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Friday, November 4, 2011

Ben and Peter, beside the Sea


Benjamin Britten 1913-1976

Peter Pears 1910-1986

The excitement of a radio studio

at the time

the best source in the world

the microphones to everywhere

to be heard and be enjoyed

in the great days of radio

the same year

that Adolf murders all his gay friends

in the long night with knives

and here in this radio studio

the singers prepare

rehearsal for the great British audience

where a handsome young composer

meets a handsome older tenor

only to fall in love later

at the worst of the war

when going to jail in their country

meant shame and shun

Ben wrote songs for Peter

Ben wrote parts for Peter

while Hugh Auden and Ben

made a habit of art

and Isherwood made a pal of Ben

at the bath on Jermyn Street

Ben and Peter friends for 42 years

in love from the war on

collaboration at every level of music

in a freer America

to spend bright summer days with


and all the boys

who weren't allowed to fight

the powers of Paragraph 175

who had to keep their secret

and they kept the secrets of others

pianist composer and tenor

the dreamer and his voice

open even to the Queen

and they would remember the war

with minor chords

of the saddest music

Ben with his requiem

and Peter singing the debut

at Coventry Cathedral

lionized by the audience

as they privately remember so many

secret friends who went away

in the fight.

Now remembered in the moments

of “Moonlight”

when one hears the soft

love words they say to each other

together for eternity

unmarried except

for the shared notes

they sang and played

the rings of golden vibration

that circle their boney fingers

side by side

north of St. Peter and St. Paul

in Aldeburgh, Suffolk

as they shimmer beside the sea

Copyright © 2011 by Barry G. Wick

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