Instructions for Dancing

Saturday June 18, 2011

exegi monumentum.

Filed under: Uncategorized — by hettyweston @ 10:50 pm

Cambridge is fading fast.

On Tuesday, I handed in my thesis, a 11,357-word epic on Statius’ Silvae. The two poems which I addressed are the ones in which Statius praises other poets, 1.2 (to Stella Arruntius) and 2.7 (to Lucan). I was examining these poems to find some methodology behind the dynamics of praise; firstly, how a poet can praise any patron, who is necessarily his social superior; secondly, how a poet, who is necessary a sophisticated, literary type, can successfully praise the poetry of anyone else. In other words, compliments must seem autonomous and sincere in order to be compliments – how could the poet manipulate those circumstances to achieve that illusion? In the periods from Augustan to Flavian (and indeed, much later), those two opposed power dynamics are the reason that a patron is willing to seek praise from a poet, and why a poet is able to offer it. summing up, I was really proud of the work I did on this.

Otherwise: I’ve been to a lot of parties this week, pre-May Week, but I’m spending almost three days of the real May Week at home with my family. I can’t wait. May Week always seemed like a bit of an anticlimax to me, even as an undergrad. My biggest kicks were always from the work I did. and from the music I sang.

I sang my final evensong on Thursday.

This will probably be my most poignant memory of these weeks. For the last four years I’ve spent seven hours a week in there, keeping a straight face during horrific musical errors and bizarre bible readings (“saddled his ass”, “went to the backside of the desert”, etc). On Thursday, I wasn’t emotional at all until our chaplain said the Traveller’s Prayer. then our final hymn was The Day Thou Gavest Lord Is Ended, and then we had our final procession. Choir’s tradition is for a slow, dignified procession out of chapel, keeping step with an opposite number and looking straight ahead. Another tradition is for over-emotional choristers to cry (unobtrusively) at that last service. I never really thought I’d be one of those. In the end, though, I couldn’t face ahead for that procession. I looked down to hide my eyes, and I cried properly (unobtrusively) once reaching the antechapel. I’m not an emotional person, but I found that moment profound and overwhelming.

I think that will be the only goodbye I’ll really face in these weeks. I’m not (necessarily) leaving Classics, or choir, or the people I love here, or, even, Christ’s College. Not permanently. But I’ll never be a chorister again. In this last year especially, it became the bit of my week which I looked forward to, always simple and calming. I knew all the music by heart, and it all came naturally; for the first time in my life, I led others without difficulty or hesitation, without even thinking. I’ll never be a ‘good’ singer, but somehow, and without my noticing, it became for me something indescribably fulfilling. Everything was easy and nothing hurt. etc.

There’s not much left to do here. One more party, one more ball, one more wedding, then it’s off to London to wear office clothes and shadow a consultant for a week, then it’s off to Australia to do something I love and am really good at with a whole bunch of people I really like. One of those people, WW, memorably declared to George, a long time ago, that I was a great girl and “worth the effort”. Backhanded compliment or not, it’s a strange and wonderful thing to gain respect from people whom you also respect. WW is one of the best singers I know, and I’d like to think that he thinks the same of me. Coming out of Cambridge, all this singing and all these people I sing with will be the most permanent marker of my four years of life here. It’s all I’ve achieved, it’s how much I’ve grown and it’s where I’ll be missed. exegi monumentum.

May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rains fall soft upon your tracks
And, until until we meet again,
May God hold you safely in the palm of His hand.

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