“No enemy but Winter and Rough Weather”
Under the greenwood tree
Who loves to lie with me,
And turn his merry note
Unto the sweet bird's throat,
Come hither, come hither, come hither.
Here shall he see
But winter and rough weather.
More, more, I prithee, more.
It will make you melancholy, Monsieur Jaques.
I thank it. More, I prithee, more. I can suck melancholy
out of a song, as a weasel sucks eggs. More, I prithee, more.
My voice is ragged; I know I cannot please you.
I do not desire you to please me; I do desire you to sing.
Come, more; another stanzo. Call you 'em stanzos?
What you will, Monsieur Jaques.
Nay, I care not for their names; they owe me nothing. Will
In Shakespeare’s most song filled play, As You Like It, two peripatetic lords, Jaques and Amiens, confabulate in the fictional forest of Arden. Amiens, picks up his lute, (presumably) and sings “Under the greenwood tree” where, Amiens asserts, “here shall he see no enemy but winter and rough weather.” Jacques (pronounced “JAY-kweez” according to the 1919 tome How to Pronounce the Names in Shakespeare by Theodora Ursula Irvine) initially shows some interest, though I would argue that his is a feigned interest, since after just hearing the second verse of Amien’s song, the melancholic lord Jaques reports that the previous day he had prepared anew a third verse to Amiens’ song. How he could have conceived a third verse to a song he is only now hearing belies his claim, of course. Jaques proceeds to narrate his stanza, (or “stanzo” as he tauntingly calls it) to Amiens, adorned with rude references, obscenities, and gibberish.
I'll give you a verse to this note that I made yesterday in despite of my invention.
And I'll sing it.
Thus it goes:
If it do come to pass
That any man turn ass,
Leaving his wealth and ease,
A stubborn will to please,
Ducdame, ducdame, ducdame:
Here shall he see
Gross fools as he,
An if he will come to me.
“Under the Greenwood Tree” has been set to music by composers for hundreds of years; only occasionally with the crude third verse, outside the context of the play and absent many of the puzzling elements of the text. Rather than examine the gender dysphoria of various characters in As You Like It, or the ambiguous sexual preferences of other characters; we focus on the elegant couplet, “Here shall he see no enemy but winter and rough weather.” The sentiment is compelling in a couple ways. First, it is delivered during a warm summer day in an Edenic forest, an odd venue and time to ponder winter and rough weather. Second, Shakespeare couches this dual bedevilment in a contradictory sentiment: that love is ideal here in the forest under this tree, and there is no enemy but these common acts of God. Amiens and Jaques conclude that winter and rough weather are but insignificant distractions to the lover, and that there, in Eden, where love is free of opposition, there is no enemy worthy their or our concern. Ducdame. Winter and rough weather will pass. Love remains.
What's that 'ducdame'?
'Tis a Greek invocation, to call fools into a circle. I'll go sleep, if I can; if I cannot, I'll
rail against all the first-born of Egypt.
And I'll go seek the duke: his banquet is prepared.
The joke is clear enough, videlicet: those that have gathered in a circle around Jaques are fools. We may glean the reason behind the “Greek” nature of the invocation by noting a paragraph from Francis Bacon’s Valerius Terminus or Of the Interpretation of Nature, published in 1603. "It is a matter of common discourse of the chain of sciences how they are linked together, inasmuch as the Grecians, who had terms at will, fitted it of a name of Circle learning." We are left to wonder whether the sarcastic reference to the “Circle learning” in the earlier work of the bard was a supercilious reference to a contemporaneous penchant for the worship of Greek scholarship by scholars like Bacon.
“No enemy but Winter and Rough Weather” was conceived as a musical banquet at which the guests comment on the power or powerlessness of winter and rough weather. The Concert Overture for Piano, is an histrionically stormy prelude to my opera The Tenor’s Suite, which libretto reflects on the expectation of sexual proclivities explored in depth in As You Like It. Pianist SangYoung Kim, who had participated in the 2016 performance of The Tenor’s Suite in Boston, urged me to extract the overture from the opera and allow her to amend the score in order to create a bravura solo piano work. The result of our collaboration serves as the first course of our presentation.
