Vernal Sacrement


Inspired by Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps, this is a quasi-Petrarchan Sonnet I composed with iambic pentameter and the following rhyme scheme of abba-cddc-efgefg. The sestina volta at the end is more of a catharsis (a sacrifice) of the tension that builds in the octaves before. The Sonnet was inspired by the plot and music. Set during the advent of spring in Pagan Soviet Russia, where various primitive rituals commence including the abduction of young girls, one of which is chosen as a sacrificial victim and must dance herself to death. I believe the phenomenon stems from the culture of Southern Italian Tarantella dance of death (from the Greek ritual of Tarantism) or perhaps the medieval artistic genre of ‘Danse Macabre,’ an allegory of the universality of death. Whatever the origins of this story, I found the imagery of the score and ballet adaptation to conjure rich images of seasonal cleansing (‘vernal equinox’, ‘wintertide sin’) dizzying circles of beguiling entrapment, visions of a vast, isolated landscape, etc. The titles of each stanza are borrowed from movements in Stravinsky’s original score, which is in French since it debuted in Paris. The italicized word khorovod is a form of Russian circle dancing, and niente is an Italian musical term for a dying ending. 


Les Augures printaniers

The shrills of vernal equinox ascend

Skyward where treetops turn viridian.

In the depths of shadows obsidian,

A tale begins of a khorovod end.

                       Jeu du rapt

                       Caught twice in snares of watchful conjuring,

                       Prodigal desires of spirits crawl.

                       Dislodged in the veins of silvering falls,

                       Spins the wile of stringent honoring.

                                                    Danse Sacrale

                                                     Lustration of sacrificial rapture

                                                     Under the Aegis of wintertide sin

                                                     An Exodus of wheeling birds unwind.

                                                     At last, found in the silken pasture

                                                     Of Zenith’s end, the niente of martyred kin,

                                                      Tied to the tether of Fate ill-timed.

By Quincy Childs

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