Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Late Sunday Morning

"[...]Their heads and their glances collected toward a common center, and restored, and they sang us another, a slow one this time; I had a feeling, through their silence before entering it, that it was their favorite and their particular pride; the tenor lifted out his voice alone in a long, plorative line that hung like fire on heaven, or whistle's echo, sinking, sunken, along descents of a modality I had not heard before, and sank along the arms and breast of the bass as might a body sunken from a cross; and the baritone lifted a long black line of comment; and they ran in a long and slow motion and convolution of rolling as at the bottom of a stormy sea, voice meeting voice as ships in dream, retreated, met once more, much woven, digression and returns of time, quite tuneless, the bass, over and over, approaching, drooping, the same declivity, the baritone taking over, a sort of metacenter, murmuring along monotones between major and minor, nor in any determinable key, the tenor winding upward like a horn, a wire, the flight of a bird, almost into full declamation, then failing it, silencing; at length enlarging, the others lifting, now, alone, lone, and largely, questioning, alone and not sustained, in the middle of space, stopped; and now resumed, sunken upon the bosom of the bass, the head declined; both muted, droned, the baritone makes his comment, unresolved, that is a question, all on one note; and they are quiet, and do not look at us nor at anything.

James Agee, from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, 1941

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