The main course which follows is a choice between steak or fish, though both prepared with the same sauce. In 1936 William Walton wrote his setting of “Under the Greenwood Tree” for the first film version, with sound, of As You Like It. It was directed, in London, by an Austrian Jew, Paul Czinner, who had just fled his homeland to escape persecution. A couple years earlier, another Austrian Jew, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, fled Europe and emigrated to America. Korngold found fame, freedom, and fortune in the United States as our country’s preeminent film composer. A few months before As You Like It was released, Korngold’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream opened in movie theatres in the United States. Walton would score three more Shakespeare films, but Korngold would become involved in popular Hollywood entertainment. Nevertheless, Korngold also continued his fascination with Shakespeare, and less than a year after Walton’s As You Like It film was playing in movie houses in Los Angeles, Korngold had inked his Four Shakespeare Songs, of which three were from As You Like It. The third offering on this disc is Korngold’s interpretation of Amiens’ and Jaques’ “Under the Greenwood Tree,” followed by “When Birds Do Sing,” Korngold’s setting of yet another As You Like It song, which is also widely known by the poem’s first words, “It was a lover and his lass.” The first known setting of “It was a lover and his lass” was Thomas Morley’s version, written contemporaneously with the play, presented on this disc exactly as the bard would have heard it himself, which he likely did. Intriguingly, the Morley score itself allows us to guess at the time of the play’s devising. Morley’s First Book of Ayres was published in London in 1600, and within its pages resides “It was a lover and his lass” which makes it evident, at least to me, that the play was written before 1600. In addition, the new Globe Theater opened in 1599 with the motto, (so it is believed,) “Totus mundus agit histrionem,” or “all the globe’s a stage,” which appears to be a tip of the hat to Jaques’ immortal line “All the world’s a stage.” I’m not sure about the globe motto, which may be an ex post facto invention, but Morley’s 1600 publication date is not in question. In August of 1600, As You Like It was listed in the Worshipful Company of Stationers’ registry as a play to be refused permission for performance and refused copyright until the company could be satisfied about who the true author of the work was. This stay makes Stratfordians uncomfortable, because William Shagsper of Avon would have had no reason to shield his identity if he was the play’s true author. He would have reaped the monetary benefit of the nascent copyright law which placement in the “entry book of copies” would have garnered him. Someone at the Stationers’ Company wanted the author yclept Shakespeare to stand up and announce who he was. This didn’t happen, but the play might have finally been performed in 1603, though not at the Globe (!) a year prior to DeVere’s death, but this possible performance at the Wilton House is based on speculation long after the fact. The play would eventually be published for the first time in 1623. Much historical information on Shakespeare is speculation, because the orthodox view that Oxford wasn’t Shakespeare, but an illiterate named Shagsper was, has imprisoned scholarly research for decades in a fantasy of a bard who loved the common folk, and was himself a commoner. Charlton Ogburn’s meticulously researched tome, “The Mysterious William Shakespeare: The Myth and the Reality,” disperses the miasmic cloud that stymies our understanding of the bard. We commoners need to reconcile our love for Shakespeare with his haughty snobbery. In a too brief summary of his own magnum opus, Ogburn writes “Lower class characters are almost all introduced by Shakespeare for comic effect and are given scant development as such. Their names bespeak their inferior status in his eyes: Snug, Bottom, Stout, Starveling, Dogberry, Simple, Mouldy, Wart, Feeble, Bullcalf, Mistress Quickly, and Doll Tearsheet. Walt Whitan, to whom the historical plays were ‘conceived out of the fullest heat and pulse of feudalism’ by ‘one of the wolfish earls . . . or a born descendant and knower,’ lamented their author’s undemocratic views. . . What many readers have found striking in Shakespeare is a compassionate understanding of the burdens of kingship combined with a romantic envy of the supposedly carefree lot of a peasant, who, free of the ‘peril’ of the ‘envious court,’ ‘sweetly. . . enjoys his thin cold drink’ and his ‘sleep under a fresh tree’s shade’ with ‘no enemy but winter and rough weather.’ This would not be surprising in a writer were he more familiar with privilege than with privation.” (from “Shakespeare’s Self-Portrait; A Summary” by Charlton Ogburn.) DeVere was Shakespeare, but yet, not all that we label Shakespeare is DeVere.
The first lines of “It was a lover and his lass” are iambic pentameter, and that is very strong evidence that the song is Shakespeare’s own, but everything in the Shakespeare oeuvre is not the work of our ever-living poet. Often one comes across a passage which departs from the bard’s scansion.
