Sunday, June 22, 2008

"O Ewigkeit"

René Gallet's translation Le Triomphe de l'amour (Cheyne, 2006) provides this note for The Triumph of Love, section IV, where "o ewigkeit" appears:

"o ewigkeit": cite, sans les majuscules, une cantate de Bach (BWV 20 - "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" ["O Eternité, parole de tonnerre"]) qui n'est pas sans lien avec les risques cardiaques indiqués ensuite.

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Richard Edwards, in reply to a question asked about "o ewigkeit" on the Geoffrey Hill Exchange (Facebook Group, May 15, 2008) wrote:

"O Ewigkeit" in German means "Oh Eternity".
"O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" is the title of Lutheran hymn whose words and melody Bach used in two of his sacred cantatas, BWV 20 and BWV 60.
See for the full text.
Whether this is what Hill had in mind or not I don't know, but if it is then it anticipates the "Improvisation on 'O Welt, ich muss dich lassen'" in Without Title.

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During the Private Passions broadcast/interview with Michael Berkely (BBC 3, 2004), Hill chose Bach's "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort," sung by Benjamin Luxon, and he said he was aware that Luxon had had to stop singing, due to deafness (in the early 1990s). He added, "I can't hear this record without being very deeply moved. The old Lutheran text saw eternity very differently from Blake,'O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort,' 'Eternity thou were to dread'."

Short biography on Benjamin Luxon