back streets home,
Mozart paused, startled, by a pet shop door
   and listened to the allegretto theme

from his own piano concerto in G-Major
   repeated by a starling in a cage.
He’d written it only five weeks before—
   had God given them both the same message?

He counted out thirty-four copper Kreutzer.
   Pleasure was like the iridescent sheen
in the dark plumage: an imagination livelier,
   perhaps, more fecund and ready than his own!

He entered this in his new quarto accounts ledger,
   but where the price should go, he wrote the tune
instead—transcribed it a second time, rather—
   and then, in his small hand, wrote Das war schön.

This Issue

April 27, 2000