31 Days of Favorite Quotes: Mark the Music

This passage from The Merchant of Venice didn’t make it into my commonplace book when I read it a few months ago, but it probably should have.

How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon this bank.
Here will we sit and let the sounds of music
Creep in our ears; soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven is think inlaid with patens of bright gold.
There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st
But in his motion like an angel sings,
Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins.
Such harmony is in immortal souls,
But whilst this muddy vesture of decay
Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it.

And later on:

The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils;
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus,
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

(Spoken by Lorenzo to Jessica, Act V, Scene 1)

Composer Ralph Vaughn Williams wrote his lovely Serenade to Music based on this passage. I used to prefer the orchestral version with no choir, but now I can appreciate how well his music and Shakespeare’s words go together. ♥

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