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Poem of the Day

A Note on Barber's Adagio

John Matthias

                           for Dónal Gordon

       ...Back in autumn 1963
Samuel Barber was alone and driving through
November rain in Iowa or Kansas.
When he turned on his radio he heard
Them playing his Adagio for Strings.
Sick to death of his most famous composition,
He turned the dial through the static
Until once again, and clearly—
The Adagio for Strings. When a third station, too,
And then a fourth, were playing it, he thought
He must be going mad. He turned off the radio
And stopped the car and got out by a fence
Staring at the endless open space in front of him
Where someone on a tractor plowed
On slowly in the rain...

The president had been assassinated
Earlier that day, but Barber didn’t know it yet.
He only knew that every station in America was playing
His Adagio for Strings.
He only knew he didn’t know
Why he should be responsible for such an ecstasy of grief.

Taken from 'Five American Poets'...
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