Column 04

The fragility of the human body, particularly as a result of the ageing process, is a common subject of poetry. And it’s not surprising, given its centrality to the human condition. Myra Schneider’s poem addresses this issue, and in the process invokes one of the most creative minds and bodies in history; fortunately the poem lives up to its promise, particularly in its breathtaking last line. The poem comes from Schneider’s latest collection The Door to Colour, published by Enitharmon Editions.

Beethoven’s Ninth

Nothing is sweeter to my ears than the voice
of someone I love, soothing words from a stranger,
voices of doves in summer trees, the joy
which emerges in the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth.

Nothing is more frustrating than failing to follow
a fast or subdued talker, than hearing a conversation
as a loud blur in a room of faces but this is minor.
What does a composer suffer if sound diminishes

to nothing and he can only unfold in his head
the music he’s created? Imagine Beethoven
at that first performance of his final symphony,
a gesticulating figure standing beside the conductor,

rising, shrinking, stretching forward as if he wanted
to be all the instruments, every singer in the choir,
and still immersed when the work reached its end,
unaware of the applause until the contralto

turned him round to see the audience on their feet,
hands clapping, hats being thrown up into the air,
mouths uttering what could only be ‘bravo’.


Used with kind permission of Myra Schneider and Enitharmon Editions.