[ by Charles Cameron — the poem as guided tour ]
So, my son Emlyn asked me where I would like my ashes scattered when I’m gone, offering to do me that service, and the ensuing discussion made it clear I had an opportunity not only to send him to some places I’ve loved where he’d be likely to find adventure, but also to provide him with reading (or listening) along the way — again, close to my mind and heart and potentially revelatory for his.
I was tossing this around in my mind a day or two ago, and this poem announced itself:
Paradise or Pasadena, since you asked
I should like my ashes scattered in the upper atmosphere,
in Bach to be precise,
in deep feeling, in the St Anne Prelude and Fugue,
in “not of this world” in other words,
believing that if met by JSB
at the General Resurrection, I was most choicely planted.
Bach, seriously, is the mountain range I have assiduously
climbed since early youth,
and the St Anne not the most obvious,
but among the most glorious works therein,
though I am also vastly taken by Contrapunctus IX
and the Dorian Toccata was my first love.
More practically, fold me between pages of Yeats or Rilke,
and leave me on a bench in the Huntington Gardens.
That’s by no means my final response to Emlyn’s question, I look forward to many more hours of pondering and reminiscing. But it’s a thought..
Here, for your delight and enrichment, are the musical offerings the poem mentions:
The St Anne Prelude and Fugue, played here by Peter Hurford:
Contrapunctus IX from The Art of Fugue, played by Glenn Gould on piano, his usual instrument:
and, in a rare instance for Gould, on organ:
— and the Dorian Toccata and Fugue, my first Bach love, which I bought, treasured, and binge-listened to back in the late 50s (?) on a 45 rpm disc:
Noteworthy, the second of two images of Ton Koopman accompanying that last recording — which shows the fierce nature of Koopman when he was young — fading in right at the end of the Toccata:
I would love to have known him back when..
And place — the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, which include a garden of flowers named in Shakespeare’s works, a Japanese garde, rose garden, and — my absolute favorite –the Desert Garden, containing 5,000 varieties of cactus and other xerophytes across 10 acres..
I suspect that losing oneself in those 10 acres is the closest thing to visiting an alien planet to be found on this one…
Once you’re in the garden and have escaped the lure of the cacti, the cool of the Huntington Library is nearby — with some stunning William Blake illuminations perhaps, and both a First Folio Shakespeare and the remarkable “bad” First Quarto of Hamlet which preceded it.
How has the mighty soliloquy been truncated:
To Die, to sleepe, is that all?
Cacti, roses, Folio, scholars, tea rooms — heaven, in its earthly approximation…