allegro non molto – adagio – presto


after Vivaldi, as performed by Nigel Kennedy,

Sydney Opera House, 27 January 2017


Scorched pines. A sweltering stasis. The heat

has pressed the air almost to silence. Note

follows note like stuttering beads of sweat

but there – in the bow's quick tilt – the cuckoo,

followed by a warbling dove and the trill

of the finch, those fingers thrillingly close.

Breezing triplets flutter against a beat

the north wind blasts to hell – and there'll be more.


            A fly-infested lull, a fractious growl

            itching for a livewire scare. So why not –

            with a stack of Marshalls to hand – let loose


the thunder and lightning for real? ... One ... two

mississippi three mississippi four ...

The cornfields are all trashed by golf-ball hail.






The poem is based on a literal translation by Anouska Zummo of the sonnet (below) attributed to Vivaldi, found in the score of his concertos commonly referred to as ‘The Four Seasons’, part of Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione (The contest between harmony and invention), published in 1725.  




Sotto dura Staggion dal Sole accesa

Langue l' huom, langue 'l gregge, ed arde il Pino;

Scioglie il Cucco la Voce, e tosto intesa

Canta la Tortorella e 'l gardelino.

Zeffiro dolce Spira, mà contesa

Muove Borea improviso al Suo vicino;

E piange il Pastorel, perche sospesa

Teme fiera borasca, e 'l suo destino;


Toglie alle membra lasse il Suo riposo

Il timore de' Lampi, e tuoni fieri

E de mosche, e mossoni il Stuol furioso!


Ah che pur troppo i Suo timor Son veri

Tuona e fulmina il Ciel e grandioso

Tronca il capo alle Spiche e a' grani alteri.