Handel in London, 1741
Wedged in a chair near the open window,
Handel gasps and wheezes as he takes in
the August air, fanning himself with a sheaf
of jumbled scripture Jennens gave to him.
He knows the time has come to turn away
from text, move beyond thoughts of prophecy,
sacrifice, or resurrection, and find his way
to the wracked, seething place where words
stop and music always lurks. Where God’s
glory awaits release. He has not been well.
Stroke, melancholy, the weight of work.
He has begun to imagine an end, the terror
of unending silence. Not sure he could rise
from the chair if he wanted to, he closes
his eyes and imagines Ireland, the viceroy’s
invitation, the sea breeze ahead. He dozes
a moment, then starts because all those old
scraps he has been hearing, brief passages
from operas he wrote long ago, from Italian
duets, songs for castrato, are returning,
insisting he make use of them, clear his mind
for fresh melodies. He feels his heart race,
the familiar frenzy beginning to bring
him close to the face of God. Hallelujah.