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O Fair to See

Walking the dogs this morning I passed by the neighborhood cherry trees to see if they were ripe. I look forward to the wild fruit around us - little gifts, “amuse-bouche” that confirm how life goes on and on each year without my tending it. When we regularly go outside and become aware of the seasonal changes in the plants, it provides a color to the day and rhythm to the year. The flavor of cherry or plum or apple: fresh, bright and mysterious because it is wild. Sometimes honeysuckle, but mostly only the scent. Only? Honeysuckle can perfume an entire wood, as well as daphne and blackberries.

Gerald Finzi expresses these feelings in his song O fair to see. The poem is by Christina Rossetti - an English woman raised and educated in London by Italians. Not just by her parents, who were both of Italian descent, but also by Dante and Petrarch whose writings she studied. They seem to have tinted her writing: it often sounds and feels like Italy to me, cyprus trees, classical ruins and warm breezes.

Like me walking the dogs, Rossetti and Finzi appreciate the seasons via a cherry tree. In grand but simple piano part I feel their contentment and gratefulness for what this tree brings them: striking white beauty in early spring and then a green mane of hair decorated with fruit-jewels, as if presenting a gift.

Oh Fair to See

-by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

Oh, fair to see

Bloom-laden cherry tree

Arrayed in sunny white

An April day's delight;

Oh, fair to see!

Oh, fair to see

Fruit-laden cherry tree,

With balls of shining red

Decking a leafy head;

Oh, fair to see!


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