For example, let’s look at the great epilogue to The Tempest. It begins:
Now my charms are all o'erthrown,
And what strength I have's mine own,
Which is most faint: now, 'tis true,
I must be here confined by you…
That isn’t iambic pentameter. It’s iambic heptameter. The last line is octameter. The rest of the epilogue is the same. Here are four lines from the poem, “Sleep.”
Lock me in delight awhile;
Let some pleasing dreams beguile
All my fancies; that from thence
I may feel an influence.
The poet of these lines had a penchant for iambic heptameter. John Fletcher was a contemporary of Shakespeare. He worked on many works in the Shakespeare canon, including Henry VIII and – well, here begins personal conjecture, so I shall refrain from making my unscholarly claims, though I think if one reads Fletcher and notes the meters he employs, one might have some * cough, cough tempest * cough, ideas – the Two Noble Kinsmen. Fletcher was a frequent collaborator with other playwrights. Between 1605 and 1607, he wrote, with Francis Beaumont, The Woman Hater or The Hungry Courtier, (one play with two titles, as in many of the Shakespeare comedies.) The play is about two characters, one a misogynist, the other a man in search of a delectable fish dish. (I confess that The Hungry Courtier title was the impetus behind my labeling the pieces so far as courses in a feast, and now this very confession shall free you and me from continuing the questionable metaphorical equation of food to music.) Act III of The Woman Hater or The Hungry Courtier contains the song, “Sleep,” which has been frequently set to music, perhaps never so beautifully as in the imagination of Philip Arnold Heseltine, known by his pseudonym: Peter Warlock. This early twentieth century Warlock was a reprobate, a scoundrel, a likely suicide, and a champion of early English music. His own creations are deliberately and nostalgically referential to an imagined halcyon English past, with the perspective of a happily comfortable earl like DeVere who finds winter unremarkable. Bear in mind that the winters during Shakespeare’s days were malignant. The period from 1550 to 1600 is now referred to as the LIA, the Little Ice Age. Warlock, who despised the reverence of class, seemed oblivious to the realities that impinged upon the common man during the period, Shakespeare’s period, that he revered. “The average Englishman, it strikes me, loves servility and groveling, for all his boasted love of liberty, and states the fact pretty plainly by supporting such a disgusting system as an hereditary monarchy! The ‘moral atmosphere’ of England is certainly curious! I imagine, however, that the country is slowly recovering: I think we are now in a state of convalescence after the scourge of prudery, which came in an exaggerated form with the nineteenth century in England, just as British music has only of late years recovered from the equally disastrous scourge of Mendelssohnism! Mendelssohn and prudes go well together, I think!” So wrote the besotted Warlock to Frederick Delius (a composer whose music would make the ideal soundtrack to any production of As You Like It) in 1912, besotted with drink and exclamation marks. One couldn’t call Warlock a prude, but railing against Mendelssohn as the cause of a musical malaise brings to mind the anti-Semitic sick screeds of Richard Wagner. (It is odd that Felix Mendelssohn is a preoccupation of several disturbed composers.) If anything, Warlock was a scourge himself, injuring recklessly several women before destroying himself. “Assign'd am I to be the English scourge. This night the siege assuredly I'll raise: Expect Saint Martin's summer, halcyon days, Since I have entered into these wars.” (Henry VI, part 1). With all of his fury against “prudery,” it remains evident that Warlock’s music is wholly placid, elegant, and lacks the slightest hint of modernity. His works are worshipful reflections on Elizabethan music which he studied and edited in the British Museum while unemployed.
One of the best known British composers to emerge from the English Elizabethan world that so mesmerized Warlock was Thomas Augustine Arne who composed “Rule Britannia” and a version of “God Save the King” which became the country’s national anthem. Arne was primarily a composer for the theater, and as such was quite at home composing music for the song “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind,” from As You Like It. This comparison of winter’s winds to man’s ingratitude, sung by Amiens, is unambiguous in its declaration that winter is benign compared to the false friendship of one’s fellow man. A benign winter in the midst of the LIA. One imagines DeVere ordering one of his servants to throw more logs on the fire while he imagines happy peasants in fields of green.
