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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009
    Interruption at the Opera House
     
    At the very beginning of an important symphony,
    while the rich and famous were settling into their quietly expensive boxes,
    a man came crashing through the crowds,
    carrying in his hand a cage in which
    the rightful owner of the music sat,
    yellow and tiny and very poor;
    and taking onto the rostrum this rather timid bird
    he turned up the microphones, and it sang.

    'A very original beginning to the evening,' said the crowds,
    quietly glancing at their programmes to find
    the significance of the intrusion.

    Meanwhile at the box office the organisers of the evening
    were arranging for small and uniformed attendants
    to evict, even forcefully, the intruders.
    But as the attendants, poor and gathered from the nearby slums at little expense,
    went rushing down the aisles to do their job
    they heard, above the coughing and irritable rattle of jewels,
    a sound that filled their heads with light,
    and from somewhere inside them there bubbled up a stream,
    and there came a breeze on which their youth was carried.
    How sweetly the bird sang!

    And though soon the fur-wrapped crowds
    were leaving their boxes and in confusion were winding their way home
    still the attendants sat in the aisles,
    and some, so delighted at what they heard, rushed out to call
    their families and friends.
    And their children came,
    sleepy for it was late in the evening,
    very late in the evening,
    and they hardly knew if they had done with dreaming
    or had begun again.
    In all the tenement blocks
    the lights were clicking on,
    and the rightful owner of the music,
    tiny but no longer timid sang
    for the rightful owners of the song.

    Brian Patten's poem Interruption at the Opera House, which gave Jonathan Raisin the title for The Rightful Owners of the Song. Thanks for passing that on, Jonathan.