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Tomás Luis de Victoria
Kyrie from Missa Gaudeamus
The Cardinall’s Musick

No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past. And the poet who is aware of this will be aware of great difficulties and responsibilities. [..] He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same. He must be aware that the mind of Europe—the mind of his own country—a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind—is a mind which changes, and that this change is a development which abandons nothing en route, which does not superannuate either Shakespeare, or Homer, or the rock drawing of the Magdalenian draughtsmen. That this development, refinement perhaps, complication certainly, is not, from the point of view of the artist, any improvement. [..] But the difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent which the past’s awareness of itself cannot show. 

Some one said: “The dead writers are remote from us because we know so much more than they did.” Precisely, and they are that which we know. 

T. S. Eliot, from the Tradition and the Individual Talent.

I heard it said, there is 
a stone in the water and a circle
and over the water a world
that lays the circle around the stone.

I saw my poplar descent to the water,
I saw how its arm grasped down in the deep,
I saw its roots pray heavenward for night.

I did not hurry after it,
I picked from the soil that crumb
which has your eye’s shape and stature,
I took the chain of judgements from your neck
to frame the table where the crumb now lay.

And saw my poplar no more.

Paul Сelan

Matthaeus Pipelare
Salve Regina
Huelgas Ensemble

“Swim away from me, do ye?” murmured Ahab, gazing over into the water. There seemed but little in the words, but the tone conveyed more of deep helpless sadness than the insane old man had ever before evinced. But turning to the steersman, who thus far had been holding the ship in the wind to diminish her headway, he cried out in his old lion voice,- “Up helm! Keep her off round the world!”

Round the world! There is much in that sound to inspire proud feelings; but whereto does all that circumnavigation conduct? Only through numberless perils to the very point whence we started, where those that we left behind secure, were all the time before us.

Were this world an endless plain, and by sailing eastward we could for ever reach new distances, and discover sights more sweet and strange than any Cyclades or Islands of King Solomon, then there were promise in the voyage. But in pursuit of those far mysteries we dream of, or in tormented chase of the demon phantom that, some time or other, swims before all human hearts; while chasing such over this round globe, they either lead us on in barren mazes or midway leave us whelmed.

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 52.

Anon. (C12th)
'Stirps lesse'
The Hilliard Ensemble

Whichever stone you lift —
you lay bare
those who need the protection of stones:
naked,
now they renew their entwinement. 

Whichever tree you fell —
you frame 
the bedstead where 
souls are stayed once again,
as if this aeon too
did not 
tremble. 

Whichever word you speak - 
you owe to 
destruction. 

Paul Celan