As opposed to Arne’s arch interpretation of Amiens’ verse, Erich Korngold chose a much more somber interpretation, crafting a dark indictment of man’s betrayals. The songs of Korngold’s opus 31 were composed between 1937 and 1941, a time when the winter wind would have been no real enemy to an Austrian Jew who had just barely escaped the Anschluß and its subsequent horrors. “Blow, blow, blow, thou winter wind, Thou art not so unkind as man’s ingratitude.”
Shakespeare, however, was unkind to the common man in his poetry about winter. He ends Love’s Labour’s Lost with a sprightly song about what seems to be a miserable winter night. Dick blows on his frozen hand, Tom, out in the cold, brings logs in. The milk is frozen, the roads are a mess, but greasy Joan is stirring a pot while hearing an owl’s merry note. A postcard picture winter scene in which the difficulties of the poor are mocked by a gleeful owl singing “Tu-whit, Tu-who.”
Love’s Labour’s Lost baffles most percipients due to its meandering royal antics, mere gossip to titillate royalist noseyparkers. Of course, those that know this witty ambage is about an upper crust party at which the young queen Elizabeth and the smart-aleck seventeenth earl of Oxford, Edward DeVere dallied, might take some pleasure in the otherwise pointless plot. And yet, the smarmy self-congratulating play contains an abundance of sublime and clever poetry, as well as entertaining character assassinations of Elizabethan courtiers. The play ends with the bumbling mechanics reciting two poems, “Spring” and “Winter.” The latter, “When icicles hang by the wall,” Dominick Argento captured masterfully in his composition, “Winter.”
Argento is one of America’s preeminent opera composers, most famous, arguably, for the witty Postcard from Morocco, a one act chamber opera framed by an Ionesco like setting of a train station in 1914, with characters reminiscent of the manipulated hapless passengers from The Bald Soprano. Argento’s clever use of a chamber orchestra in Postcard from Morocco is mirrored in another one of his best works, the Six Elizabethan Songs, from which “Winter” and “Dirge” are derived. Argento is willing to play along with the carefree earl in “Winter,” writing an energetic and joyous tune which doesn’t hint at hardship. In sharp contrast the “Dirge” from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, “Come away, come away, Death” poignantly pulls the listener into Argento’s starkly orchestrated contemplation of desolation. In this, Argento does not venture away from the standard realization of the song, though it must be noted that in the play the song is sung by the fool, at the behest of an histrionic duke, a duke who isn’t about to kill himself because his suit of love is rebuked. Indeed, the duke’s just moments away from turning his attention from his current object of desire to another. There’s a lot of linguistic horseplay surrounding the song, but taken out of its context it is understandable that composers like Argento, (and perhaps most famously: Brahms) want to make a tearjerker out of this material. For my part, I find the lover’s overly dramatic death-laden wishes more akin to adolescent dramatics than a somber reflection on lost love. The conceit of confronting the “fair cruel maid” who spurned me, with my “black coffin,” my “poor corpse,” my “bones,” hearkens back to my loss of Lynn R. in elementary school. That she wouldn’t love me was tragic, then, and I respect my pre-teen angst. But imagining bloody body parts is strictly preadolescent rumination, and Shakespeare seems very aware of that when he puts the sentiment in the mouth of a fool, and surrounds the verse with sarcastic and comedic commentary.
In the Holy Sonnet 10, Shakespeare’s contemporary, John Donne, explores death in a manner consistent with his description as the founder of the “Metaphysical Poets.” “Death, be not proud,” asserts that death is not as an end, but a beginning. “Our short sleep,” is how Donne describes our brief life, as preamble to what comes after, an arresting idea, which Donald Busarow, a deeply religious man, expressed with a sincere and devout passion in his setting for soprano, horn, and piano. In 2011 Donald Busarow passed from “his short sleep,” it can be hoped, “to wake eternally.”
Seated beside his tutor, the puritan Arthur Golding, the young Edward DeVere, whom we know as William Shakespeare, learned the Metamorphoses of Ovid. In “The Philosophy of Pythagoras” book of the Metamorphoses, Golding translated Ovid thus:
“As every wave drives other forth, and that that comes behind
Both thrusteth and is thrust itself, even so the times by kind
Do fly and follow both at once, and evermore renew,
For that that was before is left, and straight there doth ensue
Another that was never erst.”
