J. S. Bach: F# Minor Toccata a poem by Bill Holm

Today, on Bach’s birthday, a poem by Bill Holm, 1943-2009, who lived most of his life in the region of Minnesota where I grew up, and a recording by Glen Gould.

J. S. Bach: F# Minor Toccata

This music weeps, not for sin
but rather for the black fact
that we must all die, but not one
of us knows what comes after.
This music leaps from key to key
as if it had no clear place to arrive,
making up its life, one bar at a time.
But when you come at last to the real theme,
strict, inexorable, and bleak,
you must play it slow and sad,
with melancholy dignity, or you miss
all its grim wisdom.
In three pages, it says, the universe collapses,
and you—still only halfway home.

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