Whereas, it seems, Shakespeare translated Golding thus:
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
The young bard was influenced immensely by Ovid, specifically Golding’s iambic heptameter versification of “The Fyrst Fower Bookes of P. Ovidius Nasos Worke, Entitled Metamorphosis, Translated Oute of Latin into Englishe Meter,” published in 1565, which he expanded to encompass all fifteen books in 1567; an influence that continued throughout his youthful student’s, the seventeenth earl of Oxford’s, career, as our “ever-living poet.” Sonnet LX relies heavily upon “The Philosophy of Pythagoras” for its philosophy on time; “time that gave doth now his gift confound. Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth.” Golding’s very syntax finds its way into Shakespeare’s writing. In that brief snippet above, Golding’s use of the same word in succession is reflected in the bard’s penchant for the doubled word. Golding writes “that that” twice in four lines, challenging the reader to contend with that twinning. So too does his student, as in Hamlet’s first soliloquy, “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt.” Or compare Golding’s “and that that comes behind Both thrusteth and is thrust itself, even so the times by kind Do fly and follow both at once” with Shakespeare’s “Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden, That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature Possess it merely. That it should come to this! But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two…” These structures resonate within one another. The soliloquy “O, that this too too solid flesh” is replete with repeated words and homonyms. Beginning “O that this too too solid flesh,” the words echo later “But two months dead; nay, not so much, not two.” But more: “O that this too too solid flesh” shortly metamorphosizes to “O God! God! How weary, flat and unprofitable,” followed shortly by “Fie on’t! ah fie! ‘tis an unweeded garden.” Through the duplicate “two” to “that he might not beteem the winds of heaven Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and Earth!” A second appearance of “month” is followed a little time later by a “little month.” Hamlet cannot cease cloning his words. “Why she, even she, O God!” The word “she” twice, is followed by a third “O God!” In one line two “fathers” appear and penultimately Hamlet declares “it is not or it cannot come to good,” a sentence fragment that vibrantly proclaims the double words of the soliloquy, and presages the doom to come in a foreshadowing of “To be or not to be” in “it is not nor it cannot.”
From The Philosophy of Pythagoras, by Ovid, as translated by Arthur Golding, while in the employ of Edward DeVere’s guardian and future father-in-law, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley, as his young ward’s private tutor, the following lines are precursory “fourteeners” to Shakespeare’s style and iambic pentameter modus operandi:
“All things do change; but nothing sure doth perish. This same sprite
Doth fleet, and fisking here and there doth swiftly take his flight
From one place to another place, and ent’reth every wight
Removing out of man to beast, and out of beast to man;
But yet it never perisheth nor never perish can.
And even as supple wax with ease receiveth figures strange,
And keeps not aye one shape, nor bides assured aye from change,
And yet continueth always wax in substance; so I say
The soul is aye the selfsame thing it was, and yet astray it fleeteth into many shapes.”
(Arthur Golding, The Philosophy of Pythagoras)
The subtext to all the offerings on this disc is “no enemy but winter and rough weather.” Donne’s Holy Sonnet, written in iambic pentameter (never mind the first line and Donne’s less than rigid adherence to the scansion) is included because it denies that death is the enemy, not to mention that it is a stellar sonnet, arguably Donne’s finest. Shakespeare’s Sonnet LX, with its less hopeful scythe wielding vision, finds its way here as Donne’s denier. As Sonnet LX joined the collection, with its Ovidian waves hastening us towards our doom, I thought of the waves that threatened the lives of the characters in Act I, scene 2 from my operatic version of The Tempest. The rough weather that has capsized the ship carrying Prospero’s enemies has dumped his principal nemeses on a wave tossed shore. Antonio (Prospero’s brother who has usurped Prospero’s rightful dukedom in Milan), Alonso (the king of Naples who abetted Antonio in removing Prospero from Milan and stranding him on a deserted island) and Sebastian (Alonso’s brother) contemplate the demise of Alonso’s son (a mistaken impression). Alonso falls into a magically induced slumber, thanks to Ariel, Prospero’s servant; and subsequently Antonio plots with Sebastian to murder Alonso, mirroring – if more heinously – Antonio and Alonso’s prior conspiracy in regard Prospero. The scene begins in the rainy jungle adjacent to the beach. When I lived in the Virgin Islands, just off St Peter Mountain Road on the American territorial possession of St Thomas; I would often listen, in the dark (as electric power was an iffy thing in the USVI, especially when wet) to the stochastic rain drops as they struck the banana leaves outside my window. The opening bars of this scene, with my use of col legno strings, is my attempt to recreate the ambience of those languid liquid evenings.
It's a long story, and previously told, about how my little family – my wife, Lisa; and our daughter, Eve – came to be banished from the United States in the nineties, by a morally corrupt Tennessee state government; and how we were eventually exonerated, the state and its agents chastised and publicly shamed, and we returned to our estate made whole; but while we were in exile I began the composition of my Oxford Songs, music set to the scenes and sonnets of Shakespeare. One of my early Oxford Songs, “The Quality of Mercy,” concerns a kangaroo court, (if I may use the marsupial adjective which Shakespeare could not) much like the ones in Tennessee that condemned my family to banishment. My wife, Lisa, had noticed a peculiarity in regard her pay at Tennessee Technological University. She had been given a 1% pay raise from the prior year following an administrative quality assessment of 10, the highest assessment possible. A fellow professor, Howard, a good friend of ours, and his wife, Pat, were invited to dinner, coincidentally, the day of the raise notices. At dinner Howard complained about his raise. It was too low, he asserted, compared to other professors. His raise was a measly 7%. Lisa was taken aback, and asked what his quality assessment had been. “Four,” he said.
That evening, in what we have since christened “The Candle-snifter Incident,” Lisa expressed her dissatisfaction with her raise to me. She said there had been a mistake. I replied that there was no mistake, that she had been given her inequitable, unjustifiably low raise because she was a woman. Lisa couldn’t believe that, and was determined to take the matter up with her superior, the music school director, John Taylor. I replied, “if you tell John he’s made an error with your raise, you will be fired.” Lisa thought me ludicrous for my bald assertion. We argued.
“I can’t be fired for asking the question.”
Taking a candle snifter from atop a chest of drawers, I hammered it (somewhat pointedly, though – I thought – gently,) on the drawers, and the snuffing bell broke from its golden pole. “You will be fired for asking,” I insisted.
“No, Joe, not for simply asking. I can’t be fired for asking a question. And I’m tenured!”
I put the broken handle of the candle-snifter down and spoke calmly and patronizingly. It was a Thursday evening, our young daughter now asleep. Earlier, at dinner, Eve had recited from memory, to our and the Brahmstedt’s astonishment, (Howard and Pat Brahmstedt – and for the record, Howard’s low ranking was undeserved, but that’s another matter and not germane to this tale) a passage from The Merchant of Venice. Pat had said, “what is it that’s written on the gold casket in Merchant of Venice?”
Eve, about six years old, responded “Who chooseth me shall gain what many men desire.” We all sat slack-jawed. Eve continued, quoting Morocco, “The second, silver, which this promise carries: ‘Who chooseth me shall get as much as he deserves.’ This third, dull lead, with warning all as blunt: ‘Who chooseth me must give and hazard all he hath.’ ” Living as we did in the farmlands and forest outside Cookeville, Tennessee, we had imported dozens of VHS recording of operas and Shakespeare plays. On Sturday mornings when Lisa and I would want to sleep in, we allowed our daughter to watch these tapes. We were quite aware she watched Shakespeare comedies (and operas and Gilbert and Sulivan operettas) but we’d no idea that she had been memorizing them as well. Later I would investigate her knowledge and discovered she had memorized nearly every line of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, Comedy of Errors (from a 1987 made for TV movie featuring The Brothers Karamazov), and As You Like It. She was, apparently, learning The Merchant of Venice (and a few others) without telling us about her do-it-yourself Shakespeare memorization project. But I digress, (and counterfeit! Eve’s recital of the lines from The Merchant of Venice actually occurred years earlier, at a dinner with a playwright and her bassoonist husband, but the story is better moved forward in time with Howard and Pat, that fateful evening. The rest is true.)
To return to the moment: after placing that irreparably damaged candle snifter down, I averred that if she complained tomorrow (as she was planning) – Friday – she would be fired before Monday morning. This prediction, but a moment in “The Candle-snifter Incident,” is now – in our family – considered the beginning of “Boysenberrying,” a term invented by Eve, to describe any of my seemingly absurd prognostications. Years later, Eve depicted me, in a parody play of her own devise, berating my wife about her having brought “peach brandy to the dean, when I explicitly instructed you to bring boysenberry brandy!” The character portraying my wife responds that she didn’t see the difference between bringing the dean peach brandy as opposed to boysenberry brandy, at which point the character representing myself launches into a lengthy screed. That pivotal Thursday, I told Lisa that though I understood that she couldn’t credit my Nostradamian forecast as reasonable, still, it would happen; and still, I would support her in a grueling fight that would make us have to struggle for years, righteously, and eventually lose. (The latter prophecy was, fortuitously, wide of the mark.)
Lisa asked John Taylor, director of the music department, the next day, Friday, if had made an error in regard her raise. Nothing in writing. No angry accusations. She merely asked the question. Before Monday morning arrived, tenure termination proceedings against Lisa had begun. A series of university trials followed, all rigged. I acted as Lisa’s counsel at the hearings. Opposite me: the university’s legal counsel, the vice president, and three lawyers from the Tennessee State Attorneys General, which institution ran the university hearings: three separate proceedings over the course of a year and a half. The state also sued me (yes, me) and we were bankrupted, in order to forestall a lawsuit from Lisa. Lisa had not sued the university, nor made any onerous demands. She asked that she be given a raise of $1,000.00 (added to the $350.00 raise Taylor had awarded her.) As her counsel at the termination hearings, I succeeded in doing what I needed to do, videlicet: I was physically assaulted by Tennessee State Police and thrown (literally) out of the final hearing, which deprived Lisa of representation, and therefore she did not receive due process. Her due process denied, she was terminated by the university, and the week after her termination, she filed a law suit, based primarily on the university’s failure to provide her with due process. Prior to my being tossed out, I had consulted with a local Cookeville attorney, Jerry Lee Burgess, who advised me that I “must insure that Lisa receives due process, because if she doesn’t then the matter of her termination will end up in a court of law, with a jury, and not be in the hands of the university.” He smiled widely as he gave me this advice. Immediately following her termination, Lisa gained representation from a bevy of lawyers, working on contingency, including Vanderbilt University’s renowned professor, Robert Belton, a champion of labor and employment and civil rights. The consensus of lawyers who came to represent Lisa at that point, alarmed at the physical assault on me, and the potentially financially catastrophic consequences to the state of Tennessee, should she win (because you can certainly imagine that Lisa wasn’t the only woman with an inequitable salary in the state university system in the nineties), not to mention that for six months the Tennessee state police had assigned two state troopers to follow me whenever I left my house and approached state of Tennessee property – in what they would explain was a prophylactic measure to protect me from possible harm – concluded that for our family’s safety we leave the state immediately. We did. We wended our way first to Cape Cod, but couldn’t sustain ourselves there (despite the generosity of our friends, the Hutchins, who allowed us to live in their West Chatham home free of charge;) so we fled to the United States Virgin Islands, where we remained for the ensuing several years. To our amazement, Lisa prevailed, the state of Tennessee settled out of court, and Lisa became one of very very few individuals who fought city hall and won.
Prior to our flight from Tennessee, in the midst of the termination hearings, a written report (which was useless) came into my possession during the university “discovery” process. In the report, an anonymous university source cited a conversation in which Lisa was referred to as “another loud-mouthed New York Jew broad.” Lisa is not loud-mouthed, nor is she from New York, but when we were in exile I reflected on our recent travails and was inspired to compose “The Quality of Mercy.” There is rain in this setting, too, if not rough weather, as Portia describes when she begins her disingenuous service as judge. “The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven Upon the place beneath.” In Portia, Shakespeare describes a brilliant woman who must disguise herself as a man in order to participate in the jurisdiction of a world run by men, but ironically, she betrays Shylock’s due process, by first pretending to act as an unbiased trier fact, when she was in fact, covertly acting as an advocate for the merchant. Though Portia suffered discrimination in the male-dominated world of her period, she nevertheless conspires to pervert justice, and succeeds. My view of Portia is at odds with the portrait Shakespeare paints. Portia reminded me of the woman Tennessee Technological University employed as the judge in Lisa’s termination hearings, a professor who pretended, unsuccessfully, to portray herself as an unbiased finder of fact, rather than the lackey the school invited to dispense injustice.
The final setting on this disc is also about the rain, the wind; sung by a fool at the conclusion of Twelfth Night. In the end, there is no enemy: not winter, not rough weather, not sexually discriminatory universities, not oppressive states nor their dissembling lackeys, not even death. “The rain it raineth every day.”
A great while ago the world begun,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that’s all one, our play is done,
And we’ll strive to please you every day.
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